There are so many faces of the radical Democratic Party. Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton. So many targets for the Republicans. But the GOP is faceless. Sarah Palin is a target, but nobody thinks she runs the party. Either Bush will do, but they are increasingly subjects for archeologists, not politicians. Dick Cheney? Not when he’s in the hospital.
So Obama and his allies have to create a villain, and none fits the bill so well as House Minority Leader John Boehner. By appearing in the Ohioan’s district and attacking him directly, President Obama is hoping to turn the possible future speaker into a modern day version of Newt Gingrich, who served as such an attractive target for Bill Clinton.
The president is trying to make Boehner the poster boy for the often-corrupt nexis between the big corporations and the Republican establishment. His ties to tobacco (he once passed out their campaign contributions on the House floor — presumably to save the cost of postage), and his frequent lobbyist paid trips make him a convenient target. And attacks on big business tap into the allure of economic populism, the last refuge of liberals before they admit that they have to move to the center.
The New York Times contributed its efforts by highlighting a hit piece on the front page of its edition last Sunday that focused on Boehner’s corporate travel, lobbyist donations, meetings with lobbyist friends and a catalogue of his former staffers who became lobbyists. The implication of the article was that if the Republicans take over the House, lobbyists for the major corporations will rule.
The attempt to highlight Boehner underscores the almost total lack of a Democratic message in the fall elections. Some are trying to blame Bush. Others are running as far from Obama as they can. Some seize on the scantiest evidence to justify their negative ads.
In some districts, a Republican’s signature on the no-new-tax pledge of Americans for Tax Reform will trigger an ad saying that the GOP candidate wants to “ship jobs overseas.” How? The Democrats interpret the pledge to mean that the Republican will not vote to close corporate loopholes that let companies deduct the cost of relocating offshore.
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