Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 29, 2012
Last month, Noam Scheiber of The New Republic, in an article titled “From Hope to Hardball,” welcomed us to…
the Obama campaign, version 2.0. If, as Mario Cuomo once said, you campaign in poetry and govern in prose, then running for reelection may be something akin to grunting at regular intervals. In 2008, Obamaland prided itself on rejecting such brass-knuckle politicking, much of it perfected by Bill Clinton. “We don’t do war rooms,” was a Team Obama mantra, as one veteran of the campaign and the administration recalls. These days, by contrast, there are dozens of operatives raring to pounce on the slightest Republican misstep.
The outsized war-room capabilities are hardly the only Clintonite technique the Obama apparatus has adopted. President Obama has rewarded his mega-donors with frequent trips to the White House. And, just as Clinton did in 1995 and 1996, Team Obama has lashed a moderate GOP front-runner to right-wingers in Congress and portrayed him as a mortal threat to the welfare state.
Far from a badge of dishonor, though, the new ruthlessness is actually a sign of maturity.
Now (as Alana points out) comes New York’s John Heilemann, who informs us that Team Obama will “maul [Romney] for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues…”
“Thus, to a very real degree,” Heilemann reports , “2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear.” The months ahead, we’re told, “will provide a bracing revelation about what he truly is: not a savior, not a saint, not a man above the fray, but a brass-knuckled, pipe-hitting, red-in-tooth-and-claw brawler determined to do what is necessary to stay in power – in other words, a politician.”