Is the Smear of Obama Effective? You Bet it Is

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 08:54 PM

I spent a chunk of yesterday taking phone surveys for my local Democratic Party. The goal was information, not persuasion. Three simple questions: Do you plan on voting for Obama, do you plan on voting for the Democratic candidate for governor in Vermont, and which issues are most important to you as a voter? I come away with two distinct impressions: (1) very few people are home during the day, and (2) an appreciable number of citizens have bought the Republican smears of Barack and Michelle Obama verbatim.

The second point is depressing to the point of nausea. Mind you I'm working on a fairly small sample, but of the 50 to 60 people I surveyed, three repeated the dirt mindlessly and with great precision. "I wouldn't vote for Obama under any circumstances; he didn't earn his way to this position and has done nothing to deserve the presidency. " "Obama wouldn't be the candidate if he wasn't black." "Michelle Obama is probably the angriest most bitter person I've ever heard and she seems pretty racist." I assume that the respondents curbed their own racism, if any, knowing that I was calling from Democratic HQ.

Obama has done nothing to earn his current position?

In what fantasy land is that true? He's served in the Illinois legislature and in the US Senate, an elective office resume remarkably similar to Lincoln's. From what I understand, his involvement in proposing legislation, and in getting it enacted, is about average for a Senator, which isn't bad for someone in their first term.

Obama has generally earned his own way, earned his own money, demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fairness in America during his time in office, and has served in position after position where he had to find ways to get things done despite pretty strong opposing forces.

Clearly Obama has what I consider real life experience, from his upbringing to his time as community organizer, to his positions in the hierarchy of various foundations, to his time as a practicing lawyer, to his time as a constitutional law professor. He has demonstrated his intelligence and understanding of the lives of ordinary Americans over and over again, and has demonstrated an ability to articulate and organize that is well beyond the average politician.

John McCain, as far as I can tell, has worked in only two areas: the Navy and the federal government. Neither, obviously, involves private enterprise and the vagaries of the "free market." As the son and grandson of Admirals, I assure you he lived a fairly privileged life--in the military, rank offers privilege similar to that offered by wealth in civilian life.

McCain's time in the Senate certainly puts Obama's to shame, but that's simple longevity, and longevity at a job that is waaaaay out of the mainstream. And if it was longevity alone that we wanted, well...think about who the longest serving senators are. McCain's Senate service also includes, of course, his role in the Keating Five scandal.

Obama wouldn't be the candidate if he wasn't black?

I suppose this crap is based on the very high percentage of black Democratic primary voters who supported him. And isn't it curious that Obama is always considered black, despite having one white parent and one black parent? How white do you have to be to not be black? What if he was three quarters white? Are we back to analyzing heritage down to the sixteenths? To the eighths?

But let's start with the fact that we can all safely assume that John McCain damned sure wouldn't be the Republican candidate if he wasn't white, and if he wasn't male, and if he wasn't heterosexual, and maybe not even if he wasn't a former POW. Then let's ask how does anyone know that Obama wouldn't have been able to get the nomination as a member of some other race? You can assume all you want, but you certainly can't know.

And finally, let's ask the big one: so f'ing what?????

Michelle Obama is angry, bitter, and racist?

Really? You should have heard the voter who described her that way. You should read some of the far right blogs and other sources of far right opinion. You should read Mr. Corsi's latest absurd attempt at authorship. You should listen to Savage and Coulter and Limbaugh and friends. You should hang around a few neighborhood bars in some white neighborhoods.

What the hell is this smear even based on? A comment or two reflecting the difference in perception of America depending on whether you're white or black? You think you wouldn't hear similar comments from the Irish talking about England? From countless other groups that have been mistreated by another group?

So I'm not surprised that several polls now show McCain closing on, or even ahead of, Obama. We're in the stretch run of the race to find out how much race still matters. And race certainly still matters.

