I just got this essay back. 93%. This one is about the smears about Obama.
Smearing the Line Between Political Attack and Malicious Slander
Negative attacks have been a prevalent tactic in US politics since 1800 when John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson attacked each other. Their parties described each others’ policies as a
means to leading the nation towards anarchy (United States Presidential Elections, n.d., para. 1).
Since then the public has more access to information each making false political attacks harder to
present without repercussions. During the 2008 Presidential Campaign the McCain camp and
people partially associated with the McCain camp launched smears against his opponent that
were irresponsible and fuelled hatred that may have terrible consequences. The elections are over
but the dust, turned up from their fight, still has not settled. I believe that the political attacks and
attack ads used against President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama need to be assessed and
repudiated to ensure the efficiency of the next government and to allow an impartial assessment
of the next federal government.
During the campaign, the Snopes website and the Obama camp website started a webpage
to repudiate these numerous fallacies. This is a first for a Presidential candidate to create a
website or even have a movement to address political attacks. One of the first smears of Barack
Obama that was created was that he was not born in the United States. Instead the smear suggests
that he was born in either Kenya or Jakarta. This, if it was true, would legally prevent him from
becoming President. This rumour was based on the fact that his father emigrated from Kenya and
at a young age he lived in Jakarta for a few years (Obama, 1995). President-Elect Obama
released his birth certificate as a response to these lies. This in turn created a new line of lies that
his birth certificate was forged. The Health Department analyzed his birth certificate and
declared it legitimate (Associated Press, 2008).
President-Elect Obama’s origin of birth is not the only part of his childhood that is
shrouded in rumours and smears. Rumours have spread over his religious preference. The most
popular being that he is a Muslim or a radical Muslim and that he swore on the Quran when
sworn into his Senate seat. This smear was based on his stay in Jakarta and that his father was
raised as a Muslim. But the truth be told, he only met his father once when he was ten and was
raised in a nonreligious family (Obama, 1995). Even his father was a self-declared atheist
President-Elect Obama had no religious association until the age of twenty-seven when
he was baptized in the United Church of Christ (Obama, 1995). He has been a member of the
religion since his baptism. When sworn into office, he did it on a bible, not the Quran as claimed
in the rumours. Even with these smears proven inaccurate, being a Muslim should not be
considered a political liability. As Colin Powell said during an interview during NBC’s Meet the
Press when asked about the Muslim smears he responded to these attacks by saying, “The really
right answer is ‘what if he is?’ Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?
The answer is ‘no, that’s not America.’” (Powell, 2008).
Fear was a way for Republicans (some, but not all) to regain some electoral votes. By
portraying President-Elect Obama as a foreigner or as a Muslim, they were hoping to scare off
enough voters. Through the Muslim smears, as many as ten percent of the American population
believe that President-Elect Obama is a Muslim. This was to indirectly connect him to terrorism
and the enemies of the United States. This did not stop attacks that tried to connect President-
Elect Obama directly to William Ayers (Weather Underground terrorist). People associated with
the McCain camp claimed that William Ayers was an advisor to President-Elect Obama and that
Obama started his political movement in Ayers’ living room. Governor Palin during a speech
said that, “Our opponent though, is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect
that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country” (2008).
William Ayers said during an interview that his involvement is nonexistent (2008). The
two worked briefly together on an education-reform board during the mid-90s. They did briefly
meet in Ayers’ living room to discuss the board, but aside from that, there is no real connection.
Ayers expressed his dissatisfaction over the demonization of his character (2008).
The smears concerning President-Elect Obama are not just restricted to his personal life,
they also cover his political career. The biggest smear the McCain camp used to excess was
President-Elect Obama’s political experience. Their descriptions range from a few years in the
Senate to just being a community organizer. Governor Palin even mocks the community
organization part of his experience by comparing it to her experience as mayor saying that,
“I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual
responsibilities” (Palin, 2008). In the community organization part of his life, during his
twenties, he helped set up job training programs for steel workers who lost their jobs (Obama,
2006). This is hardly a job to mock.
It seems almost comical when the Republican Party try to make the case that Governor
Palin has more political experience than President-Elect Obama. Governor Palin’s experience
includes being a television anchor, a mayor of a city with a population of 7000, and being the
Governor of Alaska for two years. President-Elect Obama’s experience includes: president of the
Harvard Law Review, worked as a community organizer in Chicago, civil rights attorney, taught
constitutional law for twelve years, served in the Illinois Senate for eight years, three years
in the United States Senate, and served on Foreign Relations, Veteran’s Affairs,
and Environment and Public Works Senate Committees (2006).
Though in the area of political experience the McCain camp acknowledge two bills that
President-Elect Obama voted for. They claimed that one bill he voted for was to teach sex
education to kindergarteners, and the other bill which he voted against was troop funding. The
first bill did not pass, but it was for age appropriate sex education where kindergarteners were
taught about the dangers of sexual predators (“Politifact Lies”, 2008). The second bill was about
troop funding, but did not have a timeline for pullout out of Iraq (“McCain Hides”, 2008). A
second bill came after it involving troop funding but with a timeline, but Senator McCain voted
against it—Obama voted for it because it included a timeline (“McCain Hides”, 2008).
After all that has been said, what have been the consequences of these smears? In a city
called Greenville, a Catholic priest is refusing to give communion to his parishioners, who voted
for Obama, until they asked for penance (Szobody, 2008). Since Election Day, there has been
over two hundred death threats against Senator Obama (Neiwert, 2008). The secret service
blames Sarah Palin for this surge because of the tone at her political rallies and because she did
not correct supporters who yelled threats and racial slurs about him (Neiwert, 2008). Screams
from rabid Republican supporters accuse Obama of socialism, communism and terrorism (“US
Since President-Elect Obama secured the Democratic Nomination, there has been “an
elephant in the room” over the grim prospect of him being assassinated due to his skin colour.
This fear has grown since the insults and attacks thrown at President-Elect Obama during the
election. The next US President needs to be able to do his job and better the United States
without constantly looking over his shoulder. This is why that the attacks that were used during
the Election need to be repudiated by Senator McCain, Governor Palin and those in their camp
who were involved. This would at the very least alleviate concerns over Barack Obama’s safety.
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