Canadian commentator Jeet Heer described the process
succinctly: newspapers abroad “would sometime print
scurrilous reports that were too wild and un-sourced for the
American press. Thanks to the internet and talk radio, these
reports would echo back in the United
States and eventually become part of the
mainstream discourse.” Heer, a student of political culture,
was describing a “very well coordinated” mechanism put into
operation by former now-jailed media baron, Conrad Black, observing
that “Black has been wounded by his own financial shenanigans,
but the international network he created is still in place.”
I have no idea whether this network is really
still extant but the practice described is very much at play
in the mounting attacks on Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Heer made his observation a few weeks ago after
false reports made their way from our northern neighbor that
Obama had privately told Canadian officials not to take his
public criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) seriously. The tale is thought to have cost the Illinois
senator in the primary in Ohio
where the trade pact is anything but popular.
Shortly after the NAFTA flap, Obama’s foreign
policy advisor left the campaign following a controversy that
arose after she called his opponent Senator Hillary Clinton
“a monster” in off-the-cuff, off the record remarks to a Scottish
journalist. Of course, one incident – or even two - doesn’t
establish a pattern but the foreign media attacks on Obama have
been going on for some time and there are numerous slurs and
absurd allegations floating out there in cyberspace drawn from
newspapers from a number of countries.
harsh and racially condescending attack appeared in a leading
German magazine last year as the campaign was barely underway.
An idiotic commentary appeared in a British magazine, authored
by what the Observer newspaper termed “Britain’s
most influential black figure,” accusing Obama of “ruthless
cynicism.” A scurrilous attack on the candidate’s wife appeared
in a widely read English-language Asian publication. The same
charges made their way last week onto the editorial page of
the Wall Street Journal by way of a member of the paper’s
editorial board who complains that Michelle Obama, “has left
little doubt about her views of American society, and its people,”
noting that “these views have received relatively scant coverage”
and suggesting that as First Lady she would be hounded by “foreign
reporters who have attentively covered the campaign and who
have questions to ask.”
A coordinated attack? Of course. But from where?
Surely much of the recent attacks on the Illinois
senator have their origins in the Clinton
campaign, especially the hardly subtle efforts to inject race
into the picture. However, I would suggest that there are other
forces involved as well. Hillary may be desperately throwing
“the kitchen sink” at Barack but others have started lobbing
the garbage can.
There can be little doubt that there are people
high in the U.S. political establishment – including some in
the Democratic party - that have adopted an anyone-but-Obama
stance. They include some of the same personalities Heer describes
as facilitating Conrad Black’s network. They had to have been
cheered and encouraged by candidate Clinton’s repeated suggestion
that only she and Republican contender John McCain have the
necessary credentials to lead the nation. And this has even
stirred suggestion that having failed to secure the nomination,
Clinton would be well placed to make a rerun in
the event of the Republicans hanging on to the White House.
Meanwhile, the political right has, over the
past couple of weeks, stepped up its campaign against Obama.
Last week, the internet service of Human Events offered
its readers a “special report” titled, “Barack Obama Exposed.”
“From his radical stance on abortion to his prominence in the
corruption scandals that has been virtually ignored by the mainstream
media, Barack Obama is
not fit to be Senator - not to mention the next President of
States,” it said. “Obama has declared his
presidential intentions, but it is up to well-informed and energetic
conservatives like you to spare our nation from the scourge
of a far-left President Barack H. Obama.”
At this point we have to ask: why these assaults,
coming as it as they do from numerous sources, on Obama?
“Two seemingly disconnected events have created
a suddenly dangerous turn regarding the future of U.S.
wars in the Middle East,” wrote Robert Perry in consortiumnews.com Mar.14.
“One was the abrupt resignation of the person who has been the
biggest obstacle to a U.S.
military strike against Iran,
Admiral William Fallon, the chief of Central Command which oversees
U.S. military operations
in the volatile region.
“The second is the ugly direction that the Democratic
presidential competition has taken, with Hillary Clinton’s campaign
intensifying its harsh rhetoric against Barack Obama, reducing
the likelihood that he can win the presidency – and thus raising
the odds that the next president will be either John McCain
or Sen. Clinton, both hawks on Iran.
“Throughout the campaign, Clinton has mocked Obama as inexperienced for his desire to engage in
presidential-level diplomacy with Iran and other adversarial states,” wrote Perry.
