Commentary Magazine


Topic: Republican Convention

Obama Campaign Stunt “Breaks Precedent”

The Wall Street Journal has a long story today examining the extent of President Obama’s failure with regard to his stated goal of reducing the partisan rancor in Washington. The Journal notes that while Obama promised to “heal the divides,” and other vapid covers for the president’s own extreme partisanship, he has only built a more divided political atmosphere:

Almost four years later, few think those rifts have been healed. One of the central tenets of the 2008 Obama campaign was a promise to usher in an almost post-partisan era in Washington, but by most measures the capital’s divisive tone has grown worse. The rancor has bled into the campaign, which has been marked by unusually negative rhetoric from both sides.

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The Wall Street Journal has a long story today examining the extent of President Obama’s failure with regard to his stated goal of reducing the partisan rancor in Washington. The Journal notes that while Obama promised to “heal the divides,” and other vapid covers for the president’s own extreme partisanship, he has only built a more divided political atmosphere:

Almost four years later, few think those rifts have been healed. One of the central tenets of the 2008 Obama campaign was a promise to usher in an almost post-partisan era in Washington, but by most measures the capital’s divisive tone has grown worse. The rancor has bled into the campaign, which has been marked by unusually negative rhetoric from both sides.

The Journal is quick to dispel the notion that the GOP has been more united in opposition to the Democrats than the president’s party has been against the Republicans: “Last year, House Republicans voted with their leadership 91% of the time on average, tying a record for party-line voting, while Senate Democrats set a record with 92% party unity, according to data compiled by Congressional Quarterly.”

The article offers many reasons for the increased polarization, relying heavily on criticism from the president’s allies and fellow Democrats that paint Obama as dismissive of building relationships with his opposition, preferring to ignore or freeze out those who disagree with him on Capitol Hill, unlike his Democratic and Republican predecessors who were able to pursue their agenda while reaching across the isle and show a willingness to engage with the other side.

But the president’s contribution to the increased polarization seems to be more than just his personal coldness toward those with different ideas. As a piece in the Hill today makes clear, Obama has found ways to escalate the petty verbal skirmishing he claimed to detest:

Bucking protocol, President Obama and the Democrats are planning a full-scale assault on Republicans next week during their convention.

Presidential candidates have traditionally kept a low profile during their opponent’s nominating celebration, but Democrats are throwing those rules out the window in an attempt to spoil Mitt Romney’s coronation as the GOP nominee.

President Obama, Vice President Biden and leading congressional Democrats have all scheduled high-profile events next week to counter-program the Republican gathering in Tampa….

“Traditionally, there was a kind of courtesy extended to the party having the convention — the [other] party would basically stay out of the public eye,” said Ross Baker, political scientist at Rutgers University.

In fairness to Obama, he did promise to change business as usual in Washington, and erasing any semblance of inter-party graciousness certainly qualifies. Now, I don’t think the parties necessarily have to hold their fire just because campaigns have done so in the past. It’s just worth pointing out that Obama isn’t the victim of a status quo—he has made a choice and is pursuing it.

Of course, anyone who is familiar with coverage of the president knows what’s coming next: the explanation for why it can’t possibly be Obama’s fault:

Political historians say the high stakes of this year’s elections — combined with the rise of today’s 24/7 media culture — has forced leaders on both sides of the aisle to get more aggressive.

It’s really a shame that the president was “forced” into breaking precedent and running a nastier campaign than he promised. And of course there’s the unavoidable “both sides” bit even though the article’s point is that the president is doing something no one else has done. I suppose this is what the president was talking about when he complained about “false balance” in the press.

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Artur Davis to Speak at GOP Convention

Artur Davis, the one-time Democratic congressman and 2008 Obama campaign co-chair, has been moving rightward for quite some time. But his speaking slot at the Republican National Convention later this month shows just how much the GOP has embraced him as a Romney surrogate:

“The one thing that I can bring to the table is to be something of a voice for that group of people,” Davis said in announcing his speaking slot. …

At the convention, Davis said he would speak about areas in which he felt Obama had failed to deliver on his promises from 2008.

“President Obama — Senator Obama — ran on two broad themes,” Davis said. “One of those broad themes was reunifying this country. And another broad theme was turning this economy around…. I’ll certainly be talking about those two failures.”

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Artur Davis, the one-time Democratic congressman and 2008 Obama campaign co-chair, has been moving rightward for quite some time. But his speaking slot at the Republican National Convention later this month shows just how much the GOP has embraced him as a Romney surrogate:

“The one thing that I can bring to the table is to be something of a voice for that group of people,” Davis said in announcing his speaking slot. …

At the convention, Davis said he would speak about areas in which he felt Obama had failed to deliver on his promises from 2008.

“President Obama — Senator Obama — ran on two broad themes,” Davis said. “One of those broad themes was reunifying this country. And another broad theme was turning this economy around…. I’ll certainly be talking about those two failures.”

The RNC has sounded this theme throughout the race — most recently with the “It’s Okay to Make a Change” ad directed at disillusioned Obama voters — but the message is far more powerful coming from the person who seconded Obama’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic convention.

Americans for Prosperity is also targeting disenchanted voters with its latest ad campaign that actually includes interviews with former Obama supporters:

The soft, disappointed tone of these ads actually seems more compelling now that the Obama campaign has gone viciously negative in its attacks. It’s as if the Obama campaign is proving these ads — and all those disillusioned voters — correct by destroying the last shred of hope that Obama’s 2008 persona was the real deal.

In fact, it’s probably more effective to use these ads than the ones that blatantly attack Obama. Now that the Romney campaign has a clear message, it doesn’t need to go entirely negative — but the Obama campaign does. The more mud Obama throws, the more he’ll end up turning off independent voters and discrediting himself.

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