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February 26, 2012 10:23 AM ***Obama Campaign Goes After Kochs. Why?

By Matthew Zeitlin

Before Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum addressed an Americans for Prosperity forum on Saturday, the DNC put together a web ad that weaves together oil industry subsidies, the Koch brothers efforts to defeat Obama, and Mitt Romney’s connection to them. Also, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina sent out a mass email criticizing Romney for speaking at the AFP event (AFP being just one of many conservative organizations receiving money from the Kochs) and describing the Kochs as oil profiteers who are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the president.

What’s interesting here is not so much the focus on a powerful and incredibly wealthy donor, but the Obama campaign’s apparent strategy of trying to depict the GOP as the party responsible for perverting government for the protection of special interests. What’s slightly strange about this effort is that Obama has been president since January, 2009.

Because two of Obama’s signature policy initiatives — the stimulus and health care reform — are not particularly popular, he is forced to run for reelection in light of the fact that the American public has broadly lost faith in the government’s ability to do anything right, but not make it seem like he is to blame for it. And how to do that? Relentessly depict the Republicans, and the Republican nominee, as a puppet for the very forces who are truly responsible for cynicism about government.

Stanley Greenberg, the long-time Democratic pollster and strategist, has been writing about this very issue since the Democrats took back the House and Senate in 2006. His argument, fleshed out most recently in the New York Times in July, is that “voters feel ever more estranged from government” and don’t even trust those politicians with whom they agree to implement their plans in a way that will benefit average Americans. This is a problem for Democrats who are championing government investment and social spending in light of what Greenberg calls “a full-blown crisis of legitimacy.” What to do?

One solution to this crisis of legitimacy Greenberg has suggested is taking up campaign finance reform and going after lobbyists. This way, politicians can align themselves with voters who, as Greenberg put it in a memo for Democracy Corps, “want their leaders to stand for reform and accountability, centered on breaking the nexus of money and power in Washington. “

Although aggressively championing actual campaign finance proposals will likely be awkward in light of Obama’s embrace of pro-Obama Super PACs, it is much easier to go after the GOP’s wealthiest supporters. The fact that the GOP primary is as much a fight between Super PAC donors as it is candidates makes this line of attack even more plausible.

If it’s going to be hard to convince the public your accomplishments are significant and that your policy proposals are good ones, your second best option might be to convince voters that the other guys aren’t even trying to do something good in the first place.

Comments

  • TCinLA on February 26, 2012 11:44 AM:

    What's so terrible about realizing the rules are the rules and deciding not to bring a wet noodle to a gunfight? Like it or not, Citizens United is the law of the land, and while the weak-lemonade-and-cucumber-sandwiches "good government" crowd of otherwise-unemployables may think it's "principled" not to get down in the mud and fight, that's pretty stupid (of course, when you look at the history of those people over the past 140 years, "stupid" is the gentlest word that comes to my mind). "Oh, I'm too principled to fight you, you terrible Republican, so you just go on and win and I'll be able to hold my principles high." I'm sure they will while the Santorum Brigade of the Christian SS heads them off to the "liberal relocation centers."

    Look, the only people worried about Obama recognizing reality and making a fight of it are the idiots described above and the goddamned futhermucking Republicans, to which I say "go shove it, wanker!"

    As far as blaming the Republicans for obstruction, and the Koch traitors for financing it, that's just stating the facts. The Senate Republicans used the filibuster more in the past four years than in all the history of the Congress up to 2008 (and that includes their filibustering record of 2006-2008). What else do you call a bunch of Confederate traitors, other than traitors?

    There's a lesson they don't teach in undergraduate poli sci classes at Northwestern, kid, and that's a lesson my great-grand-uncle who worked for Harry Truman taught: "the only 'good Republicans' are pushing up daisies." The sooner you learn it's a blood sport, the better off you will be and the less idiocy from acadamania you'll have to shuck off.

  • Mark-NC on February 26, 2012 12:02 PM:

    "but the Obama campaign’s apparent strategy of trying to depict the GOP as the party responsible for perverting government for the protection of special interests."

    If there are going to be poor, middle class, union members, hourly wage workers, etc. voting Republican, let them do it KNOWING that they are slitting their own throats financially.

    If they want to be wholly owned by the wealthy, then they should get what they want (locally, I hope).

  • Jewish Steel on February 26, 2012 12:17 PM:

    Koch vs Obama = easily defined and clearly delineated. Can be used to pivot to practically any R vs D topic.

    Obama vs campaign reform = inside baseball. Can be used to pivot to a lot of complex policy making, legislation. And where there is legislation there is sausage making, horse trading. That's not a winner, campaign wise.


    I think it's as simple as that.