Several questions remain to be answered, though (apart from exactly how racist we remain). One is whether Obama is going to strike back at McCain's character. The news today, with the stories of "how many houses does McCain own & why doesn't he even know?" indicates that this is likely. And we've got the "morals" branch of mudslinging yet to go: Keating Five, Rezko, McCain's ignoble moment of leaving a crippled, devoted first wife to marry young, rich Cindy, and who knows what else. In fact, I have a suggestion if we're going the low road: take that picture of McCain with his short arms wrapped around Bush's waist and plaster it everywhere. Everywhere--coffee mugs, tv ads, blogs, print ads, bumper stickers, t-shirts, signs at rallies, buttons, places that haven't even been invented yet. If that isn't McCain's Dukakis-in-the-tank moment, I don't know what is. And you'd better believe that the GOP hucksters would have already been doing this with a vengence if the Bush and McCain were Democrats.

Another is whether the recalcitrant Clinton supporters really are foolish enough to stay out of the race or, good lord, even vote for McCain. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! McCain has already dead promised to appoint more Supreme Court Justices like Roberts and Alito. He's already promised to extend and expand Bushwhacker's tax cuts. You'd have to be brain dead to miss the fact that he'd be a disaster for what we like to call "women's issues."

A third is whether Obama can find the same level of passion, enthusiasm, and articulation on economic issues that he has offered up on the broader subjects of politics, leadership, and international cooperation. I think Paul Krugman was largely correct in concluding that Obama's failure to achieve this is a significant reason that his campaign currently seems adrift and defenseless against the steady stream of distortions. This economy is dangerously bad, and McCain wants to diligently continue the policies and approaches that got us to this God-awful point. Obama needs to make that point repeatedly, clearly, and eloquently.

I'll end with two questions for the guy who thought Michelle Obama to be racist as well as the most angry and bitter person he'd ever heard: (1) Does it ever occur to you that you just might be as angry and bitter as you think she is? (2) Is it really racist to recognize that you've experienced racism?


I hear Barak Hussein Obama is a muslim.

+ he's a racist.

You yourself seem angry and racist.

The fact is there are many people in this country who have more experience the Obama. He does not have the experience to hold the office of president.

He also lacks the ability to make good judgements. He attended a racist church for twenty years, and then insults people's intelligence by saying he did not know what his mentor stood for. Then their is the fact of his relationship with a terrorist. He cannot deny these things. Not to mention that he blabs about helping people and he cannot even find enough compassion to send his own blood brother a little money each month.

People would be foolish to elect this guy to be president.

While it's true that Obama's resume mirrors Lincoln's (a point I've made myself many times), you need to remember that Lincoln was not elected to his first term by popular vote, winning only 40%. He was put into office by the Electoral College because of an unusual combination of factional splits among the Democrats. Many at the time felt Lincoln unqualified to be president.

Anyway, if Obama gets 40% of the popular vote, he's cooked. There will be no electoral twist for him.

Most of this is dribble, but I will say this...Obama himself has said on numerous occassions, including in his book that he considers himself "black." It is Obama's choice to be looked at as a black cantidate. Isn't it interesting that when 90% of black voters vote for someone because they are black nobody cries foul, but if 90% of whites said they were voting for McCain because he is white people would call racism! Hypocracy?

Not being angry or racist, I think you are blaming the wrong people for the effectiveness of the "negative" campaign that is vetting Obama to the USA.

If any of the information on Rezko, Ayers, and Jerimiah Wright had come out earlier in the campaign, he would not have built the insurmountable lead on Super Tuesday. And with Edwards implosion with Hunter, Hillary would have won the nomination easily. Hillary was winning the key state primaries after Super Tuesday as more and more information came out regarding Obama. Her campaign was on the attack (not as vicious) as McCain is now and it was working. He is extremely inexperienced (Senate career of 143 days in session when he announced his candidacy), has no significant legislation, and as more and more is disclosed on what he has voted on, the centrist Democrats appear to be getting nervous.

I blame the Democratic Party and the media for the issues facing Obama. If he had been vetted as intensely as the other candidates, Obama would not have been pushed for the nomination and/or the information now coming out would have been disclosed earlier.

