Obama's Chicago-Style Campaign
Barack Obama has a take-no-prisoners approach when it comes to waging political campaigns. But perhaps he has taken a step too far this time around. Not content to attack his opponent, his campaign is going after his opponent's supporters. Kimberly Strassel, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, gives us one more reason not to vote for Barack Obama: he is a thug who has disgraced the office of the president of the United States by engaging in behavior more befitting of the dictator of a banana republic.
Strassel writes of the Obama's campaign's latest efforts to smear and attack donors to Mitt Romney. She projects what happens when one exercises one's right in a democracy to support a candidate:
[...] Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name. His campaign brands you a Romney donor, shames you for "betting against America," and accuses you of having a "less-than-reputable" record. The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money. [...]
Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice.
Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few" have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the expense of so many Americans." [...]
"We don't tolerate presidents or people of high power to do these things," says Theodore Olson, the former U.S. solicitor general. "When you have the power of the presidency -- the power of the IRS, the INS, the Justice Department, the DEA, the SEC -- what you have effectively done is put these guys' names up on 'Wanted' posters in government offices." [...]
He's targeted insurers, oil firms and Wall Street -- letting it be known that those who oppose his policies might face political or legislative retribution. He lectured the Supreme Court for giving companies more free speech and (falsely) accused the Chamber of Commerce of using foreign money to bankroll U.S. elections. The White House even ginned up an executive order (yet to be released) to require companies to list political donations as a condition of bidding for government contracts.
This is the sinister reason why the Obama campaign has repeatedly called on the Romney campaign to release the names of the latter's big donors. The Obama team needs to win not just by creating and attacking straw men and scapegoats; it needs flesh-and-blood villains as well. The richer the villain, the more tempting the target. The Obama campaign needs to conjure up plutocrats to further stoke the politics of rage that Barack Obama hopes will power him to re-election.
Hence, we have the focus on the Koch brothers, who have funded various conservative and libertarian causes (as well as medical research, art and cultural projects, and many other worthy causes) and candidates over the years. Recall that almost two years ago, President Obama singled out one of the groups the Kochs help fund, Americans for Prosperity, for special opprobrium. This was a signal to what some may characterize as the vast left-wing conspiracy to attack the Kochs. The New Yorker, supplied with material by the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, went to work on the brothers. What was even more scandalous was that White House officials apparently had access to tax returns of the Kochs and their companies and used it as opposition research when meeting with journalists. Has any other president used the IRS for political purposes -- and what type of media backlash ensued then?
An Obama effort to shine the light on political donations is rich with hypocrisy. Barack Obama's own campaign disabled security measures on its donation page in ways that allow people to mask donors' identities and evade limits on how much individuals can donate to candidates. They did the same in 2008 (and one of the revelations was that Palestinians from Gaza were donating to his campaign; those donations were returned when exposed). George Soros and other billionaire sugar-daddies of the left have been funneling money to 527 groups, think-tanks, media outlets, and the like to bend politics in their direction in ways that meet no one's definition of transparency.
These efforts to intimidate donors to Republicans have borne fruit in the past. When it was revealed that Target donated $150,000 to a group that ran ads backing a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who opposed same-sex marriage but who otherwise had a pro-growth agenda, a boycott effort began that led to Target halting its donations. Similar boycott threats (including ones led by Obama acolyte Van Jones) have dissuaded other companies from donating to such pro-growth groups as the American Legislative Exchange Council. In the latter case, charges of racism have been ginned up to discourage support for the group. The same potent weapon -- the charge of racism -- has also been used to compel financial institutions to make loans to unqualified borrowers; those loans came back to help devastate the American economy.
There was a reason why Barack Obama was so riled up by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which supported the right under the First Amendment of corporations to support political candidates. He and his supporters leveled spurious (and false) claims that foreign money would be used to fund political campaigns in America. Similar charges have been made against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce once that group began running ads questioning Barack Obama's agenda.
Clearly, Barack Obama wants to gut the Citizens United decision by other means. He views politics as a blood sport and believes in clearing the field of candidates so as to leave voters with no other choice but to support him.
Why should we be surprised by this type of thuggish behavior on the part of the president? He all but announced his modus operandi back in 2008 when he warned that his style of campaigning could be summed up by the maxim "if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."
He had previously shown an inclination to use all methods, foul and fair, to win elections. The man who touts the need to register all potential voters (a policy taken to its extreme by his attorney general) felt free to disqualify a political opponent when he ran for the state senate in 1996 from being on the ballot by challenging signatures on his opponents' nominating petition. Obama's team, at Obama's direction, flooded the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners with complaints about the validity of the signatures on such petitions for every single one of his four challengers. Every single one, including a former political ally, Alice Palmer, was forced off the ballot. As David Jackson and Ray Long of the Chicago Tribune wrote:
Fresh from his work as a civil rights lawyer and head of a voter registration project that expanded access to the ballot box, Obama launched his first campaign for the Illinois Senate saying he wanted to empower disenfranchised citizens.
But in that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.
A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.
But he was only warming up for more creative steps to win elections.
The history of Obama's later run to become a U.S. senator has been obscured, but those familiar with his career see signs that all was not on the up-and-up when it came to his 2004 primary and general campaigns. In the primary, he faced a formidable and well-funded opponent, Blair Hull, who was leading quite strongly in the polls until stories started appearing in the Chicago Tribune that Hull had physically abused his ex-wife. Although the provenance of these allegations was never made public by the Tribune, Obama's campaign strategist at the time (and who has kept his role over the years) was David Axelrod, who not only had spent years working at the paper, but had already known that Hull was vulnerable to such accusations. The exposure occurred right before the primary vote, leaving Hull no time to rebut the allegations and leaving no time for other candidates to emerge on the Democratic side to challenge Obama for the nomination.
