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Fighting the Smears

August 6, 2009

First, Obama sympathized with anti-American extremists such as Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers. Then, he was a socialist for wanting to hike taxes on the wealthy. More recently, he is said not to be a natural born citizen of the USA. When will the smear campaign stop?

Apparently not anytime soon. The president’s latest unpardonable sin is tyranny along the lines of King George III and Big Brother. This at least is the claim made by Stephen Manfredi, Executive Director of Citizens for the Republic, in response to the White House’s recent “Fight the Smears” campaign. Here is the White House blog that drew Manfredi’s ire:

“There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”

There is, of course, no indication in the blog that the Obama intends to suppress such rumors in the Orwellian manner Manfredi fears. Still, Manfredi’s hysteria causes me to wonder if the “Fight the Smears” effort is perhaps misguided, after all. While disinformation has clearly played a role in the health care reform debate, what we get from Manfredi, Limbaugh, Bachmann, et al are purely rhetorical attacks. Obama is a socialist! Big government is taking over! Protect your liberties! Sweeping condemnations such as these make reasoned debate a near impossible challenge. What is president to do, other than thunder back with counter-slogans?

The smear tactics coming from some prominent voices on the right debase our political discourse, and serve to discredit their own case against reform. In another post on Manfredi, Michelle Cottle summarizes the frustration of those of us who expected more from the opposing side: “I have given up hope for a loyal opposition. I’d settle for a sane one.”

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