Obama and Politics of Demonization

There have been three salient features thus far of the Obama Administration. The first is its secretive nature, elevating to the status of quasi state secrets information that has been readily available in previous Administrations. The second is a Carteresque level of incompetence which spans the gamut from economic to foreign policy. The third is simple nastiness when confronted with opposition.

Since January we have been treated to the spectacle of the office of the President, in the person of his spokesman and personal staff, directly attacking private citizens who oppose them. Everyone is familiar with Gibbs’ assault on Rush Limbaugh and Erick writes today of yet another instance where Gibbs has launched a personal attack on a private citizen.

The Washington Post reminds us today that it is going to get worse, a lot worse.

Facing a near-daily barrage of attacks from conservative opponents, White House officials are engaged in an internal debate over how hard to hit back, even as they have grown increasingly aggressive in countering allegations they deem to be absurd.


But at a tactical level, administration officials are taking seriously the potential for damage and are attempting to respond forcefully. In early August, officials stepped up their efforts to link the “birther” movement — with its contention that Obama was not born in the United States and is thus not a legitimate president — to Republican leaders.

Incredible, you might say. The White House is involved in a scheme to link the leaders of the Republican party to a fringe movement that, one has to be at pains to point out, is fueled entirely by the White House’s own secretiveness. Of course, you shouldn’t be amazed at this considering Bill Clinton tried to link Republicans to the Oklahoma City bombing and his current Chief of Staff was a force in that operation.

According to the story, the White House is using its allies in the media to make its case

When critics lashed out at President Obama for scheduling a speech to public school students this month, accusing him of wanting to indoctrinate children to his politics, his advisers quickly scrubbed his planned comments for potentially problematic wording. They then reached out to progressive Web sites such as the Huffington Post, liberal bloggers and Democratic pundits to make their case to a friendly audience.

The controversy escalated, but by the time it was over, White House advisers thought they had emerged with the upper hand. The speech, they said, was the most-viewed live video on any government Web site in history, and they were pleased with the media coverage of the event.

One can’t help but note that the reporter, Anne Kornblut, is undoubtedly part of this “friendly audience” because she seamlessly weaves in the White House’s various messages into this story:

Obama had been accused of wanting to kill people’s grandparents (through health-care reform), expose their children to political re-education (through an expansion of community service programs) and use health care to make reparations for slavery (by expanding coverage).

No one is taking the position that the White House cannot defend itself. Of course it can, and it must. If you want to see what happens when a White House ignores the opposition you need look no farther than what happened to the Bush Administration. But this is on a totally different and much more vulgar level.

It is one thing to call on your pet reporters and bloggers to get them to transcribe your talking points memo (he, he) for their readers. That is fair enough. It is a totally different set of facts when you set out to personally vilify individual persons, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rick Scott, and the list goes on, using the office of the President to carry out those attacks. It is simply against our political tradition to try to tie the leadership of a political party to a belief they simply do not hold. We are merely a half step removed from an enemies list and IRS audits of political opponents. We may even be there and just not know it.

What we are seeing in this administration is a combination of paranoia, pettiness, and lack of a sense of proportion that marks it as a profoundly dangerous regime. It is like the Nixon Administration without any of the competence or sense of propriety.

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