How do you separate policies from the person?
It's more than an academic riddle these days, as President Obama's Republican critics gingerly walk the tightrope of opposing his economic and other plans without being accused of being unpatriotic.
Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh started it even before Obama's inauguration in January by saying that he hoped Obama failed because he objected to many of his policies.
At a GOP fund-raiser Tuesday night while Obama was defending his proposals in a prime-time news conference, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, poured some fuel on the rhetorical fire.
He described the premise of the question -- "Do you want the president to fail?" -- as the "latest gotcha game" that Democrats were using to bludgeon Republicans.
"Make no mistake: Anything other than an immediate and compliant, 'Why no sir, I don't want the president to fail,' is treated as some sort of act of treason, civil disobedience, or political obstructionism," said Jindal, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012. "This is political correctness run amok."
This morning on CNN, former Senator Fred Thompson, who ran for the GOP nomination last year, said that he agreed with Republicans hoping for an Obama flame-out.
"I want his policies that I believe take us in the wrong direction to fail," Thompson said. "If he takes us down the road of tripling our national debt in ten years and making us vulnerable to higher interest rates and higher inflation, and things of that nature, I want all those policies not to succeed."
UPDATE: Asked on MSNBC today whether he wants Obama to fail on his budget, Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire replied, "Clearly, this budget needs to be rewritten and it needs to be redone, and we're willing to do it in a bipartisan way. We're willing to sit down on issues like entitlement reform and get something done that's going to be constructive."
But Gregg, once Obama's choice for commerce secretary, added, "I really don't want the president to fail. If the president fails, the country fails."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.