Team Obama’s character assassination to combat supposed character assassination

posted at 10:40 am on August 28, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

“Slimy.”  “Smear merchant.”  “Character assassin.”  This kind of name-calling tends to undermine an argument against character assassination, especially when the argument comes with no supporting evidence at all.  Yet the Barack Obama campaign feels comfortable with this kind of ad hominem attack on Stanley Kurtz as a means to get him silenced:

The campaign e-mailed Chicago supporters who had signed up for the Obama Action Wire with detailed instructions including the station’s telephone number and the show’s extension, as well as a research file on Kurtz, which seems to prove that he’s a conservative, which isn’t in dispute. The file cites a couple of his more controversial pieces, notably his much-maligned claim that same-sex unions have undermined marriage in Scandinavia.

“Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse,” says the email, which picks up a form of pressure on the press pioneered by conservative talk radio hosts and activists in the 1990s, and since adopted by Media Matters and other liberal groups.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz’s lies,” it continues.

So let’s get this straight.  Team Obama calls Kurtz all of these names, and it’s Kurtz who’s the character assassin?  For the second straight time on this topic, Team Obama has delivered a hysterical, shrieking offensive on a topic they’d be better off ignoring.  Earlier this week, they demanded a criminal prosecution against a critic of The One for pointing out his association with unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers.  Now they’ve attacked Kurtz through an organized campaign of character assassination.

Team Obama has become so overwrought at the mere thought of criticism that they now overreact on a constant basis.  It’s a measure of the fear in the campaign that they have decided that they cannot abide any criticism at all, and instead of simply responding to it, they attempt to silence it instead.  Worse, they seem to believe that the Department of Justice is a great tool for oppressing such criticism — while Democrats accuse the Bush administration of the same, which much less evidence for their allegations.

And in this case, what has Kurtz done?  He has demanded access to records that should have been public all along to investigate the workings of a program funded at least in part by public funds.  Kurtz wanted to check the records on Obama’s denials of a close working relationship with Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers.  In other words, Kurtz attempted to commit the crime of journalism, a crime that seems rare enough as it is when it comes to Obama and his past.

Maybe other journalists should take heed.  If Obama becomes president and they commit the crime of Journalism in the First Degree, how will these same people react with the full weight of the federal government behind them?   If they stoop to character assassination now, what will they do when they have much more powerful tools at their disposal?

Update: As Ed Driscoll notes, Team Obama calls Kurtz a lot of names, while he has defended Ayers as “mainstream” on his website and in comments.  Which deserves more calumny — a reporter or a terrorist?

Update II: Michelle has a good round-up and adds her own thoughts to the hypocrisy of this pre-emptive attack on Kurtz.

Update III: Andrew Malcolm calls this “surprising” at the LA Times, and the Tribune’s Washington bureau has begun reporting on it, too.

Update IV: My friend Guy Benson was on hand to witness what happened:

The experience was surreal, amusing, and chilling. In a matter of hours, a major national campaign had called on its legions to bully a radio show out of airing an interview with a legitimate scholar asking legitimate political questions. Coupled with the Obama campaign’s recent attempts to sic the DOJ on the creators of a truthful political advertisement —which also happened to feature Obama’s relationship with an unrepentant terrorist— last night’s call to action represents an emerging pattern. Any criticism of Obama’s unknown past is to be immediately denounced as a “smear,” and the messenger is to be shut down at all costs. …

Team Obama is fast becoming the campaign that cried “smear.” They labeled the National Right to Life committee “liars” for providing evidence of some unpleasant facts about their candidate’s record on a series of infanticide votes. This tendency to lash out and engage in baseless name-calling not only smacks of desperation; it also may foreshadow an Obama presidency’s strategy in handling unfavorable media reports and sources.

In other words, they’re becoming whiny wimps.  Just what we need in a President.


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