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American elections are a powerful drug: they bring delusions of omnipotence. All that talk of “change” and “hope” brings demands for swift action: “Do it now,” “first six months,” “hundred days.” The economic crisis may indeed demand speed, but in foreign policy the reality is that, on the afternoon of Jan. 20, President Obama will face the same challenges that President Bush did that morning. And none presents much opportunity for bold new initiatives.
That’s fortunate. Incoming presidents making big decisions in a hurry is a surefire recipe for error. Think JFK and the Bay of Pigs. More recently, George W. Bush’s reflexive ditching of the Clinton administration’s strategy on North Korea was a misstep it has taken years to retrieve.
The foreign-policy and national-security inbox shows that, even on pressing issues, Obama has the luxury of time. A quick overview:
Iraq. Obama has pledged to withdraw U.S. troops. But that’s already getting under way. At issue still: the pace of the drawdown, a date for final disengagement and the number of U.S. troops who should then remain as last-ditch guarantors of a democratic government in Baghdad. No Iraqi politician is going to be able to engage seriously on those topics until after their own elections next fall.
The McCain campaign has been throwing around so much mud and smears in recent weeks that it’s easy to miss just how ugly and shameful their character assassination of Rashid Khalidi is. This is an entirely respectable, highly respected scholar. To go further into making a case for him would only be to enable and indulge McCain’s sordid appeal to racism. For McCain, personally, to compare Khalidi to a neo-nazi, it’s just an offense McCain should never be forgiven for. It’s right down in the gutter with Joe McCarthy and the worst of the worst. Khalidi is in this new McCain set piece for one reason — as a generic Arab, to spur the idea that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim.
Here’s a video John Judis did at The New Republic on McCain’s latest low …
The all-out effort from John McCain’s presidential campaign to scare voters into backing the Republican candidate continued apace on Tuesday as McCain surrogate Joe the Plumber agreed that a Barack Obama presidency would mean the “death of Israel” and end democracy in America.
The Ohio plumber, who has no license and is actually named Samuel Wurzelbacher, spoke at a McCain campaign event in Columbus Monday. A McCain supporter asked if “a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel.” JTP hardly batted an eye.
“I’ll go ahead and agree with you on that,” Wurzelbacher said.
The push-back against Wurzelbacher’s comments began, somewhat unexpectedly, at Fox News.
The network noted that the McCain campaign seemed hesitant to distance itself from Wurzelbacher. Correspondent Carl Cameron said that the McCain campaign was going to put out an ad today criticizing Obama policies on Israel.
“Just a coincidence?” he asked. “We report you decide.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, Shepard Smith pressed Wurzelbacher on his comments, reminding the woefully misinformed McCain backer that Obama has consistently voiced support for Israel. Pressed several times to explain how he could agree with the conclusion that Obama would lead to the death of the Jewish state, Wurzelbacher was unable to come up with any good reasons aside from Obama’s position in favor of negotiating with rogue regimes such as Iran.
“You don’t want my opinion on foreign policy,” Wurzelbacher said. “I know just enough to kind of be dangerous.”
Smith seemed to agree with that assessment, implying that the only source for Wurzelbacher and the supporter’s concern was “hateful things spread on the Internet.” The host clearly worried that Wurzelbacher’s endorsement of such a view might inspire violence against the candidate.
Why, Smith asked, would Wurzelbacher believe Obama was lying when he spoke of the importance of Israel’s relationship with the United States.
Wurzelbacher was flummoxed. All he could offer was an appeal for people to “go out and find their own reasons … go out and get informed.”
If only the “plumber” had bothered to take his own advice before jumping onto the national stage. Smith, for his part, made sure to set his audience straight on the facts.
“I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear, Barack Obama has said repeatedly and demonstrated repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend of the United States, no matter what happens once he becomes President of the United States, his words,” Smith said after the interview ended. “The rest of it, man, it just gets frightening sometimes.”
Unvetted Joe the Plumber: Vote for Obama ‘death to Israel’
In Ohio, Wurzelbacher went on to reiterate McCain’s attempts to paint Obama as a socialist, The Associated Press reports.
“I’m honestly scared for America,” Wurzelbacher said.
He later said Obama would end the democracy that the U.S. military had defended during wars.
“I love America. I hope it remains a democracy, not a socialist society. … If you look at spreading the wealth, that’s honestly right out of Karl Marx’s mouth,” Wurzelbacher said.
“No one can debate that. That’s not my opinion. That’s fact.”
McCain’s campaign has used the “spread the wealth” line to attack Obama ever since the Democratic candidate used it to inartfully describe his tax proposals.
The attempts to compare Obama’s relatively modest restructuring of the progressive tax system to Marxism strikes most reasonable observers as patently absurd, but the attack seems to be all the foundering McCain campaign has left. Obama’s proposal would raise the tax rate on income above $250,000 from 36 to 39 percent and lower taxes for middle-class Americans.
McCain’s campaign also has heavily courted Jewish voters, who will be a crucial voting bloc in Florida and other swing states.
Wurzelbacher’s agreement that Obama would portend the death of Israel, though, seems to go beyond rhetoric the McCain campaign has employed so far. Until Tuesday, that kind of fear-mongering was mostly limited to right-wing blogs.
