The list: Obama's campaign attacking private citizens again; Update: Backfire?

Kimberley Strassel explains it all to you. Actual quote from The One’s attack website: “A closer look at Romney’s donors reveals a group of wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records. Quite a few have been on the wrong side of the law, others have made profits at the expense of so many Americans, and still others are donating to help ensure Romney puts beneficial policies in place for them.” This from a guy who’s still using Jon Corzine as a bundler.

Remember, when asked last month at his White House presser about Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke, the Unicorn Prince intoned that he doesn’t like to see private citizens attacked for their political advocacy. Here’s Strassel on how seriously he takes that:

Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust. Unlike senators or congressmen, presidents alone represent all Americans. Their powers — to jail, to fine, to bankrupt — are also so vast as to require restraint. Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice.

Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled “Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney’s donors.” In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having “less-than-reputable records,” the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that “quite a few” have also been “on the wrong side of the law” and profiting at “the expense of so many Americans.”…

“We don’t tolerate presidents or people of high power to do these things,” says Theodore Olson, the former U.S. solicitor general. “When you have the power of the presidency — the power of the IRS, the INS, the Justice Department, the DEA, the SEC — what you have effectively done is put these guys’ names up on ‘Wanted’ posters in government offices.” Mr. Olson knows these tactics, having demanded that the 44th president cease publicly targeting Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, which he represents. He’s been ignored.

The real crime of the men, as the website tacitly acknowledges, is that they have given money to Mr. Romney.

They’ve been demagoging the Kochs for months but the flaw in that tactic is that it doesn’t do much to intimidate other wealthy Republicans. Arguably, it achieves the opposite effect. The more lefty rage is directed at “the Kochtopus” as an all-purpose explanation for the country’s ills, the less attention is paid to lower-profile conservatives. If you want to pressure people into not donating to Romney, you’re better off spreading the hate around. Hence “the list.”

That said, while reading Strassel’s piece I kept thinking of this post from the other night about how many of Obama’s “policy” speeches have been transparently political over the last few months. In his case, part of the shock in seeing the president call out private citizens is lost because for months he’s seemed much more like a candidate than a C-in-C. That’s one of the reasons they’re hitting the Bin Laden anniversary so hard, I think — it’s not only one of his few unambiguous triumphs as president, it’s a rare moment when he was acting unambiguously as president. That’s a smart image to push while you’re busy smearing Romney’s “less-than-reputable” donors.

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Update: Patrick Ishmael e-mails with a good point:

Doesn’t this make it more likely that they’d donate to SuperPACs, where they can give unlimited amounts anonymously? And how exactly is that advantageous to Obama? At least Romney has to stand by his ads. He doesn’t have to do squat with American Crossroads and the rest.

Yep. If you’re worried about being hassled by Obama and his base, you’re better off sticking with Super PAC donations. That means even less transparency from political donors in the aggregate, but I’m not sure O minds that. He doesn’t really care about transparency, he cares about choking off funds to Romney’s campaign for organizational and other GOTV uses. Funneling rich donors away from that and entirely into Super PACs may be his best bet since many of them are bound to be donating heavily to Super PACs anyway.

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