A campaign to make you afraid
This was Obama on Friday, speaking in Jacksonville (via Reuters):
It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid.
They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?
We know the strategy because they've already shown their cards. Ultimately I think the American people recognize that old stuff hasn't moved us forward. That old stuff just divides us.
This is something else I really like about Obama. It's not just that he's willing and prepared to fight back against those who smear him, it's that he also knows his Republican Smear Machine, that against which he needs to fight back, really well.
He gets it. He understands it. He hows how the GOP works.
And is he right here? Yes, absolutely.
McCain and the Republicans won't be able to run on anything positive -- expect for the positivity of more war, more torture, more tax cuts for the wealthy, and so on -- so they'll do what they usually do, which is run on the negative, cultivating the culture of fear and smearing Obama and the Democrats. (It's happening already. Rudy Giuliani, for example, is playing dirty on McCain's behalf, attacking the Democrats for being weak on terrorism.)
And it will only get more personal as the campaign rolls along. (And it will get much worse if an Obama victory looks certain. We saw what happened when Hillary got desperate. That was nothing compared to what we could see from the Republican Smear Machine.)
So, yes, they'll try to make voters afraid -- not just of the Democrats but of Obama personally.
Now, even two of the smarter conservatives in the blogosphere, Ed Morrissey and Sister Toldjah (smarter than the usual rabble) have criticized Obama for playing the race card here. But is suggesting that the Republicans will bring up Obama's race playing the race card or is it speaking the truth about how the Republicans operate, what their "strategy" is (because we have indeed seen it in action before)?
Ed argues that Obama "ignores the tactics his fellow Democrats used in the primary, while also overlooking John McCain's efforts to distance himself from the same tactics." ST argues that Obama played the race card against Hillary and that the Republicans won't engage in an ad campaign "disparaging Obama’s race".
But Obama wasn't talking about "his fellow Democrats" here. (And I, like many others, was highly critical of the "kitchen sink" smear campaign Hillary launched against Obama during the primaries. And it was Hillary and her surrogates who played the race card in earnest, not Obama.) Furthermore, the Republican Smear Machine is a well-oiled machine. There won't be an explicit campaign targeting Obama's race because they know it would be a backfiring non-starter in most parts of the country. (Race just doesn't play among most conservatives anymore, not like same-sex marriage). What there will be is a much quieter (and more insidious) campaign to remind voters of certain things: Obama's middle name, Obama's familial links to Islam, Obama's education at an Islamic school, etc. The religious aspect of the smear campaign will be quite explicit at times, but the racial element -- the sort of whisper campaign that can find all the fuel it needs among the various bigots of the right -- will be there, too, just lingering beneath the surface, implicit.
McCain himself will be removed from all that, of course. He'll take the "high" road, smearing Obama in other and perhaps less insidious ways, but his surrogates will get the message across loud and clear, to those who can hear it, to those at whom it is targeted. (Just have a look at the handiwork of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.)
With all due respect to the likes of Ed and ST, if you haven't yet figured out how the Republicans and their Smear Machine work, you're either in denial or utterly clueless.