The Coming Attack on Barack
race baiting works in America because racism is part of the cultural and historical furniture. In 1960, when Barack Obama's Kenyan father married Stanley Ann Dunham, a white woman who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, 22 states still had laws forbidding interracial marriages. In 1967, an appropriate year since it was the "summer of love," the Supreme Court voided all "race hygiene" laws, still on the books in 16 states.
In 1988, Al Gore, running in the New York Democratic primary against Michael Dukakis, attacked the Massachusetts governor for supporting lax parole laws that a year earlier had permitted a convicted black murderer called Willie Horton to leave prison on a weekend pass. Horton used the opportunity to rape a woman.
Dukakis prevailed nonetheless and won the nomination. Then, in the fall, the Republican dirty tricksters began circulating photos of Horton, an identikit of every white's nightmare about what a black rapist kicking down the front door would look like. The leaflets insinuated that Dukakis and Horton had been pretty much on a first-name basis. The race card was effective and was a significant factor in Dukakis's defeat by George Bush Sr. In 2000, George Bush Jr. defeated John McCain in the South Carolina primary with the insinuation that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. (McCain and his second wife, Cindy, had adopted a child from a home in India run by Mother Teresa.)
Here we are in 2008, and the race card has made its inevitable appearance. True to the Willie Horton model, on Feb. 25, someone in the Clinton campaign sent the Drudge Web site a photo of Obama in Kenya, wearing a turban and what looks like a bed sheet, though apparently it is Somali ceremonial rig. Obama's team cried foul. Maggie Williams, now running Clinton's campaign, said Obama shouldn't be a wuss.
Already the Republicans are using the photo as part of what will be a long summer and fall of two-stepping around the race card. Step 1: Get some roughhouser to fire off a slur, as did right-wing radio shock jock Bill Cunningham, sounding off ripely this week about "Barack Hussein Obama" as a hack black politician, in a speech introducing McCain. Step 2: Piously denounce the slur, just as McCain did Cunningham's.
It happened again last Monday with a press release from the Tennessee Republican Party, which announced that it "today joins a growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel, the only stable democracy in the Middle East, if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States." On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee duly reprimanded the Tennessee Republican Party for its use of Obama's middle name and said it shouldn't happen again.
Your middle name is Hussein, and you run in a U.S. election in 2008? Of course you catch flak. But these are only the early salvos, as the RNC slime squad runs profile groups to help them figure out what it can get away with. Already right-wing columns are pillorying Obama's mother, an anthropology professor in Hawaii at the time of her death in the mid-1990s, as a fellow-traveling, crypto commie slut and lover of non-Caucasians.
Obama's wife, Michelle, is being portrayed as several hundred miles to the left of Malcom X, in large part because she said recently that owing to the huge response to her husband's campaign for hope and change, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." Cindy McCain has taken to saying that she for one has always been proud of her country. In the last debate, Clinton called for Obama to repudiate Louis Farrakhan -- a ritual Jesse Jackson knows well. Obama finessed the challenge gracefully, but the Republicans are taking up the theme. Late last week, the Clinton campaign was leaking stories about support for Obama from the former Weather Underground couple Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, both of whom became respectable fixtures in mainstream liberal Chicago years ago. That hasn't stopped the Republican hit squads from painting Obama as a secret Muslim, channeling bomb plots from Osama -- whose photo an NBC studio grip recently put up behind Obama in a news clip.
All the same, the race card is a tricky one to play. A fall face-off between McCain and Obama will target the crucial independent voters, many of whom will be put off by race baiting. Attitudes have changed, even since the Horton era. A 2007 Gallup survey found more than three out of four Americans approving of marriages between whites and blacks. In 1994, less than half felt that way. Then again, a lot of mean things can be said about McCain. Obama can take the rhetorical high road, but he should have some mean stokers in the boiler room.
© Creators Syndicate
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Albion Monitor February
28, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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