Obama the Tyrant: A User's Guide for Conservatives

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 28 2014 2:03 PM

Obama the Tyrant: A User's Guide for Conservatives

Cooking up more tyrannical schemes.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

My latest story looks at the legal troubles of Dinesh D'Souza as a way into the world of profitable Obama-conspiracy-mongering. D'Souza, a self-assured icon of the New Right from the late 1980s to today, embarrassed himself horribly with his alleged illegal donations to a friend's Senate race. His recovery plan, so far, has been to stoke paranoia that he's being targeted by the administration. He's had some success with this. That's after alienating scores of old allies and possible supporters by torpedoing his career as a university president and by releasing a movie about Barack Obama that actually alienated possible swing voters.

How strong is the paranoid instinct? Here's a great example of it, buried at the end of Jennifer Epstein's story about what various interest groups can get out of the State of the Union.

Common Core was developed by associations of state officials and nonprofit groups. But once Obama embraced it and had given states financial and policy incentives to adopt it, it immediately sparked a backlash. States including Indiana, South Carolina and Missouri are considering pulling out of the standards.
“It’s imperative that the president not say anything about the Common Core State Standards,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “For two years running, he’s taken credit for the adoption of these standards, which has only fueled critics on the right who see this effort as a way for the federal government to take over control of the schools.
“If he cares more about the success of this initiative than credit-taking, he will skip over it.”

Got that? It's been true for decades that presidents polarize the issues they embrace, that they scare away members of the other party who might have come aboard. But the specific worry from educators, as relates to Common Core, is that whenever the president talks about it, opponents see the program as part of a vast conspiracy.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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