2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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Obama: The Attacks Have Only Just Begun


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Carl Bloice
Canadian commentator Jeet Heer described the process succinctly: newspapers abroad “would sometime print scurrilous reports that were too wild and un-sourced for the American press. Thanks to the internet and talk radio, these reports would echo back in the United States and eventually become part of the mainstream discourse.” Heer, a student of political culture, was describing a “very well coordinated” mechanism put into operation by former now-jailed media baron, Conrad Black, observing that “Black has been wounded by his own financial shenanigans, but the international network he created is still in place.”

I have no idea whether this network is really still extant but the practice described is very much at play in the mounting attacks on Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Heer made his observation a few weeks ago after false reports made their way from our northern neighbor that Obama had privately told Canadian officials not to take his public criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seriously. The tale is thought to have cost the Illinois senator in the primary in Ohio where the trade pact is anything but popular.

Shortly after the NAFTA flap, Obama’s foreign policy advisor left the campaign following a controversy that arose after she called his opponent Senator Hillary Clinton “a monster” in off-the-cuff, off the record remarks to a Scottish journalist. Of course, one incident – or even two - doesn’t establish a pattern but the foreign media attacks on Obama have been going on for some time and there are numerous slurs and absurd allegations floating out there in cyberspace drawn from newspapers from a number of countries.

A harsh and racially condescending attack appeared in a leading German magazine last year as the campaign was barely underway. An idiotic commentary appeared in a British magazine, authored by what the Observer newspaper termed “Britain’s most influential black figure,” accusing Obama of “ruthless cynicism.” A scurrilous attack on the candidate’s wife appeared in a widely read English-language Asian publication. The same charges made their way last week onto the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal by way of a member of the paper’s editorial board who complains that Michelle Obama, “has left little doubt about her views of American society, and its people,” noting that “these views have received relatively scant coverage” and suggesting that as First Lady she would be hounded by “foreign reporters who have attentively covered the campaign and who have questions to ask.”

A coordinated attack? Of course. But from where?

Surely much of the recent attacks on the Illinois senator have their origins in the Clinton campaign, especially the hardly subtle efforts to inject race into the picture. However, I would suggest that there are other forces involved as well. Hillary may be desperately throwing “the kitchen sink” at Barack but others have started lobbing the garbage can.

There can be little doubt that there are people high in the U.S. political establishment – including some in the Democratic party - that have adopted an anyone-but-Obama stance. They include some of the same personalities Heer describes as facilitating Conrad Black’s network. They had to have been cheered and encouraged by candidate Clinton’s repeated suggestion that only she and Republican contender John McCain have the necessary credentials to lead the nation. And this has even stirred suggestion that having failed to secure the nomination, Clinton would be well placed to make a rerun in the event of the Republicans hanging on to the White House.

Meanwhile, the political right has, over the past couple of weeks, stepped up its campaign against Obama. Last week, the internet service of Human Events offered its readers a “special report” titled, “Barack Obama Exposed.” “From his radical stance on abortion to his prominence in the corruption scandals that has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media, Barack Obama is not fit to be Senator - not to mention the next President of the United States,” it said. “Obama has declared his presidential intentions, but it is up to well-informed and energetic conservatives like you to spare our nation from the scourge of a far-left President Barack H. Obama.”

At this point we have to ask: why these assaults, coming as it as they do from numerous sources, on Obama?

“Two seemingly disconnected events have created a suddenly dangerous turn regarding the future of U.S. wars in the Middle East,” wrote Robert Perry in consortiumnews.com Mar.14. “One was the abrupt resignation of the person who has been the biggest obstacle to a U.S. military strike against Iran, Admiral William Fallon, the chief of Central Command which oversees U.S. military operations in the volatile region.

“The second is the ugly direction that the Democratic presidential competition has taken, with Hillary Clinton’s campaign intensifying its harsh rhetoric against Barack Obama, reducing the likelihood that he can win the presidency – and thus raising the odds that the next president will be either John McCain or Sen. Clinton, both hawks on Iran.

“Throughout the campaign, Clinton has mocked Obama as inexperienced for his desire to engage in presidential-level diplomacy with Iran and other adversarial states,” wrote Perry. “And she recently judged him as unqualified to serve as Commander in Chief, while declaring that both she and Sen. McCain have crossed that ‘threshold’.”

