In scary-looking black and red, attackwatch.com is the latest embarrassment from the amateurs and goof-offs who are inexplicably still employed in Barack Obama’s White House. It is the creation of the campaign arm, announced in a sinister e-mail by the President’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, who wrote:
“Forming the first line of defense against a barrage of misinformation won’t be easy. Our success will depend on a team of researchers and writers to stay on the lookout for false claims about the President and his record, bring you the facts, and hold our opposition accountable.”
The website includes an online snitch form that allows good citizens to report anything that might be regarded as an “attack,” and to finger the pundits, bloggers, journalists or other sources responsible.
Many commentators on the right have called the site Stalinist and compared it to classic totalitarian practices in other nations, in which the good and loyal citizenry have been encouraged to identify enemies of the state who may be “disloyal.” Certainly a program that encourages Americans to report “misinformation” —defined, the site makes clear, as any assertion less than fawning over the President—so they can be held “accountable” encourages such a comparison. “This is a frightening effort by the White House to suppress political speech,” one caller to a Washington D.C. talk show said yesterday.
It’s frightening, all right, though not for that reason. Yes, the site’s language is spectacularly tone-deaf to First Amendment concerns: “stop attacks on the President before they start” is the language of fear, repression and censorship, not patriotism and statesmanship. Nonetheless, I have no fears that a ham-handed, paranoid website and silly volunteer snitch program by an administration that is finally beginning to get at least some of the criticism from the news media that it deserved to get three years ago will intimidate anybody. What is frightening is the naked incompetence and juvenile instincts of the people the President allows to represent and advise him, who don’t understand the culture of the nation they are supposed to govern and how deeply offensive this kind of paranoid, Big Brother-style, enemies list behavior seems to most Americans when it comes from a President. The fact that he allows this shows that the President doesn’t understand either. This is, after all, the man is supposed to work for and respect the opinions of supporter and critic alike.
Attackwatch.com is merely the latest in the depressing succession of botched U.S. Leadership 101 tests by Barack Obama and his team. I was searching my knowledge of the Presidents to think of any one of them, before Obama, who would have allowed himself to be heard, recorded or videotaped telling a crowd “If you love me, you gotta help me pass this bill!” as Obama did this week. [Note: A commenter below was offended that I did not exactly quote the President in my original version here, writing “If you love me, pass this bill!” The key phrase, of course, is the “if you love me,” and to clarify for him and any other “gotcha” fans out there, I cannot imagine a President before Mr. Obama who would say anything beginning with the phrase, “If you love me…!” because it is unseemly, pandering, narcissistic, and embraces a cult of personality that is antithetical to the political culture of the United States.] I couldn’t think of one; in fact, I couldn’t think of one who wouldn’t have been horrified at the thought of appealing to blind adoration as the justification for a major policy initiative, rather than its value to the nation. If Attackwatch.com is frightening, that was just sad.
Actually, they are both sad.