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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by reaching across the aisle and beyond the framework of liberal and conservative labels he rejects as useless and outdated,” the story opens.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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”