As for racism, watching CNN and FOXNews, and the clips on the nightly news, the only racist comments I have heard have come from Obama. I never heard Edwards or Hillary campaigners during the primaries or a Republican make any comment about his race. Obama has worn out the threat that "They are going to say 'he doesn't look like the other Presidents on the dollar bills.'" Only Obama has played the race card, and it may backfire on him.

Coupla things here.

First, Is it more a case that most Americans really are that stupid/racist or is it more realistic to say that the American population are all victims of an extremely sophisticated corporate propaganda machine that been in place fer decades?

Spud feeling charitable and calling it about 50/50 there.

Second, anyone who would even consider voting fer John McCain is a cretinous, R-tarded, human wank-stain who'd be voting against their own best interests.


He's too old.
He's too feeble.
He's too angry.
He's too stupid.
He's too ignorant.
He's too fulla FAIL.
He's too disingenuous.
He's totally lacking in judgement.
But most of all he's too much of a sell out.

A Panderbear of epic proportions.

His so-called "experience" in DC just means that he's been through enuff hoops that he's considered a well trained lap dog by the powers that be.

Both McCain and Obama have exactly the same amount of experience as POTUS.

Zip, Zero, Zilch.

McCain's capitulation to the status quo agenda of the neo-cons and their religious right allies indicate that he can be trusted by the American public exactly as much as GWB could (and can) be trusted.

Nada. Not at all.

The fact that so many folks in the US seem to have used one of the many (and oft-times conflicting) smears put out by the right as convenient hooks on which to hang their (oft times racist) doubts is indeed sad.

As Edward's vision of Two America's becomes more apparent every day, as the third worldification of the American economy continues apace, as global alliances switch and long time allies reconsider their positions vis a vis the US there is in this election year a very clear choice to make.

Stay the course ...or turn the ship of state away from the rocks of ruin?

Same old, same old ...or something different?

Status Quo ...or Neccessary Changes?

Fresh and Capable ...or Decrepit and Corrupt?

America has exactly one chance to put itself back on the right track.

Elect Barack Obama.

This election is a geek test of the average American intelligence and ability to think fer oneself.

Y'all fucked up harshly the last coupla times.

One last chance.

Don't fuck it up.

Be Well.

If any of the information on Rezko, Ayers, and Jerimiah Wright..

Wot information?

Yer unholy trinity of guilt by association smears are not reasons to vote against Obama. Far from it. Watching the way Obama has dealt with the attacks regarding these individuals has been most instructive in finding out who Obama is as a person.

Rezko worked with Obama while Obama was trying to revitalise certain inner urban areas in Illinois. The worst that can be sed of that relationship is that they bought property together and that the appearance of impropriety was not well observed. Obama has acknowledged this. The fact that Rezko used to hold political fundraisers fer the right (including Dumbya himself) more often than the left seems to have slipped the notice of many on the right.

Obama never met Ayers while he was in his "angry, young black man" phase. When Obama met Ayers it was when they spent three years serving together on an anti-poverty foundation (Woods Fund of Chicago) not in his former capacity as a member of Weather Underground so why should the fact that he gave Obama 200 bucks for his run fer Senate have any negative impact wotsoever on Obama?

Wright? Wright was often wrong. Obama and even Wright have acknowledged this. That sed, he was a man of God who preached a social justice gospel that was more closely aligned to the beliefs of Christ than the caterwauling zealots of the religious right with their pro forced birth and anti equal rights agenda.

Ya wanna try playing that same game with McCain?

McCain's shameless sucking up to folks like Ralph Reed quite frankly sickens Spud. All of these psycho-eyed religious whackjobs on the right who hide behind the catchword "family" are annoying but Reed is a particularily onerous subject considering his track record including the millions he took from Abramoff in order to stir up Evangelical ire against local Indian casinos. Now McCain is trying to pretend there's no connection between himself and Reed and Abramoff? Good luck with that.

Howsabout Charlie Black the former Tobbacco lobbyist who's now a senior campaign advisor fer McAncient?

Rick Davis, the Uber-lobbyist?

Practically his entire campaign staff is made up of lobbyists.

And the worst possible name to link to McCain? George W Bush.

Game, set and match.

Be Well.

Only Obama has played the race card, and it may backfire on him.

