Friday, September 5, 2008

BarackBook: Part of a Maverick's Campaign?

The Republican National Committee's website offers rich material for comment. Take, for instance, the red bar on the homepage that displays a clock that counts down from "Biden's Last Gaffe." The other day Sen. Biden "again mixed up military 'battalions' with 'brigades.'" (*Snicker* Again!) There's also the website's "Audacity Watch," which might be more appropriately titled "Uppity Negro Watch."

I mentioned the rotating graphics on the homepage in another post. One of them is a link to "BarackBook," which initially appears to be a relatively innocent dig at Sen. Obama's popularity on Facebook. But it's actually an attempt to smear Obama based on associations – both real and imagined.

Many of the people in Sen. Obama's "social network" are yawners. Others are included because, say, they protested the Vietnam War – they're just there to kick up the culture war embers.

Then there are the people that the GOP is clearly using to scare voters – people with scary names. Take, for instance, Ali Abunimah, founder of the online publication Electronic Intifida. This American author's BarackBook page details all the times he has talked about Obama or talked about talking to Obama.

Mr Abunimah says that Israel is the result of "Zionist colonization" – an inarguable fact – and that the Israeli government has demolished Palestinian homes (also true). He also uses the term "Jim Crow" when describing the daily lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and, in general, describes the daily hardships that ordinary Palestinians endure.

In other words, Mr Abuminah talks and writes about incredibly complicated issues from a perspective that is barely heard in the United States. But the implication on his BarackBook page seems to be that he's a terrorist, or at least a terrorist sympathizer, and this then seems aimed at raising the question in the reader's mind, "What does that make Sen. Osama?"


We should, of course, dig into politicians' associations, and asking about Tony Resko is certainly fair game. (I actually think The Chicago Tribune's editorial about the affair was pretty poorly written and unconvincing.) The thing to which I object is the innuendo.

Whatever your opinions about Ali Abuminah, he's not an explosives-vest-wearing psycho – he's a commentator and writer whose pieces have appeared in Ha'aretz, the Israeli paper, as well as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. But what can be the intent of including Mr Abuminah in BarackBook other than to lead some people who are not familiar with the Middle East to believe that Obamah is a terrorist sympathizer?

But instead of coming out and making any serious, fact-based accusation against Sen. Obama, the McCain campaign instead relies on whispers: "Hey, did you know that Barack Hussein Osama wants to wipe Israel off the map?" Insinuations such as this are as insidious as any ridiculous and insulting (not only to Sen. Obama, but also to everyone's intelligence) direct accusations, because they quietly calcify into feelings and hunches and are so hard to shake with clear facts. Even if the any associations with Ali Abuminah don't work, 20 or 50 other such stories are there to take its place – only a few of them need to yield the intended result. And that result, in the end, is black paint slapped on sand to look like a road. Go down that road and you arrive at the inevitable conclusion that Sen. Obama is dangerous. But look down, and look behind you; what do you see?

Meanwhile, we're supposed to believe that this kind of innuendo is part of a maverick's campaign. We're supposed to believe that this is not politics as usual, and that Sen. McCain rises above the partisan, win-at-all-costs furor of typical political discourse.

But ask yourself: Is this is a tactic of an honorable man?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Question: do we Obama supporters also have an obligation to talk about our guy, and not just the other guy? I had to listen to Limbaugh out in Michigan, because my friend's daughter is married to a Rushite, and I realized (OK, none of this is new to you eastern media elites) that all he does is talk about the people he hates, people like me. I thought it was so sad and pathetic, all that anger.

So we can point out where the RNC is wrong (and the RNC is not McCain - whom I continue, on the strength of vanishing evidence, to admire) but we should also be willing to call out our own guy. Going back on his public financing pledge was an act of hubris that Bush II would admire, and, as Brooks points out in today's Times, his failure to seize on McCain's offer to hold a series of joint town hall debates was a real missed opportunity.

Anyway. Loved the post