Had Enough? Obama's John Mitchell Strategy - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Had Enough? Obama’s John Mitchell Strategy

”Watch what we do, not what we say”
 — Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell to reporters as Nixon Administration began.

“Had enough?”
 — Republican slogan in the 1946 congressional elections

Had enough?

Van Jones was not a vetting problem, he was a “getting caught red-handed” problem.

As discussed on Friday in this space, Jones would never, ever have been allowed in the door of the White House with his nutty record — much less be hired to work there — unless people at the top thought of him in, an ideological sense, as one of their own. This episode has nothing to do with vetting, with race or anything else other than that the curtain was momentarily pulled aside to reveal what President Obama and company really, truly believe.

More to the point, it shows exactly where they are trying to take the country.

As the President prepares to address the health care rebellion that burst into public view at town hall meetings across the country, and as the real meaning of the Van Jones resignation begins to sink in, let’s look back a moment. Turn to what seems to be an eerily familiar strategy that was, in the day, famously associated with President Richard Nixon and his attorney general, John Mitchell.

William Safire explains how it worked.

Mr. Safire, the wonderfully talented and fearless Nixon aide and loyalist who wound up his career in the public eye as the resident conservative on the New York Times editorial page, described Mitchell’s “watch what we do, not what we say” strategy this way in an essay at Mitchell’s death in 1988:

Coming from the law-and-order campaign manager with the visage of a bloodhound, that epigram was interpreted as the epitome of political deceptiveness.

But his intent was to reassure blacks that, foot-dragging poses aside, the Nixon Justice Department would accomplish desegregation. John Mitchell knew that the appearance of a tilt toward white Southerners would ease the way for acceptance of steady civil rights progress for blacks, and sure enough, what he did in this area was much better than what he said.

The objective was admirable. Integrate the segregated public schools of the South — a legacy of the Democrats — while proclaiming other intent. Notably, this also worked. To his opponents’ teeth-grinding acknowledgment, it was in fact Richard Nixon who saw to it that segregated schools in the American South went the way of the dinosaurs.

The sudden burst of attention surrounding the resignation of Obama “green jobs czar” Van Jones serves notice that the president who was a community organizer and follower of Saul Alinsky has up until now been effectively putting the Nixon/Mitchell stratagem to work — resurrecting it on behalf of some of the furthest left causes on the American political scene. If watching what was said while not paying attention to what was being done worked for Nixon and Mitchell on school integration, it can work for what is really the Obama agenda.

The Nixon-Mitchell approach was working for Obama, in a fashion. Everybody was watching, almost hypnotically so, what Mr. Obama said — the wonderful verbal imagery, the now unmistakable voice earnestly oozing words like “keep your doctor” “tough choices0 “putting a sweeping economic recovery in place” and, of course, the trademark “yes we can!” The polls were high, the good-will abounded.

But almost no one in the mainstream was, per John Mitchell, watching what Mr. Obama and company were actually doing: effectively attempting to re-make America in the image of the oldest of far left-wing nostrums, using socialism, identity politics (racism), appeasement and soft tyranny to overhaul a nation built on principles of freedom and liberty. Changing a country of vast prosperity created by a devotion to bread baking economics into a nation of economic beggars, based on long discredited leftist theories of bread slicing economics. With Mr. Obama and his political allies doing the slicing.

Were it not for the conservative opposition on talk radio, in the blogosphere, on Fox News (Glenn Beck, please take an extremely well-deserved bow), and in publications like this one, Van Jones would still be wearing his White House pass. Because it is here in these places — and only these places — that people spend their time actually learning what Mr. Obama is really doing — not just listening to the pretty words. They will, as learned long ago, not be getting it from a mainstream press that has sold its journalistic soul to liberalism and Mr. Obama. On Sunday, a furious New York Times columnist Tom Friedman sat on NBC’s Meet the Press and referred to the Internet in the context of Van Jones record as “an open sewer.” As Byron York at the Washington Examiner trenchantly pointed out, the number of stories on Mr. Jones in the Times preceding his resignation? Zero. Ditto with the three broadcast networks and the Washington Post.

The reaction as reality of all this has dawned, as was abundantly evident in one town hall meeting after another across the country the last two months, is now furious. It can perhaps best be captured in the two word question asked of the nation in the 1946 elections by Republicans running against fourteen years of the New Deal:

Had enough?

The question in 1946 was answered with a GOP landslide.

When exactly in the last nine months did you reach the point where you “had enough”?

• When you heard the Obama stimulus bill was 1,071 pages long and members of Congress passed it without reading it?

• When you heard that Congress passed the $747 billion dollar Obama “stimulus” bill on the principle that spending tax dollars would keep the unemployment rate below 8% — and then it shot up to almost 10%?

