Skip to comments.White House Searches for a Villain
Posted on 08/18/2010 9:45:41 AM PDT by Qbert
As far as politics go, President Barack Obama and John Boehner have virtually nothing in common. And that makes him a perfect Republican for the White House to vilify.
The president and the House Republican minority leader dont agree on stimulus spending or on tax cuts, and Boehner wants to repeal two of Obamas signature accomplishments: the new health care law and tighter Wall Street regulations. On Wednesday, Obama visits Ohio Boehners home state to talk about the economy, and he may throw a few jabs at Boehner, whom Obama has called out of touch.
But political scientists and strategists arent sure that demonizing Boehner, generally unknown outside Washington, and a few other notable Republicans is a winning strategy, since most voters generally dont closely follow national politics. Outside the Beltway, they say, not that many people even know whom the president is talking about.
Folks like John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Joe Barton dont even have 50 percent name recognition nationwide, Tom Jensen, a pollster for the liberal group Public Policy Polling, said in an e-mail. And for the most part, people who do know them are hard partisans whose voting preferences are pretty set in stone. This is the kind of thing where people who work in politics need to keep perspective about just how unfamiliar average people are with most of the movers and shakers in D.C.
Arthur Lupia, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, said the core audience of the strategy is the Democratic base. For citizens who are not looking for reasons to distrust the GOP, this strategy is less persuasive, he said in an e-mail.
But that hasnt stopped the White House from trying.
It has thrown a half-dozen headline-making Republicans into the rotation in recent months, including Joe Barton, a relatively obscure Texas congressman whom Obama has ridiculed for apologizing to BP when the government demanded a $20 billion compensation fund for Gulf Coast residents affected by the oil spill. At a Texas fundraiser last Monday, Obama said the apology from Barton, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was consistent with other Republicans ideas.
I don't know what he was thinking about, Obama said. He held up Bartons remarks at a rally in Milwaukee a week later. This is somebody who could be running our energy policy if the other party takes over, he said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Boehner and Barton are colorful examples of Republicans who would reshape policy if they take over Congress in the midterm elections.
These are people who would be in leadership positions if theres a Republican majority, Earnest said. The emphasis in the presidents comments [is] not on John Boehner. Theyre on the policy positions that John Boehners espousing.
Democratic pollster Mark Penn, who worked in the Clinton administration, said a similar strategy of designating an opposition villain worked in 1996, when the administration made hard-hitting political ads from then-House Speaker Newt Gingrichs desire to let Medicare wither on the vine. Penn credited that tactic with transforming Gingrich, the Georgia Republican behind the GOPs famous Contract With America, into the symbol of conservative politics.
The strategy is very effective generally because it underscores extreme positions or missteps of the other party, Penn said in an e-mail. And once you zero in on something like that, cable TV tends to replay it until we have all heard or seen it.
Other villains of the Obama White House include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who became an easy target for press secretary Robert Gibbs after The New York Times in March wrote that his strategy withhold GOP support from the Democrats agenda was in place even before Obama was sworn in. This week, when the Times quoted McConnell saying he wished Republicans had been able to obstruct more, Obama took a shot himself at the Milwaukee fundraiser: Obstruct more? Is that even possible?
The White House roughed up Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, too, for suggesting in an op-ed in The Washington Post that Medicare should become a voucher program.
Former Budget Director Peter Orszag had called Ryans plan a dramatically different approach that adds risks for individuals, but Stephanie Cutter, an administration assistant for special projects, blasted him on the White Houses blog: We wont go down Rep. Ryans road.
In May, Gibbs said Rand Paul Kentuckys Republican Senate nominee and tea party favorite who criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is emblematic of the GOPs narrowness. And as far back as March 2009, Gibbs called Rush Limbaugh, who had said he wants Obamas economic policies to fail, a national spokesperson for conservative views and many in the Republican Party.
