As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Obama’s Bullying Bully Pulpit

The penchant of the White House to use its huge power and megaphone to slam private industries is one of its most disconcerting features. It distinguishes President Obama from the two other presidents I’ve covered, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

For sure, I remember them railing against their opponents, but not attacking specific private citizens or groups of private citizens in the manner of this president and his foot soldiers.

The White House may think it’s just playing hardball. But when the nation’s leader assails specific private individuals, it chills free speech.

The White House controls the federal police, the military, the tax collectors, the regulation writers, and so forth. When the White House sets its sights on you, it is impossible to tell what the repercussions will be. Will you be audited? Will you be investigated? Even if there is no evil intent from some corrupt official on high, will one of the many twenty or thirty somethings who actually run our government get it into their sweet young heads to do something stupid they think will please the big bosses?

I remember being a little shocked early in Obama’s term when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs started attacking in quite personal terms private citizens like Rush Limbaugh or CNBC’s Rick Santelli. I’d never really heard this from the podium before.

Well known is Obama’s willingness to bash the industries he thinks are doing bad things – or, like health insurers, whose main sins are that they  oppose his policies and are trying to make money.

The latest example came Monday night when Obama was throwing raw meat to a hungry crowd at a DNC fundraiser in Austin.

Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates all across the country.  And they don’t have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are.  You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation.  You don’t know if it’s a big oil company, or a big bank.  You don’t know if it’s a insurance company that wants to see some of the provisions in health reform repealed because it’s good for their bottom line, even if it’s not good for the American people.

Well, a quick search on the Internet would have told the president that the group was founded by and has received substantial funding from U.S. oil baron David Koch.

To suggest that a group trying to affect U.S. election might be “foreign controlled” without any proof – and when proof to the contrary exists – is a smear. And attacking private citizens expressing their right to free speech – whether most of the money comes from some rich tycoon or not – is unpresidential at best, and dangerous at worst.

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7 Responses to Obama’s Bullying Bully Pulpit

  1. Excellent job and it was interesting to read your contrasts with other presidents. Koch seems to be a libertarian and a huge philanthropist at that.

  2. You are right on point.
    Americans share a fairness doctrine that defines proper behaviour in others.
    The O campaign group has underestimated the American public’s distaste for the ridicule, the name-calling and back-stabbing attacks on anyone (public or private figures) who oppose their agenda. It makes O sound impotent and un-manly, as someone who blames his personal lack of success on someone else.
    A man who hopes to lead by being mean, insulting and vindictive will never gain or keep the trust of anyone who fears that his venom might be directed to them one day. His supporters reflect that fear in every poll.
    The personal attacks on prominent opposers, like Beck, Rush and Palin, are self-defeating because they show that O fears what they are or might say about him. These opposers don’t have the might of the government behind them, no means to punish or frighten O.
    He needs better advisors. America isn’t Chicago; it’s Mary Kansas, Snowflake Arizona, Katy Texas, Billings Montana and the Elks club and the Masons and the VFW and the Women’s Auxillary of anything or anywhere and we expect our leaders to be fair, honest and polite.

  3. I haven’t been able to find the video of this which is unusual. Do you know if there is one? If it’s not on video than he might as well not have said it.

  4. We’re not talking Teddy Roosevelt–he comes off as a snide, petty, little preppie. His stooges laugh and laugh as he trots out the straw men.
    .

    • Thanks everyone. srdem – there’s a good piece by Rove in WSJ today saying just what you are – the attacks won’t work. Janice, he said it at a fundraiser so I don’t know if they allowed cameras in or not but will let you know if I see one so you can perform appropriate surgery if you like. And Star, right, this sure ain’t Teddy we got going here . . . The man who said “bully” also stood up to them . . .

  5. Interesting that Obama accused Americans for Prosperity of being foreign -funded. If memory serves me correctly, his election campaign benefited from tens of millions of dollars in foreign donations…