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The thematic structure of the right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama
from Media Matters
As the means of communication have evolved, presidential campaigns have grown increasingly multifaceted, with each election featuring layers of complexity that were not present four years before. The most striking feature of the 2008 election may be the sheer volume and variation of the attacks being directed at Sen. Barack Obama. Though they come from many sources, arrive through a variety of media, and cover a wide range of subjects, a close examination reveals a unified thematic structure to these attacks.
Text only version.
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As has been extensively documented, many of the criticisms Obama has faced are based on outright falsehoods. The truth is that he is a Christian, not a Muslim; he was born in the United States; he doesn’t refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance; he wasn’t endorsed by Fidel Castro; and so on. Other attacks are outrageous distortions with a kernel of truth at their core.
The diagram below shows how the seemingly disconnected attacks on Obama all drive in a similar direction. Each begins with some aspect of Obama’s history, family, personal characteristics, or beliefs. The attack then moves to one of three broad themes: that Obama is a Muslim or somehow foreign; that he represents a black radicalism more at home in the 1960s than today; or that he is a liberal elitist with a radical, even socialist agenda.
Some of the attacks touch on two or even all three of these themes, which is why they are represented in a Venn diagram. But all the attacks ultimately point to the conclusion that Obama is “not one of us,” as the expression goes — not Christian, not white, not mainstream, not even American.
Just as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth unleashed on the public a dossier of lies about John Kerry in 2004, this new campaign is on a mission to spread misinformation about a presidential candidate. We call it “Swiftboating 2.0” not only because it is the latest model of a political smear campaign, but also because it shares features of “Web 2.0” sites like Facebook and MySpace: significant portions of the content are generated by ordinary people and are spread from peer to peer. Swiftboating 2.0 combines these new information pathways with traditional media — books from conservative publishers, right-wing radio, and conservative pundits and strategists on television — to spread the smears as widely as possible and force them into the mainstream media.
To understand the attacks on Obama, one must acknowledge that they operate together, as one coherent, thematically unified campaign: Swiftboating 2.0.
DENVER (CBS4/AP) ― CBS4 has learned at least four people are under arrest in connection with a possible plot to kill Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech in Denver. All are being held on either drug or weapons charges.
CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass reported one of the suspects told authorities they were “going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a … rifle … sighted at 750 yards.”
Law enforcement sources tell Maass that one of the suspects “was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative.”
The story began emerging Sunday morning when Aurora police arrested 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell. He was driving a rented pickup truck in an erratic manner according to sources.
Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, wigs, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and 44 grams of methamphetamine. One of the rifles is listed as stolen from Kansas.
Aurora police alerted federal officials because of heightened security surrounding the Democratic convention, Dudley said.
“Clearly we found there are federal implications — otherwise we would not have notified them,” Det. Marcus Dudley with Aurora police said. “The weapons clearly would cause great concern.”
Subsequently authorities went to the Cherry Creek Hotel to contact an associate of Gartrell’s. But that man, identified as Shawn Robert Adolph, 33, who was wanted on numerous warrants, jumped out of a sixth floor hotel window. Law enforcement sources say Adolph broke an ankle in the fall and was captured moments later. Sources say he had a handcuff ring and was wearing a swastika, and is thought to have ties to white supremacist organizations.
A third man — an associate of Gartrell and Adolph, Nathan Johnson, 32, was also arrested. He told authorities that the two men “planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech.”
Johnson, along with his girlfriend, Natasha Gromek, are also under arrest on drug charges.
The Secret Service, FBI, ATF and the joint terrorism task force are all investigating the alleged plot.
The U.S. Attorneys Office has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon. The U.S. Attorney in Denver said it does not believe there is a credible threat to Obama or the convention.
“It’s premature to say that it was a valid threat or that these folks have the ability to carry it out,” said a U.S. government official familiar with the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said the case was under investigation.
“We’re absolutely confident there is no credible threat to the candidate, the Democratic National Convention, or the people of Colorado,” Eid said in a prepared statement.
from the AP Press at Google News
DENVER (AP) — Barack Obama is striking back fiercely and swiftly to stamp out an ad that links him to a 1960s radical, eager to demonstrate a far more aggressive response to attacks than John Kerry did when faced with the 2004 “Swift Boat” campaign.
Obama not only aired a response ad to the spot linking him to William Ayers, but he sought to block stations the commercial by warning station managers and asking the Justice Department to intervene. The campaign also planned to compel advertisers to pressure stations that continue to air the anti-Obama commercial.
