I cannot remember a time when right wing pundits were more viciously bashing the political left and its leader. In print, on TV, and radio, the President is being spoken of as a conniving outright liar, a person with very few objectives other than becoming an American dictator, a closet Muslim who is secretly seeking to destroy the U.S., and so forth.
What, if anything, does this accomplish?
At first glance, these attacks seemingly strengthen the right by depicting the opponents as being flawed.
Alternatively, they may not matter at all. The conservatives have already rejected Obama and his agenda. The liberals feel equally negative about Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the like, so much so that they likely refuse to even consider what they are saying.
Another possibility is that the personal animus being spewed by the right actually backfires. In the end, it accomplishes the opposite of what was intended and it actually HELPS liberals and their objectives and does them little or no harm.
Classical Jewish wisdom concurs with this approach.
In the book of Ecclesiastes (3:15) it is written that The Almighty favors one who is being pursued. The ancient Jewish interpretation of this phrase is that even when a good person is justifiably pursuing a bad person, a groundswell of public sympathy will be evoked on behalf of the “victim.”
What happened to former President Bill Clinton illustrates this ancient idea in a modern context.
In his defense, many felt that Mr. Clinton was a fine president, one who was more fiscally responsible then the Republican presidents who preceded and proceeded him. However as a person, he was tainted by scandal. Among other things, he was the only President to have ever been impeached, and his lewd behavior inside the Oval Office dragged the prestige of the U.S. presidency through the sewer when the details of his shameful conduct were in the news for months on end.
The right wingers were always castigating Clinton personally. I remember one famous talk show host who almost always referred to him as “Slick Willie.”
Clinton, however, never fought back. The sympathy thus went in one direction only – toward Clinton and away from the right.
What was the upshot of it all? Unbelievably, despite his sordid conduct, Mr. Clinton became one of the most admired politicians of the last century. Credit the conservatives.
As for defeating Obamacare, I would therefore recommend that for starters, all personal attacks against the president should be immediately discontinued, and he should be accorded the deference his office mandates.
The conservative focus should instead be limited to irrefutable facts that speak for themselves. For example, right wing pundits or politicians might point out that the government had three and a half years to prepare the computer system for the Obamacare rollout, and what it finally produced has failed miserably. Managing the actual healthcare system is an infinitely more complex task than designing its computer system. It is thus foolhardy to entrust the medical care of 300 million Americans to a management entity that has proven itself to be so grossly inept!
Another possible approach might focus on the fact that when selling Obamacare to the public and Congress, the president repeatedly promised that costs will not go up and people will be free to retain their own physicians. These claims have been shown to be untrue. What Congress previously voted to pass was a healthcare system that would not raise prices and would allow people to keep their physicians. The honest thing therefore is for Obamacare to be voted upon once again in Congress, this time knowing full well that if this bill passes, healthcare prices for many Americans will skyrocket and most Americans will lose their physicians and be forced into impersonal HMO’s.
Respectful and reasonable messages of this character can be directed as well at other major failings of the Obama Administration. Furthermore, such talk will likely be seconded by many Democrats, for unlike personal smears, they are undeniable, and they will not evoke sympathy and support for Mr. Obama and his agenda.
As for battling President Obama himself, one possibly effective approach is to mention that when the IRS scandal first broke, Mr. Obama proclaimed that the IRS was a semi-autonomous agency that had little to do with him. Indeed, during the eight years of George W. Bush's presidency, he had but one meeting with the head of the IRS. Yet, it is now public knowledge that over the period when the Tea Party and other groups were being harassed by the IRS, President Obama met with IRS chief Douglas Shulman roughly 160 times. This was three or four times more than he met with either the secretaries of state or treasury.
An unprecedented and unexplained number of meetings suggests that an unprecedented and (as yet) unexplained type of activity was afoot. Mr. Obama, who promised the country a transparent presidency, should be firmly asked to explain what all of those meetings were about. Were they in fact planning sessions on how to harass the Tea Party groups? Rather than getting sidetracked with personal denunciations, the Conservatives should continue to pose this question until it is satisfactorily answered– the people have a right to know!
Additionally, if legally doable, the conservatives should perhaps push to put Mr. Shulman on the stand and ask him the same question. The agreement might be that as long as he testifies honestly, he would be under no compulsion to either implicate or exonerate the president. But if he dares to lie, he would be sent for life to a “very nasty prison.”
If the Republicans foreswear attacking the liberals personally and instead respectfully convey these types of messages, they would likely succeed in defeating Obamacare and other initiatives and policies of its chief sponsor. The liberals will protest far less once they feel that their leader and his platform are being respected and this is merely a reasonable exploration of the issues. But if the Conservatives continue to personally attack their ideological foes, is it is almost certain that they will thereby guarantee their own demise and continued liberal victories on almost all fronts.
To close on a very different note, it also bears mention that if our leaders and opinion makers stopped vilifying others, it would add much civility and dignity to the public milieu.
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