New York Times Leads With Scoffing Over GOP's 'Dismal...Grim' Anti-Obama Campaign Rhetoric

October 10th, 2014 9:25 PM

Friday's New York Times led off with a "Political Memo" by reporter Jeremy Peters, "Cry of G.O.P. in Campaign: All Is Dismal -- Looking for a Theme in ISIS and Infection," which not so subtly suggested in tone and text that some typically hyperbolic Republican campaign rhetoric was "dismal," "grim," and out of bounds in suggesting that President Obama is not competent in world affairs.

Peters, who dismissed the Benghazi scandal as partisan politics, who was constantly amazed and appalled at the GOP's attempts to repeal Obamacare, and who once suggested the president was being passively buffeted by "partisanship and forces beyond his control," clearly doesn't approve of the latest batch of Republican ads.

Darkness is enveloping American politics.

With four weeks to go before the midterm elections, Republicans have made questions of how safe we are -- from disease, terrorism or something unspoken and perhaps more ominous -- central in their attacks against Democrats. Their message is decidedly grim: President Obama and the Democratic Party run a government that is so fundamentally broken it cannot offer its people the most basic protection from harm.

Hear it on cable television and talk radio, where pundits and politicians play scientists speculating on whether Ebola will mutate into an airborne virus that kills millions. See it in the black-hooded, machine-gun-brandishing Islamic extremists appearing in campaign ads. Read about it in the unnerving accounts of the Secret Service leaving Mr. Obama and his family exposed.

Republicans believe they have found the sentiment that will tie congressional races together with a single national theme.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is running ads warning that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border. “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” one commercial aimed at Representative Anne Kirkpatrick of Arizona, a Democrat, says. “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard.”

Republicans like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana -- all possible 2016 presidential candidates -- have accused Mr. Obama of leaving Americans vulnerable to the Ebola epidemic. Conservative media like the Drudge Report have created crude puns to rhyme the president’s last name with the virus. The Daily Caller has christened him “President Ebola.”

Peters ran to former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs to set Republicans straight, then suggested Republicans win on anger and emotion:

When Republicans picked up seats in the House and Senate in 2010, they did so by running on burning emotional issues like unemployment and anger over the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

While anger and economic unease have subsided, polls suggest that people are anxious. A recent survey by The Associated Press found that 53 percent of Americans believe the risk of another terrorist attack inside the country is extremely high or very high. In a new Pew poll, 41 percent said they had “not too much confidence” or “no confidence at all” that the government could prevent a major Ebola outbreak in the United States.

Peters was careful to rebut each Republican charge with a specific Democratic answer.

Playing off feelings of anxiety is a powerful strategy for motivating the Republican base. And few issues have proven as potent when linked together as border security and the fear of terrorism. Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, said this week on Fox News that border agents had told him they apprehended 10 Islamic State fighters in Texas. The Department of Homeland Security said his statement was “categorically false.”

Scott Brown, the Republican candidate for Senate in New Hampshire, made a similar charge on Thursday, saying, “People with Ebola and other infectious diseases can enter the country without being challenged.” The Obama administration countered that argument on Wednesday, saying that it would begin tighter screening of people entering the country from West Africa at five major airports, including checking their temperatures.

The Family Research Council recently convened a gathering of thousands of supporters in Washington, and one of the major topics on the agenda was terrorists sneaking across the border. The lieutenant governor of Texas, David Dewhurst, warned the group that prayer rugs had been discovered along the Mexican border. (Similar stories have popped up in the media since at least 2005.)

Peters at least quoted conservative criticism of Obama by Glenn Beck and Erick Erickson, while making sure it was given the "conservative" warning label.