Um, NOT. The strategy is to “marginalize [the administration’s] most powerful critics.”
This is the first of a two-part look at the marginalization of the GOP. Tomorrow: GOP officials fear that the party’s image is being defined increasingly by boisterous conservative commentators.
President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds.
With a series of private meetings and public taunts, the White House has targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest-spending pro-business lobbying group in the country; Rush Limbaugh, the country’s most-listened-to conservative commentator; and now, with a new volley of combative rhetoric in recent days, the insurance industry, Wall Street executives and Fox News.
Obama aides are using their powerful White House platform, combined with techniques honed in the 2008 campaign, to cast some of the most powerful adversaries as out of the mainstream and their criticism as unworthy of serious discussion.
It’s all about intimidating legitimate dissent:
Press secretary Robert Gibbs has mocked Limbaugh from the White House press room podium. White House aides limited access to the Chamber and made top adviser Valerie Jarrett available to reporters to disparage the group. Everyone from White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to White House Communications Director Anita Dunn has piled on Fox News by contending it’s not a legitimate news operation.
All of the techniques are harnessed to a larger purpose: to marginalize not only the individual person or organization but also some of the most important policy and publicity allies of the national Republican Party.
It’s hyperpartisan; it’s divisive; it’s increasing political tensions:
The campaign underscores how deeply political the Obama White House is in its daily operations — with a strong focus on redrawing the electoral map and discrediting the personalities and ideas that have powered the conservative movement over the past 20 years.
This determination has manifested itself in small ways: This president has done three times as many fundraisers as President George W. Bush had at this point in his term. And in large ones: Beginning with their contretemps with Limbaugh last winter, Obama’s most important advisers miss few opportunities for public and highly partisan shots at his most influential critics.
It’s too early to tell if the campaign is working, but it’s clearly exacerbating partisan tensions in Washington.
“They won — why don’t they act like it?” said Dana Perino, former White House press secretary to Bush. “The more they fight, the more defensive they look. It’s only been 10 months, and they’re burning bridges in a lot of different places.”
To which Greg Sargent replies:
Not sure Perino is the ideal messenger for the line that the Obama administration is being too rough on its political opponents. After all, her administration tried to paint much of the opposition party — not to mention major journalistic institutions like The New York Times — as traitors who were actively encouraging terrorist attacks on our country.
Perino’s claim that Obama administration officials are “burning bridges” with critics seems debatable, too. After all, whether it’s powerful interests running multi-million-dollar ad campaigns attacking Obama’s agenda, or leading conservative media figures attacking Obama as a “racist” who wants to brainwash the nation’s schoolchildren, Obama’s foes never seemed all that interested in maintaining cordial relations with the White House to begin with.
And that’s fine! Politics is a rough business. Seems like whatever bridges that existed were blown to bits and sank to the bottom of the river long ago.
What are you talking about? What’s all this stuff about bridges falling into a river? These scorched-earth tactics have got to stop (emphasis mine):
This is straight out of the Rahm Emanuel playbook. Opponents are not defeated; they are destroyed. Forget about engaging on the issues; opponents must be vilified and disqualified from being taken seriously.
Aside from the Nixonian quality and unseemliness of the entire approach, this is a trap for those practicing politics in this manner. The White House, whether on Van Jones or health-care opposition or Guantanamo, has failed to appreciate serious policy and personnel errors and correct them. Too busy discrediting opponents, the White House staff missed the soft underbelly of their own decisions and in each of the aforementioned cases found themselves eventually scrambling to catch up and deflect widespread public anger or criticism.
And as a style of politics, over the long haul, this sort of hyper-partisan nastiness takes its toll. Independent voters, already disenchanted with the president’s Left-leaning agenda, tend not to approve of such tactics. Indeed, it was the promise that Obama would rise above Clintonian tit-for-tat politics and leave behind past baggage that made candidate Barack Obama so attractive. The American people are quickly learning that candidate Obama — the model of dignified calm, moderation, and bipartisanship — bears little resemblance to the Obama in office.
You know, the woman’s got a point. Clinton took office in 1993. It’s 2009 now. Sixteen years of Clintonian politics should be enough for anyone, don’t you think?