Mojo - October 2008

The Right's Final Attack: Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 11:51 AM EDT

With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, time is running out on the rightwing effort to delegitimize Barack Obama. At the last debate between John McCain and Obama, McCain finally confronted his opponent directly with the Bill Ayers charge. It was a half-hearted effort: he noted that he didn't "care about an old washed-up terrorist" but insisted that "we need to know the full extent" of Obama's relationship with the former Weather Underground radical, who has since become an education expert. Though McCain succeeded in appeasing conservatives who demanded he pounce on the Ayers matter, the polling evidence has indicated that whining about Obama's casual association with Ayers has not yet become a winning tactic for McCain and Republicans trying to depict Obama as an untrustworthy pol outside the American mainstream. But Ayers is not the only ammo for rightwingers striving to brand Obama as anti-American. Various conservatives are pushing other lines of attack to achieve this goal. And as they mount various ploys, their desperation is showing. Here are some of the last-minute blasts being waged by conservatives hoping to convince voters that they ought to be afraid--very afraid--of Obama:

Mohamed Atta's Driver License. An outfit called the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee has sent out an email to potential conservative donors calling Obama "dangerous" and boasting that it has hit on the killer issue that "will nail him." That issue: Obama supports allowing undocumented aliens to obtain driver's licenses. This means, the group says, that the next Mohamed Atta could obtain a valid driver's license--and somehow make use of it in a plot to kill thousands of Americans. "We are days away from our new TV ad exposing Obama's support for driver's licenses for illegals," the email says. Message: Obama doesn't understand the dangers facing the country and will help terrorists conspiring to destroy the United States.

Obama is a Socialist. McCain came close to saying this at that final debate, when he derided Obama for wanting to "spread the wealth" and maintained that Obama's plan to raise taxes on the well-to-do to help finance tax cuts for the middle class was "class warfare." But McCain did not use the S-word. Others are not so reticent. Richard Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com and a founder of the modern conservative movement, proposes that Obama be slammed in a simple manner. "The Obama economic policy," he says, "can be summed up in two words: Marxism/Socialism." In Viguerie's view, the McCain campaign and others must reveal that Obama wants to "re-make America along the lines of socialist countries in Europe, most of which are headed toward collapse." Drop the S-bomb, he urges. Message: Obama is a commie who hates the rich and wants to kill the American Dream.

Obama Is a Secret Muslim Plotting With an Evil Billionaire. Human Events, a leading conservative magazine, sent out a promotional email the other day for an anti-Obama book co-written by Floyd Brown, a conservative activist infamous for having cooked up the Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential election. The email notes that there are "many Islamofascists who are sworn to the destruction of America" who are "actively campaigning for Obama" and that Muslims would demand and receive "special rights" from a President Obama. The email asks, "Being a Black Muslim doesn't disqualify [Obama] from running for President, so why won't he be honest about it?" In other words, yep, he's a covert Muslim. But beyond circulating this canard, the email claims that George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire financier who has supported Democratic and liberal causes, is "planning to sack the US economy, make himself billions richer, and put Obama in the White House marching to his mad tune." Message: A black Muslim in league with an evil Jewish billionaire--you do the math.

Obama Is Fronting for Islamic Jihadists. Writing in The Washington Times this week, former Reagan Pentagon official Frank Gaffney, charges that Obama's campaign has received "between $30 million and $100 million" from the Mideast, Africa and other places [where] Islamists are active." He asserts it "seems likely" that "these funds come not only from Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood types and jihadists of other stripes but from non-U.S. citizens." (His evidence? Don't be so picky.) Gaffney adds that "Obama hopes to win the White House by relying, in part, on the Jihadist vote." He writes: "The next three weeks afford the American people--and the media, the courts and the [Federal Elections Commission]--an opportunity to get to the bottom of Barack Obama's ties to and affinity for jihadists who have their own reasons for relishing his promise of 'change]' for this country. Unfortunately, the change his Islamists supporters have in mind is for global theocratic rule under Shariah, and the end of our constitutional, democratic government." Message: Obama will destroy Christianity in the United States and enslave you within an Islamic dictatorship.

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List of Republicans Calling BS on ACORN Voter Fraud Allegations Growing

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 11:21 AM EDT

First the Republican Governor of Florida broke with Republican talking points on this ACORN voter fraud business (here's a primer on the ACORN kerfuffle). Now fired US Attorney David Iglesias, who got the boot in part because he refused to pursue trumped up voter fraud charges against groups like ACORN, agrees.

