President Obama returned to the fundraising trail yesterday, hoping to raise funds to deliver a Democratic congressional majority in the 2014 midterms. "I would love nothing better than an effective, loyal opposition that is willing to meet us halfway to move the country forward," he said at one event. "But I would be dishonest if I didn't say that it would be a whole lot easier to govern if I had Nancy Pelosi as Speaker."
But the fundraising swing met with a curious push from the Republican National Committee.
In this web ad, the RNC argues the president "ran against" the wealthiest Americans in 2012, but is now seeking campaign contributions from wealthy donors in 2013. "It's the definition of hypocrisy," the Republican Party argues.
The video was released alongside an op-ed from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who argued that it's "millionaires and billionaires" who have "won [Obama's] heart."
So, let me get this straight. According to Republicans, President Obama is a radical socialist who wants to punish success and wage a class war against the rich. Obama, we're told, is also a president who wants to coddle the millionaires and billionaires who've won his heart. The RNC, oddly enough, is pushing both arguments at the same time.
Which RNC messaging genius thought this would be a good idea?
The whole argument is surprisingly dumb. For one thing, Obama didn't "run against" the wealthy in 2012; he argued that the nation would benefit if the wealthy paid "a little bit more" in taxes. I know this is the case, because it's in the RNC's own video. If the RNC's single best example of Obama running against the rich is a clip in which the president said he wants the wealthy to pay "a little bit more" in taxes, then I have bad news for Republicans: the argument itself is baseless.
For another, Obama believes the nation would benefit from a slightly higher top marginal tax rate. He also hopes some of the people who pay that higher rate will contribute to his political party. According to the RNC, "It's the definition of hypocrisy."
It is? If I bought Reince Priebus a dictionary, would he consider using it?
The RNC may not like the fact that the president is raising money to help win elections, but there's nothing hypocritical about any of this. It's just not what the word means in English.
But what really gets me is this notion that Obama loves and hates the rich at the same time. This came up a bit during the campaign, too, with Republicans arguing that the president is too tough and too easy on Wall Street.
And in the larger context, it reinforces a thesis I've been kicking around for years: Obama's critics still haven't quite decided how they want to criticize him, so they end up with attacks that are incoherent and contradictory. He's a ruthless Chicago thug and a "wuss." 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.
This week, he hates the rich too much and he loves the rich too much.
If the right would just pick a caricature and stick with it, the criticisms wouldn't be so easy to dismiss.