Did you read the article?

Nobody is saying that McCain is out there on the campaign trail calling Obama the N word. The racism from the right comes from "anonymous" sources. Back in 2000 the BushCo assclowns used racism in order to crush McCain with a whispering campaign/push poll that implied that McCain had a black luff-chile. Now Obama is the target of those same shiatheads.

The racist smears initiated mostly by the right (and some vagina-visioned Chillary fans) in a series of email "whispering campaigns" have been affective to date.

Obama noting these racist attacks is not being a racist himself.

Muslim? Athiest? Christian radical?
Too black? Not black enuff? "The Magic Negro"?
Elitist? Socialist? Snob? Marxist?

Obama is neither bitter nor racist, he is the most hopeful and race transcendent candidate in the race. McCain's over-optimism is based not in reality but in how BushCo want things to be seen. Iraq is going good, the surge is a success, the economy is strong etc etc. All Bullshit, of course.

A vote fer McCain is a vote fer America continuing on in her creeping slide towards a new form of facism. More secrecy fer government, les privacy fer the citizenry. Moral guidelines like the Geneva Conventions and legal concepts like Habeus Corpus being thrown out the window. All of this rationalised by folks who think you can and should give up essential liberties fer a sense of temporary security.

Spud calls them folks Fools.

Be Well.

Wow Spud, you seem to be the bitter one. I did read the article and I read both conservative and liberal newspapers and columnists, listen to the news, and follow various blogs including the Huffington Post and Michelle Malkin. Reading and listening to all sides to get more balanced opinions. There are rabid radicals on both sides and the truth is usually somewhere in between.

"Obama noting these racist attacks is not being a racist himself."

Obama is not "noting these racist attacks." He is telling people they will come. He has been saying this for 6 months and I still haven't heard or read any racist attacks. Who cares how he classifies his race?

As far as "experience," I am still waiting for significant legistlation proposed by Obama beyond naming a post office or any centrist reconcilitory vote by him. You may have heard of the McCain-Feingold and McCain-Kennedy bills that ticked off the conservatives to no end, but at least shows he is willing to work to pass laws with compromises and not be 100% partisan.

Believe me, I don't like McCain either and was hoping the Republicans would go as far right as Obama is left to open it up for Bloomberg or another centrist third party candidate.

You sound so bitter about this. That is sad.

Did you read the article?

Now Spud, you know the first thing that extreme conservatives tend to do is rewrite everything they read until it suits their purpose. I've experienced this so many times its almost as nauseating as some of the conversations I had yesterday.

Notice the critics' silence about the Keating Five, the fact that McCain has never worked in the private sector, the fact that the people I was talking to on the phone were using the exact same language they have been fed by the Obama smears, the fact that McCain has never once worked in the private sector, the fact that McCain does, indeed, come from a background of privilege in the military family sense of that word, the fact that McCain attained elective office with the help of scads of money and contacts from his newfound father-in-law, the fact that Obama has actually made his own way in the world, and on and on.

Then notice the unsupported allegations--just say the name Rezko and...enough said. No need to actually explain how this implicates Obama in something specific, how this relationship could be a worse thing than McCain's role in Keating, etc.

Then notice the accusations that I am what I claim they are. Angry and bitter Based on this article? Good luck. Good tactic to avoid discussion, though.

It is Obama's choice to be looked at as a black cantidate.

That, dear Visitor, is ridiculous. Obama would be considered black by the media and voters regardless of how Obama saw himself. In fact, Obama likely ses himself as black because the world in which he lives allows him no real other choice.

the only racist comments I have heard have come from Obama....Only Obama has played the race card, and it may backfire on him....I still haven't heard or read any racist attacks

The gap between those statements and what I see as reality is unbridgeable. I assume that you and I are at opposite ends of the pole in intepreting bunches of statements about Obama. I assume, for example, that the multiple articulations of the refrain that Obama "doesn't deserve his position" does not seem like code for "another affirmative action negro" to you. In many contexts, that is exactly what it seems to me.

