Note to McCain operatives: Any and all attempts to malign Barack Obama as “all hat, no cattle,” “electoral eye candy,” “eloquent but empty,” are doomed to fail.
Most Americans will find it difficult to reconcile those descriptions with the heady and effortlessly intelligent person they see on the nightly news. Most Americans will reject the argument that the fellow with the J.D. from Harvard who lectured on constitutional law at the University of Chicago is all fluff.
As the Clinton campaign has proven, efforts to depict Obama as lacking substance are not persuasive. This inability to undermine the credibility of this “hopemonger” should be of grave concern to John McCain’s advisers. This is because a nominated Obama will run a “base-plus” campaign. He has energized the traditional Democratic constituencies. But in addition, he could grab scads of traditionally Republican voters–most notably “Obama-Curious” Evangelicals.
So what types of attacks might we expect from the party that gave us Willie Horton and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Let me first observe that John McCain’s oft-observed human decency may forestall some of the most unsightly initiatives. The question is: if the Maverick is down 14 points in mid-September would he unleash the hounds of hell? Would he (or perhaps someone else) set the Opposition Research divisions loose? If he does–and I am not entirely sure that he would–here are some of the accusations that may surface:
A problematic spiritual mentor: The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been described by The New York Times as “a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons.” In a recent meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland, Obama referred to him as being “like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don’t agree with.” But Wright’s remarks about Zionism, 9/11, white privilege, American hegemony, and so many other things, do not make him look like some nutty, but loveable Uncle Fester. Obama will distance himself from Wright (which he already has done). His opponents will counter by cheerfully citing Obama’s glowing testimony to his mentor in Dreams from my Father.
Obama is not Liberal, but Left. Radical Left-Accusing Obama of being a Liberal with a capital L is not an effective ploy. That’s because his brand of less-secular liberalism does not exclude or threaten most of the religious constituencies that are up for grabs. A better strategy might try to paint him as a friend of the radical Left. Everything and everyone from Louis Farrakhan’s (unsolicited) endorsements, to Obama’s youthful penchant for perusing Frantz Fanon, to a picture of him supping in 1998 with the Provost of academic anti-Zionism, Edward Said, to former activists he worked with in Chicago who still sport Black Panther chic, may be trotted out in an effort to portray him as too radical for High Office.
“Obama’s Jewish Problem”: If this were to become an issue in 2008 it would be a tragic scenario for both the candidate and Jewish Americans. As far as Obama is concerned, guilt-by-association charges (see above) of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism would damage his credibility as a proponent of tolerance and a person who sees himself as an “effective bridge” for Black/Jewish reconciliation. As many Jewish sources are telling me, any effort to depict Obama as anti-Jewish would most certainly not come from mainstream Jews (who traditionally vote Democratic and have generally favorable impressions of Obama), but political operatives bent on sullying the Senator’s reputation among pro-Israel Evangelicals. The consequence of such a smear tactic would be to further complicate the already tensile relations between African-Americans and Jewish-Americans.
(For more information about religion and the candidates check out Faith 2008 by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs).
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
February 29, 2008; 12:08 AM ET
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