"Hype: The Obama Effect" is a new movie attacking the Democratic candidate from David Bossie and Citizens United, a far-right group which was started in 1988 to run the infamous racist "Willie Horton" ads against Michael Dukakis. Claiming "to peel back the layers of hype," the movie simply adds layers of lies. This wasn't the movie Bossie planned to make in order to influence the November elections. Bossie has noted, "We spent 18 months and millions of dollars making 'Hillary The Movie.' We're incredibly proud, but the problem is the film has no relevance anymore." However, Bossie's rapidly-made attack on Obama isn't lacking for funds. It's a slickly-produced film, complete with a $250,000 advertising campaign.
Unfortunately, all that money can't buy you the truth. "Hype: The Obama Effect" is full of errors and lies running throughout the movie. Ironically, like their own misguided vision of Obama, this documentary is slick and well-financed, but lacking in actual substance. Instead, it relies on a stream of false attacks on Obama.
The movie focuses heavily on Chicago. Bob Barr falsely declares, "Barack Obama has his roots in the Cook County machine." Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson claims, "You can't tell me he spent 18 years there [in Chicago], or however long he spent there, and no stories have resulted from that time." Proving that Carlson doesn't bother to read, there is in reality a massive literature about Obama's time in Chicago, all of it disproving the smears asserted in "Hype."
The documentary blames Obama for failing as a community organizer because "there's still asbestos in that housing project," "the neighborhood is still a very rough area, jobs are hard to come by," and "there's not a lot of long-term improvement." It's absurd to blame Obama, who had no political power, because he didn't magically transform an impoverished area
Patrick O'Malley, a Republican state senator in Illinois, attacks Obama because "he tended to be late for committee meetings." (Later, the documentary also denounces Obama for being late to a US Senate committee hearing, showing how trivial most of the objections to Obama are.) O'Malley also attacks Obama's claims of bipartisanship: "I can't recall him ever coming over to my desk." But it's hardly surprising that Obama would ignore some of the far-right-wing legislators who would never compromise with him, preferring instead to work with moderate Republicans.
David Freddoso claims that Obama passed "ethics reform that faced little opposition and was handed to him to as a favor" by state Senate President Emil Jones. According to Freddoso, he "gave them to Obama, who today enjoys all the credit having done little of the work." That's false. Numerous Democrats and Republicans have noted that nobody wanted this hard work, and Obama prevailed against strong initial opposition.
Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell calls Obama "to the left of the only proclaimed socialist in the senate" based on one year of a National Journal ranking, about which Michael Barone incorrectly claims "National Journal rankings are done on the basis of just about every vote in the Senate"
Barone also proclaims, "it's very likely that President Obama will mean higher taxes for many Americans." Actually, exactly the opposite is true. Obama has proposed lowering taxes on 95% of Americans. Mike Huckabee claims: "If you want to have more taxes taken out of your check, Obama's your choice." For most Americans, the opposite is true. But the documentary declares that "critics expect that every family that earns more than $100,000 per year will face a potentially irrevocable change in their tax burden." That's not true; in fact, most Americans earning more than $100,000 will face reduced taxes under Obama. Moreover, how can any change in the tax burden ever be "potentially irrevocable"?
Yet the movie continues a stream of misinformation and outright lies. Dick Morris declares: "he wants to impose social security taxes on income above $100,000." In fact, Obama proposes social security taxes only on income about $250,000. According to the documentary, "79% of all 2005 tax returns reported capital gains. So, under President Obama, three-quarters of all American households would have their capital gains taxes double." That's not true. First of all, Obama hasn't proposed to double anyone's capital gains taxes. He has proposed that households earning over $250,000 would have an increase in capital gains tax rates from 15% to 20%. Those earning less would not face increased capital gains taxes. The documentary even claims that "2/3rds of America's small business income may be taxed at 50%," citing far-right-wing activist Grover Norquist for this ridiculous claim. This is pure nonsense.
The documentary even attacks Obama when he called for Americans to learn foreign languages, noting that it is embarrassing when Americans visit Europe and are unable to speak the native language. William Bennett proclaims "this is not a problem" and attacks Obama's patriotism: "his use of the term 'embarassment'...suggests to me that there's a little embarassment and not total pride in being an American." Bennett may be the first former Secretary of Education to ever denounce someone for urging Americans to learn more foreign languages.
Bennett wasn't the only conservative willing to humiliate himself on camera by saying something idiotic in service of these attacks on Obama. Dick Morris claims that under Obama's health care plan, there will be "rationing" and doctors will be banned from providing health care: "it's okay for him to perform an abortion, but if he gives you that bypass, he's going to lose his license." Where did Morris fantasize about this absurd lie? Did one of his prostitutes tell him this during a toe-sucking session?
The movie claims that Obama has "a plan that gives illegal immigrants the same health care that US senators have." In fact, as Obama explained during a Jan. 21 debate, illegal immigrants are excluded "because I think we've got limited resources. And it is important for us that, when we've got millions of U.S. citizens that aren't yet covered, it's important for us to make sure that they are provided coverage."
According to the movie, "the senator has taken money from many special interest groups and employees of lobbying firms." In reality, Obama doesn't take any PAC funding, so there's no money he's received from special interest groups.
The movie notes Obama's "record fundraising" but adds, "however, not all the donations are coming in $20 at a time" (of course, no one imagined they were). It claims, "Not according to the Washington Post. Bundlers and big money donors abound in the Obama campaign network." But the Washington Post article never said that, although it did focus attention on Obama's big donors. However, it also noted, "Donations of less than $200 account for nearly half of Obama's contributions, compared with a third of Clinton's and a quarter of Sen. John McCain's." And that article also noted how Obama had publicly opposed a tax loophole sought by one of his major bundlers.