• When you realized that the Obama administration had stopped talking about the 3.5 million jobs that would be created by the stimulus bill and had subtly changed the term to “jobs created or saved” — a term not measured by the Labor Department, Treasury Department, nor, most tellingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics? And then you heard that the stimulus had already “created or saved” at least 150,000 jobs.

• When you heard the federal government and Obama union allies had taken control of General Motors, a private company?

• When you heard the federal government forced Chrysler, another private company, into bankruptcy, giving control to Obama union political cronies and the federal government?

• When you heard the head of General Motors, a private company, was fired by the President of the United States?

• When you heard the president appointed a “pay czar” to regulate the salaries of private sector executives?

• When you realized “health care reform” meant government rationing of your health care?

• When you realized that government rationing of health care would mean the government “counseling” the elderly on when and how they should die?

• When you realized health care reform meant a $500 billion cut in Medicare?

• When you heard the President say he approves of a policy in which the government tells your Mom “that maybe you’re better off not having the surgery but taking the pain killer”?

• When you realized members of Congress had no intention of living by the same health care plans they were trying to force on you?

• When you heard the Obama White House admit that the president would not rule out breaking his pledge not to raise taxes on those earning under $250,000, saying: “it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what”?

• When the White House underestimated the ten-year deficit by $2 trillion, insisting all the money it was spending would cost only $7 trillion — then putting out the news on a Friday night that it would actually be $9 trillion?

• When you heard the “cash for clunkers” program was supposed to run from July to November, but was so mismanaged it ran out of its $1 billion allotment in a week — and car dealers all over America are now mired in both debt and paperwork because the government hasn’t figured out how to pay them. And the program set to expire in November was canceled in August?

ª When you understood the Attorney General announced he will re-open investigations as to whether CIA officials who protected the country should be prosecuted for their efforts, something the president said he would not do?

• When you realized that for the first time in American history, U.S. soldiers were being forced to read an enemy captured on the field of battle their Miranda rights (which begin, “You have the right to remain silent”)?

• When you realized the president had hired over thirty “czars” like Van Jones to run the government, none confirmed by the U.S. Senate as is constitutionally required of senior policy makers?

• When you heard that the Obama “green jobs” czar, White House aide Van Jones signed a “Truther” petition, was an enthusiastic supporter of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, and belonged to a group which the Washington Post — after the fact of Jones’s resignation and with the greatest of delicacy– described as having “Marxist roots”?

• When you heard that the Federal Communications Commission now had a “diversity officer” named Mark Lloyd who is a fan of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez’s efforts to shut down free speech a free press? Said Lloyd: “This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.”

• When you heard that Americans challenging their elected representatives on the details of health care and all of the above were being labeled as “Nazis” and “un-American” by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and as “thugs” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

Maybe there was something else in the last nine months that finally convinced you there was real trouble in Washington. But as this (partial) list of activities makes one thing plain, to borrow astronaut lingo: Houston, we have a problem.

What is that problem?

The American people have reached a “tipping point.” They have begun to realize with startling clarity that the common thread running through every action listed above — and more – is a drive to deprive them of their freedoms. Whether it’s the freedom to be president of General Motors subject to the approval of a board of directors and shareholders, or the freedom for you to choose your own health care without government rationing, more and more people are now getting what is at stake here. That tipping point is even captured numerically in the latest Rasmussen poll that shows the Obama approval numbers going south, with 53% opposed to the president and 47% in favor, the kind of plunge not seen since Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.

The abrupt White House decision to ask for a Joint Session of Congress is a clear admission that President Obama feels compelled not just to try and salvage the tattered remains of his so-called “health care reform.” What is really going on here is a frantic attempt to distract attention from the core beliefs motivating this president, his staff, his administration and his allies. An attempt to get the country to look away from an increasingly long list of absolutely chilling actions and appointees that flow directly from those beliefs.

Those beliefs are exactly why Van Jones was working in the White House. They are what got him in the door. It’s the belated recognition by everybody else that got him shown the door.

So what do we have here?

We have a president who is once again about to take center stage, supposedly to talk health care. But this time, Americans are on to his use of the Nixon/Mitchell strategy. They are no longer willing to sit quietly and watch what Barack Obama says. They now understand in increasingly vivid detail what it is he is trying to do.

They understand in their gut that Van Jones was not some vetting mistake, not an accident of process, but rather a symbol of the entire belief system that now resides in the White House.

Which makes the next set of questions as follows:

• Again, who hired Van Jones, approved Van Jones, vetted Van Jones?

• Who hired Mark Lloyd over at the FCC? Who was his sponsor, who vetted, who approved, what did they know?

• When will Congress put a stop to the appointment of these unelected “czars”?

• And for good measure, let’s ask the question the Old Media will never have the guts to ask:

Just what role has Valerie Jarrett, the enthusiastic booster of Van Jones and senior Obama loyalist on the White House staff, played in all these personnel decisions?

The New Media proceeds.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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