President Obama's re-election campaign has launched a website called "Attack Watch" to "fight smears" and criticisms from Republicans. The site offers Obama supporters an efficient way to "report an attack," and promises that "when another unfounded attack surfaces, we'll arm you with the truth." Conservative bloggers have mocked the site, saying it makes Obama look like "a creepy authoritarian nut job." Is Attack Watch a sign of paranoia, or just a smart way to spot campaign attacks and nip them in the bud?
Obama is being paranoid and scary: This is positively Nixonian, says Seth Mandel at Commentary, except that Richard Nixon had the political instinct to hide his Enemies List. "Obama is openly promoting a program to 'report' on private citizens." It might have been OK back in 2008 when, as a senator running for the White House, Obama mounted a similar online effort called "Fight the Smears," but presidents should rise above such inappropriate antics. Attack Watch helps validate the GOP complaint that government is "too meddlesome."
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
But Republicans really are out to smear Obama: This is rich, says Media Matters for America. Right-wing bloggers spend years relentlessly smearing Obama, "pushing the claim that he was not born in the United States, claiming he was educated in a madrassa, attacking his faith, and claiming the administration committed federal crimes." And now they're calling him paranoid for concocting a way to fight back? Who's the silly one, again?
And candidates have to counter rumors somehow: Attack Watch isn't paranoid — it's "just politics," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. It would be silly for Obama to respond personally to "every stupid rumor" that appears online. The internet has a way of feeding bogus attacks — I'm looking at you, Birthers — and "investing a few campaign resources... to bat those rumors down is a good idea."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.