Commentary Magazine


Obama’s “Dramatic and Unabashedly Negative Turn” Looks Like 2008

Much will be said about today’s Politico story on President Obama’s strategy for the 2012 election: “kill Romney,” according to one White House-aligned strategist. But it should also be noted the story makes one gargantuan mistake.

Here is how the authors present it: “The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality…. And so the candidate who ran on ‘hope’ in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.” This portrayal of the Obama plan to use dirty tricks and character assassination to win as something new–as a change in direction–is a frankly astonishing thing to say. What Politico describes in the article could easily be mistaken for a wrap-up of Obama’s 2008 election strategy. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?

One of the most memorable ads from the Obama campaign–and so dishonest it took ABC’s Jake Tapper more than 1,000 words to lay out all the distortions–was his Spanish-language ad intended to scare Latino voters into voting for Obama. Here is Tapper’s translation of the ad:

Obama’s ad features a narrator saying: “They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with…the intolerance…they made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much.”

The screen then shows these two quotes from Limbaugh:

“…stupid and unskilled Mexicans”
—Rush Limbaugh

“You shut your mouth or you get out!”
—Rush Limbaugh

The narrator then says, “John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote…and another, even worse, that continues the policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families. John McCain…more of the same old Republican tricks.”

As Tapper (and everyone else who saw it) noted, McCain and Limbaugh are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to immigration. In fact, McCain has been a frequent target of Limbaugh’s, since McCain favors (and led the way trying to pass) comprehensive immigration reform opposed by immigration hawks. McCain is a favorite whipping boy of conservative talk radio, and McCain’s advocacy of immigration reform that would help illegal immigrants who are already here is one of the reasons.

But there was a lot more to say about the ad. Tapper writes the quotes from Limbaugh are both taken completely out of context–especially the second quote, in which Limbaugh was actually describing Mexican immigration law. The Obama campaign put all that at the feet of McCain.

We should also mention the time the Obama campaign released an ad that mocked McCain’s injuries sustained when he was tortured as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. The ad begins with these words: “1982: John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn’t. He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an email….” McCain, as everyone knows, has difficulty typing because of the limited range of movement he has in his arms and shoulders from his war injuries. Obama spokesman Bill Burton went on Fox News to defend the ad–yes, he defended the ad, even after McCain’s injuries were discussed.

Another troubling Obama tactic was his attempt to silence Milt Rosenberg, the respected Chicago radio host. Rosenberg had Stanley Kurtz on his program to discuss what Kurtz had found in public records about Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers. Guy Benson was at the studio, and described what happened:

As I arrived at the downtown Chicago studios a few hours before show time, the phones began ringing off the hook with irate callers demanding Kurtz be axed from the program. It didn’t take long to discover that the Obama campaign—which had declined invitations to join the show for its duration to offer rebuttals to Kurtz’s points—had sent an “Obama Action Wire” e-mail to its supporters, encouraging them to deluge the station with complaints.

Why? Because, naturally, Kurtz is a “right-wing hatchet man,” a “smear merchant” and a “slimy character assassin” who is perpetrating one of the “most cynical and offensive smears ever launched against Barack.”

Evidently, much of Obama nation is composed of obedient and persistent sheep. They jammed all five studio lines for nearly the entire show while firing off dozens of angry emails. Many vowed to kick their grievances up the food chain to station management. After 90 minutes of alleged smear peddling, Milt Rosenberg (a well-respected host whose long-form interview show has aired in Chicago for decades) opened the phone lines, and blind ignorance soon began to crackle across the AM airwaves. The overwhelming message was clear: The interview must be put to an end immediately, and the station management should prevent similar discussions from taking place.

It was “surreal, amusing, and chilling,” Benson said. And part of a pattern. The campaign did the same to a radio station which hosted David Freddoso and to stations that ran advertisements the campaign didn’t like.

There were the threats to bring criminal libel charges against private citizens making statements the campaign wanted to portray as false. We saw the Chicago Tribune catch the Obama campaign misleadingly cutting video. And who can forget the accusations of racism against McCain from Obama’s allies and even Obama himself.

And there is much, much more, obviously. The point here is not to accuse Obama of being the dirtiest campaigner in presidential history, but rather that he was never the lofty political saint he was made out to be. The Politico article claims the Obama campaign will be learning from past efforts, but never mentions the successful campaign from which they seemingly plan to appropriate the most material: Obama’s.

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.