Obama’s Team Crosses the Rhetorical Line

Rory Cooper /

(Update: The website cited below has been suspended by barackobama.com.  The screenshot to the right is the original page, but the embedded links will no longer work. Click on the picture to the right for a full-screen view.)

Many Americans took off work and sacrificed family time this past August to attend congressional town halls, where they voiced opposition to a government-run overhaul of their personal health care choices. They hand painted signs, grabbed their children and drove to their local church or school gymnasium for valuable lessons in community organizing and democracy. While they lived the Rockwellian version of American discourse, they were called names, labeled as ‘too organized’ or “un-American”, and likened to mobs, Nazis and Fascists. And now President Obama’s team has designated September 11 as the day to liken conservatives to Al Qaeda terrorists.

Today, President Obama’s campaign organization “Organizing for America” sent out a notice to its “grassroots” supporters. It asked them to wage a coordinated phone campaign for health care by calling their U.S. Senators on September 11 – also known as Patriot Day in honor of the thousands of Americans killed by Al Qaeda terrorists eight years ago. It goes on: “All 50 States are coordinating in this – as we fight back against our own Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists who are subverting the American Democratic Process, whipped to a frenzy by their Fox Propaganda Network ceaselessly re-seizing power for their treacherous leaders.” Please read that again.

Typically when this type of outrageousness is unleashed on the American public, the appropriate response is to recall the webpage and explain the gray area, with phrases such as ‘that was taken out of context’ or ‘we didn’t mean that conservatives were actually terrorists’ or ‘that was written by a junior staffer who has been admonished’. But that should not be sufficient this time. There are several lessons America must learn from this:

Bipartisanship: Rather than rally our nation, which is certainly more divided than ever, they seek to make those divisions even more distinctive this September 11. The President often talks about reaching across the aisle, working with people of differing viewpoints, but that rhetoric is not matched by this reality.

Zealots: This type of irresponsible rhetoric can make dissent against the President seem dangerous. Down the road, the President could paint his detractors as nothing more than right-wing zealots bent on destroying his vision for the nation. Remember, these ‘zealots’ are not smuggling weapons, they’re smuggling poster board and markers. They’re not flying planes into buildings; they’re flying to see their parents for Thanksgiving.

Free Press: How does it help our nation to rally against a free press? If Fox News doesn’t report the story as the White House sees it, does that make them a “propaganda network” as it says on today’s release? Who are the “treacherous leaders” that Fox News is reporting to by the way? These questions need answering.

Memorial: September 11 should be a day to grieve and remember, not a day to lobby for government-run healthcare. It certainly should not be a day to demonize fellow Americans. America’s enemies are violent extremists, bent on bring this nation to its knees, not soccer moms, dads and senior citizens who may disagree with one’s political or policy views.

Results: Will a single American become more enamored with the President’s health care plan, if they are called a terrorist? Will the country become more unified? This is not a strategy that will build consensus, rather it will end health care reform.  All Americans want reform; they differ on the details.  No reform will be possible in this toxic political environment.

President Obama has a way of deflecting the bad behavior of his subordinates.  It is certainly true that he does not get up every morning and write all of his own press releases, and refresh his own website.  But he is responsible and accountable for its content.  It is time for the President to stop campaigning.  He should eliminate his “Organizing for America” website immediately.  He needs to stop embracing the rising sun seal of Obama/Biden ’08 and instead embrace the great Presidential seal of the White House 2009.

On September 11, 2008 then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama said: “Americans across our great country came together to stand with the families of the victims, to donate blood, to give to charity, and to say a prayer for our country. Let us renew that.”

Let us renew that indeed. We should never degrade that day’s events to call those who oppose a policy “terrorists.” Mr. President, this September 11; remember the heroes, remember the victims, remember the families who wept that evening and pray for America’s continued resolve and wisdom, because together we are stronger.  Divided we fall.

(Update #2: Several readers have asked us whether this posting on barackobama.com was “user-generated” rather than a staff posting. From what we can tell, this may have been the case. Nevertheless, members of ‘Organizing for America’ in Illinois, North Carolina, Michigan and possibly other states were invited to this event without filter. Anything under the ‘Organizing for America’ banner that is distributed en masse is accountable to those who run the President’s perpetual campaign.

Which is the problem with a perpetual campaign. When you have campaign organizers attempting to assist the White House message, you end up in this situation. If one American received one email that led them to believe that the President shared these views, that is one too many.

This was not an ill-advised comment on a blog, but rather an organizing activity that used hateful language to describe the opposition. The President and his political advisors should immediately denounce this language and continue to remove it from their website. And they should immediately discontinue the use of the ‘Organizing for America’ website to remove any suspicion that the President shares these views. There is a time for campaigning, and a time for leading. Now is the time for the President to lead.)