You yourself seem angry and racist

Wouldn't care to explain where you got that from, would you? Is this now the new conservative Republican mantra? "He who claims racism exists is a racist?'

you need to remember that Lincoln was not elected to his first term by popular vote, winning only 40%. He was put into office by the Electoral College because of an unusual combination of factional splits among the Democrats

Lincoln won 180 electoral votes, compared to a total of 123 for all 3 of his rivals combined. That's an absolute majority of the electoral votes, even though, as you say, he received only 40% of the popular vote.

As I'm sure you know, his failure to garner an absolute majority of the popular vote was largely attributable to the fact that the south abhorred him. In any case, the point I was making is that Lincoln's light pre-election resume as a politician did not prevent him from serving what is now regarded as one of the "great" presidencies.

As for you, vrblackwell, that is pretty much the kind of verbatim regurgitation of the propaganda that prompted me to write the piece in the first place.

And as I pointed a few screeds ago: 99.99965124 percent of the crapola originates from Freeperland. They make it up from the ether itself.

Worse, the sheepies listen to this verbatim, then, go round quoting it, despite the fact that A) The earth is very round B) There ain't no Santa Claus and C) We went through this same shit years ago with Kerry, the difference being Obama and his crew are shooting right back.

And I agree with Lee, it would be nice to entertain an argument not born of straw, ad hominem or other tomfoolery. But, as I said before, widdle bwains do widdle things.


I hear Obama was friends with terrorist Ayers and don't forget that racist pastor, Wright. The latest is that his nasty Chicago ties go back even further - he was good friends with mobster Al Capone. I knew he was no good.
Ayers, Wright, Capone and Obama. What a bunch!

It's true that Sen. McCain has served his entire life in the spectrum of public service - the US Navy and Congress as a House Member and Senator. I don't believe that this should be looked down upon in any regard.

To claim that he came from privileged roots is a bit of misunderstanding on the part of the public. The current payscale for 2008 lists the highest attainable salary at 17383.20 per month for an Officer-10 (4-Star General/Admiral with 40+ years of service required). That is $208,598 per year for a person generally responsible for 20-50,000 subordinates. CEO's of similar sized companies easily pull down 10-20 times that amount.

McCain came into his life of monetary privilege only after marrying his wife Cindy whose wealth is estimated at around $80-100 million in assets. Cindy retains the vast majority of property and wealth in the marriage by having her name listed as the sole owner. In essence, John is more of a "kept man".

As far as his lack of free market experience, he will have a series of economic advisers with a wealth of experience appointed. Not to mention his closest adviser with whom he shares a bed (I think. They may have granny, separate single beds) in his wife whom is colored as a pill popping, millionaire elitist. Cindy is the Chairwoman of the Board of her company and maintains very strong ties in day to day operations of her Beer Distributor.

Sen. McCain's time in the Senate has always been spent as one on the rough periphery looking inward at the GOP with an Irish Eye. During his first term in the House, then Rep. McCain denounced the Reagan attempt to place 800 USMC peacekeepers in Beirut as symbolic, fail-infested decision that would in no way effect peace in the area. So he parted ways with one of the most popular Presidents in his 1st term. Sen. McCain continued this trend by working with various Democratic members of the House and Senate.

Sen. McCain's distaste with the inner workings of the GOP and Washington Politics reached a fevered pitch after the 2000 primaries when Bush & Co smeared him in the Carolinas for having a black daughter out of wedlock and over Cindy's addiction to pain pills. After this debacle, Sen. McCain approached Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle over *switching parties* to the Democratic Party. Sen. McCain has never publicly admitted this fact as it would be GOP suicide. He is far to center-right to ever garner a Democratic Primary nomination, so this switch would have ended his political aspirations.

I strongly believe that John McCain is a good and decent man, though flawed like the rest of us. He has made repeated bad judgments in terms of association and in the realms of morality. But I earnestly believe that he is a decent man with tremendous love of country and dedication to the principles of the United States of America...

Just like Senator Obama. And his wife, Michelle.

The attack ads and negativity of the campaigns are disheartening to all Americans, but they are an intricate part of our political history. As the Media Machine has become such a huge part of the process, one can only expect a constant exuding of fabricated drama to keep people watching and the ratings high.

