A Guide to the Sleaziest (and Most Contradictory) Smears on the Dem Nominee
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Each election cycle, we're exposed to editorial-page tooth-gnashing about the media's relentless focus on political personalities over issues. While everyone is meant to make frowny-faces over this, for the GOP, it's the natural state of affairs. After all, its positions on the issues aren't going to win any elections: Help the rich get richer, ignore anyone who's hurt by economic downturns, deny people medical care, promote cultural division, and keep supporting a highly unpopular war. That's a whole lot of hard sells, right there; why go to the public with that when you can just accuse your opponent of being the Antichrist?
Such has been the approach of the GOP for the last 25 years or so, and it worked so well with Bill Clinton (well, except for the little detail of him winning two elections), Republicans see no reason to change the script for Barack Obama. Through their reliable toadies of the Internet, the local GOP apparatchiks, and the wingnut-welfare media, they're pulling out all the stops to make sure everyone in America knows that the Democratic candidate for president is located on a moral compass somewhere northwest of Adolf Hitler and southeast of Osama bin Laden.
Unfortunately, many undecided voters are perplexed. They detect a certain inconsistency to the Right's attacks on "B. Hussein Obama," and they aren't quite sure what they're meant to hate him for. Is he a radical Islamist terrorist, or a reverse-racist Christian fanatic? Is he a fist-bumping ghetto gangsta, or an arugula-munching metrosexual elitist? Is he too black, or not black enough? In this guide to the perplexed, we'll help our right-wing brethren get their stories straight by laying out the case (however bogus) against Obama, noting its flaws and strengths, and giving friendly, well-meaning advice about where they should go from here.
The Charge: Barack Obama is black.
The Specifics: Blacks, as every Michael Savage fan knows, are violent, irresponsible maniacs who commit crimes, take drugs and listen to violent rap music. Left to their own devices, they will say ungrateful things about white people.
The Evidence: The American Conservative makes the case with the sort of genteel care that we've come to not expect from some quarters of the blogosphere: Calling him an updated version of the "tragic mulatto" and lamenting how he fell under the spell of "leftist black nationalist preacher" Jeremiah Wright, it claims that even his Christian faith is "an affirmation of African-American emotional separatism" and calls him a "disturbing test of the best-case scenario" of post-racist America, seething with "a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity." Author Steve Sailer seems baffled that this uppity fellow has made no moves to "forgive whites and ask forgiveness for his own racial antagonism as he accepts Jesus."
The Problem: Some people haven't gotten the message. Everyone from David Horowitz's Front Page magazine to bearded gadfly Warner Todd Huston (who claims that Barry "eschews the thug, rapper lifestyle") claims that rather than being too black, Obama is not black enough, and even Bill O'Reilly, a keen observer of African-American culture, says he doesn't "want to go on a lynching party" against Michelle Obama unless more evidence arises that she's actually black. Come on, Bill! At the height of her husband's senate campaign, she made a tape where she ranted against Whitey, maybe! What more "proof" do you need?
The Solution: Hammer the scary-Negro angle for all it's worth. There's still plenty of N.W.A. videos and Willie Horton footage around just waiting to be used. Most of all, don't forget to follow the lead of humorless culture vulture Brent Bozell, who demands that Obama denounce all rappers. America hates rap, and the more you complain about it, the more with-it you will appear! Warning: As terrible as it is to contemplate, this may actually require you to listen to rap music, lest, like Human Events ' Evan Gahr, you accidentally claim as misogynist a Jay-Z lyric that is in fact about men.
The Charge: Barack Obama is a crypto-Muslim.
The Specifics: Although it is not, technically, illegal for a Muslim to become president, being terrified at the very suggestion of the existence of Islam is the favorite pastime of the Scaredy-American community.
The Evidence: Exhibit A in the argument that, if elected, Barack Obama will pull off a rubber face mask and reveal himself to be Ayman al-Zawahiri, is his middle name. Of course, "Hussein" is actually an Arabic name, and the majority of the world's Muslims are not Arabs (and there are Arabs who aren't Muslims), but those are the sort of piddling details that keep people like Michelle Malkin from being all that they can be by calling him "Barack HUSSEIN Obama" at every possible opportunity. The dark mistress of this black art is unhinged Michigan D-list pundit Debbie Schlussel, who seems to be of the belief that the president of the United States wields powers somewhere between those of an emperor and a demigod, and that if Obama is elected, America will wake up the next morning to find itself subject to the strictest iteration of Sharia law. Schlussel doesn't let herself get hung up on technicalities: "Even if he identifies strongly as a Christian ... is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim a man we want as president when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?"
