The wrong message, the wrong messenger

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In the wake of the JPMorgan fiasco, and with growing discussion about how best to regulate Wall Street, the secretive, far-right American Future Fund is reportedly investing $3.4 million in this attack ad, which will air in seven 2012 battlegrounds. I’m not sure if AFF has thought this one through.

The gist of the minute-long ad is that while President Obama says he’s helped crack down on financial-industry excesses, American Future Fund would have voters believe he’s actually a close Wall Street ally. We learn, for example, about the $42 million Obama received from “Wall Street bankers and financial insiders” in 2008, and the vote he cast before becoming president in support of the Bush bailout of the financial industry.

There’s nothing especially inaccurate about the ad – which is more than I can say for most secretive, far-right groups airing anti-Obama attacks – but the whole point of the criticism strikes me as bizarre.

For years, conservatives have said Obama is an anti-business socialist, imposing harsh regulations on Wall Street and using antagonistic rhetoric towards those in the financial industry. But the new message is that Obama is quietly a close buddy of the Wall Street elite?

The American Future Fund is spending $3.4 million on an attack ad that, in effect, says conservatives have had it backwards for nearly four years: the president isn’t too mean to Wall Street; he’s too cozy with Wall Street.

I’ve heard Obama’s liberal detractors make this case in compelling ways, but there are two main problems with it coming from the right.

First, AFF is giving away the game, conceding that Wall Street ties are necessarily a bad thing. But if that’s true and voters work from that assumption, it’s AFF’s allies – Republicans – who’ll suffer most. After all, it’s the Republican presidential nominee who’s the new darling of the financial industry elite, vowing to eliminate safeguards against Wall Street excesses.

The underlying message the AFF is trying to get across is among the most ironic things we’ll see this year: “Obama is too friendly with Wall Street, so vote for Republicans, who’ll make things easier on Wall Street.”

And second, the right is eventually going to have to decide what it is, exactly, they hate about Obama, because at this point, I don’t think even conservatives know for sure.

At different times over the last four years, Obama’s detractors on the right have said he’s a ruthless Chicago thug and a weak pushover. He’s a bystander who goes golfing too much and an activist president who engages too much. He’s sticking to the Bush/Cheney script on national security and he’s putting us at risk by abandoning the Bush/Cheney national security agenda. He’s cutting cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and he refuses to cut entitlement programs like Medicare.

He’s too mean to Wall Street and he’s too nice to Wall Street.

If the right would just pick a caricature and stick with it, their criticisms would at least be more coherent.

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The wrong message, the wrong messenger

Updated