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In: Uncategorized11 Oct 2008
I once had a history teacher remark that what set Nazism and Fascism apart from most other ideologies was that they weren’t necessarily for a cause, as much as against an existing cause. And I’ve never really liked that style of politics.
In 2004, I voted for Kerry. I thought he was a pretty good guy, but I admit, my vote wasn’t so much “I emphatically support John Kerry” as much as, “I vehemently oppose the notion of George W. Bush being elected again.” So I was excited in 2007 about 2008. In the summer of 2007, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I’d support Obama or Richardson, two superb candidates. But there were lots of other good candidates. Sure, I didn’t really care for all the candidates, but I was emphatically for Obama. (After being emphatically for Richardson for a while.) I wasn’t against anyone. And when I watched the Republicans, I liked John McCain. Compared to some of the others, he seemed like a level-headed guy. I was happy when he won the primaries, though admittedly a bit apprehensive, because he was the one Republican I could see moderates and undecideds getting behind.
Even with the race Obama vs. McCain, I was emphatically for Obama. It wasn’t the “cake or ice cream” dilemma with Obama vs. Richardson, but it was perhaps “ice cream or fresh French bread.” I like one more than the other, but the other’s still good. And until a month ago, I still felt that way. But then the French bread turned stale, and eventually, it started to grow some mold. And nowadays, it’s crawling with worms, while the delicious bowl of ice cream is as good as ever. It sometimes aggravates me that Obama doesn’t fight back as hard against McCain as he ought to, but lately, I’ve been viewing it as McCain slinging mud at Obama. Obama wipes the mud off, and keeps talking about how to solve the issues facing America. And McCain just keeps flinging mud.
Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, remarks in a recent Washington Post piece,
“Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.
Never mind that this evokes — and brazenly tries to resurrect — the unsavory, cruel days of our past that we thought we had left behind. Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama’s middle name makes him someone to distrust — and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill.”
I’m really not sure if it’s any accident that, as conservatives push McCain to “take off the gloves,” the repeated use of Obama’s middle name—Hussein—comes back right as Palin repeatedly tries to link Obama to William Ayers. (Never mind that Obama was 8 at the time, that he has denounced Ayers’ actions, and that his “ties” to the former domestic terrorist are in the form of Obama and Ayers volunteering on the board of a charity to help failing schools. It’s not about the facts, it’s about the montage of “Obama” and “terrorist” enough to make it seem believable.)
I’m sure that, when these people get called out for repeating “Hussein” over and over again, they’ll claim that they meant nothing by it: they were merely calling Obama by his name, and it’s the Democrats that seem to have a problem with it. But that’d be a bald-faced lie. He is Barack Hussein Obama, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the “unveiled scorn” that Hosseini mentions that is objectionable. He’s not “Barack Hussein Obama,” a proud American senator, he’s “Barack Hussein Osama, I mean Obama,” who cavorts with terrorists and went to school at a terrorist training camp. The “Hussein,” at least on several occasions in the past, is very clearly being injected to evoke imagery of Saddam, Iraq, and Islam, all the things that patriotic Americans should hate. “Hussein” is un-American and can’t be trusted.
The real affront is the lack of firm response from either McCain or Palin. Neither has had the moral courage, when taking the stage, to grasp the microphone, turn to the presenter and, right then and there, denounce the use of Obama’s middle name as an insult. Instead, they have simply delivered their stump speeches, lacing into Obama as if nothing out-of-bounds had just happened. The McCain-Palin ticket has given toxic speeches accusing Obama of being a friend of terrorists, then released short, meek repudiations of some of the rough stuff, including McCain’s call Friday to “be respectful.” Back in February, the Arizona senator apologized for the “disparaging remarks” from a talk-radio host who sneered repeatedly about “Barack Hussein Obama” before a McCain rally. “We will have a respectful debate,” McCain insisted afterward. But pretending to douse flames that you are busy fanning does not qualify as straight talk.
What I find most unconscionable is the refusal of the McCain-Palin tandem to publicly condemn the cries of “traitor,” “liar,” “terrorist” and (worst of all) “kill him!” that could be heard at recent rallies. McCain is perfectly capable of telling hecklers off. But not once did he or his running mate bother to admonish the people yelling these obscene — and potentially dangerous — words… Is inaction tantamount to consent? The McCain campaign certainly thinks so when it comes to Obama and incendiary remarks from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
This Daily Show clip includes a segment near the beginning in which you can hear the jeers of the crowd when Obama’s name is mentioned, and someone, pretty clearly, screams “Kill Him!” I could see that being tolerated in a wartorn third-world nation where it’s an honest reformer running against a racist warlord dictator, but in America, between two US Senators? We seriously think it’s okay to chant “Kill him” to refer to an American presidential candidate? I’m not a big fan of the “calling for an apology” thing (to me, it makes no sense to ask for an apology, much less demand one), and really, I’m still not holding out for an apology from McCain/Palin. They have an election to win. But for the love of God, don’t let people at your crowds scream “Kill Him!” about Obama, or allow people speaking on your behalf to repeatedly interject “Hussein” in the middle of his name with a sort of sneer.
McCain and Palin keep trying to bring up his ties to Ayers to question Obama’s judgment. And now that the legislative ethics panel in Alaska has concluded that Sarah Palin abused her power as governor, I expect the Obama-Ayers thing to get repeated louder and louder.
At the risk of blockquoting too much of Hosseini’s excellent article, his conclusion is perfect:
I — and, I suspect, millions of Americans like me, Republicans and Democrats alike — couldn’t care less about Obama’s middle name or the ridiculous six-degrees-of-separation game that is the William Ayers non-issue. The Taliban are clawing their way back in Afghanistan, the country that I hope many of my fellow Americans have come to understand better through my novels. People are losing their homes and their jobs and are watching the future slip away from them. But instead of addressing these problems, the McCain-Palin ticket is doing its best to distract Americans by provoking fear, anxiety and hatred. Country first? Hardly.