According to the movie, "contrary to the statements Senator Obama made....according to documents filed by his campaign, 40 federally registered lobbyists have contributed to his presidential run." In reality, the lobbyists gave money despite the campaign's ban on it, and the Obama campaign reported that "any contributions from lobbyists that weren't already returned will be soon."
The usual lies about Obama's stand on abortion are offered by Jill Stanek, who claims that "Obama is so extremely radically supportive of abortion that he thinks infanticide is acceptable..." Of course, that's nonsense. Obama objected to an Illinois bill banning infanticide after botched abortions (which was already illegal) because it might endanger abortion rights. When provisions to protect existing abortion rights were finally added in 2005 (after Obama left the state senate), the bill was passed. Obama has never regarded infanticide as acceptable.
The movie is full of silly smears, such as this attack: "Bin Laden is very well aware that Democrats over and over again try to undercut the war on terror by diminishing the tools that we need to stop the next attack." One interview in the movie proclaims, "He voted to essentially give Osama bin Laden the same rights that Americans have when it comes to intercepting his calls and email...and if his vote had prevailed, the whole war on terror would come to a halt." The whole war on terror would come to a halt? What, the entire war on terror consists of trying to find Osama bin Laden's emails and phone calls? Of course, Obama never voted for any bill that would give bin Laden the "same rights" as Americans. It's all fantasy, it's all lies.
The movie attacks Obama for saying that the threat posed to the United States by Iran is "tiny compared to the Soviet Union." They claim that "Obama reversed himself" a few days later by saying, "Iran is a great threat." Bill Bennett demands to know: "Which is it?" The answer is obvious: Iran is a tiny threat to the United States, especially compared with the Soviet Union. Iran is a great threat to Israel and stability in the Middle East. There's no contradiction, and no reversal.
Obama's declaration that he would be willing to meet with our enemies "without preconditions" drew similar attacks when he explained what it meant. The documentary claims that Obama tried to "redefine 'without preconditions' to now mean 'with preparation.'" Obama always meant that; "preconditions" refers to the Bush Administration approach of requiring major policy changes before having any meetings.
The movie attacks Obama for citing the fact that Reagan met with Gorbachev as proof that meeting with our enemies is common; the movie proclaims that this meeting was the result of "more than 40 years of preconditions and prior groundwork" (apparently Reagan was creating the groundwork when he was still making "Bonzo" movies) and "direct talks came after only five years of preconditions." Not true: Reagan met with Gorbachev eight months after Gorbachev took over the Soviet Union.
The movie repeats a common lie that Obama had "only 143 days of national experience before beginning the campaign." Of course, Obama actually had two years of experience as a U.S. Senator before he announced his campaign.
On Iraq, the movie claims, "his position is, perhaps, as fluid as the polls that it follows." In reality, Obama has had a completely consistent position from the start: it was a mistake to invade Iraq, and we need to withdraw, but we must do so with great care.
Of course, the familiar clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright have a starring role in the documentary. Ken Blackwell declares: "either he was asleep...or he embraced the theology in its totality." The notion that you could listen to a preacher without agreeing completely is so totally anathema to the far right that they can't even imagine it was possible for Obama to disagree with his pastor without walking out of church.
Sometimes guilt by association isn't enough. A parade of clips of Louis Farrakhan spouting anti-white and anti-Semitic comments is justified by guilt by association with association, because Obama has no connection with Farrakhan but Obama's former church had a newsletter that praised Farrakhan. The documentary even makes the extraordinary (and ridiculous) step of proposing geographical guilt by association, with the narrator ominously intoning: "Obama and Minister Farrakhan live within walking distance of one another."
And of course, Bill Ayers is prominently featured. Jim Geraghty of the National Review claims, "Barack Obama really couldn't bring himself to say 'you know, I really don't like that guy.' That was too much for him to say. He had to talk about what a decent guy he is and what a good professor." Unfortunately, Geraghty is simply making things up. There is no record of Obama during the campaign calling Ayers "decent" and "a good professor." In fact, Obama really did bring himself to criticize Ayers, denouncing him during a Democratic debate as "somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago." According to the movie, "Obama was feted at a fundraising event" at Ayers' home, but Obama never had a fundraising event there.
Freddoso claims, "he wrote a letter specifically to help Rezko...get a $14.6 million housing deal...really, Barack Obama did quite a bit for Tony Rezko." In reality, Obama wrote a standard form letter supporting a low-income housing project, along with several other elected officials. There was nothing corrupt about it.
Unable to make any charges stick against Obama, the movie is left with vague attacks like this from Jerome Corsi: "it's hard to know what he was doing in Chicago. It's all a lie." According to David Freddoso, "he goes on a talk show like Ellen DeGeneris and he starts to dance. He's not treated like other politicians." (Actually, John McCain also went on Ellen's show. Overall, it's McCain, not Obama, who has gotten a free ride from the media.)
Although "Hype" presents itself as a documentary, it's more of a mockumentary--the movie makes a mockery of intelligent political debate and intellectual honesty.
As a hatchet job, "Hype: The Obama Effect" is an embarrassment to its creators and nearly everyone interviewed in it. The movie is full of basic factual errors, idiotic lies, and baseless smears. Ultimately unable to make a coherent or accurate critique of Obama, the movie is left with vague insinuations, like: "Is there a smoking gun hidden in Senator Obama's history? That's a question we can leave to the blogosphere."
There is no smoking gun, so the far right is blowing smoke, hoping that American voters will ignore the truth and the real issues facing this country, and instead be fooled by the conservative smokescreen of lies and smears.