Barack Obama continued his fundraising success in San Francisco, and managed to make his smear of Republicans as racists somewhat more subtle. According to the campaign, his event yesterday at the Fairmont Hotel for Asian and Pacific Islanders raised $7.8 million, which Team Obama says is a record for a one-time event. Obama raised the money by claiming that Republicans opposed him because of his “funny name”, but this time used Democrats as the foil:
The Illinois senator said it is “a testament to the American spirit that I’m even standing here before you” as the Democratic Party’s presumed nominee, because some Americans are “still getting past” his name, which he said some consider funny.
“Change is always tough, and electing me is change … and it means that people are going to hesitate a little bit,” Obama told a crowd of about 200 deep-pocketed supporters at a VIP reception for South Asian and Pacific Islander supporters at the Fairmont Hotel.
Later, speaking to a dinner crowd of about 350, Obama sought to reassure Democrats, whom he said typically “get nervous and skittish right around this time” and worry that attacks and mudslinging will begin in the final weeks of the presidential race. Obama campaign workers said the $7.8 million was a record for a political fundraiser.
“They say, ‘Oh no, here the Republicans come,’ ” he said, adding that some think “it’s hard enough – Obama, it’s a funny name, and who knows what they’re (the Republicans) going to do?”
Later, he said of John McCain:
“John McCain, all he wants to do is talk about me. They know they can’t win on the issues. So what they’ll do is they’ll try to scare people. He’s risky. He’s risky. We’re not sure.”
Obama may have learned a lesson from getting burned on the racist smear at the end of July. After the “race card” debate broke into the media, Obama found himself on the defensive. In order to trot out this theme now, Obama instead talks about how Democrats worry about racist attacks rather than explicitly accuse Republicans of them as he did in June and July. At the same time, he implicitly accuses McCain of using risk as a sort of code word for the same purpose.
Unfortunately for Obama, risk assessment has to play a role in every presidential election. LBJ made it an issue with Barry Goldwater with the “Daisy” ad. Democrats painted Ronald Reagan as a man who would go cowboy and start a nuclear war, while Republicans questioned whether a draft dodger like Bill Clinton could lead the American military when needed. Every presidential contest since World War II has highlighted the choices required in a dangerous world. None of this risk assessment had anything to do with racism then, and has nothing to do with it now.
Just this past week, we got a glimpse of how both candidates would handle a major international crisis. John McCain talked constantly to the press, giving analysis steeped in his personal experience with Georgia and Russia and explaining the stakes involved for the US and the West, as well as how to address the sudden example of Russian imperialism. Barack Obama issued contradictory statements and refused to take questions while secluding himself in Hawaii.
It’s not racist to wonder whether an untested, inexperienced Senator with no legislative track record and no military record presents a risk as President. Instead of addressing these legitimate concerns, Obama wants to paint them as somehow racist to even consider. If that’s how he plans to govern as well as campaign, then perhaps Obama’s even riskier than we think now.