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What’s Waiting for Obama

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Posted on Feb 14, 2008

By Joe Conason

For the next month or so, the conservative valentines will arrive every day at the headquarters of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The Illinois senator’s image will be illuminated by the bipartisan aura of admiration from prominent Republican commentators and strategists, as they savor the promise of his victory over Hillary Clinton, long the object of their hatred. He may well imagine that they really like him—and surely some of them do, at least for now.

Such happy feelings are easily conjured these days, when William Kristol hopes Democratic superdelegates will do “the good deed” of pledging their ballots to Obama, when George Will urges Democrats to choose Obama as “the party’s most potentially potent nominee,” and when Peggy Noonan promises that Obama will be “bulletproof” against Republican attack.

Meanwhile, in the bleaker precincts of the blogosphere, lesser figures prepare to welcome the Democratic front-runner should he secure his party’s nomination. Evidently, they will celebrate his triumph with poison gas and bombshells rather than confetti and champagne.

If you listen closely, you can already hear the test rounds exploding.

The target is Obama’s favorable but hazy persona, which Republican operatives must redefine in negative and even threatening terms. Assuming that the Republican nominee will be Sen. John McCain, they will aim to contrast his tough, aggressive stance against Islamist terrorism with his opponent’s alleged weakness and naivety. But as usual, they will do worse, spreading slurs and smears that depict Obama as a dupe or even a sympathizer of Islamic radicals.

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False accusations about Obama’s religious affiliation have surfaced in anonymous e-mail campaigns, with little impact so far. But the easily denied charges about his supposed Muslim upbringing are gradually giving way to more concrete allegations. The latest round involves his political intervention in Kenya, the home of his late father, where violence between ethnic and partisan factions has erupted in the wake of a disputed presidential election.

As usual, the right-wing narrative melds half-truths and lies with facts to create a seamless indictment.

Leading conservative blogs and publications charge that Obama recklessly aligned himself with opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement. Followers of Odinga, a member of the minority Luo tribe, have perpetrated horrific atrocities against members of the Kikuyu tribe because incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and the nation’s ruling elite are Kikuyu. One of the worst incidents occurred in the village of Eldoret, where dozens of Kikuyu Christians burned to death when they sought shelter in a church that was then set afire by their rampaging pursuers.

These events are set within the broader story line of an alleged Muslim plot to overthrow the Kibaki government, which is friendly to the United States and the West, and replace the secular constitution of Kenya with sharia law, creating a haven for al-Qaida—which blew up the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi a decade ago and still operates there, according to American diplomats. During the Kenyan election, the Christian evangelical movement in Kenya circulated a “memorandum of understanding” allegedly signed by Odinga and a group of Muslim clerics that would commit his government to instituting Muslim strictures against pork and alcohol, setting up sharia courts and ending cooperation against terrorism with Western governments.

Denounced as a forgery by Odinga and Muslim authorities in Kenya, which it almost certainly is, that document nevertheless still circulates via the Internet and is quoted by American publications. The point is to raise questions about Obama and his connections with Odinga—who claims to be his cousin—and to infiltrate those doubts into the mainstream media.

It is true that Obama, whose family is Luo, lent support to the opposition leader during a visit to Kenya two years ago—and that they have maintained contact ever since. While that gaffe infuriated the Kibaki regime, it proved only that Obama lacked diplomatic expertise. During the current crisis in his homeland, he has tried to play a constructive role by taping radio announcements for the State Department that urge both sides to stop fighting and resolve their differences without violence.

Yet the outlines of the coming assault on his fitness and character are clear enough, just as the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry opened fire many months before the public noticed. The Kenya tale is a single aspect of a multifaceted strategy to portray Obama as a callow politician with dubious associations, who cannot be trusted with power. He will be subjected to the same ruthless treatment as the last Democratic nominee. Let’s hope he is better armored to withstand the incoming fire.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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By cyrena, February 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

Aegrus..

You made my day….

“... The only way we are not getting a democrat in the white house this year is if the DNC commits Super Delegate cannibalism or if Hillary and Bill Clinton have a four-way with Michelle and Barack Obama on camera live in front of the nation while eating aborted babies. Even then, I’m not so sure either potential candidate would lose.”...


I would add though, that they CANNOT be FRIED babies, on account of Bill’s health issues…

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By Aegrus, February 14, 2008 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment

That fear is bunk.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Interesting comments. And they point to what might be Hillary’s best remaining play against Obama—the fear that Obama won’t be tough enough to take on the Republican smear machine.

I wonder if the Clintons’ impeachment battle could be turned into an asset in this context.

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By Sue Cook, February 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

I agree!

Very well put and true!

