Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Repudiate this

Yesterday, I wrote about Bill Cunningham's disgusting remarks about Obama ( he had choice words about Clinton as well) as a rally for McCain. McCain said he would "make sure nothing like that ever happens again" and that he "repudiate[s] such comments." I expressed doubts that he would actually make sure that "nothing like that ever happens again." I wish I was wrong.

But, as Marc Ambiner pointed out, the Tennessee Republican Party released a statement on Monday with the headline, "Anti-Semites for Obama," which showed the photo of Obama in Somali clothing. The release referred to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama" and noted that Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam who has repeatedly made anti-semitic comments, endorsed Obama on Sunday. The release began with this:

The Tennessee Republican Party today joins a growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel, the only stable democracy in the Middle East, if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States.

I have a feeling McCain won't "repudiate such comments" now that they have been made by his party in Tennessee.

Update: I mistakenly said the press release from the Tennessee Republican Party was sent out Wednesday. It was Monday, and I have corrected the post. The difference in the timeline does not of course change my point. McCain should still, but likely won't, "repudiate" the press release.

Another Update: The Tennessee Republican Party has since removed the photograph and any use of Obama's middle name. There is a correction at the bottom of the release that says:

Clarification: This release originally referenced a photo of Sen. Obama and incorrectly termed it to be “”Muslim” garb. It is, in fact, Somali tribal garb, hence, we have deleted the photo. Also, in order to diffuse attempts by Democrats and the Left to divert attention from the main point of this release - that Sen. Obama has surrounded himself with advisers and recieved endorsements from people who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel - we have deleted the use of Barack Obama’s middle name.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clinton's new moment

Clinton was just asked about trade. The question came 15 minutes into the debate after another lively discussion about health care. She looked annoyed at the question and took the opportunity to make what I'm sure was a planned statement.

She referenced a Saturday Night Live skit and said that it was interesting that she always gets the first question. She joked that Obama should have a pillow and pointedly suggested that he gets soft questions.

It was scripted. It was awkward. Everyone, including Obama, looked surprised at the statement. The previously silent audience offered a few boos.

Maybe the rest of the debate will produce a more telling moment, but I doubt it. Until now, I think the talk of her campaign's turmoil have been overblown. I don't believe that she is in as dire a position as the media says she is. But given that, she just bombed. She looked desperate, and I think this was the moment that will define what may be the last serious week of her debate.

I'll put up a transcript when it's available, with a youtube clip sure to follow, though I have a feeling this will be played so often that we will all know this by heart by Thursday.


Theories are everywhere on the blogs about who pushed the photo of Obama in Somali garb to Drudge. I've seen claims that it was Clinton, that it was a Republican outfit of some sort and even that it was the Obama campaign. I don't have a theory myself, though I find it hard to believe it was Obama. But one thing is for sure: these are the kind of things we are going to see a lot of if Obama wraps up the nomination.

The Washington Post reported that at a McCain rally in Ohio, a right-wing talk show host, Bill Cunningham, repeatedly referred to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama." From the article:

He used Obama's middle name two more times and referred to him as "a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who's picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you're going to have in your pocket is change."

He then mocked foreign policy statements of "Barack Hussein Obama," calling him the "fraud from Chicago" and saying that if Obama were to be elected president he would meet with the leaders of enemy nations. He said the "world leaders who want to kill us" will be "singing Kumbaya together around the table with Barack Obama."

The article said McCain did not respond to Cunningham's comments, but that he later said he will "make sure nothing like that ever happens again" and said "I absolutely repudiate such comments." I have a hard time believing the former.

The photo

Unfortunately, it's become a thing. The photo is being shown over and over again on the cables. The hosts on MSNBC this morning have repeatedly said the discussion is stupid but they say they must talk about it now because the photo is "out there." (Of course, they are largely the reason it's "out there," but that's a post for another day.)

The photo is there, and no one seems to want to take responsibility for it getting there. The Clinton campaign has been quick to say that Obama should not get so defensive because there's nothing to be ashamed of. It's true that he has nothing to be ashamed of, but it's also perfectly understandable that he would get so defensive.

Since he entered the race a year ago, there has been a growing storyline about Obama's connections to Muslims. I hate to say it, but this has striking similarities to the Swift Boat attacks. Like those against Kerry, these accusations are baseless and absurd.

I don't know how this will play out, and I certainly hope that it has no impact on the election. But I'm not so naive to believe that that is true. It means something. You can't take the picture away. It's already "out there."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Deja vu

He's doing it again. Ralph Nader says the Democrats and Republicans haven't done enough to fight the big corporations. He says someone needs to stand up for the consumer. So he's running for president.

The announcement began a series of groans from the left and quiet cheers from the right. Both sides thought of 2000 and remembered that Nader helped their guy lose or win. Maybe he'll do it again, they thought. People will go back and think Nader is the reason we're in Iraq; Nader is the reason John Roberts and Sam Alito on are on the bench; Nader is the reason our phones are being tapped; Nader is the reason we are torturing people.

But that's all sour grapes. Clearly, I would have preferred that Gore won in 2000, and the vast majority of this country is sick and tired of the Bush administration. But I don't buy that it's Nader's fault.

Even more importantly, if the Democrats lose in 2008, it won't be because of Ralph Nader. He won 3 million votes nationwide in 2000 and just half a million in 2004. The country is so angry with George Bush and the Republicans, that I can't imagine he would improve on that in 2008. And if he does, it will be from the portion of the electorate that wouldn't vote in an election with just a Republican and a Democrat.

In announcing his candidacy yesterday, Nader said: "If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form."