It’s the type of going-for-the-jugular approach to politics many Democrats complain that Kerry lacked and that Republicans exploit.
Obama’s target is an ad by the conservative American Issues Project, a nonprofit group that questions Obama’s ties to Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground organization that took credit for a series of bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol four decades ago.
The lone financier of the anti-Obama ad, Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, was also one of the main funders of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who targeted Kerry. Simmons, a McCain fundraiser, contributed nearly $2.9 million to the American Issues Project, according to documents filed by the group with the Federal Election Commission.
Fox News and CNN have declined to air the anti-Obama ad. But by Monday afternoon, the ad had run about 150 times in local markets in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan, according to Evan Tracey, head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, an ad tracking firm.
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama supporters have inundated stations that are airing the ad, many of them owned by Sinclair Communications, with 93,000 e-mails. He called the ad false, despicable and outrageous.
“Other stations that follow Sinclair’s lead should expect a similar response from people who don’t want the political discourse cheapened with these false, negative attacks,” Vietor said.
Sinclair offices were closed late Monday and officials there could not be immediately contacted.
“It seems they protest a bit too much,” American Issues Project spokesman Christian Pinkston said. “They’re going all of these routes — through threats, intimation — to try to thwart the First Amendment here because they don’t have an argument on merit.”
Ayers is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He and Obama live in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and served together on the board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based charity that develops community groups to help the poor. Obama left the board in December 2002.
Obama also was the first chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school reform group of which Ayers was a founder. Ayers also held a meet-the-candidate event at his home for Obama when Obama first ran for office in the mid-1990s.
Obama has denounced Ayers’ past activities.
“Barack Obama is friends with Ayers, defending him as, quote, ‘Respectable’ and ‘Mainstream,'” the group’s ad states. “Obama’s political career was launched in Ayers’ home. And the two served together on a left-wing board. Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it? Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama?”
In a letter to station managers, Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer wrote: “Your station is committed to operating in the public interest, an objective that cannot be satisfied by accepting for compensation material of such malicious falsity.”
Bauer also wrote to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney, noting that the ad is a “knowing and willful attempt to evade the strictures of federal election law.”
The campaign’s aggressive tactics could draw more attention to a subject the campaign wants to go away. On Tuesday, the University of Illinois at Chicago will make available records of Obama’s service on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The group was set up to improve the city’s schools. The documents could shed further light on whether Obama and Ayers had a relationship.
The American Issues Project is a 501(c)4 nonprofit corporation. It is permitted by law to air a political ad provided that the majority of its spending is nonpolitical. It cannot accept money from corporations and it must identify the donors that finance its ads in reports to the Federal Election Commission. Pinkston said the group has set aside money to carry out non-election related work to meet the legal requirements. It filed a report identifying Simmons as its sole donor for the ad last week.
In the Obama campaign’s own response ad, an announcer states: “With all our problems, why is John McCain talking about the 60s, trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers. McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes, committed when Obama was just 8 years old.”
The McCain campaign cannot coordinate efforts with outside groups. But the campaign took advantage of being the target of the response ad.
“The fact that Barack Obama chose to launch his political career at the home of an unrepentant terrorist raises more questions about Senator Obama’s judgment than any TV ad ever could,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Sen. Ted Kennedy will be honored tonight at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado. His nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for helping lead the fight against Hudson River pollution. Robert Kennedy describes his uncle Ted as “the most reliable leader in the Senate on energy and environmental issues. He’s a guy I always go to for advice and support when we’re working on federal legislation.” This is one in a series of commentary pieces on CNN.com from both McCain and Obama supporters attending party conventions.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says the U.S. has tremendous energy resources, including wind and solar.
(CNN) — Barack Obama is a transformational figure in American history who’s been able to excite the same intensity of feeling among Americans as I saw during my father’s 1968 campaign and my uncle John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign.
As a six-year-old, I attended the Democratic Convention in 1960 and traveled across the country in the Caroline K [the Kennedy campaign plane].
The excitement I saw then is echoed today as Barack Obama outlines his plans to get the nation moving in the right direction, to restore America’s role as an exemplary nation.
America’s dependence on carbon to produce energy has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and marred our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value.
A sophisticated, well-crafted energy policy designed to de-carbonize America is the centerpiece of Sen. Barack Obama’s domestic economic package.
It will sharpen our competitiveness by reducing our energy costs, dramatically reduce our national debt, stimulate our economy far more effectively than tax cuts by putting conservation savings in the hands of every American, and be the engine for creating millions of green-collar jobs that cannot be outsourced.