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By P. T., February 14, 2008 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

The article says, “It is true that Obama, whose family is Luo, lent support to the opposition leader during a visit to Kenya two years ago—and that they have maintained contact ever since. While that gaffe infuriated the Kibaki regime, it proved only that Obama lacked diplomatic expertise.”

Bush and the Republicans insert themselves into the internal politics of other countries all the time.

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By Ellis, February 14, 2008 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So how do we stop the Neo-cons from fixing the election ?? Or worse ?? These people will stop at nothing. I fear for Barack’s well being :-(

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By useanalog, February 14, 2008 at 10:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How is poor Republican turnout in the primaries any indication of presidential election turnout?  They may not care who wins their primary, but many seem to despise the idea of a Democratic president.  They wouldn’t be caught dead voting Democratic, but does that mean they simply won’t vote?  It will be interesting to see.

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By GrammaConcept, February 14, 2008 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

Much deeply morale-boosting work is taking place in the souls

of so very many people during this campaign… 

This highly significant revival work
Will remain accomplished…
Refreshed, we strive on…

..As we think, so we become..

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By Aegrus, February 14, 2008 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

No, Prophecies sounds cooler. };>

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By DragonScholar, February 14, 2008 at 9:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Though I suspect we’ll see far worse than what’s in this article, the question is will the Smear Machine actually work this time.

We’ve got economic problems, an unpopular war, an upopular Republican president, the subprime fiasco, health care worries, etc.  Things are far, far different than four years ago - or even two years ago.

The Republicans may know smears, but when that’s all you can and have delivered, I’d say odds are good they’ll find the playinf field is different.

I’d also say that Obama’s hope-promotion alone is probably an advantage - people WANT that.  They’ll react rather negatively to it being torn down.

There’s more variables and different variables than last time.

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By Maani, February 14, 2008 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

Aegrus:

“You’ll see when everything comes to fruition, and all my prophecies come true.”

I think you mean “predictions.”  LOL.

Peace.

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By Aegrus, February 14, 2008 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

It is suspect to agree with the opinion that Democrats have a free seat in the white house, and then to imply Obama cannot stand up to the right-wing smear machine. Spin like this is why Hillary’s campaign is going nowhere. Logic prevails.

Kerry was a weak candidate with weak support from the democratic base and was weakened even further when he didn’t respond immediately to the ridiculous swiftboat ad. Obama triumphs over all that is thrown at him because he transcends the political sphere in a way both parties, Hillary, Bill, John, Mike, Nancy and Henry just cannot touch. You’ll see when everything comes to fruition, and all my prophecies come true.

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By Pacrat, February 14, 2008 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If Obama wins the nomination he will be targeted by the republican propaganda machine unmercilessly! Who cares about truth to these guys when innuendo works better? These are the creeps who have raped our Constitution and brought down our reputation world-wide. Fox Noise is their kindergarten test site!

Obama had no trouble getting into the Illois Senate and ran against a cipher for the US Senate. But he will be in the big time!

If he beats Clinton in the primaries, which is still seriously in doubt, switft-boating will be like child’s play for the republicans.

Good luck!

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By Douglas Chalmers, February 14, 2008 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

Quote: “The target is Obama’s favorable but hazy persona….. Assuming that the Republican nominee will be Sen. John McCain, they will aim to contrast his tough, aggressive stance against Islamist terrorism with his opponent’s alleged weakness and naivety…”

Any Democrat who supported a YOUNG black man against a much OLDER white woman is going to get an unpleasant shock when the 70 year-old white McCain opposes him. The fantasy of “change” will then unwind rather rapidly…....

Ironic that the words and images in last year’s Apple campaign to support Barack Obama have turned out to be an apt description of BO but not of Hillary Clinton. Note The Ring logo on the vest of the woman athelete in this clip and also note how the colorless proles in the audience now resemble Obama cult-worshippers…...

Hillary 1984 has actually turned out to be Barack Obama 2008 who now produces the jingoistic “mind-numbing sayings” which will lead his flock of lemmings Pied Piper-like to utter conformity… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJklyhWniDQ

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By Maani, February 14, 2008 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

Aegrus:

Yes, I do understand that.  And I myself have been saying for some time (as you have) that no matter WHO the Dem nominee is, they will beat McCain, not only because of the comparative number of Dems to Reps who have come out, but also re his policies: contnued war in Iraq, probable war against Iran, permanentizing the Bush tax cuts, bringing back Reaganomics, etc.

Still, we saw how effective swift-boating was (and yes, Kerry must take some blame himself for trying to play both sides).  As well, there is the question of possible election skullduggery and voting machine chicanery.

Peace.

