So this is what “change we can believe in” done the Chicago way really looks like: President Barack Obama and his White House capos muscling recalcitrant opponents and promising to crush those who don’t get in line.
Obama has zeroed in on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox News and doctors. There’s nothing coincidental about this trio of targets, either. They are, respectively, the nation’s most powerful business lobby, the television voice for Middle Americans worried about where Obama is taking the country and the professional group with the greatest potential to kill Obamacare.
How the muscle is applied differs in detail from case to case, but the common message is there for all: You get in line or you pay a steep price for crossing Obama.
Things were different earlier this year when Obama welcomed the chamber’s support for his $787 billion economic stimulus package and the $3 billion Cash for Clunkers debacle. Now, the White House actively encourages an exodus of high-profile firms from the nation’s most prominent voice for business, with the prospect of billions of dollars of “green industry” subsidies being a prominent lure.
The goal clearly is to discredit then bleed the chamber of its lifeblood: membership dues. Thus, Obama’s recent attack on the chamber for “spending millions” on “completely false” ads opposing his financial reform proposals came, Politico reported, “on the same day as his energy secretary, Steven Chu, said it was ‘wonderful’ that companies had left the chamber of climate issues.”
The message for doctors was no less subtle. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid convened a Capitol Hill meeting last week with “nearly a dozen doctors groups,” according to The Hill. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag attended just long enough to make clear that the White House approved Reid’s subsequent message for the doctors.
If the doctors would drop their demand for medical malpractice lawsuit reforms and support Obamacare, Reid would quickly move the $247 billion bill to spare them from scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement.
And if the doctors refuse? “Without the freeze, doctors would see their Medicare payments drop by 21 percent next year and by 40 percent by 2016,” according to The Hill. Cuts of that magnitude would force many doctors to stop treating Medicare patients and push others to retire early or stop practicing medicine entirely.
Large majorities of Americans are adamant about protecting their right to choose their doctors and most are outraged at the prospect of having government bureaucrats intervene in the process. But Obama knows that if the doctors say it’s OK, opposition to government-run health care will begin to evaporate.
The attack on Fox News is the least likely of the three to succeed, but that may not matter. The White House can inflict serious economic pain on the chamber and the medical profession, but attacking Fox just drives the “Fair and Balanced” news network’s ratings through the roof.
Keynoting the anti-Fox effort with Anne Dunn, an admirer of Chairman Mao — whose genocide total far exceeded that of Hitler or Stalin — was inept. Besides, singling out one news organization still brings back nasty memories of Tricky Dick and the White House enemies list for millions of older Americans.
Obama can’t silence Fox, short of going the Hugo Chavez route (which is being tested, by the way, via the FCC). But he also knows that, if he can neutralize the chamber and the doctors, Fox could become just so much noise.
More likely, Obama and the boys are about to be reminded that mere mouse clicks can put Fox’s Middle Americans right where they are needed most: on Capitol Hill. And thug politics can’t stop them.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott’s Copy Desk blog at www.washingtonexaminer.com.