Rating five and a half years of Republican attacks
Nearing the three-quarter mark of the administration, we assess the effectiveness of the various attacks the Republicans have made on President Obama, and sum them up with an overall rating.
One Term President
Delivering a speech to the Heritage foundation, partway into The president’s term, Mitch McConnell declared: “Our top political priority should be to deny President Obama a second term.” If that’s your top goal, you’re setting yourself up for major embarrassment if things don’t go to plan.
One Republican strategist had advised members of his party to “go for the kill” rather than compromise on the developing health care bill, while South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, on a conference call organized by the group Conservatives for Patients Rights, declared: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
In the end, the Affordable Health Care Act was President Obama’s Waterloo – In which he was the Duke of Wellington.
During Barack Obama’s campaign for president and in the years following his election, many conspiracy theories emerged alleging that his published birth certificate is a forgery, and that his actual birthplace is not Hawaii but Kenya, and consequently, under Article two of the Constitution is ineligible to be President of the United States. Strangely, prominent Republicans began giving credence to this extreme fringe issue.
Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, February 2009: “Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”
Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt, July 28, 2009: “What I don’t know is why the President can’t produce a birth certificate. I don’t know anybody else that can’t produce one. And I think that’s a legitimate question. No health records, no birth certificate.”
Republican congresswoman Jean Scmidt, September 5, 2009, replying to a woman who commented that Obama was ineligible for the Presidency: “I agree with you. But the courts don’t.”
Representative Nathan Deal, November 2009: “I am joining several of my colleagues in the House in writing a letter to the President asking that he release a copy of his birth certificate.”
Sarah Palin, December 3, 2009: “I think it’s a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records – all of that is fair game. The McCain–Palin campaign didn’t do a good enough job in that area.”
Senator David Vitter, July 11, 2010: “I personally don’t have standing to bring litigation in court, but I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it.”
Mike Huckabee, February 28, 2011, falsely claimed that Obama had been raised in Kenya and that: “[Obama] probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.”
In spite of the sheer nonsense of it all, this protracted, vulgar campaign probably had the desired effect of stirring up some extra right-wing people to go to the polls for the 2010 mid-terms.
Fast and Furious
During the two-year Fast and Furious operation, agents in Arizona with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed the sale of guns to suspected criminals thought to be linked to Mexican drug gangs. The ATF planned to trace the guns over the border as part of an investigation of the violent cartels, but failed to track the contraband firearms. The debacle came to light after two of the guns turned up at the scene of a shootout in which a U.S. Border Patrol agent died. This led to a partisan-tinged congressional investigation focusing primarily on Attorney General Eric Holder’s reluctance to disclose documents about the Justice Department’s response to Fast and Furious.
Largely lost in all the Republican vituperation was the fact that Fast and Furious was preceded by an alarmingly similar bungled gun-trafficking investigation called Operation Wide Receiver, which began during the Bush administration.
In the end, while the case vaguely added to a right wing narrative of widespread dysfunction, the case remained too technical and abstract for cable news watchers and A.M talk radio listeners to really comprehend, and has faded into obscurity.
Solyndra was a start-up solar-power equipment manufacturer based in Fremont, California that went bankrupt. Conservatives accused the Obama administration of corruption in choosing Solyndra to receive a government loan guarantee. The typical conservative-outlet story followed a template of accusations that someone “connected to” Obama has “ties” to something. This is irrespective of the fact the company, partly backed by the conservative Walton family, had received a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The loan, which was originally pushed by the Bush administration, was 1.3% of the Department of Energy portfolio.
The so-called scandal simmered for a while, as a locus for conservative cynicism about green energy, the idea of green jobs in general, solar power in particular, stimulus funding and, of course, President Obama. Hardly anyone refers to it now.
The controversy erupted in May last year over extra scrutiny applied by the IRS to applications from non-profit groups for tax-exempt status, including some groups aligned with the conservative Tea Party.
Republicans have been investigating the affair, which had faded from the headlines until June, when the IRS’s admission that it had lost emails reinvigorated the inquiry.
The agency said that the computer of a relevant director, Lois Lerner, crashed in mid-2011 and that some of her emails from January 2009 to April 2011 could not be recovered, (although, 67,000 available ones were handed over). The affair, which raised genuine concerns, has given the Republicans a reasonably strong issue; but while it happened broadly under the President’s watch, most Americans don’t feel that he is all that accountable for what happened in the Cincinnati branch of the Inland revenue Service.
What happened in Benghazi, Libya, was a tragedy – not a scandal. And no amount of Republican witch hunting or wishful thinking will make it otherwise. Republicans have been desperate to politicize Benghazi from day one.
