Barack Obama has twiced smeared John McCain and the Republican Party as racist and fearmongering — but perhaps that may be better explained as projection. The Atlantic plans to publish internal memos from the Hillary Clinton campaign in its September edition, and Politico reports that a campaign strategy of xenophobia didn’t come from the GOP. The Clinton campaign suggested painting Obama as un-American:
Mark Penn, the top campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, advised her to portray Barack Obama as having a “limited” connection “to basic American values and culture,” according to a forthcoming article in The Atlantic.
The magazine reports Penn suggested getting much rougher with Obama in a memo on March 30, after her crucial wins in Texas and Ohio: “Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without, over these next two months, raising all these issues on him? … Won’t a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?” …
Penn, the presidential campaign’s chief strategist, wrote in a memo to Clinton excerpted in the article: “I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
Hammering Obama on Jeremiah Wright? Looking for video of the Obamas nodding approvingly to Wright’s demagoguic tirades on race and America? It didn’t start with the Republicans at all; it started with the Clintonites. Furthermore, the Clintonites apparently agreed with Republicans in their assessment of Obama and his long-time association with anti-American radicals like Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, William Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn. They concluded that Obama is “not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
Democrats came to that conclusion long before Republicans even worried about Obama. In March 2007, Penn warned Clinton’s team to focus on values-based voters, women, and working- to middle-class families. That strategy finally got adopted in February 2008, when it was just a little too late to help, but Penn saw Obama’s flaws very clearly even in the early stages of the race.
Some have suggested that the release of these memos during the convention will help Barack Obama by marginalizing the PUMAs in the Democratic Party. That could happen, but it seems more likely that these memos will confirm their own judgment of Obama, and help define him among centrists and independents. Having that message not just confirmed by longtime Democratic strategists but actually originated by them will lend these conclusions a great deal more credibility.
It will also have one other effect, and that’s to put the race card out of reach for Barack Obama. He can’t call McCain a racist and a fearmonger again without first pointing the finger publicly to the Clintons, who obviously went a lot farther than McCain would ever countenance along those lines. (McCain all but forbid the mention of Jeremiah Wright by his campaign or surrogates.)
This could also rip the veneer of inclusionism off of identity politics and expose it for the tribalism that it is. These memos and the Democratic infighting demonstrate the corrosiveness of identity politics and its eventual outcome — division, bitterness, and loss. That will help improve American politics in the long run as we focus on ideas and philosophy, and not the color of skin, internal plumbing, or ethnicity of our great-grandparents.
Update (AP): I doubt this will give Team Barry pause before dropping any sinister new hints about Republican racism. Most of that is done on background with the media anyway so they don’t have to worry about being called on the hypocrisy, but to the extent that anything is said publicly, all they have to do is tweak the message. Instead of “McCain’s a racist,” now maybe there’ll be some oblique reference to how “sadly, no party or ideology is immune from the scourge of racism,” followed promptly by “and also, McCain’s a racist.” Remember, it’s already conventional wisdom on the left that the Clintons ran an explicitly racial strategy in the primary (mostly via Bill’s mad libs). That didn’t stop Obama from floating his “dollar bill” comment a few weeks ago.
Speaking of trying to paint Obama as inauthentically American, though, can I ask people to please stop sending us theories about his supposed dual citizenship? Juliette at Baldilocks, who shares the same background as Obama, tried to slap this down back in February by noting that her own supposed inauthenticity didn’t stop the U.S. Air Force from granting her a security clearance. (See also her comments in Gateway Pundit’s post last night.) In any case, the question is moot: If Obama ever did hold Kenyan citizenship, he lost it long ago thanks to Article 97 of the Kenyan Constitution. No mas, please.