Although no one can connect the White House to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives with certainty, similar tactics were the norm for Barack Obama and his confederates since before he became president. The military refers to this “no-holds barred” approach as “scorched earth warfare.” Lately we’ve come to call it simply “Chicago-style politics.”
The president himself set the tone of both his campaign style and his administration when, at a 2008 Philadelphia fundraiser, he remarked, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” according to Politico. Kimberly Strassel described this with clarity and specificity in a recent Wall Street Journal article titled Conservatives became targets in 2008.
Bob Bauer, Obama’s 2008 campaign (and later White House) general counsel, picked up on this “gun to a knife fight” approach and ran with it. Rather than answering campaign ad with ads of his own, he relied upon federal agencies do his work for him, generally against 501(c)4 political action committees.
Strassel described Bauer’s reaction to an American Issues Project ad depicting the connection between Obama and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Bauer immediately
wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, “its officers and directors,” and its “anonymous donors.” Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a “knowing and willful violation” of election law, and wanted “action to enforce against criminal violations.”
AIP had done nothing wrong, and conducted its business exactly as its left-wing counterpart 501(c)4 groups operated, and said as much in a response to the Justice Department. Its letter also disclosed the name of its donor, Texas businessman Harold Simmons. Bauer’s response was to call for the criminal prosecution of Simmons and followed this up with complaint letters to the Federal Elections Commission.
Bauer’s campaign by intimidation was soon picked up by other liberal groups.
Obama supporter and activist Tom Mattzie founded Accountable America, which employed the Obama “gun to a knife fight” approach by sending “warning” letters to 10,000 Republican donors, “hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions,” Strassel quoted Matzie as saying.
The letters alerted “right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.” As Mr. Mattzie told Mother Jones: “We’re going to put them at risk.”
“None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits,” Strassel wrote. “But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.”
Obama has occasionally used phrases like “not red states or blue states, but the United States” and “not African-Americans or Asian-Americans, but just Americans.” These were meant to convey a sense of unity. Despite the rhetoric, the message that comes through is a class warfare, “us versus them” attitude.
Although the president expressed “outrage” at the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, it was a natural byproduct of his “scorched earth,” Chicago political style. In fact, all the other scandals plaguing the White House can trace their roots to this mindset. Whether it’s the DOJ’s spying of “enemy” journalists or the intimidation of witnesses eager to tell the truth about the September 11 attack in Benghazi — it’s all politics as usual to the Obama administration.
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