We must all remember that we are above all brothers and sisters united under the same ideals. Though we rarely see eye to eye on everything, every issue, remember that we stand as a united nation against the dark corners of the human spirit that plagues much of the world with indifference, depravity, and injustice.

In the interest of disclosure, I am a "Repug". But I do not hate the brothers and sisters of America who disagree with me. I actually cherish the great diversity in opinions and beliefs that constitute our Nation. I think both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama are great Americans who will do everything within their knowledge, judgment, and abilities to continue to make America a truly wonderful country.

I only wish we could cool our tongues a bit more and demand specific, un-Spun answers that illuminate both candidates so we can make a more informed decision. I do admire the passion of all, if not the poison. As it proves, without a shadow of doubt, that so many care about the future of Our Country and the fact that we do not take our Freedom to participate lightly. I am proud of my country and all of you.

It's true that Sen. McCain has served his entire life in the spectrum of public service - the US Navy and Congress as a House Member and Senator. I don't believe that this should be looked down upon in any regard.

I wasn't looking down on it, the military has always been a perfectly legitimate career. The comment is in the context of the smears of Obama (and yes, I felt just as strongly about the Bush smears of McCain back in 2000). McCain's lack of experience in the private sector--the "real world" for most purposes--is one aspect of the man that could affect the way he views many economic issues, however. And it certainly means that he has never personally had to deal with the way the free enterprise system acttually works.

As for the top military pay scale, I wasn't talking about money (though any such conversation would have to include the perks of the military, as well as the income, taking account of the many expenses that are taken care of by the military). I understand that military officers are not paid on the same scale as corporate CEOs. My comment specifically said "in the military, rank offers privilege similar to that offered by wealth in civilian life. But just as a child of a CEO has a status far above the child of a welfare family, the child of an Admiral has a status far above the child of an enlisted person and that elite status, that sense of being special, is part of Mr. McCain's life experience and psyche. I don't think that point is really arguable.

I only wish we could cool our tongues a bit more and demand specific, un-Spun answers that illuminate both candidates so we can make a more informed decision.

Me too. That should be the goal of all thinking people who care what happens to this country. But, as you say, that is not how the system works presently (and I'm not sure it ever did work that way). In the mean time, thinking and caring people have to try to respond to the smears and the spin.

I've looked at McCain on the issues and he's not for me. His present views of the Supreme Court alone would prevent that, as would his apparent beliefs on how to start repairing our dismal economy. But I would not bring up his past family problems and the fact that he is third generation military elite other than in response to the conservative propaganda and smears about Obama based on similarly irrelevant--not to mention distorted and magnified--aspects of Obama's life.

Lee Russ,

I hate when I read a article and it smells of agenda. Your agenda to counter another agenda is as weak as the original. Your article says silly things like:

"Obama has generally earned his own way, earned his own money, demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fairness in America during his time in office, and has served in position after position where he had to find ways to get things done despite pretty strong opposing forces."

Ok Russ. "find ways to get things done". Ok Russ.

I have a small piece of advice for you.

"find ways to write better"

I could not finish the Op-Ed because it was baseless and no better then a 5th grade writ.

find ways to write better

Got a mirror handy? Read your comment.

It's really helpful of course to simply say "agenda," "weak" and the usual conclusory nonsense. Try articulating why it's an "agenda" and a "weak" one at that.

When you have something useful to say, drop by again.

Thanks for the measured response Russ. Just proves that We, The People, have the ability to frame the context of the conversation.

I respect your opposition on the Supreme Court Appointees as I believe this is the *Number One* issue that all Democrats and Republicans should be focusing on.

Three Conservative ("Strict Constructionist") Justices would shape the future of America for another 40-50 years possibly. I for one, am a Pro-Choice Republican (and an Agnostic) and feel a bit perturbed at the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

I do believe that Sen. McCain is merely pandering to the Evangelicals to get elected and will do an about face if elected. Polls are showing that Republicans are getting more and more annoyed with the "Evangelical Base" that is holding the GOP hostage.

Thanks again, Russ, for the great response.