The McCain campaign said Wurzelbacher and the supporter’s views were there own regarding Israel, but they did not forcefully repudiate the attack, Fox News’s Carl Cameron reported just after the rally.
A Republican National Committee spokesman later gave Fox a longer statement that largely skirted the issue.
“While he’s clearly his own man, so far Joe has offered some penetrating and clear analysis that cuts to the core of many of the concerns that people have with Barack Obama’s statements and policies,” RNC spokesman Jeff Sadosky said. “Whether it is Obama’s willingness to sit down unconditionally with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or his plans to redistribute the paychecks of hardworking Americans, there is good reason to question the judgment that Obama would bring to the Oval Office.”
Cameron noted the statement “doesn’t say whether or not McCain agrees” with Wurzelbacher and the supporter and said McCain “won’t go too far” to distance himself from the man who’s become a campaign centerpiece.
Source: Raw Story
Does Sarah Palin believe in the Anti-Christ? Does she believe true Christians will be whisked up to heaven sometime in the near future? Does she expect Jesus to come back to earth in our lifetimes and battle the armies of Satan? Would biblical prophecies about Armageddon influence her foreign policy positions on Israel and Russia? These are urgent questions the media have failed to ask. According to Chip Berlet, a leading expert on the Christian right, mainstream reporters tend to view apocalyptic fundamentalists as a “silly little side show” in American political life, when, in fact, one of their own may soon be a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the world.
I’m of two minds about how to deal with the McCain campaign’s further descent into ugliness. Their strategy is simple: you throw crap against a wall and then giggle as the media try to analyze the putresence in a way that conveys a sense of balance: “Well, it is bull-pucky, but the splatter pattern is interesting…” which, of course, only serves to get your perverse message out. I really don’t want to be a part of that. But…every so often, we journalists have a duty to remind readers just how dingy the McCain campaign, and its right-wing acolytes in the media (I’m looking at you, Sean Hannity) have become–especially in their efforts to divert public attention from the economic crisis we’re facing. And so inept at it: other campaigns have decided that their only shot is going negative, but usually they don’t announce it, as several McCain aides have in recent days–there’s no way we can win on the economy, so we’re going to go sludge-diving.
But since we are dealing with manure here, I’ll put the rest of this post below the fold.
It is appropriate that the prime vessel for this assault is Sarah Palin, whose very presence on a national ticket is an insult to your intelligence. She now has “credibility,” we are told, because she managed to read talking points off notecards in the debate last week with unwitting enthusiasm.
Over the weekend, she picked up on an article in The New York Times, which essentially says that Barack Obama and the former terrorist Bill Ayers have crossed paths in Chicago, served on a couple of charitable boards together, but aren’t particularly close. To Palin–or her scriptwriters–this means that Obama has been “palling around” with terrorists. Now, I wish Ayers had done some serious jail time; he certainly needed to pay some penance for his youthful criminality–even if most people in Chicago, including the mayor, have decided that he has something of value to say about education. But I can also understand how Obama, who was a child when Ayers was cutting his idiot swath, would not quite understand the enormity of the professor’s background. (I got to know Alger Hiss twenty years after the fact–he was a printing salesman then, a friend of my father’s–and thought of him as a sweet old man, if a good deal more liberal than dad’s other friends.)
In any case, this is rather rich coming from Palin, who is married to a man who belonged to a political party–the Alaskan Independence Party–that wanted to secede from the union. (I should add here that the Times may have been overreacting to the McCain campaign’s attack on its fairness here: the Ayers story was a nothingburger, but it was placed prominently in the top left hand corner of page one–a position that would seem to indicate that it contained important news, which it didn’t.)
Then we have the ever-reliable Bill Kristol, in today’s New York Times, advising Palin to bring up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Palin, of course, believes that’s a darn good idea:
“To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”
So then, I’d guess, it would be appropriate to bring up some of the nuttiness that passes for godliness in Palin’s religious life. Leave aside the fact that The Embarracuda allowed herself to participate in a cermony that protected her from witchcraft, how about her presence–she didn’t “get up and leave”– at a sermon by the founder of Jews for Jesus, who argued that the Palestinian terrorist acts against Israel were God’s “judgment” on the Jews because they hadn’t accepted Jesus.
Speaking of Jews, the ever-execrable Sean Hannity has been having intercourse with a known Jew-hater named Andy Martin, who now wants to expose Barack Obama as a Muslim. According to the Washington Times:
In 1986, when Mr. Martin ran as a Democrat for Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District seat under the name “Anthony R. Martin-Trigona,” his campaign committee filed papers saying its purpose was to “exterminate Jew power in America and impeach U.S. District Court of Appeals judges in New York City.”
Calling all Podhoretzs! Where’s the outrage? I mean, don’t the hateful doings at Palin’s church and Hannity’s perfidy deserve a lengthy exegesis from Pete Wehner or Jennifer Rubin or one of the other empretzled ideologues over at Commentary?
As I said, I’m of two minds about this. I don’t want to give currency to this sewage, so it will remain below the fold. And I’ll try to devote the lion’s share of my time to the issues–the war, the economic crisis, the fraying health insurance system, the environment–that should define this campaign. But what a desperate empty embarrassment the McCain campaign has become.