There is something genuinely pathetic about Barack Obama’s obsession with enemies lists — and especially with ferreting out liars who would distort his otherwise sterling record as president. The need to enlist the aid of an Orwellian-sounding “truth squad” would be galling even if Obama were himself as honest as the day is long.
After a long hiatus, the president has resurrected his “Truth Team,” as noted by a message he tweeted yesterday:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 23, 2016
The first iteration of his attempt to build a network of informants came in 2011, when he launched his AttackWatch website. The goal was to get “concerned citizens” to report misinformation about his Affordable Care Act to firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t know whether anyone wrote in to report Obama’s own bald-faced lie that if you liked your doctor (or current health plan), you could keep your doctor (or current health plan), but I doubt he would have taken punitive action against himself.
AttackWatch was financed by Obama’s reelection team, Obama for America, which after he won a second term was rebranded Organizing for America. Since he was no longer eligible to run for president again, questions were raised about where donations to OFA were now going. The Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group, wrote in 2013:
Organizing for Action (nee Obama for America), the campaign committee that morphed into an outside money haven, is trying change its image from a that of dark money group selling access to the president to a squeaky clean issues-centric organization. But this is a tiger that can’t change its stripes.
After pushback from the reform community, OFA today reversed course, announcing that, “we have now decided not to accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors.” This is a far cry from initial reports that not only would OFA take money from corporations, it might do so in exchange for meetings with the President. It also begs the question: Was OFA originally planning to take money from foreign donors? We’ve long argued to an apparently indifferent political class that foreign money could easily be laundered through the dark money system that evolved after the Citizens United decision. OFA’s announcement is at least tacit acknowledgment that foreign money can easily find its way into our political process.
Despite these and other questions about legitimacy, it was under this nebulous organization that Obama came out with the “Truth Team,” a fresh opportunity for American citizens to rat on their neighbors, or at least the ones who weren’t in awe of Obama.
Again, the main thrust was protecting Obamacare against legitimate claims about its shortcomings, but the new Truth Team casts a broader net. If you click on the link in the tweet, you are taken to a page that advises:
The best way to fight against myths and lies is with facts.
Be one of OFA’s dedicated supporters spreading the truth about the issues we care about most — join the team today.
Below this message are fields for your email address and ZIP code. Providing this information takes you to a new page that asks for a donation in one of several denominations.
If you scroll down, you discover that your contribution is being mediated by ActBlue, which according to its own website is “a non-profit, building fundraising technology for the left. Our mission is to democratize power and help small-dollar donors make their voices heard in a real way.” The site further notes that the group has “raised $974,523,763 dollars [sic] for Democrats and progressive causes in just 11 years. We’ve built more than just a fundraising platform. We’ve created the kind of grassroots power that can take on, and beat back, the power of corporate spending and secretive super PACs.”
Assuming all of this is kosher, are we also to assume that in Obama’s world, “the truth” comes in only one color, blue?