The Thunderdome

¡Hola! Everybody…
Here’s my prediction: the upcoming election will go to Obama in a surprisingly big way. Some red states will go blue and record numbers will come out to vote. I said it here today…

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-=[ Gladiator School ]=-

“A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt as dangerous.”

— Alfred Adler (1870–1937)

Welcome to the Thunderdome, my friends. Sarah “Winky” Palin’s charge that Barack Obama is “pallin’ around with terrorists” mark’s the plunge of Campaign 2008 into the cesspool that has marked so many other U.S. elections. To be sure, her comments operate on another level, too, continuing to brand anyone who criticizes George W. Bush’s (and now McCain’s) neoconservative foreign policy as un-American.

Palin’s larger point — subtly introduced during the Oct. 2 debate and on the campaign stump since — is that Obama is a person who dares to find fault with U.S. policies overseas and thus deserves to have his patriotism questioned.

With neocons, if you disagree with them, you’re a “terrist.” End of discussion. If you want to find the root of the current Mess in Mesopotamia, look no further than this reactionary line of reasoning.

However, before I deconstruct this idiocy, let’s look at the current state of affairs. Obama is steadily pulling away from McCain. Nationally, Obama’s campaign has consistently crept past the statistical tie among all the major polls and crucial swing states are leaning toward Obama. Even North Carolina, which hasn’t gone to a democrat since the early 70s, stands at a statistical tie.

Is it any wonder, then, that McCain, with no answer to the economic mess (in fact, his ideology helped create the current economy), resorts to the dirty tricks. Unfortunately for McCain, he’s an election short. Americans, faced with skyrocketing healthcare and energy costs, and a very real threat from economic hit men at home, are no longer so easily distracted by hysterical screams of “bin Laden!”

I believe people want to hear a substantive discussion on the economy and how we’re going to rein in the Wall St. Welfare Queens. McCain, with his documented history of marching in line with trickle-down economics and the dismantling of government oversight, has no economic legs to stand on.

Therefore, they resort to calling Obama a terrorist. One man, attending a Palin rally, actually yelled out “Kill him!” in reference to Obama. At a McCain rally, another yelled out “Terrorist!” when McCain asked, “Who is Obama?”

“Our opponent,” Palin told Republican supporters during a speech in Colorado, “is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s pallin’ around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Palin added about Obama, “This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America. We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.”

It’s unclear if Palin understood the full significance of her reference to American “exceptionalism,” the theory preached by the neoconservatives who led her debate prep. They argue that the United States has the exceptional right to operate outside international law (Hello Iraq, Iran, etc.).

Nevertheless, Palin does understand the political convenience of smearing an opponent in the tradition of neocons, who defined critics of Ronald Reagan’s aggressive foreign policy as people who would “blame America first.” Palin is labeling Obama in the same way, and it’s a subtle manner to pull the race card.

In the vice presidential debate, Palin twisted Obama’s 2007 analysis of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan — which called for more troops on the ground to reduce reliance on air strikes that had killed civilians — into him condemning everything the U.S. military has done in Afghanistan.

“Barack Obama had said that all we’re doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians,” Palin said. “And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause.”

Palin then went further on this character assassination against Obama by citing a thin connection to former radical William Ayers as well as recalling the controversy over Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Though McCain has condemned this species of personal smear tactic — especially when he was the victim in 2000 — his campaign has openly announced its intent to go negative on Obama in a guilt-by-association barrage in the weeks before Nov. 4.

Several top McCain aides told the Washington Post that “Republican allies believe that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat’s judgment, honesty and personal associations.”

In other words, they want to stop any substantive discussion about the economy, where McCain has looked terribly foolish, and other issues.

Enter Ayers, who initially came about when the Clinton campaign got desperate (and white women wonder why Obama by-passed the Clintons?). In the 1970s Ayers became a leader of an extreme faction, known as the Weathermen, that planted bombs at the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. After years of living underground, Ayers surfaced and escaped a prison sentence in 1974 because of prosecutorial misconduct in his case.

One of Ayers’s defenders now is Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose father had run the city at the time of infamous clashes in 1968 between anti-war activists and police.

“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally,” Daley told the New York Times in a front-page article on Oct. 4. Daley also urged people to view Ayers’s radicalism four decades ago in the context of the time when the brutality of the Vietnam War had torn apart the nation’s social fabric.

“This is 2008,” Daley said. “People make mistakes.”

History also shows that the mistakes were not just made by anti-war activists, but by the nation’s leaders who intervened with a half-million U.S. troops and massive firepower in what amounted to a local civil war in a small peasant country.

Clearly, however, Obama had nothing to do with Ayers’s behavior during the Vietnam War when Obama was still a child. It’s also a stretch to suggest that a feeble connection to Ayers implicated Obama in either Ayers’s actions during the Vietnam War or his lack of remorse for some of his decisions.

Ironically, it was the Chicago political establishment that put Obama — a bright, young community organizer working with churches on Chicago’s South Side — into contact with Ayers, who served on philanthropic boards seeking to improve educational opportunities in the city.

The two men first met in 1995 through an educational project known as the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which was part of a $500 million national program for school improvement funded from the fortune of Walter Annenberg, a pro-Republican publisher (and close personal friend of Ronald Reagan — using the same line of reasoning, shouldn’t this man be considered a terrorist also? ::blank stare::).

Ayers also hosted a small political gathering for Obama’s first state senate campaign; their terms overlapped as members of board for the Woods Fund, another community-oriented philanthropy; and they lived in the same Hyde Park neighborhood, seeing each other occasionally on the street, the Times reported in the Oct. 4 story.

Though Palin cited the publication of the Times article to justify her new attacks linking Obama to Ayers’s Vietnam-era “terrorism,” the article actually cites no evidence to support Palin’s charge that Obama was “palling around with terrorists,” with its suggestion that Obama and Ayers were close friends.

The article concludes that the two appear to have been only casual acquaintances and that Ayers had little to do with Obama’s political development. According to the very Times article Palin cited, even conservative Republicans who knew Obama in that time period said he showed no radical tendencies.

“I saw no evidence of a radical streak, either overt or covert, when we were together at Harvard Law School,” said Bradford Berenson, who worked with Obama on the Harvard Law Review and later became an associate White House counsel to George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, McCain and Palin appear determined to make this guilt-by-association theme work in the final weeks of the campaign, hoping that it will raise doubts about Obama that might scare off white working-class voters, so-called Reagan Democrats.

And such is the manner in which “straight-talker” John McCain has chosen to wage his campaign. Using fear-mongering (“terrorist!”) and Palin as an attack bitch now that she has shown herself to be a political joke.

Will Americans fall for this game yet again?




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