The Obama campaign appears to have taken a page from Nixon’s reelection campaign playbook -- and is now mounting attacks on private individuals.
On April 20, the website KEEPINGGOPHONEST.COM published a post titled “Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney’s donors.”
KEEPINGGOPHONEST.COM was launched earlier this year as one of the three components of the Obama reelection campaign’s “Truth Team” -- a new effort to engage Obama supporters online and in person, encouraging them to communicate with undecided voters.
While the stated goal of this effort was fact checking Republicans' claims about their own record, the post was used to publicly identify and smear eight private individuals – or in their own words “high-dollar and special-interest donors” that “Mitt Romney is relying on…to fund his campaign.”
Four individuals were listed under the heading "Donors" who benefit from betting against America while four were categorized as special interest donors. After each name, the campaign listed deeds that they find “less-than-reputable” or reflective of being “on the wrong side of the law” or making “profits at the expense of so many Americans.”
Each name was then tweeted out by the @TruthTeam2012 twitter handle with similar charges, and the list was also disseminated by email to a grassroots network of Truth Team volunteers -- calling on their vast grassroots network of volunteers to spread the word and vilify the eight individuals.
Among those targeted was Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot – a Romney donor who has contributed $1 million to the Romney campaign – who was smeared as being a “litigious, combative and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement."
VanderSloot and his family have since been subjected to what Kimberly Strassel refers to as “slimy trolling into a citizen's private life,” having been made a political punching bag by the president's re-election team.
This explicit attempt to target and demonize a supporter of an opponent is alarmingly reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List.”
As part of its re-election effort during the 1972 presidential campaign, the Nixon White House was instructed to keep a White House Enemies list of political opponents – comprised of a top 20 list for special attention and another list of about 200 "Political Opponents" organized in categories. As then-White House Counsel John Dean described it, they would “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”
Excerpt: Memorandum from Dean to Lawrence Higby, former assistant to Haldeman, dated Aug. 16, 1971 and entitled "Dealing with our political enemies."
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration, Stated a bit more bluntly--how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.’
Not since Richard Nixon have we had a President who has been as consistently and persistently personal in his attacks as President Obama has been on the 2012 campaign trail.
The misuse of government power to damage or demean one's political enemies is not only bad politics, but it also diminishes the prestige of his office and damages our social consensus.
It is astounding and abhorrent that a U.S. president is willing to marshal the power of his office against 8 private citizens -- using his “Truth Team” to vilify specific private donors.
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 12 books. His latest is "The Nixon Effect: How Richard Nixon’s Presidency Fundamentally Changed American Politics" (Encounter Books, February 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.