The Problem: The greatest gift of the Obama presidential campaign to right-wingers so far has been some carefully selected snippets from the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, who, as far as they are concerned, is the second coming of Huey Newton. Unfortunately, Wright is not only no longer affiliated with Obama, but he is not a Muslim. He is, in fact, a Christian, and even though he's not the, ahem, "good" kind of Christian, if you know what I mean, he is an evangelical Protestant, a group that, historically, the Right has been somewhat reluctant to piss off.
The Solution: Drop the Jeremiah Wright angle. He's no longer Obama's pastor, he doesn't have much to do with the day-to-day running of his church, and even some of the right-wing crazies are urging their readers to forget about him and move on to much more pressing issues of national policy, such as whether or not Obama's wife hates America. Besides, there's a much juicier Chicago-based religious figure they're desperately trying to link him to ...
The Charge: Barack Obama is an elitist snob.
The Specifics: Curiously, although they themselves have a tendency to run multimillionaires for office, promote policies favorable to huge multinational corporations, and favor tax structures that reward the rich and punish the middle class -- hell, they even eat more stinky French cheese than their opponents across the aisle -- the GOP promotes the notion that Democrats are unsuitable for office because they are a bunch of rich toffs.
The Evidence: Despite promoting tax policy changes beneficial to the middle class and supporting innumerable aid programs for working Americans, Barack Obama seems determined to keep doing things that, in the eyes of multimillionaire Republicans, make him an out-of-touch elitist aristo whose ability to relate to the common man is constantly hampered by his tripping over his platinum walking stick or getting his diamond-studded monocle stuck in his eye. From his failure to adequately enjoy sport shooting to his inability to bowl a 300 game to his infuriating capacity to talk to farmers about farming, there seems to be no end to what this man will do to establish that he's better than the Republican conception of the working man and/or woman. (The fact that this conception is itself an egregious stereotype doesn't seem to bother the GOP.) What's more, Republicans have tarred Obama's wife, Michelle, as a stuck-up, snooty, Princeton-educated lawyer who looks down on ordinary people, unlike down-to-earth, USC-educated booze heiress Cindy McCain. Obama even thinks that it would be useful to have American citizens learn to speak foreign languages (the gall! The unmitigated gall!), unlike conservatives, who know that if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for them).
The Problem: Some GOP operatives have become so confused by the seeming contradiction between Charge #1 (Barack Obama is a scary ghetto Negro) and Charge #3 (Barack Obama is a latte-sipping elitist liberal snob) that they have gone off-message, and in some cases, completely off the reservation. If you spend too much time, as conservatives often do, fretting that the Democrats are going to tax your capital gains and inheritance money to pay veterans' benefits to a bunch of lazy ne'er-do-well wounded soldiers, you can lose sight of the liberals-are-snooty-Mr.-Howell-types narrative and remind voters of who you really are.
The Solution: The "latte libel," as Thomas Frank calls it, never stops working. And the reason it never stops working is that it doesn't really have anything to do with economics; it has everything to do with culture. As long as the GOP sticks to the plan and distracts people from Obama's actual pro-working-class economic policies by reminding them that he's a sissy who wears his clothes funny, went to a fancy college, has a snooty wife and enjoys weirdo TV shows that no one has ever heard of (bonus: and that star scary black gangstas!), they can never go wrong. It's the slander that keeps on giving!
So now we know which charges, entirely bogus though they may be, work the best against the man who has the sheer brass to suggest that there may yet be hope for our country after eight years of George W. Bush's to-hell-with-it party. We know how to keep them straight, how to deploy them well, and how to keep from getting our Barack-HUSSEIN-Obama-is-a-covert-Muslim chocolate in our Barack-HUSSEIN-Obama-is-a-radical-black-nationalist peanut butter.
But where do we go from here? Looking back at the golden age of the 1990s, when the Republican Party essentially ground the entire government to a halt in its efforts to crush Bill Clinton for the sheer life-hating joy of it, it seems like -- with an intensely uninspiring candidate in John McCain, a sitting president with approval numbers in the low nothings, and Americans actually seeming like they're excited about politics for the first time in ages -- the GOP is barely even trying. Young Barack Obama, by his own admission, took cocaine when he could afford it; where are the Clintonesque stories of him abusing his power to fund a massive drug-smuggling ring? Where are the claims that he deliberately faked an injury to get out of fighting in the first Gulf War? And not once has any official or unofficial organ of the Republican Party accused Barack Obama of murdering anyone (oh, sorry, I spoke too soon).
We can only hope, for the sake of the clown parade that is contemporary Republican electioneering, that silly season gets a whole lot sillier.
Mister Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer currently living in San Antonio, Texas. He enjoys metal, gangsta rap, crime fiction and democratic socialism, all of which he attempts to keep hidden from his neighbors.