CAMPAIGN 08 & EDITOR’S COMMENTS: False rumors and memories

Obama: I’m not a Muslim! Forward this to everyone you know

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama launched an online viral counteroffensive Tuesday against persistent e-mail chain letters that lie about his religious and political background. But history suggests that the effort might backfire, according to experts in urban myths and folklore.

“The principle is that a very strong denial makes some people think: ‘Uh huh, we knew it. If he’s taken the trouble to make such a strong denial, there must be some truth to it,'” says Bill Ellis, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies contemporary folklore and popular cultural responses to societal events like the 9/11 attacks. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — While Obama’s camp should be mindful of James Carroll‘s important observation (that it is Islamophobia in America that prevents the candidate from simply asking, “And what would be wrong if I were a Muslim?”), they should also keep in mind this question: Is someone who is susceptible to being influenced by the Muslim “slur” really likely to consider voting for Obama in the first place? Some attacks really shouldn’t be dignified with a response.

A Clinton twofer’s high price

On foreign policy in particular, Clinton’s presidency was an era of missed opportunities. In Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda and Kosovo, U.S. policy was marred by hesitation and lack of commitment. Despite impressive rhetoric on the emerging challenges posed by globalization, nuclear proliferation, WMD and the rise of transnational terrorism and nonstate actors, Clinton developed few innovative ways to address these challenges; his approach to conflict and crisis was piecemeal. His early defeat on gays in the military left him so scarred that he steered clear of the military for most of his presidency, passively letting uniformed personnel dictate the terms of too many foreign policy decisions and ignoring hard questions about how to reshape the military to face post-Cold War threats. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — I have a feeling that there’s an element to the Clinton nostalgia that’s buoying Hilary that isn’t really nostalgia at all. It’s a presidency “remembered” that never actually occurred; it’s Bill Clinton as president on 9/11 directing America down a road that surely wouldn’t have been as awful as the one along which we actually travelled.

Anti-Bush campaign planned

A liberal advocacy group plans to spend $8.5 million in a drive to ensure that President Bush’s public approval doesn’t improve as his days in the White House come to an end.

Americans United for Change plans to undertake a yearlong campaign, spending the bulk of the money on advertising, to keep public attention on what the group says are the Bush administration’s failures, including the war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the current mortgage crisis.

In selling the plan to fundraisers, the group has argued that support for President Reagan was at a low of 42 percent in 1987 but climbed to 63 percent before he left office. “All of a sudden he became a rallying cry for conservatives and their ideology,” said Brad Woodhouse, the group’s president. “Progressives are still living with that.” [complete article]

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