Biden, Obama and the politics of personal destruction
Thursday the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger published a column called “Obama and the L-word.” In it he described with disgust and dismay the way the Obama administration has been playing fast and loose with the term “liar” to describe Mitt Romney since Romney trounced Obama in last week’s presidential debate.
Henninger noted that the use of the term cheapens and coarsens the political discourse in the US in a manner that is unprecedented in US politics. He also noted rightly that this is not part of the American political tradition. It is of a piece with the propaganda of totalitarian regimes.
As he explained:
The Obama campaign’s resurrection of “liar” as a political tool is odious because it has such a repellent pedigree. It dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s. It was part of the milieu of stooges, show trials and dupes. These were people willing to say anything to defeat their opposition. Denouncing people as liars was at the center of it. The idea was never to elevate political debate but to debauch it.
The purpose of calling someone a liar then was not merely to refute their ideas or arguments. It was to nullify them, to eliminate them from participation in politics. That’s what is so unsettling about a David Axelrod or David Plouffe following accusations of dishonesty and lies with “whether that person should sit in the Oval Office.” And that is followed by President Obama himself feeding the new line in stump speeches without himself ever using the L-word.
This Obama campaign is saying, “We don’t want to compete with Mitt Romney. We want to obliterate him.”
Henninger ended his column by wondering how the Obama campaign’s post-presidential debate employment of this tactic against Romney would impact Biden’s debate performance.
And last night we got the answer. Throughout the debate, Biden treated Rep. Paul Ryan with contempt. He never responded to any of Ryan’s reasoned, substantive criticisms of Obama’s policies. He simply called him a liar, repeatedly. With no justification. He sneered. He guffawed. And he maligned Ryan for 90 minutes.
I watched the debate on Fox News. I suppose the commentators hadn’t read Henninger’s article. They were all expressing shock at Biden’s nastiness. They didn’t seem to recognize that it is part of the Obama campaign’s strategy.
Another aspect of this that both Henninger and the Fox commentators were too gentle to mention outright – although Henninger nearly did — is that the politics of personal destruction are based on projection. The side doing it is accusing their opponents of doing precisely what they are doing.
In last night’s debate, Biden lied, flat out lied, repeatedly. He lied about what the military thinks of the sequestration policy of gutting military budgets. He lied about what the intelligence community said about the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi. He lied about how Medicare is impacted by Obamacare.
And that’s just off the top of my head.
A word about those lies. At least in the case of the Benghazi lie, Biden’s actions show how lies are part and parcel of how the Obama administration does its business on a daily basis.
The only basis for the claim that US intelligence said the attack on the consulate wasn’t a terror attack but a response to that stupid, irrelevant anti-Islam film on YouTube was a statement by James Clapper, Obama’s appointed Director of National Intelligence.
It must be said, Clapper is not a credible source.
Clapper has abused his office repeatedly to politicize intelligence and facts in order to advance the appeasement-of-Islamic-terrorists agenda of the president he serves.
This came across most brazenly during the uprising against longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. On Feb 10, 2011, the day before the Obama administration forced Hosni Mubarak to resign from the Egyptian presidency, Clapper appeared before the House Select Committee on Intelligence and told the Congressmen that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” movement.
In his words, “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, betterment of the political order in Egypt, etc.”
This was a complete lie and anyone with even a modicum of awareness about the Brotherhood – even without the benefit of classified information – knows that it is a lie. He should have been fired for saying such nonsense because it isn’t just wrong, it is dangerous, as we see today with the Muslim Brotherhood in charge in Egypt.
But this is par for the course for Obama appointees. And it shows the depths to which its officials will sink in order to push the President’s agenda.
Lies are not simply a campaigning tactic or strategy. They are the heart of how this administration does business.
Steven Hayes on Fox made the important point that in the space of just a couple of minutes Biden said US intelligence misled the administration on Libya and could be totally trusted to get Iran’s nuclear capabilities just right.
Do you feel safe with that assessment?
I was dismayed that Ryan didn’t just come out and attack Biden for doing what he was doing. But he was in a tight spot. Martha Raddatz, the moderator was there playing interference for Biden the whole time. Every time Ryan started making a point, she’d interrupt him and change the subject.
Aside from that I felt the age disparity worked in Biden’s favor because Ryan was obviously trying to be deferential to his elder who clearly did not deserve any deference from him. Ryan was playing by the old rule book, treating his opponent with respect. Biden was playing by the Obama rulebook and treated his opponent with contempt as a means of destroying him personally.
Commentators all say that Ryan held his own. And that’s true and good for him, as far as that goes. But that isn’t the point.
The point is that Romney has been warned by Biden and the campaign. He needs to stay on offense. And that doesn’t just mean to defend his positions or call Obama on the failure of his policies. It means he needs to confront Obama on what he is doing in his campaign and refuse to pretend that this is business as usual.
The ugliness we saw last night is just a foretaste of what will come in the next three weeks and Romney better be ready. Because if he isn’t, the ugliness he will need to deal with in the next three weeks will be nothing in comparison to the ugliness that will become America in a second Obama administration.