President Obama, the politician who was supposed to transcend politics, is back in the gutter these days creating a new boogeyman for the American people: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Obama loves to have a foil, a place where he can invite Americans to dump all their troubles and place all their blame for what’s wrong with the country. He’s used the banks, the Chamber of Commerce, Speaker John Boehner and others, while his aides have targeted the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh and so forth.
It’s a vitriolic way to do business that Obama learned at the foot – not the bodily foot, for the master was already dead – of Saul Alinsky, who advised community activists like the young Obama to “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.”
This is a lousy way for a president, who is supposed to be the leader of us all, to do business.
Democrats often say they are pining for the days of bipartisanship, when Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill were able to compete with each other as adults while striking deals on legislation.
Reagan and O’Neill were not particularly friendly in the way some today like to suggest. But I don’t recall Reagan trying to make a public enemy out of O’Neill.
Obama opened his attack on Cantor with a trip in September to the Republican leader’s home district in Richmond, Va., where Obama offered an in-your-face promotion of his American Jobs Act.
And then last week there was this.
According to the Washington Post, Obama’s assault on Cantor is part of a coordinated strategy to vilify him.
For months, as the fiscal wars in Washington have intensified, Democrats have been searching for their Republican version of Barack Obama — a political villain who will rile up their base and scare centrist swing voters to their side. After a series of trial-balloon auditions during the spring and summer, they settled on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as the man they want to cast as the face of GOP intransigence.
Some of this, no doubt, is personal for the sometimes thin-skinned Obama. Cantor took the role of the heavy during this summer’s budget talks, resisting a deal that would raise taxes and once causing Obama to walk out of a White House meeting in a grand huff.
I don’t think the Cantor Cauterization Campaign will get much traction. Cantor does not have the acerbic manner that could draw the kind of derision that landed on former Speakers Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, both of whom were set up as lightning rods by their opposition.
And nobody cares about the majority leader.
But they do care about the president. And this is just another sign for voters that the man of hope and change they thought they elected for is not such a person.