SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
If Barack Obama does win the Democratic nomination, he’s going to be subjected to intensified charges from the G.O.P. that he’s a closet Islamist, Black nationalist, anti-Semite and, most menacing of all, a flaming liberal. There’s no evidence to support any of those charges, but that doesn’t mean they won’t stick. In an article today that ran under the headline “In Obama’s New Message, Some Foes See Old Liberalism” the Washington Post previewed, and in some instances gave credence, to Republican charges about the Illinois senator’s dangerous lefty views. It’s well worth a read, as it offers a clear preview of what’s probably coming down the road this fall.
“Sen. Barack Obama offers himself as a post-partisan uniter who will solve the country’s problems by reaching across the aisle and beyond the framework of liberal and conservative labels he rejects as useless and outdated,” the story opens. “But as Obama heads into the final presidential primaries, Sen. John McCain and other Republicans have already started to brand him a standard-order left-winger, ‘a down-the-line liberal, as McCain strategist Charles R. Black Jr. put it, in a long line of Democratic White House hopefuls.” (As the piece notes, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is fueling such charges in a last ditch effort to deny Obama the nomination.)
All the charges were raising important questions, said the Post, like “[E]ven if he truly is a new kind of candidate, can he avoid being pigeonholed with an old label under sustained assault?” If the Post’s treatment is any indication, the answer is probably no.
“In most major areas, Obama has taken positions that would seem to conform to the Republican stereotype of a liberal,” the Post says. It also says that Obama “has opened the door to Republican caricature with his call to negotiate with hostile governments.” Actally, the Post opens the door to caricature by reducing to four words the question of whether the United States should be talking to countries like Iran and Syria. Obama’s suggestion that he would do so is hardly a radical idea and supported by many in the foreign-policy establishment.
Much of the piece doesn’t seriously analyze Obama’s policies, but in classic “he said, she said” style, offers Obama and his supporters denying that he’s too liberal while a number of Republicans claiming that he is. Peter H. Wehner, a Bush Administration veteran, is quoted as saying Obama “is vulnerable because he can point to no major area where he has broken with liberal orthodoxy, as Bill Clinton did with welfare reform in his 1992 campaign.” Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute adds, “He doesn’t have the appearance of a tax-and-spend liberal . . . but if the essence of being a tax-and-spend liberal is a lot of taxes and spending, that’s what he comes down to.”
For the McCain campaign, the Post piece is essentially a dream come true.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”