Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a check.
Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on
the planet, singles you out by name. His campaign brands you a Romney
donor, shames you for "betting against America," and accuses you of
having a "less-than-reputable" record. The message from the man who
controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which
can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a
mistake donating that money.
Are you worried?
Richard Nixon's "enemies list" appalled the country for the simple
reason that presidents hold a unique trust. Unlike senators or
congressmen, presidents alone represent all Americans. Their powers—to
jail, to fine, to bankrupt—are also so vast as to require restraint. Any
president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto
engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents
since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice.
Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his
campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief
history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and
shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent.
Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the
post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few"
have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the
expense of so many Americans."
"We don't tolerate presidents or people of high power to do these
things," says Theodore Olson, the former U.S. solicitor general. "When
you have the power of the presidency—the power of the IRS, the INS, the
Justice Department, the DEA, the SEC—what you have effectively done is
put these guys' names up on 'Wanted' posters in government offices." Mr.
Olson knows these tactics, having demanded that the 44th president
cease publicly targeting Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries,
which he represents. He's been ignored.
The real crime of the men, as the website tacitly acknowledges, is
that they have given money to Mr. Romney. This fundraiser of a president
has shown an acute appreciation for the power of money to win
elections, and a cutthroat approach to intimidating those who might give
to his opponents. (More)