Friday’s New York Times front-page “Political Memo” by Helene Cooper gave good marks to the president’s new aggressive campaign to demonize Congressional Republicans in the 2012 election year: “Obama Tactic: Jab Congress To Hurt Rivals – An Aggressive Effort to Steal Into Limelight.”
Just three hours after President Obama announced that he was defying Congressional Republicans to fill a high-level regulatory position while lawmakers were out of town, Mitt Romney sent out the obligatory news release ripping the president. “Chicago-style politics at its worst,” Mr. Romney fumed, accusing the president of “circumventing Congress.”
The statement was just what the White House wanted. It put the Republican presidential front-runner squarely on the side of the Republicans in Congress, a group with toxic poll numbers that the president’s campaign hopes will hurt his rivals for the White House.
Upon the president’s return from Hawaii, the Obama campaign this week unleashed a carefully scripted and deliberately aggressive strategy that showed a White House in combative re-election mode as the president and his advisers sought to ensure that the Republicans did not get all the political limelight. Mr. Obama inserted himself into the media blitz of what was supposed to be an all-Republican show, the Iowa caucuses, when his campaign took out a huge advertisement on the home page of The Des Moines Register on caucus day and he spoke by video conference to Democrats gathered in the state.
White House and administration officials insist that all of Mr. Obama’s actions this week -- with the exception of the advertisement — are policy decisions made for the good of the country. But from Marine One -- the helicopter where Mr. Obama and Mr. Cordray revved up on Wednesday for the forthcoming fight -- to the West Wing corridors to his campaign offices in Chicago, the president’s battle for re-election is quickly escalating as he sets out to use the advantages of his office to full effect.
The president’s move last fall to take his jobs plan on the road to try to sell it to the American public, an effort that culminated in the payroll tax extension battle that is now widely perceived as a win for Mr. Obama and a debacle for Congressional Republicans, was just the beginning, administration officials and Mr. Obama’s advisers say.
Cooper didn’t show much concern about Obama’s dubious and possibly illegal “recess” appointments performed while Congress is not technically in recess.
So in the next few weeks, there will be more executive initiatives that will portray the president as refusing to wait on a hostile Congress to take action to help Americans, officials say.
And there could be more recess appointments, if not in the coming days, then next month, when Congress is expected to recess over the Washington’s Birthday Day holiday. Some Senate Republicans, furious over the recess appointments, said they would retaliate by not approving any more Obama nominees. But since so many of Mr. Obama’s nominees have been held up anyway, the president may simply continue the precedent he established Wednesday, and use the break in February to appoint another batch of people, administration officials said.
(The problem is, which liberal Timothy Noah addresses at The New Republic -- Congress is not in recess.)
To frame the campaign issue, look back at how the Times covered a similar situation in January 2004, when the shoe was on the other party’s foot, with Republican George W. Bush’s reelection campaign was gearing up against a field of potential Democratic rivals. Though the parties are on different sides, the paper’s pro-Democratic tenor remains constant.
In the headline to a story on Democratic candidates John Kerry and Wesley Clark ("Clark and Kerry Offering Plans to Help Middle Class"), their tax plans were shown as helpful. Meanwhile, Bush is portrayed as cynically "pushing" education in an election year ("Bush Pushes Education as Election Year Opens"). The teaser headlines were even more skewed. While the Democratic plans were shown as appealing to everyday folks ("Gearing proposals to appeal to everyday Americans"), Bush's education ideas were couched in Democratic criticism ("Defending programs that Democrats say he underfinanced").