In the epilogue to the new paperback version of his book on President Obama, "The Promise," Jonathan Alter notes that one of the president's major challenges for 2012 will be combating the "Obama Hate Machine." That's an appropriate name for the right-wing attack network that will throw any charge it can concoct -- regardless of the facts -- at the president. Alter has a point, but this task is a never-ending, 24/7 job that is unconnected to Obama's re-election campaign. It is crucial to Obama's overall mission of governing the nation well.
The OHM -- led by a wide-ranging collection of conservative media outfits, right-wing bloggers, and GOP partisans -- has already effectively undermined Obama's presidency by propagating lies about his administration's major accomplishments. It tarred Obama's health care reform initiative by falsely claiming it would establish "death panels." It pushed the falsehood that his $787 stimulus package created no new jobs. (The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that legislation created or saved up to 3.5 million jobs.) And don't forget the birthers, who are still yapping that Obama wasn't born in the United States. One recent poll found that 23 percent of Americans believe this (and 20 percent said they didn't know).
In the past week -- even after Obama (to the chagrin of his Democratic colleagues) showed that he was willing to compromise with the Republicans -- the Obama Hate Machine has been cooking up more lunacy-driven charges. Here are two that have emerged in the past week or so: Obama wants to disarm the United States unilaterally and give New York back to Native Americans.
Let's look at that disarm-the-U.S. charge first. As Obama was pushing for Senate ratification of the new START treaty, which will decrease the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia, Rush Limbaugh, who sits on the throne of the OHM, declared
that this was part of "Obama's effort to disarm the United States." He also proclaimed that with the START treaty Obama and the Democrats had "finally" succeeded "in harming U.S. national security."
Limbaugh neglected to mention that ratification of the START treaty was endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including its chairman. He also didn't note that it was backed by six former Republican secretaries of state: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger, Colin Powell
, and Condoleezza Rice
. Do these Republicans all wish to disarm the United States and impair U.S. national security? Perhaps there was a conservative policy argument to be made against the new START treaty, but Limbaugh was not engaging in honest debate. He was accusing a commander in chief -- who, by the way, has beefed up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan -- of practically surrendering. Limbaugh's aim, of course, was not to participate in a robust policy discussion, but to discredit Obama and brand him as essentially a traitor. Yet it would be absurd to say such a thing about Powell, Rice, Shultz, and the other Republican national security experts. The mission is to create anti-Obama noise (and, certainly, to earn millions of dollars a year).
As for Obama going native, Special Guests, a conservative outfit that supplies "experts" for media interviews, shot out an e-mail the other day with this subject head: "Obama to give NY back to Indians!" (Note the exclamation point.) This group maintains
that Obama backs a United Nations resolution that would "set the table for turning regions of the U.S., including parts of Manhattan, back to Native American Indian tribes . . . [and] could create the theoretical framework for a dismantling of our entire country." Other conservatives, too, have asserted that Obama is plotting to return America to the tribes. Bryan Fischer of the right-wing American Family Association wrote
on his blog, "Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords." Really? Obama desires to be the president of a nation subservient to Native American tribal chiefs? The truth: The Obama administration supports the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which notes
that "indigenous people have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources" that they have traditionally occupied or owned. This declaration is, eh, non-binding. It's merely a statement of principle, not an announcement that the Munsee Delaware tribe
will be handed the deed to Rockefeller Center.
Still, the Obama-giving-land-back-to-the-Indians tall tale has been spreading within conservative circles. It's another sign that the OHM will use any cockamamie charge it can unearth or generate to undercut Obama. Facts don't matter. What counts is keeping the fire hose turned on and aimed at the fellow in the White House. If the born-in-Kenya-secret-Muslim-socialist thing doesn't pan out, there's always the disarm-American-and-go-native option. Who knows what this crazy guy is going to do next? As Special Guests said in that e-mail, "Elect a radical President, expect radical policy." Like backing a treaty approved by James Baker or cutting a compromise with Republicans that extends the Bush tax cut bonuses for the rich. Real radical.
The Obama Hate Machine is never slowed by the absurdities it manufactures. It just keeps spewing crap. The accusations don't have to be proved. The game plan is obvious: Even if he sidesteps the individual charges, Obama will somehow be dirtied by the ceaseless flow of mud. Meanwhile, the OHM professionals will reap profits, as they feed the irrational paranoia of their believe-anything anti-Obama audience.
Though Obama survived the OHM's assaults in 2008, its blasts did inflict damage during his first two years as president and -- credit where credit is due -- helped the Republicans seize control of the House and reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate. And the OHM will not be stopping. As Obama heads into the second half of this presidential term, the question is whether he and his posse will figure out a better way of confronting the craziness in 2011 and beyond.
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