Last week, I wrote about Republican spin, and talked about one of the tactics they’ll use against Barack Obama, should he become the Democratic presidential nominee. This week, they’ve done exactly as I predicted.
Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain was introduced in Ohio by a far-right radio host who several times referred to Obama as “Barack Hussein Obama,” in a clear effort to make voters think Obama is Muslim when he’s not. McCain later apologised for the radio head’s remarks, but did it matter? He got double bang for his buck: He got a surrogate to smear Obama and he got to seem all reasonable by apologising. Sweet deal.
The irony in all this, as Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn pointed out, is that this tactic was too low even for Alan Keyes, whom Illinois Republicans imported to run against Obama for the US Senate. In that campaign, Keyes said a lot of right-wing nonsense, and he publicly doubted that Obama was a real Christian, but he never used Obama’s middle name. Why? Zorn reported that Keyes’ campaign management steered Keyes away from the tactic because it was "rude, uncivil, needlessly provocative and incendiary."
Even Karl Rove, Bush’s “architect,” and the undisputed master of the dark art of negative campaigning and sleaze, nevertheless advised his fellow Republicans not to go down the “Hussein” road because it would sound like a bald appeal to bigots. This is one time Rove was right.
If this were all about some small-market right-wing radio guy, it would be no big deal. But most of the Republican spin machine has begun targeting Obama. Right-wing darling Ann Coulter refers to Obama as “B. Hussein Obama”. An editor at the National Review has tried to link Obama to domestic US terrorists because, basically, Obama used to live in the same neighbourhood as ex-members of the “Weather Underground”. He must therefore publicly repudiate them, and every other aging leftist radical of the 1960s, though apparently McCain doesn’t have to repudiate right wing terrorists who blow up abortion clinics and gay bars.
We can see three things from all this. First, the Republicans have decided that Obama will be their opponent in November. Second, that they think no one will notice if they use smear and sleazy tactics—again—to try and hoodwink Americans into voting for them.
Mainly, this shows us how utterly intellectually bankrupt the Republican Party is that they have to use spin, smear and sleaze to make up for their total lack of substance or marketable ideas. After all, what are they asking Americans to vote for? Health care only for those who can afford it, permanent tax cuts for the super rich, a 100 year war in Iraq they started based on lies, illegal spying on American citizens, sweetheart deals for Republican-connected businesses, the list goes on and on.
Americans want change. They don’t want another four years of the failed Bush-Cheney policies, and the only way to avoid a re-run is to vote Democratic. The question now is whether the media will let the Republican Party get away with using the same tactics Karl Rove originally taught them, or if the media will stand up to them and demand substance.
The Democrats will win any battle based on reality, substance and the issues.