How to hate Barack Obama
Right now, deep in the GOP dungeons, they're planning their racist, disgraceful assault. Whatever will it be?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Of course, this doesn't mean they won't use it. A lot.
I mean, my God, his middle name is the same as Dubya's irrelevant little dead arch-enemy and his last name rhymes with that of the most-wanted terrorist in the world and this one's pretty much already in the can, nothing much for the right to do with Barack Hussein Obama's moniker except "accidentally" mispronounce it as "Osama Hussein" over and over again on Fox News and at McCain rallies and across Wal-Mart's loudspeakers so trailer park denizens across Bush's 'Merka will get even more confused and panicky and start loading up the bunker with Ding-Dongs and Coors just in case the Muslim radicals take over.
No, the problem for GOP strategists is not how to inflame the troglodytic, Limbaugh/Coulter-grade sects of the party who, assuming Obama goes the distance, are already hugely terrified of the notion of a black liberal president, given how he'll surely be a slippery slope straight to gay marriage and rampant lesbianism in schools and hourly shriekings to Allah as everyone's forced to give up their guns and drive a hybrid moped to the tofu store.
The true difficulty facing the GOP's henchmen in the coming months will be how to get those who are just a tiny bit smarter, calmer, less easily swayed, those on the right who might actually be a bit impressed and charmed by Obama's obvious intelligence and oratory power, to hate him, fear him, find his genuinely moving brand of hope and inspiration to be suspicious and problematic and even deeply dangerous.
It won't be easy. Because at the same time, they must make their own unlikely candidate, a feisty but fuzzy 71-year-old war hawk whose entire campaign is apparently now being fueled by a giant hunk of Cold War phlegm, the nauseating notion that not only is a perpetual state of war and aggression desirable for America, but is actually essential to a healthy and functioning nation, they must make John McCain's musty, patriarchal brand of regurgitated Republicanism seem fresh and visionary and not horribly regressive and embarrassing.
Wish them luck. Or, you know, don't.
So then, here's the fun little game all progressives can play until the election itself. Assuming Obama gets the nod, just how will they attack him, smear him, paint him as an evil and untrustworthy force for the nation, the way they did Al Gore and John Kerry? How nefarious, racist, draconian will they get?
We have a few hints, the first one allegedly (if you believe the Drudge Report, which you should almost never do) coming from the Hillary Clinton campaign. That old photo of Obama wearing a traditional head-wrap and robe while visiting Kenya, looking vaguely like a terrorist because as everyone knows, only terrorists wear traditional tribal garments? Not bad. That sort of thing has potential, something the right normally would hurl all over the airwaves as fast as possible, though it mostly just reeks of the same kind of ignorance-baiting as the "Osama Hussein" name game. They'll have to do better.
What about the shocking lapel-pin scandal, wherein Obama allegedly refused to wear an American flag button, causing a bunch of angry fat white men in the GOP to grumble and pretend to be outraged over his "lack" of patriotism? Sure, it was deeply stupid reaction. Yes, the minor furor was merely meant to enrage the gun-rack-on-the-pickup-truck crowd. But the patriotism angle might be something they can poke at. Hell, they just don't have much else.
See, unlike Hillary, Obama can't be effortlessly demonized. He doesn't have Hillary's infamous laundry list of faults and transgressions, the enormous built-in wall of hate the right already has for her, her gender, her husband, everything she represents and carries forward from the Bill Clinton era. Smart as she is, Hillary has truckloads of baggage. Obama has but a tiny carry-on.
At the moment, the McCain camp is spinning like mad, trying to find its footing and apparently basing his entire run on permanent tax cuts (the same ones he voted against, twice) and war war war. McCain himself ain't exactly the world's sharpest tack, and, given how he's the presumptive GOP nominee only through a rather astonishing series of flukes and lucky breaks, he has enough trouble of his own just trying to articulate a coherent message that doesn't offend the entire planet. He's far short of a master strategist.
What's more, he has yet to hire one. There's no true genius hate artist like Karl Rove around anymore to attempt to unify the racists and the white evangelicals and the Latinos and the war-lovers into one giant, seething, Obama-fearing voting bloc. Which might be impossible, but given the deeply fractured nature of the conservative wing, it might be McCain's only hope.
That, and attacking Obama. Will they go for his past drug use? Not available. He's already admitted to everything in his own book, and it's pretty tame. Major past policy errors? Doesn't have any. And what he has accomplished is remarkably consistent with his current vision. Lack of military experience? Nope. The Bush administration saw to it that military experience is considered useless, with Dubya himself running AWOL and even Dick "Go F- Yourself" Cheney saying he had better things to do than serve in Vietnam.
Which leaves us with the one true hot button, the ugly issue everyone expects: race. This is the card the right will have to play very, very carefully, as the slightest slip-up in demonizing Obama's skin color and playing to America's nastiest, deep-set racist tendencies will offend millions and only make Republicans look like the party of old, white, sexist, racist, classist warmongering men they very much are.
But rest assured, if the past eight years are any indication, play it they will. For one thing, the GOP is now counting on the cultural discord that's been simmering for years between the Latino and African American communities. While it's hard to imagine Latinos flocking to the Republicans, given the party's hateful, isolationist immigration agenda, McCain is immigration-friendly, and Obama is, well, black. Will it be enough to sway millions of Latinos McCain's way? Does the right even have the power structure in place to try?
Because here's the thing: When they stole two elections for Bush, the brutal, homophobic conservative machine was tightly organized, had focus, mountains of cash, Karl Rove, the backing of a very nefarious, deeply inbred team of ultra-wealthy war hawks hell-bent on taking over the nation and ruling with a flaccid peni- ... er, iron fist. But now, this monstrous machinery has collapsed, failed, fractured into so many warring factions. There is much foment. There is enormous discord. Iraq is a disaster. Amid the smoking wreckage, McCain stumbles.
Nevertheless, one thing seems certain: We have yet to see the worst — and most deviously racist — of the attacks on Obama. The sad news is, there are simmering pockets of racist hate in this nation that have never really been tested, pockets of such vehement intolerance and power that it's impossible to know what demons lurk, what sort of outrage will erupt. After all, there is simply no historical precedent for what we are about to get into. No one with Obama's uniquely appealing makeup has ever made it this close to the White House.
And hence, it's almost a sure bet that the remnants of Bush's Republican machine, mangled and disgraced though it is, will still struggle mightily to find a hugely shameful, pitiful pathway toward playing on Middle America's darkest fears. All puns, unfortunately, intended.