Unethical (and Disgraceful) Website of the Month: Attackwatch.com

We've just got to find the White House staff some better role models....

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.

And frightening.

47 thoughts on “Unethical (and Disgraceful) Website of the Month: Attackwatch.com

  1. This paranoid, Stalinesque action on the part of the Obama administration IS frightening to me… and for both Jack’s reasons and another of my own. I am just old enough to remember the Nixon “Enemies List,” and the fact that the Nixon Administration used government entities like the IRS to harass those they felt were working against them. I know, because every single year for six years my parents were audited — just incidentally when they were active in the civil rights movement and against the war in Viet Nam. After Nixon left, and without any change in their financial status, the audits stopped.) I wouldn’t put it past the Obama administration to do the same kind of thing.

    The Hitler Youth were encouraged to snitch on their own parents. Stalin didn’t need snitches: he just chose millions he thought were too smart, too capable, and perhaps not personally loyal enough to send them off to work camps or assassinate them. Certainly the Obama Administration would not go that far, but this kind of unbelievable action on its part is certainly reminiscent of other failed totalitarian states, and certainly also reveals a level of combined paranoia, egotism and bad judgment that boggles the mind.

    Obama’s “if you love me you will pass my bill’ statement reveals more than tone-deafness — it demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of how this country works (what Constitution did he teach, by the way?), and his overly developed level of self esteem (it’s must be THEIR fault, not mine!… Rationalization personified). Bottom line: it’s all about HIM, not the country. Some leadership. And frankly, has all the earmarks of a serious emotional dysfunction, filtering through his entire administration.

    Sorry, but this scares me. I am thinking long and hard about getting on the website and “turning myself in.” Tell the Administration exactly what I think of them, and how in an odd way I am pleased they are so damned scared right now that they would resort to this. Then again, I don’t want the IRS sicced on me…

  2. Elizabeth asked: (what Constitution did he teach, by the way?)

    Who knows! Obama has refused to release many records including the following:
    Columbia College records
    Columbia thesis
    Harvard College records
    Harvard Law Review articles – (maybe 1, but not signed)
    How he paid for his Occidental, Columbia and Harvard education
    University of Chicago scholarly articles ¬ None found

    Ummmm! As a community organizer in Chicago he excelled in preaching Sol Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.

    • My fear is that because one half of the country tolerates this kind of behavior from a President now, the other half will tolerate the same or worse when their party is in office. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

        • I’m always lurking and reading, at least. Glad to know my absence has been noted. I admit to being a bit moody and reclusive at times; it’s usually better that I don’t post online when I’m feeling that way. This aspect of the Obama administration and the subject of prison rape just happen to have raised my ire enough for me to poke my head in.

          With much regret, I missed the chance to say this when you needed to hear it most, but every morning, I look forward to hearing ethical analysis from you. Even when I occasionally disagree with your conclusions, you always have something valuable to say, Jack. Keep up the good work!

    • So what? We know and understand that those who don’t want Obama to be President will never accept him. Why his grades are important to you will never be understood by those possessing some degree of intelligence.

      Even if he fully answered these questions, the birthers would continue to challenge him on the color of his underwear somehow making him unfit.

  3. So sad… Obama’s admin is going to hand the country over to the backwards radical Right through sheer Nixonian incompetence.

  4. Attack Watch has actually existed since the 2008 campaign, although then it was called Stop the Smears. And there have been many smears to stop, as you can read above, in addition to the birthers and the secret muslim believers. I actually went to the site, and it’s basically a Snopes for Obama. You can send them a rumor or a link or a video; they don’t seem interested in individuals. I experimented with a post a friend of mine put on Facebook, saying that the Obama administration was introducing legislation to impose a 1% surcharge on all banking transactions. I already know it’s false, but would like to see how they respond. They did not ask for my friend’s name or location. They seem more interested in compiling lists of disinformation than lists of people.

    You can call it wrong-headed, and it may be harmful to the campaign, but I saw nothing sinister about it and think the paranoia is mostly on the other side.

    • I forgot to say that, of course, the site is pro-Obama, so you must do your fact checking before you use the information they give you when responding to criticism of him or his policies.

