Investor Business Daily
October 13, 2010
President Obama has doubled down in his attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, continuing to call its ads foreign-funded. His charges are false and he knows it. If this isn't beneath his office, what is?
One needs to look hard to find any head of a major democracy as openly at war with his country's Chamber of Commerce as Obama is. His charge that the Chamber's $75 million ad campaign ahead of elections is funded by foreign sources is both false and an unprecedented smear, an accusation of a crime.
It's deeply disappointing coming from a country's elected leader.
Neither Europe's socialists nor Asia's combative leadership fight their chambers like this. Chambers of commerce, including the U.S. branch, generally seek pragmatic accommodation with those in power. Obama's attack on the Chamber is sadly reminiscent of the scorched-earth relations Venezuela's self-declared communist leader Hugo Chavez has with his country's business groups — and he makes no secret of wanting to destroy them.
Shockingly, a similarly antagonistic situation now exists in the U.S., center of world capitalism.
Based on a blog post from the Center for American Progress, Obama now calls the Chamber's ad campaign in defense of free markets not protected speech but "a threat to democracy." His embattled party still repeats the scurrilous claim that the Chamber's ads are foreign-funded because it receives a small amount ($100,000) of dues from overseas companies. But nearly all of these businesses are based in the U.S., and their dues are separated from ad funds. The White House knows this — or at least, should.
As the media, including the New York Times, gave this a good debunking, Obama refrained from continuing his charges Monday.
But his lieutenant, Vice President Joe Biden, "didn't get the memo," as Lucianne Goldberg quipped on her Web site. So Biden continues the dishonest line of attack.
"I challenge the Chamber of Commerce to tell us how much of the money they're investing is from foreign sources," Biden said Monday.
"Not a red cent," the Chamber replied, desperate to keep the lies from becoming a "truth" by repetition.
"These accusations by a George Soros-funded anti-business blog are unfounded, deceitful, and completely erroneous," the Chamber wrote on its Web site. "They are a desperate attempt to silence those who support free enterprise, and a diversion by people upset by their grim prospects in the coming election."
This sorry situation says two things about the Obama administration: One, it's willing to use the same Alinskyite tactics against a single target that it used to win elections. And two, it's at war with America's private sector.
The attack on the Chamber follows community organizer Saul Alinsky's dictum to "pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." It follows earlier offensives that began in this vein, first with Obama operatives taking aim at conservative media, including Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
That was followed by attacks on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the grass-roots Tea Party movement, which seeks smaller government. After that, Koch Industries, whose two owners help fund free-market think tanks such as the Cato Institute, was in Obama's sights, accused of evading taxes — which the White House now says it has no direct knowledge of.
Finally, we have the full frontal assault on the Chamber, representing 300,000 American businesses. None of these entities are actual political opponents, and they aren't even treated as politicians. With the president hurling false charges at major pillars of what is essentially civil society, these targets are treated as enemies.
Is this what we've come to? A presidential enemies list, Alinskyite tactics targeting individuals one by one and, in this attack on the Chamber, a propaganda war against the private sector?
It's hard to see how Team Obama can win by harassing the entire domestic private sector, and even harder to see why it should try.
Obama's top political problem is joblessness, and it's the Chamber's members that are the job creators. If the president can't find a way of accommodating them, he's in for political trouble.
At a bare minimum, Obama can start by ending the war against the Chamber's exercise of free speech and restore his stature as the leader of the free world — instead of acting like some kind of pale imitation of a Latin American dictator.