Appearing on PBS’s “Inside Washington,” this week, veteran Democratic media cheerleader Mark Shields reached the conclusion that other Beltway pundits on the Left and the Right had reached before him: Democrat accusations that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pumping foreign contributions into domestic campaign ads, in violation of Federal law, are baseless, and worse. “It was absolutely fallacious on their part,” said Shields. “And they made it up, the White House did.”
President Obama, in his campaign appearances, has continued to suggest that this illegal tactic is occurring. The facts the accusation is based on was revealed by White House advisor David Axelrod when he repeated the accusation to an incredulous Bob Shieffer on last Sunday’s “Face the Nation” on CBS. Shieffer asked Axelrod if he had any evidence this was true, and Axelrod’s replay was,”Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?” He then called upon the Chamber to prove a completely unsubstantiated claim wrong. This is, of course, a small bore version of Adolf Hitler’s unethical “Big Lie” tactic. Hmmmm…where else have I heard this approach used recently? Oh, I remember: “If Barack Obama really is a U.S. citizen, why doesn’t he prove it?” One would think the White House and President Obama would find this tactic beneath them.
The sad fact is that in the past few weeks, almost nothing has been beneath the President’s dignity. He whined about Republicans treating him “like a dog,” as if he is the first and only Chief Executive to be criticized harshly. (By recent standards, “they” have treated him exactly like a President.) He begged an African-American audience, “Don’t make me look bad!” This once proudly “post-racial,” unifying, fair playing President has explicitly appealed to class, race and generational divides, telling one audience,
“See, what the other side is counting on, what they’re counting on is you’re going to stay home. They’re counting on your silence. They’re counting on your amnesia. They’re counting on your apathy. They’re counting on young people staying home and union members staying home and black folks staying home and middle-class families staying home. They’re counting on the fact that they made the argument so ugly in Washington that you just completely turned off and you’re not going to vote for anybody. And if that happens, they win.”
President Obama’s party is going to get throttled at the polls in November, a defeat it will deserve as much as the Republicans deserved their throttling two years ago, and for many of the same reasons: corruption, arrogance, abuse of process, profligate spending, incompetence, and warped priorities. As the lesser politicians get down in the mud and trade attack ads and half-truths, appealing to the worst instincts of voters rather than their better natures, it would be good for the nation and good for Obama if our President confined his campaign efforts to facts, persuasion, and non-divisive inspiration. He should not be on the campaign trail making fanciful accusations and trying to fan the flames of distrust and hate.
He is the President. As long as he is the President, it is his duty to represent the best in leadership character, which means, among other things, to lose, when he loses, with his dignity, honesty and integrity intact.