Thursday, October 30, 2008

Barack Obama as Straw Man, Part Two: 'We Still Don't Know the Real Barack Obama'

If the suspicion surrounding the early days of Barack Obama's candidacy weren't bad enough, the fact that the 'stranger' card is still being played is puzzling, if not suspect. Some of the nastiest rumors about Barack Obama started in the earliest days of his campaign, at a time when most people truly did not know about his family life, his home life, or his political life. Rumors can fester quite easily when a candidate is fresh on the scene. But the fact that these rumors are still being stoked by the insinuations of very prominent conservative writers and politicians gives one pause.

After nearly two years of vetting and investigative reporting, columnists like Charles Krathammer still make the following statements in his August 29 piece, Self-Made Man or Mysterioius Stranger?:
“The oddity of [the Democratic National Convention] is that its central figure is the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby. The palpable apprehension is that the anointed is a stranger -- a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger with whom the Democrats had a torrid affair. Having slowly woken up, they see the ring and wonder who exactly they married last night."
Barack Obama is a cunning outsider with unclear motivations, as the Gatsby metaphor goes.

Thomas Sowell has simialrly, and more recently made similar arguments about Obama's character and readiness to lead while making this statement about what we know of the man. Starting the piece by calling Obama a 'phony' and 'dangerous,' he states:
“Of the four people running for President and Vice President on the Republican and Democratic tickets, the one we know the least about is the one leading in the polls-- Barack Obama.”
Sowell goes on to make historical comparisons of people putting faith in inspiring leaders sush as Jim Jones, Hitler, and Communist Russia. Again despite alomst two years on the campaign trail, in the public spotlight, Barack Obama is being called a mysterious man with questionable motives.

Just one week ago, Victor Davis Hanson continued to push the meme, calling Barack Obama an 'enigma' and 'the most unknown presidential candidate in its history."

Of course, calling a candidate unknown is not negative, per se. But these allegations fly in the face of two years of hard campaigning in which Barack Obama has opened up his life, political and personal, to public scrutiny. All of his policy positions are publicly available and backed up with experience where applicable. He has even established a website to fight smears about his person, releasing his birth certificate and giving more intimate details of his life to stop operations at the rumor mill. All the information these columnists need is out there.

The problem arises when an environment exists like today's. When so many myths about Barack Obama float across the worldwide web and and are passed in conversation from neighbor to neighbor, a prominent columnist can easily stoke the flames by making such adamant claims about what we know and do not know about a man. These articles have been relatively inspecific in detailing where they would like more information from the Obama campaign. Instead they make blanket statements where many readers are able to fill in the blanks.

So maybe John McCain isn't wrong to ask, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" But when the answer is screamed to his face--"Terrorist!"-- we know where some people's minds are. And we know why continuing to claim that Obama is an unknown, a stranger, an outsider, is dangerous.

This leads me to my next topic of the prospects for the next four years and how an Obama presidency will be received. Stay tuned.

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