    • It is unseemly and wrong for the White House to be directly connected to this. The media and blogosphere discusses all these matters and more. Telling citizens to report criticism to the White House is per se threatening and undemocratic. The site doesn’t distinguish between obviously unfair criticism and matters of legitimate disagreement. The fact that it cites the hyper-partisan (and dishonest) Media Matters as its favorite source proves it. Frankly, I don’t see how you can so lightly excuse it. And it is offensive…and proof that Obama is tone deaf to standards of presidential leadership.

      • The fact that it cites the hyper-partisan (and dishonest) Media Matters as its favorite source proves it.

        Yes, Media Matters is very partisan. So what? Does that make ANY of their comments wrong?

        Blanket condemnations based upon a person’s or group’s partisanship is simply wrong and the very definition of prejudicial.

        • No, that’s not true. Partisanship is bias. Media Matters is absurd—it accuses critics of lying when in fact they simply don’t adopt the Media Matters bias. It is so obviosu that it is not worth printing examples. Anyone who can’t see it for what it is—a spin machine—is both biased and intellectually dishonest,

          • I disagree. By simply painting them with a broad brush demonstrates to me that you have too few actual examples to show they make mistakes.

            I haven’t been to MM in a couple of years. maybe they’ve come down, I don’t know. I can see you doing what you accuse MM of doing; making a broad accusation as spin for your own position.

      • If you read my post carefully, you will see that the site is not asking people to report criticism. It is a source for Obama supporters to find out the “facts,” as the Obama campaign sees them, to counteract misinformation. (And it is important to distinguish between the campaign the the White House, even though Obama is assuredly responsible for the conduct of his own campaign.) I appreciate such a site, even though I know it is biased and would certainly check out other sources, also, to confirm its positions. Unless you can show that the campaign is seeking to intimidate the people disseminating the misinformation in some nefarious way, there is no basis for calling it “threatening” or “undemocratic,” unless presenting people who disagree with you with the facts is both of those.

        • The form speaks for itself. It seeks reports. Your description is either dishonest or misinformed. The words suggests dark purposes that must be revealed to the “power.”So does the design of the site. I said that I didn’t think the site was a genuine threat, but its rhetoric is obviously threatening…and people feel threatened by it, so it is by definition threatening. At least attempt to be objective. That means just because you support someone who does something clumsy, offensive and stupid, you can still admit that it’s wrong.

  5. For a site claiming to represent the “truth”, you just outed yourself.

    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, pass this bill!” as Obama did this week.

    No where in your link does Obama say “if you love me, pass this bill”.

    Often there may be a difference of opinion about a message, but when you quote someone, don’t add OR subtract words that change the meaning as was done here.

    • Baloney. You are just outed yourself as an apologist for hyper-partisan politics and poor leadership. Here’s what I typed in my “correction” based on your complaint—since I linked to the actual speech, there was no desire to deceive anyone, and the difference was immaterial to my point.

      [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.]

      • Now you are being disingenuous. I never made any personal claims. ALL I wrote is that this comment was wrong and why. Now, you attempt to cover by adding an ad hominem to my comment. Bipartisan bias, leadership, etc. have nothing to do with the comment.

        Obama’s words were an obvious attempt to rally his supporters. It was not an attempt to lay a guilt trip on Congress that if Congress loved him they would pass the measure. The subtraction of words and addition of the editorial completely changes his message. THAT is what outs your bias.

        And that is NOT ethical, right, commendable, or nice. It is a blatant wrong. From someone attempting to present them self as “ethical”, it is hypocritical.

        • If you listen to the part before Obama says “If you love me . . .”, you hear a person call out “I love you, Barack!” He is obviously riffing off the shouter; it was not part of his prepared remarks and was directed at one person, not the entire crowd. In the same situation, I think many (does that mean most?) politicians would react the same way, and many wish they had the chance.

            • Now you attribute a robot condition to all politicians.

              What appealed to voters in the Democrat primaries and 2008 Election is Obama’s charismatic speaking appeal. I missed the “I love you Barack” but his response is exactly as Jan posits. He continues that by echoing off the crowd to whip them into a “feel good” frenzy. he is extolling the crowd to work to help get this bill through Congress. I take that to mean phoning and writing Congressmen, writing to newspapers, writing on blogs, etc.

