As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Coming Attack On Obama Takes Shape

We're starting to see how the Republicans will handle an Obama candidacy in the fall. The first answer is, yes, with racism, although they're testing how far they can take that without a serious backlash. I don't think we'll see the Jesse Helms "Hands" ad, but beneath the surface there'll be some racial appeals. On top of that surface, it'll be the narrative of the uppity elitist who thinks he's better than you. This is actually how the right has demonized Hillary Clinton for years; she thinks she's better than you and smarter than you. Because, you know, the worst possible outcome would be to have a smart President.

But this elitism has to be connected to a greater outrage for it to work. And so the Republicans use patriotism. It's actually somewhat ingenious, as it attaches all of the threads we've already seen out there about Obama.

Kristol manages the neat trick of wrapping up not one, but two highly dubious anti-Obama smears into his first few grafs -- the bogus flag-pin patriotism story and Michelle Obama's claim that she's really proud of her country for the first time.

That's to be expected, of course. But what interests me is the overarching theme he uses to tie them together: They both show, he suggests, that haughty and elitist Obama thinks he's better than you and the average Joe. We saw these exact same attacks lobbed relentlessly at Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, of course.

Kristol reaches this "conclusion" by pointing to Obama's claim that he stopped wearing the flag pin because it "became a substitute" for "true patriotism." This, Kristol said, was tantamount to Obama saying that "he was too good" to wear the pin...

He's too good to be a real American, and so he's too good to wear the pin, and so he's not a real American because real Americans wear flag pins. Or something.

Sargent correctly notes that this "he's not a real American" smear is the same that we saw with regard to Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. And, of course, many conservatives do believe that liberals aren't real Americans, that they're some kind of coastal fifth column. The derision is ALWAYS over patriotism and "America-hating," from the time of Jeanne Kirkpatrick asking why liberals "blame America first" in 1984. It's an uncritical way of looking at the world, full of jingoism and completely outside of policy.

Where it departs, or builds upon, that theme, is in the fact that Obama is a black man, and in the eyes of various email forwards, a Muslim. This takes the "he's not a real American smear" to its extreme. He doesn't LOOK like a real American either, according to this tactic. I think this is why they feel they can get away with this more overt sneering, where CNN sees no problem running a poll asking if Obama shows the proper patriotism for someone who wants to be President.

How fucking dare you? Lack patriotism? What is this, the McCarthy era? AP is now willing to write any crap, so long as it's a Republican saying it about a Democrat? AP knows damn well that Obama doesn't hate America. This isn't a he-said-she-said. It's a case where AP is genuflecting to the Republicans and regurgitating their crap in a way Pickler and her fellow reporters wouldn't dare do if the victim were Republican. Has Pickler ever written a story about John McCain being insane? Being senile? Somehow I doubt it.

CNN should be ashamed of itself (and AP and the NYT are close behind). It's high time we declared war on the media and made it clear that this year if they decide to give coverage to the Republicans' swift-boating lies, then they are going to pay a huge price.

So there it is. Anyone surprised? The personal attacks will feminize Obama as an effete intellectual egghead elitist who isn't a real American and is in fact some sort of Manchurian candidate for Al Qaeda, who lacks the experience to keep the country safe. It's an amalgam of all the attacks we've heard since the 1950s, and none of them have anything to do with policy. This is the battleground that the Republicans will fight the election on. If Obama were smart, he would fight on a completely different battleground, one of contrast, one that defends the 81% of Americans who don't think George Bush moved the country in the right direction. If the critique of him can be broadened out and surmised as a critique of that whole 81% ("they don't want your life to improve. They think you're not real Americans"), it loses all of its power through that dilution.

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