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Monday, April 16, 2012

Obama: The Great Divider

The Great Divider

In 2008, Barack Obama promised he would put an end to the type of politics that “breeds division and conflict and cynicism” and he would help us “rediscover our bonds to each other and get out of this constant, petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics.”

As president, Obama has not only discarded this core commitment; he has turned it on its head. Republicans aren’t simply people with whom he has philosophical disagreements; they are members of the “Flat Earth Society” and have embraced a budget that demonstrates their “Social Darwinism.” The Republican philosophy is “simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.” The Republican vision is for elderly Americans unable to afford nursing home care, poor children, and children with autism and Down syndrome to “fend for themselves.” The GOP favors “dirtier” air and water. And Republicans in Congress consistently “put party before country.”

The president, then, has signaled that he is going to run a campaign built on crude caricatures and false claims, whether they are directed against Mitt Romney, Congress, or the Supreme Court. No individual or institution is beyond libel.

That this is damaging to our civic and political culture is undeniable and, for the president, wholly irrelevant. He is determined to win at all costs. His approach is summed up in the words of the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis: Just win, baby.

Facing an opponent like Obama requires quick, persistent fact-checking. But that will hardly be enough. The president’s critics can spend all their time chasing Obama’s rabbits down an endless number of holes. Nothing would delight the president more.

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