Sunday, November 02, 2008

Exhuming McCarthy

Kevin Drum runs down all the various names that Republicans have called Obama over the past few months: anti-semitic, anti-American, Marxist, socialist, extreme afrocentrist, who pals around with terrorists. (Update: also, traitor.) Terrorist fist jab. There's a lot of 'guilt by association' here, and not a little bit of nudging innuendo about the guy with the foreign sounding name. At least the socialist stuff is marginally topical (if absurd). I'm reminded of this great R.E.M. song, Exhuming McCarthy:

"You're honorable, more honorable than me
Loyal to the Bank of America."

The sleaziest attack has to be this latest one on the respected middle-east historian Rashid Khalidi. I heard Khalidi talk a few times at U of C -- he's very thoughtful and obviously knows his stuff. Of course, he's a vocal (some would say militant) advocate for Palestinian independence, which is apparently a hugely controversial stance for a Palestinian-American to take. Indeed, John McCain compared Khalidi to a neo-Nazi.

At any rate, it is not Obama's position we're talking about here. This collegial connection with a fellow faculty member is supposed to "raise questions" about Obama in the minds of voters. (It is honestly hard to believe there are questions about either candidate left to be raised. After 18 months of non-stop campaigning I feel like I know more than enough about both of 'em. "Raising questions" is code for "making slimy, unsubstantiated claims about my opponent without coming right out and saying anything directly.")

I'd say the same thing about Jeremiah Wright (and even William Ayers). We shouldn't penalize public figures for listening to or befriending people with views outside the mainstream. For eight years we've had a president who has surrounded himself with yes-men and lives in a bubble free from any criticism. It hasn't worked out.
The Washington Post editorial on the whole affair states, "Our sense is that Mr. Obama is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position."

Its been fairly depressing to watch the descent of John McCain into negativity. Before this whole election started I had a fair bit of respect for McCain. I didn't agree with him on much, but I felt that he stood above some of the lamer aspects of modern politics, like its obsession with soundbites, talking points, "message of the day," as well as the smears and negative campaigning. I guess that's all gone now, maybe it was never there to begin with. A big election made of small things.

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