In the general election, he faced Jack Ryan, a promising Republican candidate who had made a fortune in investment banking but gave up that career to teach in inner-city schools. Suddenly, the Chicago Tribune started a public campaign that he be forced to unseal and reveal his divorce records. They were sealed to protect his and his ex-wife's young children. Eventually, Jack Ryan was compelled to open them to public inspection. There were embarrassing tales of his sexual fantasies. Ryan was forced to leave the race. The hapless Republicans resorted to bringing in a carpetbagger, television personality Alan Keyes, to run against Obama. The next thing you know, Obama is a United States senator, having never faced a serious foe with a chance of winning.
Even when he was a freshly minted president, Obama could not resist taunting people he perceived to have slighted him. When the University of Arizona decided not to give him an honorary degree (considering it a premature honor), he warned that "[university] President Crow and the board of regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS." Inappropriate humor, perhaps, but it was revealing nonetheless of an unpleasant aspect of the president's character, especially given the fact that he was vastly expanding the audit staff at the agency. Was he ignorant of Richard Nixon's history of using the IRS as a weapon against his political adversaries or, for that matter, people who just offended him?
There have been other signs that Obama has brought Cook County politics into the already fetid swamp of D.C. politics.
He has routinely insulted and demeaned various groups and people during the last few years -- especially as the campaign seasons (in 2010 and now) have heated up.
He has practiced the politics of personal destruction in a way no other president has done in modern history. As political commentators have noted, he personalizes political differences. This leads him to unload heaps of scorn on those he perceives to be not just political adversaries, but blood enemies. He puts down those who rub him the wrong way (something very easy to do with thin-skinned people) in a very personal and public way (some examples listed in "President Put-Down" and "The Abuser In Chief"). Such behavior not only disgraces the office, but is certainly not conducive to compromise and to working across the aisle on issues important to Americans. Instead, as America has seen with ObamaCare and other actions, President Obama and his allies have resorted to all sorts of trickery to promote their agenda (czars, signing statements, executive orders, regulatory interpretations, and a raft of other items that have raised concerns over their constitutionality). These shady methods are also a betrayal of his promise to end "politics as usual" and to work in a bipartisan way -- promises made on the campaign trail that led many people to vote for him. But all of Obama's promises have an expiration date.
He has compiled and continues to compile an enemies list in a way that is reminiscent of Richard Nixon. Sometimes he likes to personally denounce and insult his "enemies" (Paul Ryan, John McCain). More often he outsources the wet work to others -- and not just his campaign staff.
Is it a coincidence that one of the few magazines Obama praises and says he reads is the New Yorker -- mentioned above? Under the leadership of David Remnick (who wrote a hagiographic biography of Barack Obama), the magazine has turned into an organ of Obama's re-election campaign. The periodical has published many unflattering articles on those considered to be Obama's "enemies." For example, Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee was subject to a hit-job article by then-New Yorker political columnist Ryan Lizza because, apparently, he "makes life difficult for Obama." How? Issa has been very busy investigating an administration he considers the most corrupt in history. Hence, he has certainly moved up in the rankings of Obama's enemies. Sheldon Adelson, billionaire political donor to Republicans and a man who has made it quite clear that he wants to see Barack Obama defeated, was also the subject of a scathing article in the New Yorker, and to top it off, that reliable adjunct to the Democratic National Committee joined the "fun" at Adelson's expense, revealing painful personal details of his life that had no possible bearing on his political activities and portrayed him in a very unflattering light.
George Soros-funded groups Media Matters and the Center for American Progress have been useful attack dogs fielded against those who oppose Barack Obama's agenda. Media Matters was recently enriched with additional money from Soros to take on Fox News. The Center for American Progress released a report that cherry-picked the people who were purportedly promoting "Islamophobia" in America. Not only did the "blacklist" include the names of these people, but it also made sure to identify many of them as also supporting Jewish or pro-Israel causes. In other words, this was a target list of "enemies of Islam." It is shameful that officials of this group routinely meet with Obama and other White House officials and that its former head once headed up Barack Obama's transitional team before he became president. The Center's current leader used to work in the Obama White House. This group -- that can fairly be accused of spreading anti-Semitism and inviting attacks on prominent Jews -- should be shunned and not embraced.
The coming months will see a campaign waged by Barack Obama that is a disgrace to the image of the presidency. There will be carpet-bombing attacks against not only Mitt Romney, but also his supporters. They will be considered not "collateral damage," but instead legitimate targets by Obama and company -- because everyone who does not support him is an "enemy." Who defines them as such? Barack Obama, when he told Hispanics that politics is about "rewarding your friends and punishing your enemies" (italics mine).
The hoi polloi that Barack Obama might characterize as "bitter clingers" are not slighted. The Obama campaign has plans for them, too. The campaign has asked its supporters to send them contact information on people they may know who do not support the president. The campaign would then have a list of people who oppose Barack Obama. What is next? Cameras in the voting booth?
Americans will witness a contest marked by smears, lies, and distortions. There will be more threats issued to those who have the temerity to oppose Barack Obama and support Mitt Romney. The right of Americans to free speech and the other rights given them under our Constitution will be under pressure.
The next two hundred days (like the last thousand) will be a blot on our history.
And one man is to blame.