Wednesday, October 21, 2009

During the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency, the left constantly told us that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” During the Obama presidency, dissent is routinely considered the lowest form of treachery.

Candidate Barack Obama promised to be a “new kind” of leader who would welcome vigorous debate and listen to all opinions. As president, however, he has shown a disturbing intolerance for any viewpoint other than his own. Rather than his promised post-partisan open-mindedness, his White House is using its power to try to smear and delegitimize those who oppose its agenda. With Orwellian coldness and efficiency, the administration has waged war on those who have had the gall to disagree with it:

The war on Fox News. White House Communications Director Anita Dunn projected big-time last week by calling Fox News “an arm of the Republican party.” Yet Mr. Obama’s strategists have worked relentlessly to turn other networks into an arm of the Democratic Party. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is reported to hold weekly conference calls with CNN’s James Carville and Paul Begala and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. As Miss Dunn boasted early this year, Team Obama was able to “control” the media.

Last weekend, senior White House aides escalated the attack. Mr. Emanuel asserted that Fox wasn’t a “legitimate news organization,” a point amplified by senior adviser David Axelrod: “They’re not really a news station. … It’s really not news. It’s pushing a point of view.”

The White House’s complaint against Fox has nothing to do with news. It has everything to do with the fact that Fox is the only network to air consistently opposing points of view and treat them with respect. Fox ensures that its opinion shows, led by Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, are separate and distinct from its news hours, which cannot be said of other networks. Witness the left-wing bias that permeates CNN’s “news” coverage during anchor Rick Sanchez’s daily broadcast. Last week, he repeated unsubstantiated lies about conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and had to be browbeaten into issuing a half-hearted apology. Or witness any of MSNBC’s “news hours.” Last week, anchor Dylan Ratigan accused opponents of Obamacare of “trying to derail health care … even if it means half the country dies.”

Straight news reporting? Only in Obamaworld.

Fox News dares to report that there is another side to the debate. For that, it must be marginalized and attacked in order to delegitimize the opposition viewpoints it airs. Several weeks ago, Mr. Obama visited every Sunday morning talk show except for “Fox News Sunday,” and the White House has said no administration officials will appear on Fox through the end of the year.

The White House has every other network in its pocket, so it freezes out the only one not prostrating itself. While Mr. Obama promised tolerance and magnanimity toward all viewpoints as a candidate, he has shown intolerance and vindictiveness as president.

The war on tea partiers and town-hall attendees. On April 15, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered in more than 800 cities and towns to protest out-of-control government spending. The White House claimed the president was “unaware” of the tea parties. On Sept. 12, hundreds of thousands of protesters showed up in Washington, carrying the same anti-big-government, big- spending message. And again, the White House said it was “unaware” of the massive rally.

Throughout August, thousands of Americans confronted their legislators over the Democrats’ proposed radical overhaul of health care. Sincerely outraged, these citizens were ridiculed and dismissed by the administration and Democratic congressional leaders. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mocked them as “the Brooks Brothers brigade in Florida in 2000” that displayed “manufactured anger.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denigrated them as “AstroTurf.”

Ignoring and then laughing at the concerns of average citizens is generally not the approach of mature leaders in a responsive democracy.

Speaking of the average citizen, there’s another war on us. In April, a Department of Homeland Security unclassified a report titled “Right-Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It warned law-enforcement agencies to watch out for “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing abortion, illegal immigration and federal taxes. It also flagged veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who vigorously support the Second Amendment. In other words, if you go to church, legally own a gun, or served in the military, this administration considers you a potential enemy of the state.

The war on those who oppose government takeovers. In its management of General Motors Corp.’s bankruptcy, Team Obama put the screws to the unsecured bondholders, demanding they accept pennies on the dollar and threatening them with retaliation if they didn’t go along with the trampling of their contractual rights. More recently, the White House applied similar intimidation tactics against the health insurance companies by trying to gag Humana Inc. for telling its Medicare clients truthfully that their coverage may change, cost more or be eliminated altogether under Obamacare. Team Obama is also threatening to pull insurers’ antitrust exemption if they don’t accept their own extinction under “reform.”

The administration is expending a lot of hostile energy against Americans who disagree with its policies. It may be the Chicago way, but it’s not the American way - and it’s not the way the president promised us he’d lead.

Monica Crowley is a nationally syndicated radio host, a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group” and a Fox News contributor.

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