A White House can powerfully shape other perceptions as well. For years the administration has conducted a concerted campaign to demonize Fox News (disclosure: for which I am a commentator), delegitimizing it as a news organization, even urging its ostracism. Then (surprise!) its own Justice Department takes the unprecedented step of naming a Fox reporteras a co-conspirator in a leak case — when no reporter has ever been prosecuted for merely soliciting information — in order to invade his and Fox’s private and journalistic communications.
No one goes to jail for creating such a climate of intolerance. Nor is it a crime to incessantly claim that those who offer this president opposition and push-back — Republicans, tea partyers, Fox News, whoever dares resist the sycophantic thrill-up-my-leg media adulation — do so only for “politics,” power and pure partisanship, while the Dear Leader devotes himself exclusively to the nation, the middle class, the good and just.
It’s not unlawful to run an ad hominem presidency. It’s merely shameful. The great rhetorical specialty of this president has been his unrelenting attribution of bad faith to those who disagree with him. He acts on principle; they from the basest of instincts.
Well then, why not harass them? Why not ask the content of their prayers? Why not read their e-mail? Why not give them especially horrible customer service?