Thursday, February 21, 2008

Things to come

There’s been a lot of media nonsense directed at both the Democratic US Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Whichever one of them is the nominee can expect more of the same, much of it directed by the Republican Party and campaign.

Two recent incidents hint at what’s to come. Though these apply specifically to Barack Obama, similar tricks have been played against Hillary Clinton, and would be if she wins the nomination. The point here is the tactic, not the person.

First, Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was attacked by Republicans for saying she’d never been proud of her country. Trouble is, that’s not what she said. In the context of talking about her husband’s campaign, she said:

Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.

She was clearly talking about her husband’s campaign and, specifically, voters’ response to it. And, it seems to me, the word “really” is significant—that doesn’t imply the previous absence of pride, just that this pride is special. Nevertheless, the Republican spin began immediately, implying she was somehow disloyal or anti-American. Trying to capitalise on the Republican propaganda, John McCain’s wife echoed it—twice—in an effort to reinforce the party spin.

Later that same day, on MSNBC’s “Hardtalk”, a graphics technician momentarily flashed a photo of Osama bin Laden as Chris Matthews talked about Barack Obama. Matthews immediately apologised and MSNBC, saying "This mistake was inexcusable," claims to be taking the error seriously. This sort of thing has happened before, and often suspiciously conveniently.

So when syndicated columnist Barbara Wallraff complained, "Don't we have other things to complain about?" I raised an eyebrow. AP television writer David Bauder wrote:

Wallraff noted how changing one letter can also transform "Bush" to "bust" or "lush." She said the spell-check on one of her computer programs always suggests "Osama" as a substitute when she types "Obama." It's far different if something like this is done intentionally, she said.

That would be true if there wasn’t such enormous political capital for Republicans if they can confuse the two people in voters’ minds. In such a context, it’s difficult to believe that all of these are “slips of the tongue”, or the equivalent, as we are meant to believe.

These are mere shadows of what is to come, no matter who the Democratic nominee is. All of us must be on our guard against Republican spin being treated as legitimate. Certainly I’ll be doing whatever I can to expose Republican tricks. It seems the price of liberty really is eternal vigilance.

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