“And she recently judged him as unqualified to serve as Commander
in Chief, while declaring that both she and Sen. McCain have
crossed that ‘threshold’.”
position drew support last week from none other than former
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who told Bloomberg News
he would negotiate with Teheran. "If Iran
is a nation and wants to be respected as a nation we will and
must find a way to coexist with it,” he said. “If Iran wanted a settlement to be reached, we would
have an obligation on our part to come up with a reasonable
position. I do not believe that regime change can be an objective
of our foreign policy.")
“The cumulative effect of Clinton’s attacks on
Obama’s qualifications – combined with her campaign’s efforts
to turn many white voters against him as the ‘black candidate’–
has buoyed Republican hopes for November,” wrote Perry.
“If followed to its logical – yet crazed – conclusion,
the madness also might be leading the United States into the ever deepening abyss of
Middle East wars,” says Perry. “After all, both McCain and Clinton were
staunch supporters of the Iraq War, now at its fifth anniversary
with no end in sight.
“McCain remains an Iraq War advocate, even he
says if the U.S. occupation must last a century or more. Clinton
only reversed herself on the war as she prepared to run for
the Democratic nomination, realigning herself with the anti-war
views of most Democrats, but she refused to admit that her 2002
war-authorization vote was a mistake.
“Both McCain and Clinton also favor a hard line
Perry, author of a new book, “Neck
Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,”
says intelligence sources have told him that President Bush
and Vice President Dick Cheney were eyeing possible air strikes
against Iranian targets in 2007 before they encountered Fallon’s
stiff opposition. These same sources have discounted the threat
of an imminent attack on Iran; however, one of them suggested that Fallon
opted out partly because the White House wanted to update a
provisional attack plan.
“More likely, the sources say, the issue of how
to deal with Iran will pass to the next president,” writes
Perry. “In that regard, McCain and Clinton promise more tough
talk and belligerence, while Obama vows to speak directly with
Iran’s leaders over
how to reduce tensions.
“Yet, the combined events of the past several
days – the sudden ouster of the chief military opponent of an
expanded war in the Middle East and the apparent decline in
the political fortunes of the most dovish candidate – suggest
that the Bush-Cheney belligerent strategies may well outlast
their terms of office.”
The neo-conservatives who brought us the war
now in its sixth year, through fear and lies, have regrouped
around the McCain campaign. But, their loyalties are not necessarily
to one political party. And they are turning up the heat on
Obama. One of them, William Kristol (who says McCain occasionally
calls him for foreign policy advice) used his New York Times
column Monday to accuse Obama of having “a dash of deceit,”
and went on to wonder out loud: “Might the country be better
off with the cynicism of the Clintons than the conceit of Obama.”
they can be ruthless, these neo-cons. Last Saturday, the “Prince
of Darkness” Richard Perle, one of the chief architects of the
Iraq war, observed the anniversary of the carnage by placing
responsibility for it’s duration and expense on Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary Colin Powell
and former CIA Director George Tenet. Most of them did not support
George W. when he first sought the Republican nomination eight
year ago; they were in McCain’s camp. Because, according to
James Mann in the “Rise of the Vulcans – The History of Bush’s
War Cabinet,” McCain championed the Clinton Administration’s
armed dismemberment of Yugoslavia.
Oh, what a tangled web these people weave.
As this is being written both Vice-President
Cheney and McCain are jaunting around the Middle
East. As if that weren’t scary enough, neoconservative hawk
Senator Joseph Lieberman is in McCain’s entourage. They are
up to no good and it’s assumed that Cheney’s trip is related
primarily to Iran.
How this might relate to the domestic scene was
perhaps best summarized by an AFP headline: “McCain eyes
statesman's image, Obama under fire.”
Candidate Obama can sometimes say misleading
– and sometime silly things. Last Saturday in trying to deal
with the country’s economic crisis he sought to trace responsibility
to the U.S. China trade deficit. Charging Beijing with unfairly
keeping its momentary exchange rate low to gain a competitive
edge against the U.S. is ludicrous when one considers this is
exactly what the U.S. is doing via-a-vis the European Union.
The origins of the crisis here at home didn’t originate abroad
but lie in ruinous policies cooked up in Washington and on Wall Street. We can’t expect
Obama to acknowledge that much of its stems from the working
of contemporary capitalism (he probably doesn’t even think so)
but I find his refusal to deal forthrightly and decisively with
the economic pain and insecurity plaguing the land baffling.
Being nice is nice. Solving problems by getting
Wall Street and Main Street in the same room is a fine idea. But speaking out clearly
and resolutely in the interest of working people (and ending
the war) is a better one and the only one that will get Obama
elected. It ain’t over till its over. He’s seen the kitchen
sink; now watch out for the garbage can.
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San
Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click
here to contact Mr. Bloice.