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By Aegrus, February 14, 2008 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

These opinions are very speculative and I believe false, Maani.

The point of my post (and, frankly, the election) is to illustrate the fact of neo-conservative death. The numbers do not lie, and wide margins more voters have flocked to democratic primaries.

Voter turn-out will decide the election regardless of smear tactics. Don’t try to plug Hillary’s dying campaign in the face of this fact. Democrats will win this year with or without Hillary Clinton.

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By kxa, February 14, 2008 at 8:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please, “This just isn’t their year”. Hmmm, in 2004 Bush had stinking approval ratings and was bogged down in an Iraqi civil war and he still was given a second term. This isn’t an election the Dems can’t lose it’s an election they will need to win.

Is Obama ready for the double barreled load of GOP slime that is going to hit him upside the head like NOTHING HE HAS EVER SEEN - this won’t be Alan Keyes.

Clinton and Obama are more alike than different ( see their Iraq voting records IN THE SENATE - where it actually counts). So you can choose which triangulating corporatist you prefer.

We know Hilary can stand up to the GOP and she WILL fight the bastards. Obama is a feel good unknown who seems to think the Clintons are being unfair. Would it be better to get behind a proven fighter or should we take the chance with Obama and possibly get Gore/Kerryed again?

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By Maani, February 14, 2008 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

Aegrus:

I am still not sanguine that Obama is any more smear-proof than Hillary.  I know that sounds absurd on its face.  But consider.

All of the skeletons in Hilary’s closet have long since been dragged out and publicly flogged ad nauseam, but she has weathered those storms and remained standing.  As for the argument that the younger generation is not as aware of those skeletons and might still be affected by them, one cannot argue on the one hand that the younger generation is politically savvy enough to be involved in the campaign and yet inastute enough not to know about Hillary’s past.

As well, Obama not only has skeletons which can still be openly flogged (Rezko, Exelon) but where there is one Rezko or Exelon, there are likely to be others, and the GOP is much more likely to be able to dig these up as fresh fodder for its smear cannons.  Indeed, in addition to fresh dirt on Obama, they have to dig into Michelle’s past (which they will) and come up with, among other things, the dreaded “Wal-Mart” (on whose board she sat as well).

Finally, Obama has not shown a very thick skin thus far.  He bristles far too easily.  And if he reacts that way to relatively minor attacks from others in his OWN party, he is all the more likely to be unable to handle the truly blistering smear tactics of the GOP.

Despite my continued support of Hillary, I will support Obama if he is the nominee.  But I remain very concerned about his ability to withstand the “investigate and smear” tactics of the right wing.

Peace.

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By William J. "BILL" Carruth, February 14, 2008 at 7:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a WWII combat senior [B-29 crew] I’ve had it with politics: lightyears beyond sick and tired. However, I really bleed for coming generations who will be the
victims of the ongoing male bovine excrement [read:
bullshit] issuing out of DC and the party issuers.
The real tragedy is that too many Americans have been dumbed down by political hot air and do not think for themselves. Joseph de Maistre [1753-1821] was right [paraphrased]: “People got/will get the government they deserve” - think George W. Bush.

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By farmertx, February 14, 2008 at 7:12 am Link to this comment

While I’d prefer to see Obama as the next President, I am not sure that I am wishing him too much trouble.
Anyone who tries to untangle the mess the Shrub leaves behind, assuming that a National Security Crisis isn’t formulated by the Shootist, has one hell of a long row to hoe.
I am sure that Pigpen has an October Surprise in store. Some far fetched allegation to catch the mind of those who only listen to sound bites to make their “informed” decision.
It would be nice if Obama had more experience, but as long as he has an ability to bring folks together and form a consensus in Congress, that will be a huge improvement over what we have had.
And that part is why it is so important for all voter’s to pay attention and remember which incumbents voted against the things that this Country needs to regain some semblance of its former self.

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By Aegrus, February 14, 2008 at 5:59 am Link to this comment

It’s not exactly accurate to say a Republican candidate, no matter how great their smear machine is, has a chance to win the white house this year. Their party is in shambles. People don’t trust Republicans anymore. This just isn’t their year.

Look at the numbers from state to state of primary turn-out. Democratic candidates are getting twice, if not three times, as many votes per state. There is an enormous turnout for our great Democratic candidates this year. Mitt Romney was giving a stump speech out of a Dave & Busters for crying out loud!

The only way we are not getting a democrat in the white house this year is if the DNC commits Super Delegate cannibalism or if Hillary and Bill Clinton have a four-way with Michelle and Barack Obama on camera live in front of the nation while eating aborted babies. Even then, I’m not so sure either potential candidate would lose.

The crowd whispers, “Well, at least we know what to expect like 2004”

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