Since taking office President Obama and his team have been through a litany of Republican targets before the current crusade against Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Going back to the early weeks of the Obama administration, Power Play can detect a shifting and sometimes obscure demonology of the president's political foes.
Lots of Republicans have criticized President Obama or Democratic policies over the past two years, but the administration has been selective about deciding which criticism to answer, and which to not elevate by response.
Witness how the administration has treaded carefully around Sarah Palin questions since Robert Gibbs' bringing up her "death panels" accusation in August of 2009. Gibbs took a Palin tweet and made it into the buzzword for the long, angry months leading up to the eventual passage of the president's health care law. That's not good branding.
While Gibbs would mock Palin five months later for writing notes on her hand, questions about the former Alaska governor are now mostly met by those in the administration with words like "interesting" or "fascinating." Obama campaign manager David Plouffe did suggest in a strategy call with reporters last week that Palin was Obama's preferred 2012 foe, but the administration has been at pains not to create a Obama-Palin rivalry.
The same can be said of other Republicans who take shots at the administration: Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana during the battle over oil spill response, Gov. Chris Christie of Louisiana and the fight over federal funding for schools, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Obama restrictions on the oil industry, and even Gov. Jan Brewer on the subject of illegal immigration.
A foe who represents a potential rival or is attacking on an issue that looks bad for the president may be brushed off, while the criticism of one the administration thinks a more attractive target gets both barrels from Team Obama.
The target is one who in which excites great anger among the president's liberal base.
First there was Rush Limbaugh:
"He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. And he has been upfront about what he views and hasn't stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it, and I compliment him for his honesty, but that's their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh."
-- Then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on "Face the Nation," March 1, 2009.
Then there was Dick Cheney:
"Well, I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal."
-- Press secretary Robert Gibbs in the March 16, 2009 press briefing when asked about an interview featuring Cheney on CNN the previous day.
There has always been George W. Bush:
"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."
-- President Obama, inaugural address, Jan 20, 2009.
Of late, and in quick succession have been House Minority Leader John Boehner:
"For years, Republicans have fought to keep these corporate loopholes open. In fact, when Mr. Boehner was here in Cleveland he attacked us for closing a few of these loopholes -- and using the money to help states like Ohio keep hundreds of thousands of teachers and cops and firefighters on the job. Mr. Boehner dismissed these jobs we saved -- teaching our kids, patrolling our streets, rushing into burning buildings -- as "government jobs" -- jobs I guess he thought just weren't worth saving."
-- President Obama, speaking at a campaign even in Parma, Ohio, Sept. 8, 2010.
"Right here in Illinois, in this Senate race, two groups funded and advised by Karl Rove have outspent the Democratic Party two to one in an attempt to beat Alexi -- two to one. Funded and advised by Karl Rove. Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign sources. So the question for the people of Illinois is, are you going to let special interests from Wall Street and Washington and maybe places beyond our shores come to this state and tell us who our senator should be? That's not just a threat to Democrats. That's a threat to our democracy."
-- President Obama at a campaign event in Chicago, Oct. 7, 2010.
"What we've seen in part because of a loophole that the Supreme Court allowed earlier this year, we now see tens of millions of dollars being spent by ... a number of organizations, some of which just cropped up. Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove run one of them. Tens of millions of dollars from undisclosed donors under benign names like the American Crossroads Fund. And they're spending heavily in all of these elections."
-- Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod on "Face the Nation," Oct. 10, 2010.
And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
"I challenge the Chamber of Commerce to tell us how much of the money they're investing is from foreign sources." "I challenge them, if I'm wrong I will stand corrected. But show me, show me."
-- Vice President Joe Biden speaking at a campaign event in Scranton, Pa, Oct. 11, 2010
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.