  • Jeff In Ohio on February 26, 2012 12:22 PM:

    I have no problem with PAC's or surrogates going after the Koch's and AFP and using them to fundraise off of. I do have a problem with the President of the United States singling out private citizen's, regardless how onerous their financial and political activities are, and demonizing them. That's kind of shitty.

  • Gandalf on February 26, 2012 12:39 PM:

    So Jeff you'd just ignore the slime that are trying to change the country into a banana republic for their own greedy ends? When private powerfull citizens can't be satisfied with being multi-billionaires and living like french prerevolution aristocracy but want to turn this country into feudal state then someone has to fight them. Who will do it you. These guys arn't just private citizens like you and me they are evil.

  • Gandalf on February 26, 2012 12:40 PM:

    So Jeff you'd just ignore the slime that are trying to change the country into a banana republic for their own greedy ends? When private powerfull citizens can't be satisfied with being multi-billionaires and living like french prerevolution aristocracy but want to turn this country into feudal state then someone has to fight them. Who will do it you. These guys arn't just private citizens like you and me they are evil.

  • CJ on February 26, 2012 12:44 PM:

    ...two of Obama’s signature policy initiatives — the stimulus and health care reform — are not particularly popular...If it’s going to be hard to convince the public your accomplishments are significant...

    I think it's worth discussing why it's hard to convince the public that significant accomplishments are, in fact, significant. That the stimulus and health care reform are not popular indicates a seriously misinformed electorate.

    Apparently its not enough to pull us out of a recession, create millions of jobs, reduce the growth of Medicare and health care costs, prevent bankruptcies arising out of medical bills, give millions access to quality health care, and so on. So, what's the reason for the disconnect?

  • JW on February 26, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Zeitlin: You're too young to remember the photo of Bill Clinton and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich publicly shaking hands and agreeing to effect substantive campaign reform legislation (circa '95).

  • Barbara on February 26, 2012 1:48 PM:

    So I guess your predicate assumption is that, since we are talking about Obama there must be some ulterior motive other than a good faith desire to expose the deeply regressive motives and tactics of plutocrats and show how closely linked they are to his opponent. You might call this the inverse of the Willie Horton strategy.

    Matthew, there is something be said for not thinking too hard about relatively simple things.

  • Cha on February 26, 2012 2:10 PM:

    I see evidence all over the net that Affordable Health Care/ObamaCares and the Stimulus is working and appreciated. More than a few are rejecting that propaganda. Detroit certainly is.

    http://theobamadiary.com/2012/02/25/chat-away-29/

    Too bad for the republicons and the profiteering left that the Obama campaign is smart enough to know when the rules are changed by the fascist 5 you bring out the big money too or you get slaughtered by lies.

    And, THANK YOU, TCinLA!

  • R L Fast on February 26, 2012 2:13 PM:

    We are watching a game of Monopoly on TV. The markers on the board look like Romney, Gingrich, Perry, Santorum, and Paul. The dice are thrown, and a hand moves over the board, picks up Romney, and moves him along a few squares. The camera zooms out, and we see that playing the game are David and Charles Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Foster Friess, and Peter Thiel. Chief Justice Roberts is serving drinks.

  • Cha on February 26, 2012 2:29 PM:

    P.S. Poor widdle kochroaches getting called out for being sneaky birchers(Fred Koch was founding member), birthers(funding tea baggers), and polluters of Earth and our Country in particular.

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/10/03/334001/bloomberg-the-koch-method/

  • JEA on February 26, 2012 2:49 PM:

    The Kochs wanted to be big players in politics. Well, do that and you're going to get pushback from your opposition.

    And for them to whine and whimper about how unfair it all is strikes me a just a bit disingenuous.

  • SecularAnimist on February 26, 2012 2:54 PM:

    Matthew wrote: "... the GOP as the party responsible for perverting government for the protection of special interests ..."

    It's not "special interestS" plural.

    It's just ONE special interest: the fossil fuel corporations. And particularly the Koch Brothers, who have essentially taken over the Republican Party through AFP, the astroturf "Tea Party", etc.

    The Koch Brothers are not just any old greedy corporate oligarchs -- their business model is to enrich themselves by destroying the capacity of the Earth to support human civilization.

    They are, very literally, enemies of humanity, and indeed of life on Earth.

  • Cha on February 26, 2012 3:09 PM:

    BTW, Gov O'Malley of Maryland got in some "zingers" on FTN today..regarding the Economy. Big of the "media" to invite him.

    "Gov. Martin O'Malley mounted an aggressive defense of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy Sunday morning, pointing to 23 consecutive months of job creation and dismissing Republican attempts to blame the administration for the rising price of gasoline.

    Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer, O'Malley got in zingers at GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, as well as at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also appeared on the show."

