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.
This is heady stuff. And there are, no doubt, more 11th hour assaults in the works. Right-wing bloggers have promoted a British news story reporting that an African-American poet and friend of Obama’s grandfather in Hawaii–when Obama was being raised by his grandparents–wrote pornography and engaged in sex with a 13-year-old girl. (Stop everything: Obama, when he was a teenager, received advice on how to be a black man from a pervert!) And one right-wing blogger has been pushing the conspiracy theory that it was Bill Ayers who actually wrote Obama’s book Dreams From My Father.
For months, the McCain camp and conservatives have attempted to persuade voters that Obama is not one of them, not a truly loyal American–that, for instance, he pals around with domestic terrorists, as Governor Sarah Palin put it. (And the McCain campaign and the Republican Party this week launched a robocall operation that tells potential voters that they “need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the US Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans.”) If the recent polling is accurate, this anti-Obama crusade has not tilted the electorate toward McCain. But one final push–with or without references to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright–will be coming from rightwingers anxious to prevent an Obama win. In a letter sent to supporters, Donald Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association, declares, “If the liberals win the upcoming election, America as we have known it will no longer exist. This country that we love, founded on Judeo-Christian values, will cease to exist and will be replaced by a secular state hostile to Christianity.”
Some of these attacks do seem silly and are probably designed more to squeeze money out of paranoid rightwing contributors than to sway swing voters. (Don’t vote for Obama because he will let Soros loot the US treasury?) But they are something of a warning: if Obama wins, this is the tenor of the conservative opposition he will face right out of the box: sensationalized, racialized, apocalyptic, and crazy.