Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Terrorist fist jabs, baby mamas, and other Republican efforts to scare you into submission

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A fews day ago I posted on the Republican Smear Machine's campaign to make you afraid of Obama. Obama, if you remember, remarked on Friday that the Republicans are going to wage just such a campaign: "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?"

This aroused much indignation on the right, both from the usual mob of partisan shriekers and from the few -- the very few -- thoughtful beings who still inhabit that wretched space on the political spectrum: How dare Obama play the race card by accusing Republicans of something of which they are innocent (that is, of playing the race card)? He's a hypocrite! And Republicans would never, ever -- ever! -- attack Obama on racial grounds. Look at McCain, who's doing his utmost to play nice.


For additional commentary on the smearing of Obama, a campagn already well underway, I want to direct you to our must-read of the day, an article at TNR by Drew Westen, a professor at Emory University. Here's some of it (make sure to read it in full):

[T]he only road that could take McCain to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the low road, one of the few pieces of infrastructure left in good repair by President Bush. His father paved it against Michael Dukakis, George W. Bush repaved it running against John Kerry, and the GOP repainted the dotted line in now-Senator Bob Corker's 2006 contest with Harold Ford. The path to success for McCain is to make the election a referendum on his opponent, by working in silent concert with 527 groups and media outlets such as Fox News to pursue character assassination, guilt by association, and, most of all, the effort to paint Obama as different, foreign, unlike "us," and dangerous (and did I mention that he's black?).


Barack Obama has been the target of a concerted smear campaign that tells a consistent story: that he is a Muslim, that he attended an anti-American madrassa as a child, that he refuses to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, that he took his oath of office to the Senate with his hand on the Koran, and that he hates Israel. Beginning in late 2006, conservative talk show hosts and commentators like Ann Coulter were calling him "B. Hussein Obama," images on the Internet were morphing Obama into Osama, and commentators were raising questions about his patriotism.

These subterranean messages took a substantial toll. When I was doing focus groups with swing voters in the early winter, nearly half of every group we met with would either assert confidently or wonder aloud whether Obama was a Muslim or didn't believe in the Pledge of Allegiance.

But this was just the beginning. With his patriotism and "us-ness" in question, the theme moved from "different" directly to "black" (with the unfortunate complicity of Hillary Clinton's campaign). Already this month, a Fox News host asked if Barack and Michelle Obama shared a "terrorist fist jab"; and the same network also referred to Michelle as Barack's "baby mama." The National Review, among others, made the unprecedented call for Obama to release his birth certificate (which he did). The false story of his wife using the term "whitey" spread, as did a photo album displaying the future "first family," putting together all of Obama's African relatives in an attempt to make him look as foreign as possible while also suggesting that some of his relatives were terrorists.

The pattern is clear...

It is indeed.

It's the Republican pattern. It's what the GOP does best. It's how it wins elections.

And there's already a ton of evidence out there.

Those in denial will remain there, while those without a clue aren't about to get one anytime soon, but we'll get to see a lot more like this from the RSM in the coming weeks and months.

And, with McCain trailing and with Republican fortunes on the Hill looking bleak, it could get a whole lot uglier.

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