(Obama’s position drew support last week from none other than former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who told Bloomberg News he would negotiate with Teheran. "If Iran is a nation and wants to be respected as a nation we will and must find a way to coexist with it,” he said. “If Iran wanted a settlement to be reached, we would have an obligation on our part to come up with a reasonable position. I do not believe that regime change can be an objective of our foreign policy.")

“The cumulative effect of Clinton’s attacks on Obama’s qualifications – combined with her campaign’s efforts to turn many white voters against him as the ‘black candidate’– has buoyed Republican hopes for November,” wrote Perry.

“If followed to its logical – yet crazed – conclusion, the madness also might be leading the United States into the ever deepening abyss of Middle East wars,” says Perry. “After all, both McCain and Clinton were staunch supporters of the Iraq War, now at its fifth anniversary with no end in sight.

“McCain remains an Iraq War advocate, even he says if the U.S. occupation must last a century or more. Clinton only reversed herself on the war as she prepared to run for the Democratic nomination, realigning herself with the anti-war views of most Democrats, but she refused to admit that her 2002 war-authorization vote was a mistake.

“Both McCain and Clinton also favor a hard line toward Iran.”

Perry, author of a new book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” says intelligence sources have told him that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were eyeing possible air strikes against Iranian targets in 2007 before they encountered Fallon’s stiff opposition. These same sources have discounted the threat of an imminent attack on Iran; however, one of them suggested that Fallon opted out partly because the White House wanted to update a provisional attack plan

“More likely, the sources say, the issue of how to deal with Iran will pass to the next president,” writes Perry. “In that regard, McCain and Clinton promise more tough talk and belligerence, while Obama vows to speak directly with Iran’s leaders over how to reduce tensions.

“Yet, the combined events of the past several days – the sudden ouster of the chief military opponent of an expanded war in the Middle East and the apparent decline in the political fortunes of the most dovish candidate – suggest that the Bush-Cheney belligerent strategies may well outlast their terms of office.”

The neo-conservatives who brought us the war in Iraq, now in its sixth year, through fear and lies, have regrouped around the McCain campaign. But, their loyalties are not necessarily to one political party. And they are turning up the heat on Obama. One of them, William Kristol (who says McCain occasionally calls him for foreign policy advice) used his New York Times column Monday to accuse Obama of having “a dash of deceit,” and went on to wonder out loud: “Might the country be better off with the cynicism of the Clintons than the conceit of Obama.”

And, they can be ruthless, these neo-cons. Last Saturday, the “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle, one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, observed the anniversary of the carnage by placing responsibility for it’s duration and expense on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary Colin Powell and former CIA Director George Tenet. Most of them did not support George W. when he first sought the Republican nomination eight year ago; they were in McCain’s camp. Because, according to James Mann in the “Rise of the Vulcans – The History of Bush’s War Cabinet,” McCain championed the Clinton Administration’s armed dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Oh, what a tangled web these people weave.

As this is being written both Vice-President Cheney and McCain are jaunting around the Middle East. As if that weren’t scary enough, neoconservative hawk Senator Joseph Lieberman is in McCain’s entourage. They are up to no good and it’s assumed that Cheney’s trip is related primarily to Iran.

How this might relate to the domestic scene was perhaps best summarized by an AFP headline: “McCain eyes statesman's image, Obama under fire.”

Candidate Obama can sometimes say misleading – and sometime silly things. Last Saturday in trying to deal with the country’s economic crisis he sought to trace responsibility to the U.S. China trade deficit. Charging Beijing with unfairly keeping its momentary exchange rate low to gain a competitive edge against the U.S. is ludicrous when one considers this is exactly what the U.S. is doing via-a-vis the European Union. The origins of the crisis here at home didn’t originate abroad but lie in ruinous policies cooked up in Washington and on Wall Street. We can’t expect Obama to acknowledge that much of its stems from the working of contemporary capitalism (he probably doesn’t even think so) but I find his refusal to deal forthrightly and decisively with the economic pain and insecurity plaguing the land baffling.

Being nice is nice. Solving problems by getting Wall Street and Main Street in the same room is a fine idea. But speaking out clearly and resolutely in the interest of working people (and ending the war) is a better one and the only one that will get Obama elected. It ain’t over till its over. He’s seen the kitchen sink; now watch out for the garbage can.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here to contact Mr. Bloice.


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