The Obama Campaign’s Nixonian “White House Enemies List”

The Obama campaign is now marshaling the power of the office of the presidency against private citizens — using the Obama campaign’s “Truth Team” to target individual Romney donors and supporters in a way that is alarmingly reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List” — as documented in a May 10thpiece by the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel.

As part of its reelection effort during the 1972 presidential campaign, the Nixon White House was instructed to keep a White House Enemies list of political opponents – comprised of a top 20 list for special attention and another list of about 200 “Political Opponents” organized in categories. As then-White House Counsel John Dean described it, they would “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

Excerpt: Memorandum from Dean to Lawrence Higby, former assistant to Haldeman, dated Aug. 16, 1971 and entitled “Dealing with our political enemies.”

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration, Stated a bit more bluntly–how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

The Obama campaign appears to have taken a page from Nixon’s reelection campaign playbook — and is now mounting attacks on private individuals.

On April 20th KEEPINGGOPHONEST.COM published a post titled “Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney’s donors.”

KEEPINGGOPHONEST.COM was launched earlier this year as one of the three components of the Obama reelection campaign’s “Truth Team” – a new effort to engage Obama supporters online and in person, encouraging them to communicate with undecided voters.

While the stated goal of this effort was fact checking Republicans’ claims about their own record, the post was used to publicly identify and smear eight private individuals – or in their own words “high-dollar and special-interest donors” that “Mitt Romney is relying on…to fund his campaign.” Four individuals were listed under the heading Donors who benefit from betting against America while four were categorized as special interest donors. After each name, the campaign listed deeds that they find “less-than-reputable” or reflective of being “on the wrong side of the law” or making “profits at the expense of so many Americans.”

Each name was then tweeted out by the @TruthTeam2012 twitter handle with similar charges, and the list was also disseminated by email to a grassroots network of Truth Team volunteers – calling on their vast grassroots network of volunteers to spread the word and vilify the eight individuals.

Among those targeted was Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot – a Romney donor who has contributed $1 million to the Romney campaign – who was smeared as being a “litigious, combative and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement.”

VanderSloot has since been subjected to what Kimberly Strassel refers to as “slimy trolling into a citizen’s private life.”

The misuse of government power to vilify private donors is not only bad politics, but it also diminishes the prestige of the Oval Office and damages our social consensus.

Douglas E. Schoen is a Democratic pollster, strategist, and commentator. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is author of several books including the forthcoming “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield)

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DouglasESchoen