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/breaking/bal-omalley-face-nation-20120226,0,7680422.story?tw_p=twt

  • Patango on February 26, 2012 3:10 PM:

    TCinLA THANX

    ""Stanley Greenberg, the long-time Democratic pollster and strategist, has been writing about this very issue since the Democrats took back the House and Senate in 2006.""

    I will never understand this , especially from supposed informed writers , it would be more accurate to say it was a 50 50 split in the senate , than a dem majority TAKE BACK ,

    When you present arguments like the one here , it is easy to lay blame on dems in the senate , which is a unjustified cop out where the facts are concerned ....

    And when you focus on east coast corporate msm,you do get what is being presented , the ACA is supposedly only unpopular for GOP reasons , neglecting the fact that it is unpopular with dems for other reasons , and as is pointed out , look in any local news media , and you will find STIMULUS projects creating jobs , and people being very grateful for it , at least it is here in Iowa ..

    Obama's popularity also hinges on him not being progressive enough , he started acting like a dem again the last few months , and his numbers went up , imagine that?

    And How about that pic from romney's jobs rally in Detroit this weekend ? lmao

    Accepting a narrative as fact , when it is rather shaky , is not a great place to present an argument from ...

  • Tom Marney on February 26, 2012 3:22 PM:

    What are the chances that oil companies will jack up gasoline prices in order to influence the election? Pretty damn good. Might as well prepare for it politically.

  • Kathryn on February 26, 2012 3:52 PM:

    @Cha.....Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland is proving to be extremely good in his job as the head of the Democratic Governors group, an able, quick thinking advocate and spokesperson. Saw a recent tape (2 or 3 days ago) where O'Malley os sitting 5 inches away from Va. Gov. McDonnell and rips him very effectively for the over the top social agenda being pursued in Virginia. McDonnell was squirming and his comeback was anemic, made me, a Virginia resident born in the Free State, want to stand up for a few bars of Maryland My Maryland.

  • Mitt's Magic Underwear on February 26, 2012 4:13 PM:

    Give this blog to TCinLA!

  • Cha on February 26, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Thanks, Kathryn, for the news on Gov O'Malley ripping Gov McDonnell as only he can!

    TCinLA does have some very good points, Mitt's Magic Underwear. :)

    As for the President "acting like a Dem in the last few months"..that's ignoring all that was accomplished in the first two years..Democratic Accomplishments. 111 by my count..probably more.

    "The accomplishments of the first two years of the Obama Administration:" All categorized and linked for your viewing pleasure..

    http://www.thepeoplesview.net/2011/09/so-that-ignorance-wont-be-reason-why.html#comment-302015019

  • MNRD on February 26, 2012 10:12 PM:

    Look, you're over-complicating this. Of course the Obama Campaign - with big assists from the Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry Campaigns is going to define Romney as THE candidate of the 1% - and part of that (from the Democratic perspective) is linking him to the Koch brothers.

    At the same time - in case you haven't noticed - the Obama Campaign is also making a strong positive case for the President's accomplishments, while acknowledging that there is still a long way to go for the nation to recover from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

  • Patango on February 27, 2012 12:37 AM:

    Cha
    "As for the President "acting like a Dem in the last few months"..

    You must have missed him praising reagan , allowing bush tax cuts to continue , then getting in a piss match with minority tea baggers for a year about the deficit, putting soc sec on the table , while hiring a wall st flunk as chief of staff , and treating the wisconsin union fight like it is the plague...

  • bob h on February 27, 2012 7:07 AM:

    I think it is a good strategy. And I would throw in Sheldon Adelson for good measure.

  • Crissa on February 27, 2012 5:53 PM:

    There's no evidence that Obama's policies are unpopular. Polls suggest that a majority are unhappy, sure - because a good portion of that 'unhappy' want the policies to go further.

    That doesn't mean the basic policy is unpopular, just the proportion it comes in. There is not a majority who want the policy rescinded!

    Don't take Republican talking positions.

  • Crissa on February 27, 2012 5:57 PM:

    You must have missed him praising reagan , allowing bush tax cuts to continue , then getting in a piss match with minority tea baggers for a year about the deficit, putting soc sec on the table , while hiring a wall st flunk as chief of staff , and treating the wisconsin union fight like it is the plague...

    Apparently you did, Patango! Because you skipped what Reagan things he praised, how Congress requires not just a simple majority to work, what happened to Social Security, and what he's said in speeches about the union fights.

    You're not leftist, not progressive, not liberal with that talk: You're a whiny partisan jerk who wants Republicans to win.

    It's a race, and tripping the guy in the lead with lies only helps the second place move to first. And Republicans are in second place, itching to win.