Hillary pillories Obama for remarks she couldn’t possibly have misunderstood but which she chooses to characterize in a way many in her campaign and the media find either politically persuasive or newsworthy. If he chose his words badly in describing voters who focus on wedge issues while national concerns of far greater import are overlooked, his observations were neither idle, mean-spirited nor disrespectful.
But terminology has begun to take on a sinister life of its own in which it isn’t enough, for example, to call Obama a Liberal; in some quarters, he is now described as a “Left Winger”, conjuring up all sorts of fantastical cloak-and-dagger images quite distinct from both his record and his persona. Who started that particular gambit is unclear, but it will no doubt be repeated endlessly. Hillary’s whispering campaign to curry favor with super delegates to the effect that “he can’t win” fits nicely with fatuous labels and innuendo.
Only those who profit from putting a wild spin on his words could spend so much time discussing Obama’s intent and come up with such devious explanations for a political truth about national voting oddities. Paul Krugman in a recent NY Times column argued voters weren’t committed to wedge issues that didn’t serve their own best interests, insisting that economic factors were always a major influence.
Why then the extraordinary efforts by Republicans in election after election to get initiatives on ballots that targeted so-called “values voters” luring them to the polls? Krugman, a Clinton supporter, seems unwilling to admit just how telling those political games were and continue to be. In one case, after the last election, a daughter explained her parents’ unexpected vote for Bush whose presidency hadn’t yielded many benefits for them – – their issue: gay marriage. How that affected them or why the war, the economy or any number of other issues were of lesser concern is hard to say.
But when the truly momentous fails to engage, opponents will dredge up almost anything to cast doubts about a candidate’s motivation and associates – – basically to establish guilt by association no matter how remote or insubstantial. After having beaten the Pastor Jeremiah Wright story to death, for the moment anyway, comes the William Ayers connection if it can be called that. During the ‘60s when Ayers was active in the radical Weathermen group, Obama was eight years old. Today Ayers and his wife aren’t sitting on death row somewhere but on boards involved in civic enterprises, notably education. Still the media mavens have found a new person of interest on whom to focus attention and analysis as the public grows ever more exhausted and confused.
There’s an uneven quality to the attention given Obama with respect to his former connections with Chicago movers and shakers and the sorts of alliances that have been forged in the Clinton and McCain camps. Apparently the tremendous advantage of being black that Geraldine Ferraro referenced in remarks about Obama not so long ago hasn’t helped him avoid attacks the others have sidestepped. Among McCain supporters are known lobbyists and strange religious figures as campaign advisors, and his wife’s fortune is apparently none of the public’s business, though such details are rarely pursued with Obama intensity.
In one of the season’s more stunning developments Richard Mellon Scaife, long time right-wing Clinton antagonist, has endorsed Hillary. Claiming to have been impressed with a conversation the two had, and sharing a disaffection for the war in Iraq, he offered his public endorsement just days before the Pennsylvania primary. He must have decided to overlook her original decision to grant war powers to President Bush or her later vote to identify Iranian Special Forces as terrorists. He may sway a few votes her way – – hard to say how the Democratic base will react to his endorsement and her own negative comments about Moveon.org, a major supporter of Democratic causes.
In any case, attempts to cast doubt about Obama the man seem to have been successful in dimming his luster a bit. Interestingly, however, on the Bill Maher show last Friday, Jeremy Scahill (author of the book Blackwater) interviewed some average folk, notably “Bikers for Obama”, in which one of the men interviewed said he understood exactly what Obama meant when he spoke in San Francisco – – no explanation required.
Hopefully voters will be able to ignore the spin of political misanthropes and candidates will be honest enough to stop promising the moon; a star or two would be quite enough.