Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slimy Republican Tactics

Jon Chait at TNR links to a WSJ piece by Steven Waldman. Waldman is President of and previously the national editor of US News & World Report. In his article, Waldman makes the case that Republicans are behind the disinformation campaign against Obama - that fewer than half of McCain's supporters believe Obama to be a Christian, and that 16% believe that the Democrat is actually a Muslim.

Here, a lengthy excerpt from the article:

There are some instances of Republican Party officials stoking the idea. The Tennessee Republican Party issued a press release about “Barack Hussein Obama” that included a picture of Sen. Obama in “Muslim garb.” The Clark County, Washington, Republican Party declared on its Web site that “Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. It is reported that Obama swore his oath of office using the Koran….This is chilling information about a candidate for the highest office in the Country especially given the radical Muslim claims that they will destroy American from the inside.”

The Web site of the National Black Republican Association featured an article analyzing “Obama’s Muslim Connections,” which declared, “It’s important to scrutinize Obama’s Muslim background to determine if his Islamic past influences his decisions and actions toward America, including his decision to select an anti-American pastor as his spiritual adviser.”

Marcia Stirman, chairman of Otero County Republican Women in New Mexico, said of Obama in a letter to the local newspaper: “He’s a Muslim socialist.”

Mainstream Conservative Media

Most important, the idea has been spread by mainstream conservative media – not just a few lonely conservative bloggers in their basement but major conservative publications or figures with large followings:
A popular conservative Web site,, ran a story this week called, “Was Obama a Muslim?” and another one, “Obama ‘Lying’ About Muslim Past, Expert Says.”

Another popular conservative Web site,, ran a piece called “’Muslim’ photo raises Obama connection questions.”

Human Events, a conservative publication that John McCain just granted an interview , also published an essay entitled, “Our First Muslim President?”

Conservative talk show host and bestselling author Michael Savage repeated a common myth that Sen. Obama attended a “Madrassa,” a radical Muslim school.

Floyd Brown, a conservative activist who created the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988, issued a new ad, asking “Was Barack Obama ever a Muslim?”

Conservative talk shows – and some cable TV shows, it should be said – gave air time to Jerome Corsi, whose book “The Obama Nation” argued that Sen. Obama has “extensive connections to Islam.” He appeared on Hannity & Colmes to publicize his book and on Sean Hannity’s radio show to argue that Sen. Obama has a close connection to a radical Muslim politician in Kenya. Hannity also gave substantial TV time to Andy Martin, a free-lance activist, who helped originate one of the Internet emails arguing that Obama was Muslim.

Rush Limbaugh more recently added a new wrinkle by arguing that Sen. Obama is not African American but rather “an Arab.” Limbaugh did not say Sen. Obama is Muslim but many Americans believe that all Arabs are Muslim.

Finally, there’s the matter of the middle name. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have made a point of never referring to their opponent as Barack Hussein Obama, apparently viewing that as an unfair attempt to imply Sen. Obama is Muslim or shady in some way. “I absolutely repudiate such comments,” Sen. McCain said, after someone introducing him used Sen. Obama’s full name. “It will never happen again.”

Using Obama’s Middle Name

But many prominent Republicans and conservatives have, including Mr. Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter (she has called him “B. Hussein Obama” and “President Hussein”), Mike Gallagher, and Bill Cunningham. And on two different occasions, Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin were introduced at rallies by men who used the formulation.

With schoolboy innocence, many conservative commentators say they were merely raising questions or stating facts. And you know what? That’s largely true.

Many stuck to the points about Sen. Obama that were accurate: His middle name is, after all, Hussein. He was listed as a Muslim as a boy when he attended school Indonesia. His stepfather was Muslim.

One could merely repeat those facts and it would lead many to believe Sen. Obama was Muslim – especially if one didn’t mention that Sen. Obama has been a practicing Christian for 17 years and was in Indonesia only until age 10 or 11.

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