The 10 Dirtiest Election Tricks the Republicans Have Tried So Far

As Arianna Huffington warns Democrats, an increasingly desperate John McCain and the GOP are throwing the kitchen sink at Barack Obama. No wonder they called Joe the Plumber. So this week brought racist mailers, a tidal wave of robo-calls, more Bill Ayers, Sarah Palin's love of the "pro-American areas of this great nation" and McCain's outlandish claim that ACORN is "destroying the fabric of democracy."

Reed Hundt from Talking Points Memo writes, "The McCain plan will be to give up on the national popular vote and re-run the Bush campaign of 2000. By voter intimidation and robo-calls and litigation and outrageous allegations, it will aim for victory in the states that can provide an Electoral College victory. In this case, that means McCain will focus his diminished but vigorous efforts on Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. In each state we need hardly ask what images, stereotypes and fears the McCain campaign will hope to evoke."

The attacks by McCain and his surrogates are already at fever pitch -- and there is clearly a tidal wave on its way:

1. Rush Limbaugh's Racist Tactics: Bringing this toxic collection together in one despicable no-goodie bag was Rush Limbaugh, who charged that Obama -- aided and abetted by Ayers and ACORN -- is "smack dab in the middle" of a 30-year plot to teach black children to "hate, hate, hate" America.

2. Racist Attacks on Immigration: Sarah Posner for the American Prospect's blog writes: "A newly formed political action committee, the National Republican Trust PAC, is buying up e-mail blasts to the readers of conservative outlets like Newsmax and Townhall to raise money for what it calls a 'shock and awe' advertising blitz against Barack Obama in key states in the last weeks of the campaign. One of the e-mails uses the screamer headline, 'Obama's Plan: Mohamed Atta Gets His Drivers License,' while another says Republicans should 'employ Hillary Clinton's strategy' to 'expose Obama for the dangerous radical he is.'" The PAC was founded by Scott Wheeler, a former correspondent for the Moonie-owned Insight magazine, and Peter Leitner, a former Pentagon adviser and president of the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, which trains law enforcement personnel on counterterrorism.

3. Robo-Calls: John McCain and the GOP have launched a massive robo-call effort across the country that the normally soft-spoken Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called "scummy:" "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's surprised at 'scummy' tactics employed by Republican John McCain's presidential campaign and 'can't believe John McCain knows what's going on.'" And Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins decried the robo-calls last week: "These kind of tactics have no place in Maine politics," said Collins' spokesman, Kevin Kelley. "Sen. Collins urges the McCain campaign to stop these calls immediately."

The robo-calls, sent Thursday in several states, said Obama "worked closely with domestic terrorist" Ayers. Obama, a child when Ayers was active in the Weather Underground in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has denounced Ayers' radical views and activities.
The robo-call message was repeated in a campaign flier mailed this week by the Nevada Republican Party. The four-page mailer calls Ayers a "terrorist, radical friend of Obama" and contains several images of both men.
On "Fox News Sunday," on Oct. 19, McCain defended himself to Fox Host Chris Wallace:
Wallace: But Senator, back, if I may, back in 2000 when you were the target of robo-calls, you called these hate calls and you said --
McCain: They were.
Wallace: And you said the following: "I promise you I have never and will never have anything to do with that kind of political tactic." Now you've hired the same guy who did the robo-calls against you to, reportedly, to do the robo-calls against Obama, and the Republican senator Susan Collins, the co-chair of your campaign in Maine, has asked you to stop the robo-calls. Will you do that?
McCain: Of course not. These are legitimate and truthful, and they are far different than the phone calls that were made about my family and about certain aspects that -- things that this is -- this is dramatically different and either you haven't -- didn't see those things in 2000.
Wallace: No, I saw them.
McCain: Or you don't know the difference between that and what is a legitimate issue, and that is Senator Obama being truthful with the American people.
4. Widespread Voter Intimidation: AlterNet's Steve Rosenfeld reported on the widespread efforts by Republicans at various state offices to intimidate voters: "As the presidential election comes to a close, the Republican Party -- and its allies in law enforcement at the FBI and at county levels in Ohio -- are announcing voting-related prosecutions that civil rights advocates say are intended to intimidate voters, despite prosecutorial rules that bar these disclosures before an election." Recently in Wisconsin, Democrats accused the state GOP of trying to "intimidate voters by seeking people with military and law enforcement experience to watch Milwaukee polls on Election Day." In a recent e-mail, the state GOP director of Election Day operations, Jon Waclawski, said he was looking specifically for names of "Milwaukee area veterans, policemen, security personnel, firefighters, etc." Rosenfeld reports that a potentially much larger intimidation effort is on its way:
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court told Ohio's Republican Party it was not entitled to a list of 200,000-plus Ohioans whose voter registration information did not match Social Security and state driver's license databases. What did the Ohio party do? It went judge shopping, filing a closely related suit before Ohio's Supreme Court. Pennsylvania's GOP filed a similar suit on Friday. In Wisconsin, litigation on this issue is ongoing. Why are Republicans so intent on obtaining this information? ...
In recent weeks, the McCain-Palin campaign and Republican Party have embarked on a major media and litigation strategy to cast as much doubt as possible on the veracity of the 2008 vote. A look at the campaign's recent messaging and GOP tactics from Ohio's 2004 election suggest another use for the non-match lists: to target voters for mass phone calls, mailings or other messaging to deter them from voting on Nov. 4.
5. RNC Sends out Preposterous Mailer Suggesting Obama Hates Newborn Children:

Sam Stein at the Huffinton Post reports: The Republican National Committee is blasting out a new mailer charging that Barack Obama opposed a bill protecting newborns that survived botched abortions from being "left alone to die" in the operating room.