David Iglesias says he's shocked by the news, leaked today to the Associated Press, that the FBI is pursuing a voter-fraud investigation into ACORN just weeks before the election.
"I'm astounded that this issue is being trotted out again," Iglesias told TPMmuckraker. "Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it's a scare tactic." In 2006, Iglesias was fired as U.S. attorney thanks partly to his reluctance to pursue voter-fraud cases as aggressively as DOJ wanted -- one of several U.S. attorneys fired for inappropriate political reasons, according to a recently released report by DOJ's Office of the Inspector General.
Iglesias, who has been the most outspoken of the fired U.S. attorneys, went on to say that the FBI's investigation seemed designed to inappropriately create a "boogeyman" out of voter fraud.

Let's call this what it is: a massive and well-coordinated attempt to (1) discredit groups that register low-income voters and (2) lay the groundwork for a post-election delegitimization of Obama's victory. It's pre-spin.

Fox News Is Critical of McCain? "Elites!"

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 10:41 AM EDT

Here's a lesson in how right-wing messaging works. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are obviously simpatico most of the time. But of late Bill Kristol, a regular Fox News contributor, has been critical of McCain, and a panel of Fox News pundits including Kristol, Nina Easton, Mort Kondrake, and Juan Williams panned McCain's recent debate performance. So what is Limbaugh's reaction?

LIMBAUGH: The Fox All-Stars, they're not America. They have become elites.

Let's get real. Nothing fundamental has changed about Kristol, Easton, Kondrake, and Williams in the last two weeks. They are the same people with the same political principles. But they are no longer full-throated supporters of the cause, so they get labeled elites. Regardless, of course, of the legitimacy of the term. This is how the right operates.

You know what's particularly funny? Limbaugh immediately follows his accusation about the Fox News contributors by saying this: "You don't know how hard this is for me to say folks, Roger Ailes is one of my closest friends. … Saw him this weekend, I spend a lot of social time with him." You can see the video here.

Roger Ailes is the president of Fox News and a former media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Sounds like pretty elite company to me, Rush.

Would Republicans Accuse Joe the Plumber of Voter Fraud?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 3:32 AM EDT

Originally published on the Guardian's "On the Road to the White House" blog, a project of Guardian Films

Under the GOP's current vote suppression strategy in Ohio, McCain's now famous icon might have had a hard time casting a ballot. In a case that has now gone to the Supreme Court for review, Republicans in the state are challenging the registrations of all new voters whose names and other information do not exactly match those in government databases. It turns out that one of the present Ohio voters who could have fallen into this category is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher—or is it Worzelbacher?—otherwise known as Joe the Plumber.

The man John McCain lionized in Wednesday night's debate has since had every aspect of his life scrutinized by the media. They've uncovered some contradictory facts, to say the least: He's not really a plumber, he probably wouldn't pay more taxes under Obama if he bought his business, and he hasn't actually paid some of the taxes he already owes. He's also registered to vote under a different name.

The New York Times politics blog The Caucus yesterday included the following piece of information:

Mr. Wurzelbacher is registered to vote in Lucas County under the name Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher.
"We have his named spelled W-O, instead of W-U," Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said in a telephone interview. "Handwriting is sometimes hard to read. He has never corrected it in his registration card."
The records, she said, showed he voted Republican in the March primary.

Flaming the Geezer Vote: Attacks on John McCain's Age May Backfire

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 8:58 PM EDT

Originally published on the Guardian's "On the road to the White House" blog, a project of Guardian Films

Every year, despite their purported senility and decrepitude, elderly people like myself somehow manage to hobble to the polls with their canes and walkers, or zip down in their golf carts or aging Cadillacs, and figure out which lever to pull or which little box to fill in. We are the most reliable group of voters in America. In 2004, people over the age of 65 made up more than a third of the voting age population, and what's more important, nearly 70% of them actually voted. In addition, seniors are a key segment of the vote in several vital swing states, including here in Nevada, as well as Florida and Pennsylvania.

With this in mind, attacking McCain on the basis of age is not just mean, it's dumb.

Who Cares If Joe the Plumber Isn't a Plumber?

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:34 PM EDT

Or if the Court of Common Pleas in Lucas County, Ohio, issued a tax lien on Joe Wurzelbacher, the now-(in)famous plumber-by-association?

I don't; nobody should.

But while John McCain and the right are heralding Joe as a hero for asking Barack Obama head-on if the plumbing business he wants to buy would pay higher taxes under Obama's economic plan, everyone else, it seems, is prying into his life and making a huff about the fact that he was never licensed as a plumber in Ohio, owes back taxes, and just might be related to Charles Keating.

Why can't we—the media—leave the guy alone? As far as I'm concerned, there are only two things that matter about Wurzelbacher: He probably won't actually pay more taxes under Obama's plan if he buys the plumbing business, and, as Andrew Sullivan notes:

Joe the Plumber has now had more press conferences than Sarah Palin.

