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Character Assassination As Campaign Strategy

11/08/2008 05:12 am 05:12:02 | Updated May 25, 2011

Special Correspondent Earnest Harris writes this occasional "Code Words" column for OffTheBus.

As was predicted by many and as the harsh language coming from the McCain-Palin campaign this week has made clear, with just one month to go in this election and with all the momentum shifting steadily in Sen. Obama's favor, making personal attacks on Obama's character is the GOP strategy from here on out. Political code words have given way to outright and direct assaults on Obama as being "other" and "dangerous" and a "terrorist's best friend," as Obama was called by someone with the Pennsylvania Republican Party. The smear progressed to crowd members yelling "terrorist" at the mention of Obama at a McCain rally in New Mexico and "kill him" as someone shouted in a Florida crowd whipped up by Palin, whose speech repeatedly linked the name Obama and the word "terrorist."

The message that the campaign is now essentially eschewing talk of the issues and resorting to culture war and fear mongering has clearly been received by the GOP surrogates and talking heads. The personal attacks spewed by the large number of columnists on the conservative Townhall.com website, serve as evidence.

Phyliss Schlafly wrote this in her column today, which purports to be a review of Obama's book "Dreams From My Father":

...Obama immersed himself in the writings of radical blacks: Richard Wright, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. Obama's favorite became Malcolm X...

...There is absolutely nothing in this book that expresses pride in or love of or appreciation of America. In 442 pages of introspection extending over his life as a teen, undergraduate and law student at prestigious institutions, community organizer and working adult, he doesn't say anything positive about American government, culture, society, freedom or opportunity.

Obama's refusal to wear an American flag pin on his lapel sounded too trivial for a campaign issue. But since there is nothing in his book about respect for the flag, or the republic for which it stands, maybe the flag-pin flap does indicate his disdain for patriotism.

In his autobiography, Obama accepts the view that "black people have reason to hate." His later book is called "The Audacity of Hope," but his autobiography, which he has never disavowed, should be titled "The Audacity of Hate."

Thomas Sowell also chimed in today, with his column titled "The Real Obama":

...Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, William Ayers and Antoin Rezko are not just people who happened to be at the same place at the same time as Barack Obama. They are people with whom he chose to ally himself for years, and with some of whom some serious money changed hands...

...Obama could have allied himself with all sorts of other people. But, time and again, he allied himself with people who openly expressed their hatred of America. No amount of flags on his campaign platforms this election year can change that...

Mona Charen even included Michelle Obama in today's personal attack strategy:

...One can easily imagine Mr. and Mrs. Obama chatting about xenophobic, narrow, hate-filled America over their toast and coffee in the morning -- he lamenting their attachment to religion and guns, she decrying their fear-mongering hatred of The Other

Columnist Frank Gaffney, Jr., takes the character assassination angle one step further, actually laying some of the blame for the financial crisis at Obama's feet due to his work on behalf of poor people during his days as a community organizer. But of course the terrorist associations take the most space:

...the formative influence in Barack Obama's youth that he calls in his memoirs simply "Frank." As it happens, the Frank in question was Frank Marshall Davis, a well-known Stalinist Communist in Hawaii whose attachment to the Soviet Union and hatred for an America he loathed as racist and imperialistic caused the FBI to keep him under surveillance for at least 19 years. Evidently, young Obama and his father spent hours in the company of this mentor, presumably soaking in not only his alcohol but his virulent hostility towards America...

...Even more worrisome from a national security perspective are some of Obama's ties to prominent figures in the world of radical Islam. These include another racist black nationalist, Don Warden, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Khalid al-Mansour. According to Kenneth Timmerman in Newsmax, al-Mansour has worked closely to advance the influence operations in America of one of Saudi Arabia's most insidious royal billionaires, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The latter has appreciated for some time the help America's higher education institutions could give his Islamist "soft jihad" -- the effort to legitimate and insinuate Islamic law (Shariah) into this country...

All of these columns are from just one day, and that's not a product of coincidence. It's clear what we're seeing and hearing. The deregulated economy is in the tank. McCain's proposed health care deregulation is, whether he knows it or not, another one of his jokes that no one finds funny. Unlike McCain and his advisers, Americans overwhelmingly want to end the war in Iraq and the arrogant neo-con military adventurism that led us there. Even Bush has been forced by circumstance to adopt the wisdom of Obama's foreign policy positions. McCain's stilted debate performances, his rehashed ideas, and his disastrously expedient running mate choice have made all discussion of substance anathema. The writing is on the wall. US Senator Barack Obama is not a terrorist. Rational American voters do not find his person or ideas "worrisome from a national security perspective," and discerning readers know that his moving first book is actually primarily about his American experience and that the fact of the book's being commissioned and written and published and bought up in droves is a testament to the great diversity and honesty that is the very best of our country. We know that spouting patriotic-sounding platitudes is no more evidence of patriotism than spouting Cold War-like warnings is evidence of insight into matters of national security.

All of this we're hearing, reading and watching now is more than a campaign running off the rails. It's the sound and vision of the long overdue end of an era.