At 3:00 into this video, former CIGNA communications executive Wendel Potter describes how the healthcare industry dealt with Michael Moore’s SiCKO:

BILL MOYERS: And there was a political strategy. "Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats’ larger agenda." What does that mean?

WENDELL POTTER: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, "Look, you don’t want to believe this movie. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you."


BILL MOYERS: This is fascinating. You know, "Build awareness among centrist Democratic policy organizations–"


BILL MOYERS: "–including the Democratic Leadership Council."


BILL MOYERS: Then it says, "Message to Democratic insiders. Embracing Moore is one-way ticket back to minority party status."

"Back off, or your wider agenda gets it."

And yesterday, Glenn Greenwald wrote:

Along those lines, CNN’s Ed Henry today twittered this piece of banal Beltway conventional wisdom on the topic: "If Attorney General Holder launches criminal probe of Bush torture allegations, it seems likely to complicate Obama agenda big time." Aside from the irrelevance of this observation — partisan advantage is obviously not a legitimate basis for making prosecutorial decisions in an apoliticized justice system (that was supposedly the whole lesson of the Gonzales era) — I’d really like to know the mechanism by which this is supposed to happen. How — exactly — would Holder’s decision to prosecute torture "complicate Obama’s agenda big time"? With a filibuster-proof Senate majority, a huge Democratic House majority, and a GOP that is always angry and obstructionist anyway, what — specifically — will happen in the event of those prosecutions that won’t happen in their absence that will "complicate Obama’s agenda big time"?

"Back off, or your wider agenda gets it, big time."

And yesterday, Scott Horton wrote:

Axelrod and Emanuel are described as uninterested in either the legal or policy merits of the issue of a criminal investigation. Their concerns turn entirely on their political analysis. They have advised Obama and other senior figures in the administration that the torture issue is a "distraction," and that any attention on it would detract from Obama’s ability to push through his agenda—especially health-care reform.

"Back off, or your wider agenda gets it."

And a month ago Scott Horton interviewed Jane Mayer:

Scott Horton: What was the breakdown on this issue in the Obama White House—who else spoke against the [truth-]commission concept, and what were their arguments?

Jane Mayer: The opposition really came from Obama’s political advisers. David Axelrod, I know, thinks a commission would be a mistake. Basically, they regard their ability to hold the support of independent and conservative Democratic voters as essential politically for their very ambitious agenda. They dread any issue that could launch a divisive culture war. An exploration of Bush’s use of torture, seen from this perspective, is a potentially dangerous political distraction.

"Back off, or your wider agenda gets it."

And Scott Shane wrote in this morning’s NY Times:

That makes four fronts on which the intelligence apparatus is under siege. It is just the kind of distraction from Mr. Obama’s domestic priorities — repairing the economy, revamping the health care system, and addressing the long-term problems of energy and climate — that the White House wanted to avoid.

A series of investigations could exacerbate partisan divisions in Congress, just as the Obama administration is trying to push through the president’s ambitious domestic plans and needs all the support it can muster.

"He wants to dominate the discussion, and he wants the discussion to be about his domestic agenda — health care, energy and education," said Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor of political science at Towson University who studies the presidency.

"Back off, or your domestic agenda gets it."

Whatever the topic, rule of law, education, economic stimulus, regulation of banking, healthcare, or the environment, the message is always the same: "Back off on this issue, or you’ll jeopardize your larger agenda."

What they are managing to do is to sink, dilute, or delay the entire agenda one item at a time. It’s a standard military tactic. In naval warfare it’s called "crossing the T", a maneuver where the guns of all of your ships can be trained on the enemy’s ships one at a time, sinking them in sequence.