Loathing of fear on the campaign trail, Part Two

Last week, I wrote about how the MSM, Newsweek in this instance, is preparing the media battlefield on behalf of Barack Obama. In Newsweek’s telling, the tough but stoically mild-mannered Obama is about to face an “onslaught” from a Republican party that has been “successfully scaring voters since 1968.” By perpetuating the “politics of fear” meme, Newsweek hopes that criticism of Obama will be viewed as just a continuation of a forty year history of illegitimate argumentation.

Newsweek’s (and Obama’s) biggest concern at this point is with the role Obama’s long and close association with Jeremiah Wright will play in the general election. Newsweek therefore attempts to rule this specific issue out of bounds. This effort is as laughable as its bogus history of the last 40 years, and more transparently so.

Newsweek begins by casting the question as whether McCain ” can—or really wants to—rein in the merchants of slime and sellers of hate who populate the Internet and fund the ‘independent expenditure’ groups who exercise their freedom in ways that give a bad name to free speech.” These folks, according to Newsweek, intend to play the race card against Obama. Yet Newsweek presents no evidence that anyone with a meaningful audience on the internet, or any independent expenditure group, has engaged in racist tactics or attacks against Obama (the best Newsweek can do is cite a Hillary Clinton operative who, in an effort to stave off Clinton’s inevitable defeat, says the party should nominate her to avoid such attacks). Instead, Newsweek encourages readers to conclude that anyone who brings up Obama’s association with Rev. Wright is playing the race card. It does so even though Obama himself has said the association is a legitimate matter of interest.

It is, of course, Wright’s explicit attacks on, and hatred for, the U.S. — which Obama himself has finally agreed are beyond the pale — that make him an issue. Does Newsweek imagine that, if Obama had a similarly close association with a white minister (say a religious version of Bill Ayers), his critics would not be emphasizing that relationship?

Newsweek goes on breathlessly to inform us that team Obama “has a plan for the coming mud war.” That plan is “to put McCain on the spot.” Here’s how:

[I]f McCain’s camp does try to exploit Obama’s ties to the fiery Reverend Wright, the Obama-ites can question his sincerity—is he really the “Straight Talk” candidate? And if McCain can’t stop others from the sort of innuendo and code that [in Newsweek’s view]Republicans have learned to frighten voters, Obama can cast doubt on McCain’s credentials as a commander in chief. (“In other words,” says liberal political pundit Mark Shields, “they can say that McCain is either a hypocrite or impotent.”)

The problems with this strategy are obvious to anyone not overcome by wishful thinking. First, as noted, Obama himself has said that his association with Wright is a matter of legitimate interest. If his camp now tries to rule discussion of that association out of bounds, is Obama an honest, new kind of candidate? (This is why Obama has relied on “sellers” of anti-Republican propaganda such as Newsweek to do this work for him).

Second, while McCain might suffer adverse consequences if he discusses Wright, the notion that voters will expect McCain to police the rest of the world is preposterous. If Obama whines that McCain won’t protect him for his own past association — which he agrees constitutes a legitimate matter — it is Obama, not McCain, who will appear impotent. Again, this is why Obama is relying on Newsweek and its ilk.

The reality is, the more Wright is mentioned, the worse for Obama. Thus, if the Obama campaign is sensible, and I think it is, it will not respond to future references to the Pastor (absent new information), and certainly not attempt to enlist McCain. Nor will it even call on its allies, such as Newsweek, to do so. Battlefield preparation is not the same thing as the coming battle.

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