We haven’t yet seen the full modus operandi of the Obama administration’s response to critics, but the outlines of the initial phases are coming into focus. The beginning, it seems to me, was the Joking Phase. We first saw this during the 2008 campaign when Senator Obama joked about Fox News journalist-entertainer Sean Hannity: “I might have to put Mr. Burgess [an Obama supporter] on FOX News. … I'll put Mr. Burgess up against Sean Hannity. They'll tear him up.” This got a laugh from his admiring audience, but it wasn’t hard to detect the undercurrent of menace in the candidate’s remarks. Hardly anyone noted how unusual it was for a candidate to mention a newsperson instead of his opponent. Even Richard Nixon didn’t do anything like this during his 1968 run for the presidency.
The Ridicule Phase followed in the Obama gang’s treatment of critics. This is where administration figures try to isolate and delegitimize critics by mocking them and impugning their integrity. Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh was singled out early in the Obama presidency for saying he hoped that Mr. Obama would “fail.” A great chorus of compliant media joined in condemning Mr. Limbaugh, with few voices supplying the full context of those remarks – i.e., that the commentator wished the president to “fail” in his attempt to transform the country into a socialism most Americans would not recognize or want.
Glen Beck – Fox News’ popular journalist-entertainer – is regularly mocked as “crazy” for his frenetic style. People who never watch him “know” he’s nuts. Yet he delivers new nuggets of truth to his viewers every night, and has started being a real thorn in the side of the Obama administration for his disclosures. These include corruption in the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and the radical views of Diversity Czar Van Jones.
Mr. Beck’s show aired videos shot by journalists Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe, in which the pair pretended to be a prostitute and pimp getting tax and housing advice. ACORN tax advisors showed them how to avoid federal taxes and how to get federal funding for a house to conduct prostitution.
Mr. Beck also aired clips in which Van Jones called for redistribution of wealth via radical environmentalism. He is either a communist or a Marxist sympathizer who believes George W. Bush was complicit in or had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks. Public pressure from the Beck-disclosures forced Mr. Jones’ resignation on September 6th. The ACORN-uproar caused its loss of federal funding and its census-contracts.
Economic attack looks like the next phase in the Obama game plan against critics and opponents. A campaign has been launched to drive Glen Beck’s corporate sponsors away from his programs. This cannot be laid directly at the door of the Obama administration, but Van Jones was associated with Color of Change – an organization which has taken an active role in trying to de-sponsor Mr. Beck. It is possible that Mr. Beck’s attacks on Van Jones were responses to Color of Change’s campaign against the Beck sponsors, but whether the chicken or the egg came first is not the question. Does anyone blame a broadcaster for fighting back against attacks on his livelihood? None of the quotes and clips showing Mr. Jones’ radical views has been substantively denied by the White House.
An important aspect of the Obama/Emanuel MO is the assistance of willing accomplices in the media to push Lies and Smears that the White House doesn’t want linked to Mr. Obama. This was demonstrated in the recent smear-campaign mounted against Rush Limbaugh, when he was a partner in an investment group attempting to buy the NFL St. Louis Rams. Mr. Limbaugh was smeared as a racist for remarks he supposedly made, but which no one ever heard him say. The outrageous remarks – one of which was said to be Mr. Limbaugh’s “defense” of slavery (e.g., “it built the South” and “the streets were safe at night”) – were drawn from a 2006 left-wing tabloid-like book, 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America. Its author, Jack Huberman, cited no sources for the “quotations,” which were shown to be entirely bogus.
Before the false statements were debunked, several cable and network media outlets picked them up and trumpeted them. A quick check shows that they were repeated on any number of internet sites, including Newsvine. CNN’s Rick Sanchez, who had triumphantly repeated the bogus quotes on CNN, made a kind of left-handed “non-apology apology” on his tweet:
“i've known rush. in person, i like him. his rhetoric, however is inexcusably divisive. he's right tho. we didn't confirm quote. our bad.”
“Our bad?” That’s it? After you’ve ruined a man’s legitimate business opportunity with a lie, he gets a tepid statement about how we “didn’t confirm”?!!! The apology (such as it is) is issued, but the damage is already done. (The investment group dropped Mr. Limbaugh from the Rams-purchase attempt.) Try to imagine media reactions if Jesse Jackson had received this kind of treatment from Fox News.
The latest phase of the Obama MO has been the Shutout Phase, in which key members of the Obama administration have stepped up to play real hardball. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Communications Director Anita Dunn and top Obama advisor David Axelrod all recently started declaiming that Fox News isn’t a “real” news organization because it has “a point of view.” Even Mr. Obama joined in the fun by saying that Fox News resembles “talk radio” – as differentiated from other “legitimate” (i.e., compliant) news outlets.
Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried to drive the Fox critters off the White House range by offering interviews with Pay Czar Robert Feinberg to all members of the White House Press Pool except Fox News. This unprecedented attempt to block Fox’s access to the White House failed, however, when other members of the Press Pool unanimously declined to participate in the interviews unless Fox was included. A clearly surprised Secretary Gibbs backed down and rescinded the shutout.
This brings us to the present. What will be the next act in the Obama-offensive against its “enemies?” Most of us don’t know, and those who know aren’t saying. But we’ll see soon enough. Will Glen Beck become one of the “vanished ones” and simply not be there one morning? Or will there be vague reports (never confirmed) that Rush Limbaugh has run off to Bora-Bora with a young female staff member? Doubtful. Probably no tommy-guns blazing from speeding 1929 Packards, either.
I believe the Obama administration’s “weapon of choice” will be financial destruction of its enemies – perhaps including IRS tax audits of selected high-profile individuals and others who sympathize with them. Media will joyfully trumpet how this or that talk-radio host or Fox News personality has failed to report millions in income on his tax returns – whether or not it is actually true. Even if nothing can actually be found, something can always be invented, as in the case of Rush Limbaugh. (Is this a great country, or what?)
It could get ugly. Actually, I think the horse’s head in the bed is more elegant.
(“I want no acts of vengeance…”)