October 10, 2008

Terrorist By Association

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“Kill Him!”


Sounds like someone must have betrayed the United States in a horrible way, doesn’t it? Maybe sold secrets to an enemy, put American soldiers in danger on purpose, something like that. Whoever it is must surely deserve those words, right? Otherwise, why say them?

Disgustingly, the words refer not to some despicable example of a human being that cares little for people or his country, but to Barack Obama. What’s more, they were said at a GOP rallies in Florida and New Mexico, during speeches by Sarah Palin and John McCain:

The “kill him” one, recounted here was shocking enough that the secret service is looking into it as a threat on Obama’s life.

The incendiary comments are more than a little jarring. But, McCain’s and Palin’s other remarks are even more unnerving. Their attacks make Obama sound like someone to fear, someone who is planning to drag America down through the lowest dregs of hell. Of course, that’s the point of a smear campaign; make your opponent look bad enough that you look good by comparison. It’s a petty tactic, but it is often successful.

This isn’t to say that Obama is completely innocent; he’s had his share of smear tactics, especially in harping on McCain’s old age and erratic, unstable behavior. But there he has nothing on par with McCain’s.

Look at the way the McCain campaign has tried to exploit Obama’s loose connection to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers. The Weather Underground was a domestic terrorist group active in the early 1970s. But now Ayers is a tenured professor at the University of Illinois. The McCain camp alleges that Obama is a terrorist by proxy in associating with Ayers. Forget that Obama was eight years old when the Weather Underground was active, or that Ayers is now considered an education expert and was voted Chicago’s 1997 “Citizen of the Year.” Obama’s only really tangible connection to Ayers is that they served on a board of anti-poverty group from 1999 to 2002. Ayers also contributed $200 to Obama’s campaign for his Senate re-election campaign.

So, it is a little ironic that Cindy McCain has said “waged the dirtiest campaign in American history,” when her husband’s campaign is managing to incite to racism and xenophobia in people by allowing people at the rally to refer to Obama derisively as “Barack HUSSEIN Obama.”

If we were to apply the same logic that a person becomes a terrorist by association, then Ms. Palin herself would also be guilty as charged. Potential “First Dude” Todd Palin, Sarah Palin’s husband, was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party for seven years. At the reigns of the AIP, a secessionist party, was Joe Vogler, who according to Salon is a raging anti-American whose defining moment was supposed to be a speech at the United Nations where he denounced the U.S in 1993. His message was sponsored by Iran. Vogler never got to deliver the speech— he was murdered by a fellow party member. But as recently as this year, Palin gave a “shout out” to the AIP in one her public appearances.

The name calling is wrong on several levels. One, it’s an attempt to tie Obama in with foreign terrorists and wrongdoers—like Saddam Hussein. Two, it’s teasing someone on basis of their name, which is pretty childish and pathetic. Three, it implies that having a name like Hussein and being associated with Islam is bad. I am at a loss as to understand how the third problem even exists, let alone that it is deplorable. The United States is supposed to be a place of tolerance and freedom. And now these advocates of the United States–people who act as if standard-bearers for freedom in the world–are allowing, heck embracing, criticism of an opponent that is intolerant of his background, condemning him for carrying the name of his father. There must be a reason for such behavior. The general consensus among the hated mainstream media is that it’s a last ditch measure to stop Obama from completely overrunning McCain. That’s an understandable fear:

Even with the data, though, you have to wonder why McCain continues on this path. People on the left and the right are criticizing his tactics and behavior as a new low for election politics. George Will expresses the problem well.

Call it petty, call it disrespectful, or call it poor sportsmanship. All three can certainly be argued. But it cannot be disputed that McCain’s tactics are one thing: ineffective.

(Side note: What is with Palin’s recent shout-outs? Another attempt to foist her cutesy folk charm onto all of us? But seriously, these have got to stop. We’re not in high school anymore. The election trail isn’t a pep-rally contrary to her belief.)