For a few years, the right has maintained a pretty consistent message when it comes to President Obama and Wall Street: the president is the financial industry's enemy.
Indeed, in most conservative circles, this is just taken as a given. Obama led the way on an onerous Wall Street reform package; he's said unkind things about "fat cats"; he wants to close the carried interest loophole that hedge fund managers are so fond of; and overall, the president has just been a big meanie when it comes to those poor folks in the financial industry.
With this in mind, it came as quite a surprise when the secretive American Future Fund launched this new attack ad yesterday, part of a $4 million ad campaign targeting nine swing states. In the commercial, AFF effectively says their own conservative allies have had it backwards all along: Obama isn't too mean to Wall Street; he's too cozy with Wall Street.
The minute-long spot doesn't lie, exactly, in making its case. The American Future Fund, which relies on undisclosed contributions from conservative donors, tells viewers that Obama has hired Wall Street veterans, supported the Bush/Cheney bank bailout, and has accepted campaign contributions from the financial industry. As attack ads go, these criticisms are fairly honest.
But it's the larger context that makes the ad so unintentionally amusing. For one thing, the ad contradicts three years of GOP talking points, which have gone to almost comical lengths to convince voters that the president has waged war on Wall Street's "wealth creators." For another, as Jon Chait noted, Mitt Romney's campaign is reportedly being bankrolled by the financial industry, and Romney has vowed repeatedly he'll remove safeguards and layers of accountability created after the 2008 crash, freeing Wall Street of its "burdens."
The underlying message the AFF is trying to get across is among the most ironic things we'll see this year: "Obama is too friendly with Wall Street, so vote for Republicans, who'll make things easier on Wall Street."
If it seems like these disjointed lines of attack keep coming up, there's a good reason for that. At different times over the last three years, Obama's detractors on the right have said he's a ruthless Chicago thug and a weak pushover. He's a bystander who goes golfing too much and an activist president who engages too much. He's sticking to the Bush/Cheney script on national security and he's putting us at risk by abandoning the Bush/Cheney national security agenda. He's cutting cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and he refuses to cut entitlement programs like Medicare.
If the right would just pick a caricature and stick with it, their criticisms would at least be more coherent.