Barack Obama lives in an alternate reality. An example is his declaration to Entertainment Tonight this week, when he said without smirk or hesitation, "And I don't think you or anybody who's been watching the campaign would say that in any way we have tried to divide the country. We've always tried to bring the country together."
Let's put his words to a reality check.
In October 2010, Obama met with Eddie Sotelo of the Spanish radio giant, Univision. He spoke on a number of issues of importance to Hispanics, and then added: "We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us."
This is, to any doubters, a direct quote. Google it! It's not taken out of context; it's not a slash-and-paste job; it's not a hoax or urban legend...sadly. When Obama made these remarks, he was speaking directly to Hispanic voters about the course they should take together with him in the upcoming election.
Belligerent words and intimidation tactics started almost the day he took office.
Early in his first term, Obama put out a call to the youth of America and told them he needed their help. He needed them to be strong, and loyal, and "turn in" anybody who wasn't shouting "yes we can" to a "fundamentally changed America." The president's team went all in on the initiative. A website was launched. Social media leaders were mobilized. Young people and old were "authorized" to listen in on conversations with family members, friends at coffeehouses, strangers on the subway. And if anything "suspect" was overheard, these newly deputized enforcement officers were to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and rest easy again knowing the White House would take appropriate action.
In 1930s Germany, this role was carried out by youth known as brown-shirts and it didn't end well. In 1920s Chicago, it was how the mob kept an iron-fisted control over the neighborhoods. Most everyone knows this. And if Obama's true believers had any sense of the historical parallels, they surely would have been appalled and declined the offer.
But they weren't, and didn't. How many emails made their way to the White House from unquestioning loyalists? We suspect the number was substantial, but the bigger question was: How could this happen?
How could Obama do something that was, on its face, so nefarious?
Didn't he know—instinctively know for certain—that every American would be deeply alarmed by a citizen spying operation, and view it as evil? This operation was so divisive, alarms were sounded by both conservative and liberals pundits.
Obama started taking heat inside the Washington beltway—and he reconsidered. Maybe his change of heart was triggered by a letter from Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who wrote to Obama saying: "I urge you to cease this program immediately.... I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward emails critical of his policies to the White House."
Whatever the reason, Obama soon shuttered the "snitch squad." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was left to do his best "three monkeys" pantomime in the press briefing room, hoping the press corps would laugh off the whole matter. For the most part, they did.
Indeed, this little preview of the Obama M.O. went out with a whimper, and is mostly forgotten today. But more than one level-headed commentator was prompted to question the character of the man so recently elected. Peter Wehner, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had this to say:
"The Obama White House is showing a fondness for intimidation tactics that might work well in the wards of Chicago but those don't have a place in the most important and revered political institution in America. To see these impulses manifest themselves so early in Obama's presidency, and given all that he has said to the contrary, is rather startling. The danger is that as the pressures mount and the battles accrue and the political heat intensifies, these impulses will grow stronger, the constraints on them will grow weaker, and the voices of caution and reason will continue to be ignored. If that should come to pass — if what we are seeing now is only a preview of coming attractions — then the Obama administration, and this nation, will pay a very high price."
And we have.
©2012 Floyd and Mary Beth Brown. The Browns are bestselling authors and speakers. Together they write a national weekly column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Floyd is also president of the Western Center for Journalism.