Obama and the Politics of Personal Destruction

The president and his party are in a fix.

At their moment of great political ascendancy -- when they control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and a recession has rocked faith in free market capitalism -- they still can’t get the country to go along with their big government schemes.

Each day brings a new batch of bad polling news for the president. The public is wary of his spending, is convinced he is too liberal, and doesn’t much care for ObamaCare. Meanwhile, the speaker of the house has Dick Cheney-like poll numbers and the Democrats’ generic poll numbers have slid.

Under such circumstances, the only reasonable thing to do is attack the voters and the Republican Party. That at least seems to be the conclusion reached by the Obama White House, which now is convinced that smearing citizens who bother to come to town hall meetings and painting their opponents as intransigent critics of all reform -- or as fruitcakes -- are the keys to success.

And from Obama himself, the once presidential candidate who wanted to have civil discourse and get beyond name calling, the message to his critics is: "get out of the way." Anyone who disagrees with ObamaCare is now a crank, a stooge, or an obstructionist. Even the Washington Post editors have had quite enough of the "round-up-the-usual-suspects demagoguery."

The White House’s attempt to paint ordinary citizens who come to speak out against ObamaCare as pawns of the insurance industry takes on a comical air when one considers the president’s own background and tactics. As Charles Krauthammer remarked:

There is a certain irony in an administration denouncing ordinary Americans who get together to express what they believe and to confront authority, when that administration is led by a man who began his career as a community organizer, whose job, as I understand it, is to take ordinary Americans, get them together to express what they believe, and express demands against the authorities.

So it's unbelievably hypocritical. And, of course, as we just heard, this only happens when you have a conservative protest. It is called a mob. If it’s a liberal protest, it is called grassroots expressing themselves.

Remember, just a year ago under the Bush administration, dissent was the highest form of patriotism. And today it is a kind of either organized anger, it's a facsimile of anger, it's unpatriotic, it's whatever.

Ultimately, the “blame the voters” tactic is self-defeating, if not downright embarrassing. The White House can’t demean the voters whose support they need. They must persuade and engage, not spy on and smear the town hall attendees.