In the Wall Street Journal this morning, former Solicitor General and current Koch Industries lawyer Ted Olson accused President Obama of holding an “enemies list” because of the criticism his administration has aimed at David and Charles Koch, who contributed significant funds to the right-wing infrastructure that opposes Obama at every turn. Comparing criticism of the Koch’s by presidential aides and surrogates to McCarthyism, Olson declared that Kochs “have been the targets of the multiyear, carefully orchestrated campaign of vituperation and assault described above—and much more. It has been choreographed from the very top.”
In a not surprising turn of events, Olson’s op-ed and point-of-view were picked up on Fox News today. During a discussion of the op-ed on The Five this afternoon, former Bush White House Press Secretary claimed that her former boss, George W. Bush, would never do what Obama has supposedly done to one of his political opponents:
TANTAROS: Dana, if this were George Bush.
PERINO: Well, he just would never. … It’s just a different style, right? President Bush would have never mentioned George Soros in a speech. Ever. He wouldn’t have complained about any. He’d let other people do it for him, but from the Oval Office, as Commander-in-Chief, he never would have done it. There are plenty of people who went after him and based on their meritorious arguments — and we can have that debate — but he never would have done that because he just wouldn’t dignify it with a response.
A couple of things to note here. Olson never accused Obama himself of directly demonizing the Kochs. Instead, he wrote of “aides,” “surrogates,” “allies” and “the president’s re-election team.” Secondly, the Bush White House did call out George Soros by name. In a town hall Q&A in 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney raised the specter of Soros:
Q Thank you for talking to us today, Mr. Vice President. This is just awesome. I’m thrilled to be here. I have a question for you about some people think that we’re not tough enough against the negative campaigns and all the false information that’s coming out now with the mud slinging in the Kerry-Edwards campaign. What do you say to that, that we’re not tough enough in proving that a lot of those things are falsehoods?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the thing that disturbs me about this election year, I guess, are the so-called 527s. We had the campaign finance reform. And when I worked for Gerry Ford back in 1976. And we had the first set of campaign finance reforms that came in the aftermath of Watergate. And it laid down a whole set of requirements. And so we operated by those requirements. And then eventually over time, we got to the point where somebody decided those weren’t good enough. So we got a new campaign finance reform law. But it’s got a big loophole in it called 527s. And in effect what it allows is for groups, as long as they’re not affiliated with a candidate, can go out and raise money — soft dollars, which were banned from being used for state parties and national party organizations — go out and raise soft dollars, meaning individuals can write million-dollar checks if they want. This guy Soros has given, I don’t know $10 million or $15 million, something like that. And they can say anything they want, put commercials on television, which they do endlessly attacking one or the other of the parties. And the fact is, nearly all of them are attacking us. We feel it on a daily basis. The other side is well organized, and I think it’s — well, I’m trying to be a statesman here. (Laughter.) I think it’s a bit of a travesty to claim we’ve got campaign finance reform, and that we’ve banned soft dollars, and then over here on the side, they’ve written in this big loophole that allows somebody like George Soros — I think it’s George — who is spending literally $10 million, $15 million and everybody else is limited to $2,000, or whatever it is. But if you go the through 527, he can dump as much money as he wants into the race, and it’s all negative advertising aimed at the President and me.
It’s not exactly the Bush White House, but as Josh Marshall recalled on Twitter today, the Speaker of the House during much of the Bush administration, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), baselessly suggested that Soros was a front for drug cartels.
So, I would say there isn’t that much of a distinction between Bush, Obama and their allies on this front.