Still, Boehner is the biggest target for the Obama administrations attacks on Republicans.
After he said in a June 29 interview that the financial regulatory bill was akin to killing an ant with a nuclear weapon, Obama publicly mocked Boehners remarks four times in less than two weeks. At the Texas fundraiser, the president ridiculed Boehners desire to do away with the sweeping new health care law, saying, I don't know how that would create jobs other than maybe for folks who want to deny you coverage for health care.
White House surrogates have gone after Boehner specifically and often since the end of June. Most recently, Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Bidens chief economist, wrote in a blog post last Wednesday insisting that Boehner wants a lot of people to lose their jobs. On Friday, he wrote another entry calling Boehner confused and mentioned his name seven times. A month before, he took the Ohio Republican to task over a stimulus report that he said was full of half-truths and mistakes.
Gibbs has frequently set his sights on the minority leader and was the first White House official to publicly call him out of touch for comparing the Wall Street bill to a nuke. And he has sarcastically invited Boehner to unwind his eloquent argument for preserving the tax cuts for those that are quite wealthy.
Vincent Hutchings, a professor of public opinion at the University of Michigan, noted that personal attacks might work better with donors than with the average voter. Most Americans, for example, might not recognize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a powerful Democrat, but theyll respond to Republican attacks on the speaker of the House. The same goes for Obamas strategy of not always mentioning Boehners name but calling him the Republican leader in the House, he said.
Where they go off the rails is where they start assuming that people are familiar with the minutiae, Hutchings said. In a way, thats just not true for most people.
Just a few weeks ago, on July 24, Obama used his weekly address a radio and Web video message intended for ordinary Americans to say that Boehners goals to repeal the health care law and extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich would kill jobs. But he didnt mention him by name.
This week, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives offered his plan to create jobs, Obama said. Its a plan thats surprisingly short and sadly familiar.
Gee all this time i thought this admistration was at war with US citizens.
OK read to that part and started laughing...I needed to read no further.
The villains are:
Obama, we know who the villains are and we will move them out in time. Be patient. Your return home will come in 2012, January, 2013, to be precise.
It's sad that so many Americans have their head up their butt and don't know what these communists are up to. They have enraged a large number and should “reap the whorl-wind” in November, but a nagging doubt lies underneath that premise that they have created such a large dependent class that they may be untouchable until they have totally destroyed everything.
The Contract with America flipped the House to the Republicans for the first time since the 50's and it remained that way until 2006. Do these idiots even think about what they print??
Obama called Boehner “out of touch”?
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
(Wait, can I say that? Is that racist?)
Yes it is. You may want to change it to: "Is the kettle African American".
I do think OH is completely lost for the dems this time around, except for maybe someone like Kucinich, who really is pro-jobs, anti-NAFTA, and does the day-to-day stuff well.
Obama will be blamed for more jobs going overseas, the dem governor is being blamed for jobs going to other states. Even if the dem were to win the US Senate race (doubtful, with the economic disaster in OH), Obama had actually campaigned for his opponent in the primary! (no love lost)
EARTH TO DC: It's about all of those empty factories in the crumbling cities of OH. The impoverished already get government freebies beyond belief.
They don’t have to look very far...there are many villains right there at the White House, beginning with the leader.
White House Searches for a Villain
Look in the mirror...
Clinton could get away with demonizing his opposition because the Internet was, at that time, a fad among techo geeks and talk radio consisted of Rush Limbaugh.
It now 15 years later. Your monopolistic control over information has been shattered. So do TRY clinging to your out of date anachronistic political playbook Democrats, it will make defeating you that much easier.
To find a villain, the “White House” only needs to look in the mirror.
Even 15 year later, they continue to repeat that lie. That is not what Gingrich said, but little Goebbels propagandists like Penn and their zombie followers in the MSM have zero interest in the truth.
Sounds like the Democrats are going to try “scare grandma” again this fall to try to stave off a rout.