Rep. Pittenger: Obama is still ‘Enemy Number One’


McClatchy Washington Bureau

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger is standing behind his inflammatory letter to potential donors in which, citing his role as chairman of the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism, he charges President Barack Obama with being “Enemy Number One” and adds that the president has been influenced by an “Islamo-Communist upbringing.”

The freshman Charlotte, N.C., Republican say the words in the letter are factually true, but that critics are taking them out of context by inserting comparisons to terrorism groups. He said the letter touts his fight against access to abortion, the new national health care law and other issues of importance to conservatives. He said the letter was more of a message to disgruntled conservatives that he is on their side. Pittenger said Obama should be the target of their passion.

“My point is we need to quit fighting against each other,” Pittenger said in an interview Friday. “The enemy is not me. The enemy is Barack Obama.”

The fundraising letter, drafted by direct mailing firm Response Unlimited, was sent out days after tea party candidate Mike Steinberg announced he would challenge Pittenger in the primary. Steinberg said in an interview that Pittenger is not a true fiscal conservative. He cited Pittenger’s vote to raise the debt ceiling in order to end the recent government shutdown.

The use of inflammatory language in a fundraising letter is no surprise. One of the most effective ways to get people to pull out their checkbooks is through fear, said Eric Heberlig, a political scientist professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It’s about scaring voters so much, he said, that they think if they don’t send the politician their dollars, the other guy will win, and their lives will be dramatically changed for the worst.

Heberlig said the fundraising challenge may be even tougher for Pittenger, who is expected to win the primary. It’s harder to convince supporters to help a candidate if they don’t feel their money is needed to win, he said. It would be almost a disservice if Pittenger’s fundraising consultants didn’t use strong language in an effort to raise money for their client, Heberlig said.

But he added it does raise questions about the authenticity of what the congressman has said in public.

Pittenger has been using more conciliatory language publicly and touts his efforts to work in a bipartisan way.

“It speaks to the fact that what many people dislike and distrust in politicians,” Heberlig said. “They think politicians will say whatever the audience wants to hear. I generally don’t think that’s true, but here’s a case where it’s potentially happening.”

The campaign letter came in an envelope advertising it as an “urgent message from Congressman Robert Pittenger, Chairman of the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare.”

The use of his chairmanship and additional phrases like “no less than Western Civilization Hangs (stet) in the Balance” drew criticism that Pittenger was saying Obama was more dangerous to the American people than terrorist groups such as al Qaida. Those making the comparison included The Charlotte Observer editorial department and The Dish’s Andrew Sullivan, who first posted the letter. Sullivan called it “a fundraising screed filled with the usual apocalyptic Tea Party claptrap.”

Pittenger said those associations were wrong, but that politically Obama is the nation’s greatest enemy.

“Barack Obama has been the architect of policies that have hurt our country domestically as well as foreign,” he said in an interview.

As for Pittenger’s contention that Obama had an “Islamo-Communist” upbringing, the congressman said Obama’s father was a communist. The suggestion that the president’s father, who left him when he was a toddler, was a communist has been promoted for years by some right-wing groups. Fact-checking websites, including Politifact, say there’s no evidence that either of Obama’s parents was communist.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

FILE - This Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 file photo shows a Bank of America sign in Philadelphia. Officials familiar with the deal say Bank of America on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 has reached a record $17 billion settlement with federal and state authorities over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

    APNewsBreak: BofA reaches $17B settlement with US

    Officials familiar with the deal say Bank of America has reached a record $17 billion settlement with federal and state authorities over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

People watch a fire burning from the Highway 41 overlook on the way north into Oakhurst, Calif., Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. The fire is burning north of the community.

    Report: Firefighting costs eroding conservation

    The Obama administration detailed on Wednesday the toll that the escalating cost of fighting forest fires has had on other projects as it pushes Congress to overhaul how it pays for the most severe blazes.

  • Some Fed officials favor reduced help for economy

    Some Federal Reserve officials think the economy is improving fast enough that the Fed will soon need to signal a change in the extraordinary support it's been providing the economy in the form of ultra-low interest rates.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category