White House reflects monarchy in dealing with criticism

In my spare time, I dabble in writing historical fiction. Lately, I’ve been thinking of an interesting alternative history: How would the Obama White House deal with Thomas Paine?

Paine was, of course, the most influential writer of the American Revolution. He wrote “Common Sense,” a pamphlet that was so pivotal in changing American minds about independence that it has been called “the 47 pages that changed America.”

Paine challenged the notion that the English king had unquestionable authority over the lives of his subjects. He challenged the notion that Americans were subjects at all, and for that, he made himself Public Enemy No. 1 of George the Third.

Fox News is doing something similar with the Obama White House today. Fox News (to which I am a contributor) is raising serious questions about the Obama agenda of endlessly expanding government through its economic stimulus, energy and health care policies.

And for its disloyalty, Fox has found itself in the cross hairs of a full-scale smear campaign by the Obama White House. Obama adviser David Axelrod has called Fox “not a news organization” and the president himself yesterday derided Fox as a “talk radio format.”

The Obama White House’s war on Fox News is petty and political at the least, and an abuse of the presidency at the worst. And it’s only part of a wider campaign to discredit and destroy the Obama White House’s perceived enemies, be they American businessmen and women or independent journalists.

Already, we’ve seen this administration put a gag order on an insurance company for warning its customers about the effects of Democratic health care reform, set up an e-mail account for Americans to inform on their fellow citizens’ criticisms of its policies, and declare open war on the Chamber of Commerce for its failure to remain mute in the face of the Obama administration’s anti-business policies.

To have government officials on the payroll of the taxpayers engaged in the petty politics of institutional destruction, retribution and censorship is scandalous and shameful. In fact, it is behavior more in keeping with a monarch than a president.

The lesson of Washington and Paine is that you can’t stop a free people from talking, questioning and seeking the truth.

But the current White House doesn’t seem to get this. If Obama were confronted with Paine today, it’s not hard to imagine him sending out Rahm Emmanuel to call Paine a heretic or a pawn of the military industrial complex.

It’s also not hard to imagine him failing as utterly as King George did.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has published 19 books, including 10 fiction and nonfiction best-sellers. He is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation and chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future. For more information, visit www.newt.org. His exclusive column for The Examiner appears Fridays.

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