I consider Patterico to be an indispensable daily read but yesterday I think he gets something wrong and dangerously so.
He takes David Horowitz to task over a post called Obama Derangement Syndrome. Horowitz, in essence, says that Obama really isn’t doing anything extreme and we are wasting time and energy worrying about him.
I agree with Patterico in part. Horowitz is whistling past the graveyard if he can look at the actions taken by the Administration in just the past two months and not see that the goal is socializing health care as well as other sectors of the economy and establishing some kind of industrial policy to favor the alleged “green” businesses over others.
But I think Patterico doesn’t really understand what we are up against, either.
I spent eight years watching a crazy set of people on the left use every trick in the book to attack and tear down President Bush on a personal level. They seized on every maladroit turn of phrase to suggest that he was a moron. They distorted his policy pronouncements, trumped up phony issues, and displayed an unyielding self-righteousness that justified literally any tactic used in service of their political ends. This is why they felt comfortable demonizing Bush to the point where they compared him to Hitler.
I do not want to see us becoming the conservative nutroots. It is not, as some suggest, that I am some “country club Republican.” I despise those people. It is because I do not want to become that which I hate. When we make a mountain out of the molehill of Obama’s birth certificate; when we seize on a “Special Olympics” joke as the Height of Outrage and manufacture trumped-up howling rather than dismissing it as a dumb thing to say; when we insist on comparing Obama to mass murderers . . . when these things happen, we are becoming what we hated.
Let’s clear away the underbrush. Anyone who compares anyone to Hitler marks themselves as not serious and lumping ridicule of Obama together with calling him Hitler is either an obtuse or extremely disingenuous parallel. By the same token, it is hard to believe that anyone who was conscious during the past eight years can deny that patently false and hysterical allegations, when repeated often and loudly enough, hurt the target and do zero damage to the person or group making them. Cindy Sheehan, MoveOn.org, Jack Murtha, Al Gore, to name but a few, all engaged in grotesquely dishonest attacks on President Bush which in time took their toll.
Right now we are facing a formidable combination of circumstances.
- We have an economic crisis of undetermined magnitude that the Administration is shamelessly manipulating so as to use it as a stalking horse for the radical economic reordering that they would like to see.
- We have a president who is willing to use the full weight of the White House to damage if not destroy opponents whom he views as effective. Erick wrote this morning on how the personal attacks on prominent conservatives are being orchestrated from the White House.
- We are without power in the political branches of government and our national party shows little interest in pulling its thumb out of its fourth point of contact and actually contesting elections.
- Ordinary criticism of President Obama now, as during the campaign, is reflexively met with allegations of racism, see, for instance, this AP story and the associated commentary by our own Warner Todd Huston.
- The media is in sympathy with both President Obama and his policies and unlikely, in the foreseeable future, to give other than short shrift to anyone challenging him.
Sure we need to develop policy alternatives to what Obama is doing and critique the policies emanating from his Administration but this is only one part of a successful strategy. We not only need to offer an alternative, we need to stop him. Patterico’s position is essentially a “happy loser” strategy that will result in our being defeated at the polls in 2010, and 2012, and 2014, and etc., but we will be able to feel real good about ourselves because we didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
I saw what happened when President Bush41 refused to let his campaign go after Bill Clinton on the issue of his morality, much the same I’d note as what happened when John McCain refused to let people go after Obama on the personal level. I won’t be a party such nonsense again.
So I am proposing we use a few simple rules to deal with the Administration in terms they understand.
Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
Obama has spent his professional and political life in a bubble. He has no experience handling criticism and from what we’ve seen he doesn’t handle it very well. In short he knows that we know he’s a poseur and he’s very sensitive to that. Attacking Obama’s policies are unlikely to get much of a reaction because by being in control of the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the media he simply doesn’t have to answer critiques of his policies.
This is why hitting Obama on the Special Olympics and the use of the teleprompter are more important than trying to explain to the American people why giving the CEO of GM the heave-ho is Armageddon.
It also goes to the critical nature of going after every single appointee on any grounds, no matter how weak. We’ve been blessed by a cosmic level of incompetence on the part of the Administration in vetting their nominees and by defeating them on things like nonpayment of taxes we’ve accentuated Obama’s predilection for hiring C-level talent by having him settle for C-minus level nonentities.
Never go outside the expertise of your people. It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
This is why I think we should leave the development of policy alternatives to Heritage and American Enterprise. Most of us, and this includes members of congress, just don’t have the expertise and resources to develop real policies much less develop defenses to them. We should concentrate on what we can do best, point out the failings of the Administration and under no circumstance should we give them a fixed target to focus on and divert attention from our attacks.
Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.
The best line of attack that we have is Obama’s campaign website. He’s already been burned on his “no lobbyist” pledge creating a rift between him and groups, like the ACLU, who support his agenda while we are able to point to his prominent lobbyist appointees. Even the AP has noticed the disconnect between what he’s pledged on taxes and what he is poised to do.
Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating.
Running into doors. Hitting his head on Marine One. The DVDs that don’t work given to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The iPod given to the Queen of England. The teleprompter. Bowing and scraping before the Saudi king. All of these are valuable lines of attack because they all go back to the fourth rule, create insecurity, and not a single one of them can be portrayed as racist. Everyone has had contact with the gauche, bumbling, socially stunted, nouveau riche. It is a caricature that works for even the politically correct.
The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
See the rules about ridicule and anxiety. Eventually Obama is going to have to stop using his teleprompter. We’ve all heard what he sounds like when he ad libs. Why do we think he didn’t attend the Gridiron Dinner? Why is his cabinet filled with C-listers who need a government job rather than A-listers with actual accomplishments?
If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive. Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
As stated above, Obama doesn’t deal with criticism very well. He is has already demonstrated that he is willing to use the power of the presidency to go after private citizens who oppose him. Even the sycophantic media eventually came to the conclusion that this was unseemly. Just because Administration sock puppet Robert Gibbs admits going after Rush Limbaugh has been counterproductive doesn’t mean they aren’t completely capable of doing it again. Why else has MoveOn moved into the White House?
The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
This is why two lines of attack are necessary. Ridicule is the tool to strip away the Administration’s race baiting as a defense mechanism. When we attack his policies our constructive alternative is “bipartisanship.” We have to beat Obama and the Democrats with “bipartisanship” and the notion of working together through a crisis. The deficiencies we identify in their plans and our opposition to their plans would not exist if they had been conceived of in the spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation. We can always pull out of deals that are insufficiently bipartisan.
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
This is why it is critical that we go after Obama and his appointees personally, in addition to fighting their policies.
If we are going to gain ground in 2010 and possibly end this nightmare in 2012 we have to write a convincing narrative not issue position papers. Sure we have policy differences with the Administration but they are bumbling, arrogant dilettantes. They are tax cheats and incompetents. The man who pretends to be president is no more substantial than the pane of glass in his teleprompter and is so devoid of social skills that he makes fun of handicapped kids on national television. He promised fiscal responsibility but is spending like a drunken sailor in Olongapo, his first appointees are lobbyists he said he’d never appoint. Policies aside, this bunch should be back in Hyde Park doing blow with terrorists, they should not be running our country.