              Bush II relied on his “good ole boy” humor and “folksy style”. Reagan was famous for speaking with the audience. Teddy Roosevelt was well known for being “one of the people”. Trueman was another one that could rouse the audience. Most 19th Century politicians easily got the people warmed to them. (have you ever heard of the Lincoln and Douglas debates?)

              • You don’t get the point, or, as I now recognize as your MO, are changing the subject to confuse the issue.

                The use of the “if you love me” refrain may have been motivated by the rally instinct, but it should have set off alarms, and would have, with a less tone deaf politician. None of the Presidents you mentioned adopted, ever, anything as narcissistic as an “if you love me” chant. It doesn’t matter why he got the idea; a mature experienced leader would never expose himself to the accusation that he was building a personality cult.

                I have read the Lincoln Douglas debates, which were extremely substantive,and not based on calls to personal popularity (“If you love me, you’ll extend slavery.”)

                • Gee, I get up this morning to this? I must be in a masochistic mood.

                  … I now recognize as your MO, are changing the subject to confuse the issue.

                  Say what??? You wrote “They wouldn’t, because it is unleaderlike and embarrassing.”
                  To which I replied that it was that very method of reaching out to an audience that appealed to Obama’s supporters. That is NOT changing the subject; it is called arguing the point.

                  The use of the “if you love me” refrain may have been motivated by the rally instinct, but it should have set off alarms, and would have, with a less tone deaf politician.

                  To whom??? Those who prefer listening to the drone of an Eisenhower or Bush I or those prefer the seductive Palin wink? What about the Bush II chuckle that sounded like he was selling you a used car? Every President and candidate had their own specific idiosyncrasy. It would appear you just don’t approve of Obama’s closeness with his crowd. My guess (not knowing you) is you would prefer to sleep through a campaign speech instead of enthused to action.

                  The whole point was Obama was speaking to his audience, NOT you or the Republican Party. He was not speaking to the American Press Corp. He was not speaking the Chris Wallace or Brian Williams. He was not speaking to the United States Congress in a joint session. He was speaking to his supporters and he spoke on a colloquial level.

                  And the Lincoln-Douglas debates were VERY personal and crowd appealing. They also from a time when literacy was high and information flowed slowly. The debaters appeal to the crowd had to win them over with geniality as well as facts.

    • When it comes to partisanship, anyone accusing Jack of outing himself will only manage to out themselves instead. He’s not perfect – he does have an unfortunate perchance for typos! – but if you follow his record and judge him fairly, I doubt anyone could honestly accuse him of political bias.

            • I’d say his economic biases are evident, and they often override his attempts to remain apolitical. This can occur both ways, but while the republicans pander to the tea party in a recession, its against the democrats. When next the republicans gain power and start spending again (like they always do when in power), it will be against them.

              • If I may interject on the subject of my own biases, I don’t know enough about economics to have an economic bias. I believe that capitalism is the most consistent economic system with democracy, and that it has generally served the US well, but that it has to be practiced ethically to work, and that has been problematic. One has to believe that the extreme left or right is “right” to argue that I have a political bias—my posts are almost exactly evenly divided, by design and orientation. One can believe that a conservative movement is useful and or that a liberal politician is correct without being “biased”—I follow my own bias-checks, which I have outlined in various posts, before any opinion.
                Anyone who thinks it is healthy for the country to have a 14 trillion dollar debt and unsustainable entitlements is either biased, or insane. Believing that the nation cannot and should not spend more than it has is only a biased position to an ideologue or an idiot. I will take competence, candor, courage, integrity and responsibility over any ideology every time—that’s my bias….and what I resent the most is leaders who can’t and won’t lead.

                • Anyone who thinks it is healthy for the country to have a 14 trillion dollar debt and unsustainable entitlements is either biased, or insane.

                  Agreed.

                  Believing that the nation cannot and should not spend more than it has is only a biased position to an ideologue or an idiot.

                  This position does not follow from your other positions. By this logic, anyone who thinks we should spend on anything other than debt reduction is an an ideologue or an idiot. You don’t hold that position. Most people draw a line on spending somewhere, but where you draw the line and where I draw the line are extremely different. I believe that adding to the budget during a boom is irresponsible, while adding to the budge during a recession is a necessary evil. You don’t seem to differentiate between the two. I chalk that up to different ideologies. Mine’s right, of course :), but it’s neither here nor there. And your belief that yours is right should also not have a say in ethics.