Fox pursued the story, and has made analogies with almost every major story since, some of them particularly precarious. On Fox show The Five for example, Andrea Tantaros opined about the missing Malaysian airliner: “Think how long it took for them to get this kind of media attention. I mean, living in Malaysia, the government seemingly ignored these people, they didn’t want their stories to get out. They weren’t talking to them…it feels like the families of Benghazi, just saying.”
Eventually, the Pentagon got testy about the Republican’s repeated requests: “The Department of Defense has devoted thousands of man-hours to responding to the numerous and often repetitive congressional requests regarding Benghazi,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King said in an open letter to Congress.
Earlier this month, Fox News went silent on Benghazi amid reports that the House Intelligence Committee concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing in the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. While everyone expected a thorough investigation, there have now been thirteen hearings, 25,000 pages of documents and fifty Congressional briefings. A serious issue, a genuine tragedy, that necessitated a thorough inquiry. But no scandal, and the mainstream is moving on.
A universally acknowledged frivolous political stunt that has no chance of succeeding, but will have a good chance of firing up the base ahead of the mid-terms. Republicans are set to use the justice system in a crusade to rein in what they allege is an otherwise-unchecked president who has failed to carry out his constitutional duty to enforce the law.
The indictment of Governor Rick Perry of Texas and his subsequent court case could complicate things. The arguments made by Perry and his supporters for strong executive power are going to provide an easy equivalence with Boehner’s plans to sue the President. To the casual political observer, the two cases are going to sound alike. A court will almost certainly dismiss any lawsuit of the sort Boehner intends because the House of Representatives lacks standing to bring a suit. The respect afforded to Congress will take yet another hit, and the ploy might fire up a large number of incredulous liberals as well as the Republican base.
There was a huge media uproar when Ed Snowden leaked his documents to the Guardian. The sheer magnitude of the NSA’s snooping, from phone calls to emails and extending to all the major tech companies, was hard to absorb.
But a huge wave of public outrage never really materialized. It was as if many people realized they’re already being tracked on Google and Facebook, indeed every time they shop, and have become resigned to it as the price of a digital society. Others felt the government needed the tracking tools to combat terrorism, and that only the bad guys need to be nervous about that.
There were legitimate issues, but the right got muddled between wanting to allege incompetence and/or scandal, and wanting to stick up for hard-nosed, hawkish realpolitik tactics in an age of terrorist threats.
An incident that grabbed national attention, sparked heated debate on cable news, made it to the cover of time magazine – and then disappeared almost entirely. The Republicans urgently wanted to attack the president, but their allegiance to, and unwillingness to be seen contesting the “we don’t leave anyone behind” mantra made their arguments muddled and strained. The public didn’t like the nature of the deal, but grudgingly gave the president the benefit of the doubt and moved on.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn called President Obama “tone deaf” for not visiting the border during his trip to Texas. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also dinged the President along these lines: “The President needs to come to the border, to see it himself.” For his part, President Obama said, “I’m not interested in photo-ops I’m interested in solving a problem.” Which sounds almost like Obama is quoting Cornyn and Perry … back in 2011. Then, when pressing Congress to pass immigration reform, President Obama went to the border and … Republicans criticized him for doing so. “What Sen. Cornyn is looking for, President Obama cannot deliver with another speech or photo op, and that’s presidential leadership. Words matter little when there is no action,” a Cornyn spokesperson said at the time. Similarly, in 2011, Perry criticized Obama’s trip to the border, “I was very disheartened when the President came into El Paso a couple of weeks ago (and) had a photo-op.”
A serious issue, but the public is generally aware of the immigration bill that passed the Senate and has been left to languish thanks to Republican intransigence in the House. And Boehner’s call for Presidential executive action after attacking Obama for being an imperial president was just exasperating.
Republicans have long criticized the President as anti-Israel. For instance, the Romney campaign ran a commercial criticizing Obama for not visiting Israel during the first three-and-a-half years of his presidency. Conservative pundit Mark Levin accused President Obama of “hating Israel.” Recently, conservative talk radio host Ben Shapiro said on Fox news that the Obama White House is a “borderline Jew-hating administration.”
President Obama has increased security assistance to Israel every single year since taking office and Obama personally championed providing an additional $275 million over its standard foreign military financing aid in order to fund the construction of the so-called “Iron Dome” defense system.”
Extraordinary, given the only Jew in the Republican Congress was voted out recently.
The health care bill “Will be his Waterloo…” Solyndra / Benghazi / I.R.S / “Will be his Watergate…” “We should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment…” Not so much. We grade the Republicans attacks: