At least one major right-wing smear attack on Obama may be gearing up. I'll call it the "Who Sent You" campaign. As weird as it sounds -- and it is weird stuff -- the gist of it is that Obama's birth was part of a secret plan by communists, Jews and one-worlders to take over the world. As you read this it is going to sound so fanatically wingnut/John Birch Society/black helicopter/precious bodily fluids weird that you are likely to dismiss it as the rantings of crazy people. But I have learned over the years that this stuff resonates with a certain crowd, and they are remarkably effective at tapping the fears of Americans.
Keep in mind how weird and unbelievable the Swift Boat accusations seemed -- and remember the powerful effect they had on the public and election results. In The Swiftboaters Are Back in the Water I wrote about the effectiveness of the dishonest accusations,
. . . [one] reason it works is because it is (excuse the pun) offensive. They say that the best defense is a good offense, and considering their candidates, the Republicans certainly needed a defense.That post also cited the following description of the results of that smear:
[. . .] So with swiftboating you spread a smear to raise questions with the public about the opponent's patriotism or service. It doesn't have to be true (how quaint) it just has to raise questions. This "neutralizes" the honorable record of or otherwise "discredits" the advantages that opponent has against a Republican with a poor (like George W. Bush's) or no (like Saxby Chambliss or any number of other "chickenhawks") record.
"A recent University of Pennsylvania poll showed that its attack ad questioning whether Kerry deserved his medals had been seen or heard of by half the voters questioned.This effect increased as the election approached.
It also revealed that 44 per cent of independent voters found the advert at least somewhat believable. Meanwhile a CBS poll showed the number of veterans who supported Kerry had dropped from 46 per cent to 37 per cent." [emphasis added]
And here we are again. The widely-spread, widely-repeated -- and consequently widely believed -- smear emails about Obama being a secret Muslim who went to a terrorist training school, burned his flag pin etc. have been "preparing the ground" by "raising questions" that get people ready to give a positive reception to this conspiracy theory. I am seeing signs that the wingnuts are starting to roll out the next phase with the right's recent "Obama forged birth certificate" blogswarm, with stories like this from Christian Web News,
In response to mounting media questions about the failure of the Barack Obama presidential campaign to produce his birth certificate, an official spokesman of the campaign has endorsed as genuine the image of a document purporting to be his "birth certificate." However, experts who have examined that image in high resolution have pointed out inconsistencies and irregularities which suggest that the document is a forgery.The idea behind this is that Obama was really born in Kenya (in a lab, perhaps?), and was later "smuggled" into Hawaii. From FInal Report on Birth Certificate Forgery,
It is irrefutable, empirical evidence -- Obama's birth certificate is a forgery. Why? Why a COLB (certificate of live birth) forgery? That is the question.Who Exactly is Obama? from Right Side News, drives home the paranoia:
If elected, he would be the first Arab-American President, not the first black President. Barack Hussein Obama is 50% Caucasian from his mother's side and 43.75% Arabic and 6.25% African Negro from his father's side. While Barack Hussein Obama's father was from Kenya, his father's family was mainly Arabs.. Barack Hussein Obama's father was only 12.5% African Negro and 87.5% Arab.There are already thousands of references to this weird story on the web.
With all of that as background, here is what I think is an upcoming smear attack that will be echoed across the right's communication channels. In February, The Corner at National Review Online posted Obama's Political Origins.
. . . all of my mixed race, black/white classmates throughout my youth, some of whom I am still in contact with, were the product of very culturally specific unions. They were always the offspring of a white mother, (in my circles, she was usually Jewish, but elsewhere not necessarily) and usually a highly educated black father. And how had these two come together at a time when it was neither natural nor easy for such relationships to flourish? Always through politics. No, not the young Republicans. Usually the Communist Youth League.This story refers to this from Accuracy in Media, Obama's Communist Mentor,
. . . I don't know how Barak Obama's parents met. But the Kincaid article referenced above makes a very convincing case that Obama's family, later, (mid 1970s) in Hawaii, had close relations with a known black Communist intellectual.
. . . Political correctness was invented precisely to prevent the mainstream liberal media from persuing the questions which might arise about how Senator Obama's mother, from Kansas, came to marry an African graduate student.
In his biography of Barack Obama, David Mendell writes about Obama's life as a "secret smoker" and how he "went to great lengths to conceal the habit." But what about Obama's secret political life? It turns out that Obama's childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a communist.I suspect this "he came out of nowhere" idea is going to be repeated over and over. It has a "don't trust him" insinuation that feels like it will stick in certain brains. It lends credence to the really weird stuff that I see bubbling up in the right's channels. An example of what is coming can be found in this "PUMA Blog Network" blog "It's The Communism Stupid" titled, Obama Socialist Trojan Horse and Hive Builder. Hear the Buzzing?
[. . .] Obama's communist connection adds to mounting public concern about a candidate who has come out of virtually nowhere, with a brief U.S. Senate legislative record, to become the Democratic Party frontrunner for the U.S. presidency.
. . . AIM recently disclosed that Obama has well-documented socialist connections, which help explain why he sponsored a "Global Poverty Act" designed to send hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid to the rest of the world, in order to meet U.N. demands
Is Obama a Marxist/Stalinist Trojan Horse.....a Marxist Mole?OK, I admit my favorite is the way this post highlights political science and international relations as proof that something sinister is going on. This is a long, paranoid post (please try to skim it at least) but I am seeing it echoed around the right's networks so you have to take it seriously.
How else is one to explain this candidate who came out of nowhere and since 1996 and involvement with the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, he has been able to "leap" every three years up the power ladder.....looking for the GOLD Ring of being the most powerful person in the United States?Going back to his roots we find:
1.His father, from Kenya was a Socialist and wrote papers relating to the oppression of the people of Kenya. ...
3.Obama's grandfather introduced him to Frank Marshall Davis, an activist and poet with ties to the Communist Party. . . .
5.From Occidental College, Obama transferred to Columbia University and majored in political science and international relations.
OK, to the the meat of the coming attack. The outlines of it are here in this post, Who "sent" Obama?. I know this is weird stuff, but you can see how this paranoid theme develops if you skim it. It is very difficult to follow the logic, but the claim appears to be that Obama is the product of a secret cabal connected to Stalinist-Maoist-Che Guevara-Hugo Chavez communists. So take a look (again, my apologies, it's weird.)
So it is reasonable to ask, who "sent" Barack Obama? In other words, how can his meteoric rise to political prominence be explained?If you have time, follow the links. They go on and on like that. It seems the idea is if you throw in the words "Maoist" enough times people will get really scared.
[. . .] The people linked to Senator Obama grew to political maturity in the extreme wings of the late 60s student and antiwar movements. They adopted some of the worst forms of sectarian and authoritarian politics.
... Many of them have joined up with other wings of the late 60s and 70s movements, in particular the pro-China maoists elements of that era and are now playing a role in the labor movement and elsewhere.
. . . The most recent effort was by Jonathan Kaufman in the Wall Street Journal who argued that a critical connection for Obama was his links to some in the wealthy and prominent Jewish community in Chicago.
. . . So, who did "send" Obama? . . . more likely to the family of (in)famous former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers - not just Bill Ayers, but also Bill's father Tom Ayers and his brother John as well.
. . . In my view these types of councils are reminiscent of the manipulative "community" bodies set up in regimes like those of Hugo Chavez and the Sandinistas - used to control genuine democratic movements such as trade unions.
. . . Ayers, of course, had long held what the left once knew, broadly, as "maoist" politics - a view of the world that was opposed to Russian style bureaucratic communism from above, instead advocates of this approach supported sending revolutionary cadre to "swim among the masses like fish in the sea" or attempting to establish guerilla foco as romantically theorized by Regis Debray and carried out with disastrous results by Che Guevara.
[. . .] So, why or how did Obama - at that point not yet the prominent first black president of the Harvard Law Review (that would happen the following year) - end up at Sidley?
Sidley had been long time outside counsel to Commonwealth Edison. The senior Sidley partner who was Comm Ed's key outside counsel, Howard Trienens, was a member of the board of trustees of Northwestern alongside Tom Ayers (and Sidley partner Newton Minow, too). It turns out, Bernardine Dohrn worked at Sidley also. She was hired there in the late 80s, because of the intervention of her father-in-law Tom Ayers, even though she was (and is) not a member of any state bar.
Dohrn ... her former Weather Underground (now recast as the "Revolutionary Armed Task Force") "comrades," including Kathy Boudin (biological mother of Chesa Boudin, who was raised by Ayers and Dohrn) participated. . . . The father of Chesa Boudin, David Gilbert, was sentenced to 75-to-life, with no chance of parole, after a trial in which he refused to participate. Chesa is the co-author of a recent apologia for the regime of Venezuelan "left" strong man, Hugo Chavez.
. . . I can only speculate, but it is possible that Tom Ayers introduced Obama to Sidley. That might have happened if Obama had met up with Bill and Tom and John Ayers prior to attending law school when Obama's DCP group was supporting the reform act passed in 1988. Or it might have been Dohrn who introduced Obama to the law firm.
[. . .] In fact, in retrospect the Ayers/Ayers (business from above, local activism from below) joint campaign against both the Chicago School District bureaucracy and the Teachers Union is reminiscent of the kinds of alliances one finds in neo-stalinist regimes like that of Cuba, China or Sandinista-run Nicaragua. In the Chinese Cultural Revolution, for example, Mao appealed to local activists to attack the party bureaucracy. These authoritarian movements often try to build their power against democratic institutions like unions.
[. . .] As it turns out, there are other ex-SDS types around the Obama campaign as well, including Marilyn Katz, a public relations professional, who was head of security for the SDS during the disaster in the streets of Chicago in 1968.
. . . Davidson and Katz were key organizers of the 2002 anti-war demonstration where Obama made public his opposition to the Iraq war that has been so critical to his successful presidential campaign. Davidson apparently moved into the maoist movements of the 70s after the disintegration of SDS.
... Now that we have some idea of who "sent" Obama, the left and labor movement deserve to know more about how the exhausted ideas of the authoritarian side of 60's politics may still be influencing the thinking of a potential U.S. president. Maybe Andy Stern's endorsement of Obama makes more sense, now.
I might be right. I might be wrong. But my instincts and experience tell me that this is a smear attack that is bubbling up.
*Let me close with a note on my reference to "precious bodily fluids":
Follow Dave Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dcjohnson