A couple weeks back, Ross Douthat wrote a smart and incisive column on the Obama administration’s targeting of conservative organizations. He argued that it wasn’t necessarily a top-down endeavor—Obama wasn’t hopping on the phone and telling individual IRS agents to go get the tea party—but one inspired by the climate of fear and aggression that Obama and his allies himself nurtured. It was, Douthat wrote, a classic "brown scare":
Even though an American Civil Liberties Union official described their excessive interest in right-wing groups as "about as constitutionally troubling as it gets," the bureaucrats in question probably thought they were just doing their patriotic duty, and giving dangerous extremists the treatment they deserved.
Where might an enterprising, public-spirited I.R.S. agent get the idea that a Tea Party group deserved more scrutiny from the government than the typical band of activists seeking tax-exempt status? Oh, I don’t know: why, maybe from all the prominent voices who spent the first two years of the Obama era worrying that the Tea Party wasn’t just a typically messy expression of citizen activism, but something much darker — an expression of crypto-fascist, crypto-racist rage, part Timothy McVeigh and part Bull Connor, potentially carrying a wave of terrorist violence in its wings.
As I said, this strikes me as about right. This brown scare has been in the making for some time. Obama’s folks have a long track record of waging scorched earth campaigns against anyone who dares contradict him, as Kimberley Strassel points out in the Wall Street Journal today:
On Aug. 21, 2008, the conservative American Issues Project ran an ad highlighting ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad—a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.
What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, "its officers and directors," and its "anonymous donors." Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a "knowing and willful violation" of election law, and wanted "action to enforce against criminal violations."
AIP gave Justice a full explanation as to why it was not in violation. It said that it operated exactly as liberal groups like Naral Pro-Choice did. It noted that it had disclosed its donor, Texas businessman Harold Simmons. Mr. Bauer's response was a second letter to Justice calling for the prosecution of Mr. Simmons. He sent a third letter on Sept. 8, again smearing the "sham" AIP's "illegal electoral purpose."
If you disagree with the Obama machine, they will attempt to destroy you: they will demonize and smear and work to make your opinion illegitimate and outside the bounds of normal discussion. Obama’s allies work to destroy the lives of those who oppose him and his policies because their opposition is simply illegitimate. Candidate Obama was limited to normal tools like nasty letters and threats of lawsuits. President Obama, meanwhile, has a federal government staffed with people sympathetic to his demeanor and policy positions.
This presumption of illegitimacy is why Obama’s most ardent flunkies, like dinner guest Andrew Sullivan, claim they are "genuinely baffled" by outrage over the IRS targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny. Obama has told us that these groups are illegitimate! And if they’re illegitimate, they must be stopped! And if they must be stopped, well, what’s wrong with the IRS target the president’s political enemies? It’s easy, if terrifying, to understand how this runaway train of illogic gets rolling.
Meanwhile, no one should be surprised that Obama’s DOJ is waging war on Fox News. We have been told, repeatedly, that the Obama administration doesn’t consider them a news organization. As the Los Angeles Times noted back in 2009, then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel "said on CNN that Fox News isn't even a news organization" and Obama adviser David Axelrod "told ABC that Fox News is ‘really not news. … Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way. We're not going to treat them that way.’"
Why shouldn’t Holder personally sign off on a massively intrusive investigation into Fox News? And why shouldn’t he tell Congress that he wasn’t in favor of prosecuting journalists? He and his boss don’t consider Fox News to be a journalistic endeavor. Their reporting is illegitimate. It probably shouldn’t even receive First Amendment protections. Why shouldn’t the president’s minions use the power of their office to go after an organization that their boss (Holder) and their bosses’ boss (the Prez) consider to be little more than a propaganda outfit? The minions don't need a directive to get the ball rolling; they already know what to do.
If you're on the right, Obama and his lackeys consider your speech illegitimate and your destruction fair game. Keep that in mind the next time you think about speaking up.