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Friday, May 24, 2013

A chip off the old block

I'm delighted that Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal dug up Obama's history regarding intimidation of political opponents. As much as he says "I don't know anything about it" to all these scandals, the tactics are a common thread.
The White House insists President Obama is "outraged" by the "inappropriate" targeting and harassment of conservative groups. If true, it's a remarkable turnaround for a man who helped pioneer those tactics.

On Aug. 21, 2008, the conservative American Issues Project ran an ad highlighting ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad—a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.
What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, "its officers and directors," and its "anonymous donors." Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a "knowing and willful violation" of election law, and wanted "action to enforce against criminal violations."
Obama succeeding in getting anti-Obama ads off the air, even scaring away similar organizations supporting Hillary Clinton and John Edwards during his 2008 Primary.
American Leadership head (and Democrat) Jason Kinney would rail that Mr. Bauer had gone from "credible legal authority" to "political hatchet man"—but the damage was done. As Politico reported in August 2008, Mr. Bauer's words had "the effect of scaring [Clinton and Edwards] donors and consultants," even if they hadn't yet "result[ed] in any prosecution."
As general counsel to the Obama re-election campaign, Mr. Bauer used the same tactics on pro-Romney groups. The Obama campaign targeted private citizens who had donated to Romney groups. Democratic senators demanded that the IRS investigate these organizations.

None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.
The rise of conservative organizations (to match liberal groups that had long played in politics), and their effectiveness in the 2004 election (derided broadly by liberals as "swift boating"), led to a new and organized campaign in 2008 to chill conservative donors and groups via the threat of government investigation and prosecution. The tone in any organization—a charity, a corporation, the U.S. government—is set at the top. 
Sad. Sad that politics infuse even the free speech protected by our laws. Sadder that the president of our country is a Chicago politician to his core and was reelected. Saddest that he bullied his opponents so shamefully, so we can't even know if he would have won in 2008 or 2012 without it.


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