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Obama and the Politics of Personal Destruction

So “Plan B” is the old White House standby: argue that Republicans are opposed to even the idea of reform and are fringe radicals verging on being threats to America. Obama persists in telling crowds that Republicans are in favor of the status quo and against giving health care to the poor or uninsured. Of course, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Paul Ryan, and Rep. Tom Price have all suggested reforms which aim to reform the health care system, provide all Americans with tax credits to buy insurance, promote insurance competition, and reduce unneeded medical expenditures by reforming the tort system. But the president persists.

Alternatively, the president’s spin-squad (i.e., the mainstream media) has decided to take up the fringe conspiracy theory claiming Obama was not born in the U.S. and run with it, in a rather transparent attempt to portray Republicans as lunatics -- or even subversive. As James Kirchick pointed out:

It is not Obama's right-wing opponents, however, who are devoting the most attention to this obscure, Internet-driven "movement," if one can even use that label to describe such a paranoid groupuscule . Rather, it's liberals, bent on portraying their conservative opponents as extremists -- and changing the subject to help a President under increasing scrutiny for the substance of his policies -- who are driving this story. ...

Far from seeing these charges as any sort of real threat to Obama's legitimacy, liberals report every outburst of the birther brigades with glee -- because they derive maximum political benefit from stirring up the story as long as possible. Why debate the intricacies of a massive overhaul of the nation's health care system when you can conflate principled conservative critics of the program with a bunch of nutty conspiracy theorists?

And that has been Obama’s favored tactic since taking office. There was the effort to “Limbaugh-ize” the GOP rather than debate the merits of the stimulus. Now the “birthers” play the decoy role while the administration flounders in the health care debate.

Will any of this work? In some sense, one suspects the White House is only making matters worse. They are behind in the health care debate, losing the message to their conservative critics. It is hard to see how using valuable air time insulting voters or telling tales about fringe conspiratorialists will help shift public opinion on a serious matter of public policy. It assumes the public has the unlimited capacity to be bamboozled.

Among the many myths which Obama perpetrated was the notion that he would lift the public discourse. But now, at their moment of greatest political peril, Obama and his enablers have nothing to offer but the politics of personal destruction.

We were hoping for so much better.