Shades of Richard Nixon: Obama to Latinos – 'Punish Our Enemies'

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on October 27, 2010

In what can only be described as a very ugly exhortation, President Obama called on Latinos to "punish our enemies." That remark, reported by the New York Times, was part of the president's full-scale effort to motivate Latinos to come back to the Democratic fold and help buttress their cause in the elections next week.

The fuller quote within which that ugliness was embedded as was: "If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're going to punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,' if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's going to be harder and that's why I think it's so important that people focus on voting on November 2."

Even looking at the fuller quote, the appeal to "punish our enemies" smacks of a Nixonian mindset. "Our enemies?" The millions of Americans who oppose "comprehensive immigration reform" as the president defines it are "enemies?

And notice the word "our." Not "your," but "our." The president is identifying himself with very ugly division that he is trying to foment. It's us against them and they are your enemies who need to be punished.

The president's defense will be, I predict, that he was only speaking metaphorically and talking about voting. But there is absolutely no need to use this kind of emotional, base, us-versus-them language. He could have simply said the truth, which is that he has championed "comprehensive immigration reform" and many Republicans have opposed it, though if he were honest he would have to include the fact that many Americans, not necessarily Republicans, also oppose it.

Instead, the president consciously chose the most emotionally divisive language that he could use. It is truly one of the ugliest moments in Mr. Obama's presidency.