John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Defining Enemies Unwisely

Posted on October 19, 2009
Choosing Their Enemies Unwisely

U2's latest album has a song called 'Cedars of Lebanon', which contains this great line: “Choose your enemies carefully 'cos they will define you.”

I always thought that was a line from Machiavelli, but I could be wrong about that.

By going after Fox News and the Chamber of Commerce, the Obama White House seems to think that it is picking its enemies wisely.

Where George Bush famously made the leaders of North Korea, Iran and Iraq --the axis of evil – his enemies, President Obama has decided to make a prominent news organization and the leading business association his version of the axis of evil.

You can disagree with Bush on his definition of the big enemies. You can make the case that Saddam Hussein wasn’t so bad. But by picking out this axis of evil, Bush was able to define himself as a warrior against communism and Islamic extremism.

Obama and his friends in the White House seem content to define themselves as enemies of the business community and of a free media.

The old adage that you don’t make an enemy out of anybody who buys their ink by the barrel seems to have been largely forgotten by Rahm Emanual. Picking a fight with any news organization has only limited utility. And picking a fight with Fox seems stupid to me.

This only energizes the reporters and personalities who work there. It only increases the ratings for the Fox Shows. And it makes the Obama White House look petty, mean, and frankly, Nixon-like.

In a similar vein, going after the Chamber of Commerce is equally silly.

The Chamber represents business. Sometimes business will be with the Obama Administration, like they were when the Chamber supported the stimulus package at the beginning of the year. Sometimes, it will be against it, like on climate change and health care.

Now, not all corporations are against the climate change bill, and they dropped out of the chamber because they believed that their brand will be enhanced by such an action.

But it seems like a curious strategy to me for the White House to get in the middle of that dispute.

My guess is that having the White House so aggressively make the Chamber of Commerce an enemy will only strengthen the fundraising of the Chamber.

It will help define the Chamber as the number one defender of economic growth, job creation and the free market.

It will also help define the Obama White House as the number one opponent to the business sector. Not sure if that is how the President wants to define himself.

Mr. Obama has picked his enemies, and it has helped define him in the eyes of the American voter.