                  • No, you and I essentially agree. I just believe , based on experience and our current political culture, that there will never be a time that the leadership will have the courage to meaningfully cut the budget OR raise taxes to support it, so the Tea Party position, extreme though it is, of “Do it now, or else!” is as good a chance the country will ever have to avert a financial meltdown in the future. We have learned that promised hard choices down the line don’t get made, and we might as well stop playing the game.

                    • I think we also have a great example in England right now that austerity measures during a recession are bad for the country. We have had a balanced budget in the past, but only during a boom period.

                      You are taking the cuts now, screw the economy option over the economy now, screw the budget option. Both are bad, and picking between them seems to be ideological (or (re)actionary) more than anything else

      • To expand on this, this blog has had the continual “honor” of being attacked by both hyper-partisan conservatives and liberals. Makes for fine popcorn reading.

      • So a blog on “ethics” allows himself the luxury to misquote the President and then take him to task for the misquote. And, when the writer is called to task on that, the recourse is to smear the person pointing out the error.

        In case you were unaware, that is called an ad hominem. That is, attacking the messenger instead of the message.

        The “outing” is making a story where none exists. By changing the quote and adding an editorial, the writer went past objectiveness and into taking a side. The message wasn’t discussed; the President was the sole focus. The point became to denigrate our President by the suggestion “no other President would do this”.

        If this is out of character for Jack, then so be it and I hope a lesson learned. If it is typical then there is obviously a bias.

        • You misrepresent the matter, which is your technique. I’ve read Alinsky too. The misquote was sloppy, but immaterial (look it up.) Nor are my essays “editorials.” Unlike you, I have no agenda. I am on record that Obama is an inept and tone deaf leader, and Have been waiting to be proved wrong. One of my fields is leadership—I am not “denigrating” anybody. The point about other presidents is factual. There is no bias. I would write the same thing about any president that began a “If you love me…” chorus, and the second part of the sentence matters not.

            • Who are you talking about? Obama was “riffing” and joking? Very doubtful. A more humorless individual I have seldom seen…John Kerry, maybe. Romney. Even if it was a joke, it was an unseemly one, and an inappropriate one for POTUS. Given that both sides of the political spectrum have suggested that Obama is a clinical narcissist, I’d say that is a more likely explanation, Occam’s Razor-style, than he was suddenly engaging in satire. Did the crowd assume he was riffing? I think you are straining for an alibi.

              • I see a serious individual when he’s explaining policy and addressing the nation, but his stump speeches were always a bit more playful. I can’t agree that the joke was inappropriate for a POTUS suo jure, but, in this environment, it was surely a mistake. Much like you said of Rep Schakowsky’s comments, I went in expecting something horrible, and came out wondering what the fuss was about.

                • That’s fascinating. The second I heard it, I wanted to vomit. It evoked the nauseating “great Obama” schoolchildren songs, and the messianic nonsense in 2008. I find cults of personality totalitarian in odor and worth steering clear of by miles…you don’t?? If Obama’s “joke” didn’t put him there, it was still too damn close. Huey Long would make that “joke.” Pat Robertson would make that “joke.” Charles Foster Kane would make that “joke.” Eva Peron. You-Know-Who.

                  • Honestly, I’ve made that joke myself, and I’m far from the Messiah. It was stupid because it feeds the fire, not because it actually has any inherent meaning.

                    If anything, as a joke, it detracts from the cult of personality idea. It’s poking fun at that idea.

                    • That is true. How many pols would engage in that kind of self-mockery, especially when it really mocks the True Believers? I can think of one—my hero, Gene McCarthy. Which is one reason he never became President—one of many.

                    • Listening again, I’m less sure of my statement. I really wish Obama had said something afterwards like “Seriously, I believe my position is the best for this country, and if you agree, you should support me.”

  6. I can think of someone else who would have responded with a similar response: Joe Biden. Another of your faves, Jack. But he’s long been noted for his penchant for foot-in-mouth. I suffer from foot-in-mouth, too, but I’m not on a big national political stage. But I have to say I agree with tgt that it’s not as big a deal, TO ME. But hey, I also don’t think it’s going anywhere because Congress (both houses) are incapable of working together enough to make almost anything happen. So it doesn’t bug me that much that he could, on the stump, say “If you love me…” followed by anything remotely about policy.

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