Obama understands, as John McCain does not, that an intelligent energy policy is also the natural fulcrum for U.S. foreign policy and national security. As Obama has warned, “One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil. We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut.” See McCain and Obama energy plans
Obama’s policy, which anticipates eliminating imports by 2012 or earlier, is feasible and desirable. Respected economists and energy industry entrepreneurs, high-level business representatives from Fortune 500 companies and large investors are already enlisting to invest in the infrastructure to facilitate the transition.
Every nation that has taken serious steps to de-carbonize its energy portfolio has reaped immediate economic growth. Sweden announced in 2006 the phase-out of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991, the Swedes enacted a carbon tax — now up to $150 a ton — closed two nuclear reactors, and still dropped greenhouse emissions to 5 tons per person, compared with the U.S. per-capita rate of 20 tons.
Thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun and the tides, and from wood chips, agricultural waste and garbage. Growth rates climbed and the heavily taxed Swedish economy is now the world’s eighth richest by gross domestic product.
Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe. Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy independent, and according to the International Monetary Fund is now the fourth most affluent nation on Earth.
There are many other examples: Brazil’s efforts to de-carbonize its transportation system has resulted in the largest and most robust economic expansion in its history.
The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind. Solar installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation’s electricity needs even if every American owned an electric car.
Obama’s vision of de-carbonizing our economy begins with a market-based carbon cap-and-trade system designed to put downward pressure on carbon emissions. He will invest billions to revamp the nation’s antiquated high-voltage power transmission system and press for cost-saving building and appliance standards that would cut our energy demand by half.
For a tiny fraction of the projected cost of the Iraq war, we could completely wean the country from carbon. Homes and businesses will become power plants as people cash in by installing solar panels and wind turbines on their buildings, and selling the stored energy in their plug-in hybrids back to the grid at peak hours. By kicking its carbon addiction, America will increase its national wealth. Everyone will profit from the green gold rush.
We will create a decentralized and highly distributable grid that is far more resilient and safe for our country; a terrorist might knock out a power plant, but never a million homes. And for the first time in half a century, we will live free from Middle Eastern wars and entanglements with petty tyrants who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.
(Political Animal) MCCAIN TRIES THE ‘CHICKEN PRANK’…. For the second time in two days, the McCain campaign has unveiled a television ad intended to drive a wedge between Hillary Clinton’s supporters and the candidate Hillary Clinton endorses and agrees with. In the new one, which the media is no doubt going to love, we see a former Clinton delegate from Wisconsin, touting her support for John McCain, and encouraging her other Democrats to follow her.
Now, I can’t begin to relate to what this woman is thinking. As recently as a couple of months ago, she wanted the nation to move in one direction; now she prefers the opposite direction. She preferred a progressive approach on key issues; now she prefers a conservative approach. She wanted a break away from the policies of George W. Bush; now she wants four more years like the last eight. I’m not even going to pretend to understand why.
But before the networks take the ad too seriously, they should consider an anecdote about the “chicken prank” from TNR’s Eve Fairbanks.
I almost feel like a dupe writing about the second pro-Hillary ad McCain released today at 6am: It’s a stunt, a trick meant to keep him in the press during the Democratic convention and gin up more Hillary-Obama-tension media storylines. Message: neener neener neener. It is, in fact, the political equivalent of a prank legendarily pulled at my high school in which students procured well fewer than 20 live chickens, numbered them 1 through 20 with magic markers (leaving some numbers out), set them loose, and then sat back and gleefully watched as hapless school officials ran around the school searching for the remaining missing chickens that had never actually existed.
Nobody knows how much truly dangerous anti-Obama sentiment exists among former Hillary supporters or how many Hillary delegates will vote for John McCain in November (this past June, McCain said that the woman in today’s ad, Wisconsin nurse Debra Bartoshevich, was the only Hillary delegate they knew of who was committed to pull the lever for McCain). But I guarantee some of us in the press will spend today haplessly running around looking for more of them out here, to fill out our stories about this ad and the angry-Hillary-brigades-hit-Denver storyline.
The vast majority of Democrats, especially those who found Hillary Clinton’s campaign appealing, will simply have no rational reason to do what Bartoshevich has inexplicably done. But to use Fairbanks’ metaphor, I also don’t doubt that the race for additional chickens is on.
For what it’s worth, while the McCain campaign is touting support from Bartoshevich, be prepared to hear more about high-profile Republicans throwing their support to Barack Obama.