Two readers in North Carolina passed along the literature, which they received on Saturday.

The charge, which has been made many times before (including in a series of robo-calls earlier this week), is based on Obama's opposition to the Born-Alive Infant Protection bill. A review by PolitiFact found the accusation "false." Obama opposed the measure not based on a callous position on abortion rights, but because he wanted to ensure that there were measures to protect doctors from criminal lawsuits, among other factors. Illinois law already required doctors to provide immediate life-saving care to such infants.

The sole source of the mailer is an article from The Weekly Standard, and it paints Obama as far more extreme than other senior Democrats, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

6. Smears on ACORN:

In the past few weeks the McCain campaign and its Republican allies have launched a series of vicious attacks against ACORN, accusing the social-justice organization of everything from causing the financial crisis to perpetuating voter fraud. Republicans are also playing up the basically nonexistent link between Obama and ACORN in an attempt to paint the Democratic candidate as untrustworthy.

In the third presidential debate, McCain preposterously accused ACORN of "perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history ... maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." On Friday, Palin made the vague yet sinister-sounding claim that "this group needs to learn that you here in Ohio won't let them turn the Buckeye State into the Acorn State." An ad released by the McCain campaign on Friday ominously asked, "Who is Barack Obama? ... He was asked to train the ACORN staff. What did ACORN in Chicago engage in? Bullying banks. ... ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans, the same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we're in today."

These attacks have no bearing on reality. While ACORN has come under fire for submitting fraudulent registration forms -- an inevitable outcome of any voter registration effort -- elections experts agree that the group's activities will not lead to voter fraud on Election Day. As Rick Hasen notes, "Even if Mickey Mouse is registering, he is not showing up on Election Day to cast ballots, and so far as I am aware, there have been no cases of phony voter registrations leading to the casting of votes in any election that have been on any large scale -- much less affected the outcome of elections." The claim that ACORN somehow helped trigger the financial crisis is equally absurd: For years, ACORN has helped working-class families buy homes while fighting to protect them from predatory lenders.

7. Outrage and Barbarism at McCain-Palin Rallies:

David Neiwert writes, "It was kind of strange, dintcha think, that John McCain came to the defense of his supporters last night after Barack Obama pointed out that people at McCain/Palin rallies were shouting out 'terrorist' and 'kill him!' in reference to Obama." An Al Jazeera camera crew caught the honest sentiments of McCain/Palin supporters at an Ohio rally:
I'm afraid if he wins, the blacks will take over. He's not a Christian! This is a Christian nation! What is our country gonna end up like?
When you got a Negra running for president, you need a first-stringer. He's definitely a second-stringer.
He seems like a sheep -- or a wolf in sheep's clothing, to be honest with you. And I believe Palin -- she's filled with the Holy Spirit, and I believe she's gonna bring honesty and integrity to the White House.
8. McCain Hires Slimeball GOP Operative Who Sank His Own Chances in 2000 in South Carolina:

Jake Tapper of ABC writes:
ABC News has learned that Warren Tompkins, one of the strategists of then-Gov. George W. Bush's South Carolina campaign in 2000 -- which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blamed for his family being slimed -- is now a part of the McCain-Palin campaign team, albeit in an "unofficial" role.
Tompkins, a protégé of Lee Atwater, has been dispatched to North Carolina to assess the state for the McCain-Palin campaign, Southern GOP strategists tell ABC News.
... The news of Tompkins being brought on board the McCain campaign brings to a total of three the number of GOP operatives McCain now is using despite the fact that he once held them responsible for the ugly campaign that contributed to his South Carolina primary defeat, a campaign in which McCain's wife Cindy was attacked for her past addiction to painkillers, and the McCains' adopted Bangladeshi daughter, Bridget, was targeted as his illegitimate black baby.
9. Insider Whispering Campaign That Obama Is Really a Muslim:

In his interview on Meet the Press, Colin Powell made three separate references to Republican Party operatives spreading rumors and lies around:

  • "I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim."

  • "I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.'"

  • "John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."

10. Insinuating that Obama's Gigantic Small Donor Fundraising Operation Is "Dangerous:"

Perhaps overwhelmed and frightened by Obama's $150 million haul from September, McCain argued that Obama's fundraising totals -- $605 million -- showed the "dam has broken" for future White House races. McCain also complained that the identities of people who contributed more than $200 million of Obama's total take have not been reported, although that is allowable under federal law because the individual donations fall under the $200 reporting limit. "I'm saying it's laying a predicate for the future that can be very dangerous," McCain said. "History shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal."

What Angry Obama Supporters Are Doing to Stop These Attacks:

Fighting the mainstream media's attempt to have a close race, and a potential come-from-behind narrative, the media will in some cases intensify the ugly allegations made against the Obama campaign and its allies and supporters and treat it as news, or just outright ignore the stories too hot for the media to touch. Reed Hundt of Talking Points Memo argues that "Democrats need to knock on every door in those key states; respond to every charge, no matter how crazy, in every media forum that can be found; stay on the air; stay on the offense. And remember the essential voters in those key states won't finally decide until the weekend before that Tuesday."

AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.

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