Theodore Olsen writes in the Wall Street Journal about "Obama's Enemies List: David and Charles Koch have been the targets of a campaign of vituperation and assault, choreographed from the very top."
As a libertarian, I'm a pretty big fan of the Koch brothers and the work they've done to advance the cause of liberty. I've worked for a couple of groups that receive funding from them, too. I'm aware that President Obama and the political strategists in the Democratic Party have centered their campaign against the Koch brothers. This didn't please me, but I figured that they were more than able to handle it. But this op-ed shows why this campaign of assault is dangerous and should be widely condemned, no matter your personal politics.
Olsen begins by asking how you would feel if you were singled out for attacks by the very president of the United States:
What would you do if the White House engaged in derogatory speculative innuendo about the integrity of your tax returns? Suppose also that the president's surrogates and allies in the media regularly attacked you, sullied your reputation and questioned your integrity. On top of all of that, what if a leading member of the president's party in Congress demanded your appearance before a congressional committee this week so that you could be interrogated about the Keystone XL oil pipeline project in which you have repeatedly—and accurately—stated that you have no involvement?
Obviously the Democratic focus groups and strategists believe that targeting a couple of Americans is a great way to make political gains. But it's worth pondering the crime the Kochs have committed:
What Messrs. Koch do, in fact, is manage businesses that provide employment to more than 50,000 people in North America in legitimate, productive industries. They also give millions of dollars to medical researchers, hospitals and cultural institutions. Their biggest offense, apparently, is that they also contribute generously to nonprofit organizations that promote personal liberty and free enterprise, and some of those organizations oppose policies advocated by the president.
When Richard Nixon's enemies list -- which singled out citizens for IRS investigations and other abuses of public power -- was revealed, the media were outraged. Rightly so. Olsen also points out that the Constitution explicitly prohibits bills of attainder so that Congress may not single out groups for unequal application of governmental force. The use of state power to oppress and intimidate private citizens should be condemned as an abuse of authority and unfitting for a country under the rule of law.
Whoever may be the victim of such abuse of governmental authority, the press and public almost invariably unify with indignation against it. If a journalist, labor-union leader or community organizer on the left can be targeted today, an academic or business person on the right can be the target tomorrow. If we fail to stand up against oppression from one direction, we abdicate the moral authority to challenge it when it comes from another.
This is why it is exceedingly important for all Americans to respond with outrage to what the president and his allies are doing to demonize and stigmatize David and Charles Koch. They have been the targets of the multiyear, carefully orchestrated campaign of vituperation and assault described above—and much more. It has been choreographed from the very top. When the president personally takes leadership, his political surrogates and army of allies in the press and Congress quickly and surely follow the direction and tone he sets.
Using government power to target political enemies is wrong, no matter which direction it comes from. I get that the Democratic Party thinks this is a political winner. But they should have the decency to renounce, condemn and reject such targeting of private individuals on principle.
Nixon's lists were secret. Obama is telegraphing his list in his very public rhetoric, the actions of the administration and the oversight of Congress. We'd be up in arms if this were happening to a lowly plumber or single mother who dared speak out against governmental policies. We should be just as ready to defend the reputation and rights of those who provide employment and charity throughout the country.