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January 25, 2007

How Long DID The Right Let Us Love Obama?

-- by Dave Johnson

Co-written with James Boyce

They destroy our leaders.

In our Dec. 11 post How Long Will The Right Let Us Love Obama, we discussed how the right consciously and over time systematically destroys Democratic and Progressive leaders.

We were prompted to write the post because of a national poll of favorability of leading politicians had just been released and Senator Barack Obama, the brightest new star in politics, was the highest ranked Democratic politician in the poll.

As we studied the poll, we asked why our other great leaders were seen unfavorably by so many? We wrote,

"With complete respect to Senator Obama, where are the long-time Democratic leaders who have dedicated their lives to the service of our country? Where are the other possible Presidential contenders? What about Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry? Where are Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid? Are they not leaders that deserve at the very least to have decent favorability ratings?

... Our point here is not whether you will vote for them, or volunteer for their campaign, or give them money, but do you, the American voting public, have a favorable impression of these leaders?

We went on to make the claim that we believe our impressions of our leaders have been negatively impacted by the right wing's $mear machine."

"This is what the machine does to Democratic and Progressive leaders. It smears, and attacks and destroys them. It leaves millions of Americans with an uneasy feeling about John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, a bad taste in the mouth, "I don't know. I just don't like him." It's emotional. It's not rational. But it is very, very real.

And it's not just these our most recent leaders. As we wrote last week, President Jimmy Carter left office virtually in disgrace. What about Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis? Are they perceived as what they really are - respected leaders who are both true American success stories? Hardly. They are perceived in the "conventional wisdom" as jokes and afterthoughts.

Those powerful negative stereotypes were carefully created by the use of brilliant marketing, coordinated messaging, virtually unlimited budgets and a complete lack of morals."

Of course, we could have added that the mainstream media in many instances actually assists the machine in the smearing under the "two sides of the story" journalism 101 mantra. But we didn't have to - in fact, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post did it for us when he called us out and mocked us, writing,
"HuffPosters Dave Johnson and James Boyce devise a novel explanation for Obama's popularity: ... Hardly ... Boy, that must be one powerful machine."
Sadly, exactly as we predicted, the rise of Senator Obama and the media attention paid to him has led directly to a rise in attacks. As the most dynamic young politician of either party to burst on the national scene since John Kennedy captured the attention of the country over forty-five years, Senator Obama is a real threat to the right. Of course, as is usually the case, the attacks were not on his record or his career - in fact their pettiness and immaturity speak for themselves.

On December 18, this appeared from a widely-read right-wing blogger,

... His full name--as by now you have probably heard--is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Hussein is a Muslim name, which comes from the name of Ali's son--Hussein Ibn Ali. And Obama is named after his late Kenyan father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., apparently a Muslim.

And while Obama may not identify as a Muslim, that's not how the Arab and Muslim Streets see it. In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he's a Christian, but they do not.

... So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?

About the same time, similar smears started circulating in the stealth, word-of-mouth channels. Reminiscent of the whisper-campaign that destroyed John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primaries, e-mails containing the following are circulating widely:
Essential facts ALL should know concerning Barack Obama

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black Muslim from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white atheist from Wichita, Kansas. Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii.

When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a radical Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a Muslim school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school."

Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that Obama's introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son's education. Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Osama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the radical teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.

Since it is politically expedient to be a Christian when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background.
Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential candidacy.

Naturally this vile story isn't just spreading by e-mail. In fact, as of this writing, a Google search for 'Obama' and 'Muslim' yields 873,000 results. Of course many or irrelevant or are even refuting the smear. But scanning the first several pages of results shows websites that are almost all spreading this smear, and this indicates that a good percentage of those results probably reflect this smear. Along these lines, a search on 'Obama', 'stealth' and 'Muslim' yields over 50,000 results. And searching 'Obama', 'ideologically' and 'muslim' yields over 40,000. One result would be too many for decency.

A Reverend Moon outlet, Insight Magazine, carried this on Jan. 16,

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

... "Obama's education began a life-long relationship with Islam as a faith and Muslims as a community," the source said. "This has been a relationship that contains numerous question marks."

(Note CNN's refutation of this false story.)

The Moonies added a nice propaganda touch, claiming the info came from Hillary Clinton's campaign - which it did not - attempting to $mear two birds with one lying article.

Fox News has, of course, picked up on this. Media Matters has a video clip of Fox News' John Gibson repeating the Moonie accusations against both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton.

These attacks serve to create public doubt about the Senator Obama at a time when the public is just beginning to learn about him, by contributing to the coordinated right-wing campaign that insinuates Obama is somehow connected to terrorists.

The tactic of attributing the $mear to the Clinton campaign is an innovative new twist. It deflects attention from the Republican $mear machine - just as the public is becoming increasingly aware that this is a standard Republican tactic.

The attacks also damage the Clinton campaign by implying that Clinton would engage in the kind of smear campaign just at a time when the public is becoming increasingly repulsed by this tactic - because of it widespread use by Republicans.

For those who are thinking, "well, surely, no one will fall for this." We offer two points of evidence to the contrary - all of which we feel are true because on the whole, Americans do not pay as close attention to the political process as readers of this post.

    1. Over 40% of all Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

    2. There still is the lingering belief that John Kerry exaggerated, or just plain lied, about his military record in Vietnam.

So if you've ever wondered why the right does this, now you know. Because it works. If you find yourself a year from now thinking, "I just don't like Obama" you know it worked again. To everyone's detriment.

Posted by Dave Johnson at January 25, 2007 6:30 AM

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