Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama gave us another preview this week of how he will deal with critics if he is elected to the White House when he kicked three newspapers that endorsed John McCain off of his press plane. Merely terminating access, however,is likely to look tame compared to what Obama has in store for his critics after he takes the oath of office.
PREDICTION: Within six months of moving into the Oval Office, Obama's multiple moves to silence critics in the media and elsewhere will lead to Washington, D.C. becoming the Caracas on the Potomac.
There were multiple signs before The Washington Times, New York Post and Dallas Morning News got the boot. Hugo Chavez has long used mob intimidation to pressure opposition forces into submission. Obama has made a limited use of the same tactic, as when National Review's Stanley Kurtz began some potentially damaging reporting about the Democratic nominee's long relationship with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist bombers William Ayers and wife Bernadine Dohrn.
In retaliation, the Obama campaign issued a call-to-censor alert to its supporters, especially against Milt Rosenberg, a long-time and highly respected Chicago radio host who invited Kurtz to discuss his reporting on air. The Obama campaign declined to provide an official to share the program and rebut Kurtz. Instead, hundreds of callers did what they were instructed to do by the Obama campaign - they jammed the station's phone lines with protest calls demanding that Kurtz be silenced and accusing the show's host of lowering journalism standards.
The Obama campaign had done the same thing a few weeks earlier when Rosenberg had as a guest another Obama critic, book author David Freddoso, whose book, "The Case Against Barack Obama," has been lauded as a solid journalistic effort to uncover the rest of the story left out of the Chicago pol's two autobiographies.
Once he is sworn in, expect Obama to move on multiple fronts to intimidate or silence critics. He has expressed opposition to renewal of the Fairness Doctrine, an action that would all but destroy Talk Radio and cripple the expression of conservative dissent. But he could accomplish much the same effect by imposing ownership caps and other measures, as Jesse Walker pointed out recently:
"There's a host of other broadcast regulations that Obama has not foresworn. In the worst-case scenario, they suggest a world where the FCC creates intrusive new rules by fiat, meddles more with the content of stations' programs, and uses the pending extensions of broadband access as an opportunity to put its paws on the Internet. At a time when cultural production has been exploding, fueled by increasingly diverse and participatory new media, we would be stepping back toward the days when the broadcast media were a centralized and cozy public-private partnership."
The conservative non-profit and think tank communities will also be targeted. The Clinton administration used IRS investigations of trumped-up charges of tax exemption abuse to force The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and other other major conservative tanks to spend millions of dollars and countless man-hours defending themselves and their donors. That diverted millions of dollars worth of resources that could have otherwise been devoted to making the case against Slick Willie's liberal policies.
Expect the same from the IRS under Obama, plus even more aggressive efforts in the form of attempts to impose racial and other quotas on think tanks at their director and management levels, via regulatory changes in tax-exemption administration. Legislation to do this in California at the state level is already progressing in the legislature there, so similar federal efforts are a virtual certainty.
And business community organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business shouldn't think they will be exempt, either. The same exemption regulation that will be used to throw Heritage and Cato back onto the defensive will be deployed against business associations.
Ditto for defense and other firms doing business with the government. Expect massive increases in regulatory interference in the way these companies do business, including particularly their hiring and firing processes. Davis-Bacon's "prevailing wage" requirements on federal contractors are a mere taste of what an Obama administration will do to insure company executives think twice before criticizing Obama policies in internal communications or in comments to the media.
Won't the First Amendment prevent the creation of this Caracas on the Potomac? Well, ask yourself this: How effective was it in preventing the imposition of speech codes that effectively silence so much dissent from the liberal orthodoxy on the typical American campus?
UPDATE: Hey, they still used phonics when I was in first grade!
So I mis-spelled Caracas. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and Quin Hillyer for the editing.
UPDATE II: Hillyer has more examples
Quin notes these even more worrisome illustration's of Obama's attitude toward dissent: "It's an Alinskyite -- indeed, a borderline Trotskyite -- outlook. Also consider how they use law enforcement in Missouri to warn against "false" advertising. And how the Obama lawyers have literally written to the Justice Department to recommend that McCain and Palin personally be investigated for supposed criminal violating because they warned against vote fraud."
UPDATE III: Media organizations pay for space on campaign planes
That's a major reason why typically only bigger media organizations cover presidential candidates. It is extremely expensive. Imagine what plane fare, food and lodging would cost you if you hit the road from mid August through November 4 criss-crossing the entire country.
UPDATE IV: Over the top?
The much-admired Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame thinks my analogy of Hugo Chavez' Venezuela is a bit "over the top." You should read his complete New York Post oped on the issue here. And more commentary on the issue and a response to Glenn comes from Richard Falknor of the Blue Ridge Forum, who sees the Caracas on the Potomac possibility as anything but imagined.