—Steve Aquino

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Secret Service Keeping Press From Palin and Event Attendees

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

So says Dana Milbank:

I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they've started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty -- protecting the protectee -- and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it's unfounded because the reporters can't get close enough to identify the person.

Via Poynter Online. Wanna know why the McCain campaign wants to limit the media's access? Because it makes videos like this one.

Do Debates Determine Election Winners? Only On Likeability

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 12:16 PM EDT

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the American voter can be pretty superficial sometimes, but I still find this disheartening.

Turns out, candidates who "won" past presidential debates didn't always win the elections that followed, but candidates who were found more "likeable" in the debates did. Andrew Romano of Newsweek points to unlikeable put well-prepared debaters who went on to lose in November and then says:

In 1984, Reagan struck voters as about 20 percent more likeable than Mondale. Bush defeated Dukakis largely because he "triumphed in the congeniality competition"--and later lost to Clinton largely because he didn't. After the Oct. 17, 2000 debate, voters rated Bush the more likable candidate, 60-30; four years later, Dubya whipped Kerry 52-41 in the same department. In other words, the candidate who won the debates may not have won the subsequent election--but the candidate who came off as most congenial almost always did.

Romano adds that all of this bodes well for Obama. "According to the CNN poll, viewers found the Illinois Democrat more likeable last night by a margin of 65 to 28 percent--a far larger spread than either Reagan, Bush, Clinton or W. ever enjoyed in similar surveys."

This information does not suggest a direct correlation between likeability in debates and election victories (ie people aren't saying, "He was a nice dude in that debate I remember watching three weeks ago, I'm voting for him."). Instead, it suggests that candidates who know how to appear friendly in the debates, regardless of their command of the issues, also know how to win voters over the course of a campaign.

I don't know why I'm startled by this. We lived through eight years of George W. Bush after all, a man who took the White House because his debate opponent sighed too loudly...

"Comrade Bush"

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 11:50 AM EDT

I know Hugo Chavez likes to get his rocks off by saying a lot of ridiculous things about President Bush, but this comment is pretty funny.

"Bush is to the left of me now," Mr Chavez told an audience of international intellectuals debating the benefits of socialism. "Comrade Bush announced he will buy shares in private banks."

The Final Debate: McCain Attacks, But He's No Longer in Control

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 1:38 AM EDT

A political campaign can be like a rock slide. At some point, it's just going to continue in the direction it's heading--and not much can stop it. After the final debate between Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, it may well be that the 2008 presidential contest has reached not the tipping point, but that rock slide point. This is not a prediction of a pro-Obama avalanche on November 4--though that's a possibility. It's merely an observation that the campaign may be done in the sense that there are no major inputs to come (barring a bolt-from-the-blue event) that will affect the final tally. Polls will show that there are still some undecided voters out there. (Who are these people?) But whatever's going to determine this election--economic concerns, a desire for change, racism, you name it--is probably already in place, and the candidates may not be able to alter this, at least not in a proactive manner. Certainly, at any time, either can turn the race upside down by saying or doing something particularly dopey.

Neither got dopey on Wednesday night. McCain even had his best (or his least unsuccessful) debate performance, but it was no--damn, I hate this cliché--game changer. McCain was more aggressive than in the previous face-offs, and he finally dared to challenge Barack Obama directly on the--drum roll, please--Bill Ayers Question. But there was this: viewers watching McCain's reaction shots during the evening could have easily wondered if the Republican presidential nominee would make it to the finish without his head exploding, for he seemed to be in the midst of an exercise in anger control.

Prior to the debate, there was much chatter about whether McCain would play the Ayers card. Judging from video of his recent rallies, it appeared that his base was demanding blood on this front. But polls indicated that these sorts of attacks have been hurting McCain with in-the-middle voters. So he faced a tough decision: ignore Ayers and upset the diehards or accuse Obama of being a pal of a domestic terrorist and alienate the indies.

McCain and his strategists came up with a hybrid approach: take a shot on the Ayers front and combine it with a traditional political assault. "I don't care about an old washed-up terrorist," McCain huffed, but then he went on to say, "we need to know the full extent of that relationship." Huh? If you don't care about Ayers, why do you care about the relationship? And why repeat the false claim that Obama launched his first political campaign within Ayer's living room?

This was essentially McCain's love letter to the GOP base. ("Now get off my case, okay?") More important, he attached it to his true attack of the night: Obama will raise your taxes. After quickly running through his Ayers index cards, McCain noted, "My campaign is about getting this economy back on track...I'm not going to raise taxes the way Senator Obama wants to raise taxes." In what was probably the last big moment of the campaign before Election Day, McCain offered this meta-argument: Obama is a liberal tax-and-spend Democrat, and I'm a conservative. (He left off the Republican part.)