Commentary: Pair that Obama Halloween mask with a superman suit

President Barack Obama calls for new investments in the nation.
President Barack Obama calls for new investments in the nation. Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT

Republicans and the tea partiers have helped turn President Barack Obama into the scariest man in America. That has made this year’s Obama mask one of the hottest items on store shelves for Halloween on Sunday. I bought one.

The clerk said manufacturers hadn’t supplied masks of other presidents this Halloween. Over the years I had seen them include every Oval Office occupant going back to John F. Kennedy. As the country’s first black president, the mask of Obama is the first of a black man popularized by the White House.

The mask is darker than Obama’s true color. Like the 1994 Time magazine cover of O.J. Simpson, it makes Obama look scarier. But the mask has Obama’s ears and big smile.

This Halloween will likely give more people the opportunity to go trick-or-treating or to costume parties as a black person without anyone raising an eyebrow. That’s progress.

But the mask is a hit because of continuing questions and doubt whipped up about Obama: Is he a Muslim? Was he born in this country? Is he taking the nation in the right direction? Or do we need to take our country back?

These tea party and conservative GOP talking points have inflated a Halloween-like sense of fear around the president.

The closest presidential boogeyman rival in which race played a role was Abraham Lincoln. But the antipathy for him was mostly in the South during the Civil War.

Today’s uncertainty over high unemployment and mounting housing foreclosures have frightened Americans about the future. They’re scared about the federal budget deficit of $1.47 trillion and America’s $13 trillion debt. How will such impossible sums be paid?

But people also fret over their own personal debt of thousands of dollars, the plunging value of their homes as the equity continues to evaporate and rising state and local taxes as the burden shifts locally to consumers. They feel the losses to their retirement and college savings.

Those who are still working have lost hours and lost wages in furloughs. Interest rates on savings are negligible, and dividends have been cut or canceled in the global meltdown.

The gap between the rich and poor has never been wider, with the top 20 percent (making $100,000 or more) receiving 49.4 percent of all income vs. 3.4 percent made by those below the poverty line.

People have turned their anger on immigrants and on Muslims — anyone who’s different, and that includes blacks and the first black president.

Yet Obama keeps trying to save the nation and the people from a depression. He immediately injected nearly $800 billion into the economy in federal stimulus money.

He worked feverishly to get health care reform passed so continually rising health costs would be stemmed and nearly 40 million more people would have access to care.

Obama pushed Congress to provide an additional $26 billion this year to save 300,000 teachers, police and others from layoffs. Obama is trying to get lawmakers to pass an additional $50 billion to rebuild the transportation infrastructure.

But instead of being cheered, people have turned their wrath on the president, saying he’s a socialist who has made government frightfully big. They have sided with obstructionist Republicans who have formed a “no” blockade against measures Obama promotes.

They blame him for U.S. foreign policy troubles with China and Israel and the two continuing wars, which George Bush started. They blame Obama for the Gulf oil spill and U.S. dependence on foreign oil, though each is a legacy of other scary U.S. presidents.

In the campaign leading up to the November election, Obama has negative coattails. Republican and tea party candidates are tying every Democrat they can to him, expecting runaway voter fear and anger to cut up Obama’s party.

But the anger and fear is misplaced. The Obama Halloween costume should be one of Superman because of the jobs he has saved, folks who now have health insurance, corporations such as GM and Chrysler that remain in business, roads that are being rebuilt and banks that haven’t gone belly-up.

Eventually things will improve. Voter anger will subside, and the Obama Halloween mask that I bought will be another novelty item from a wild time in American politics.