City of Brass

City of Brass

self-inflicted wound: was Ashley Todd the final nail?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The story was sensational, and suspiciously stereotypical in invoking racial prejudices and conservative dogma about liberals’ irrationality. Sure enough, it was also a hoax:

Ashley Todd, of College Station, Texas, confessed to making up the
story about an attacker scratching a letter “B” into her face with a
knife and will be charged with filing a false report, police said at a
news conference Friday.Todd admitted there was no robbery or
attacker and said she had prior mental health problems, according to
police.

On Thursday afternoon, police
reported that Todd told them she was using an ATM at Liberty Avenue and
Pearl Street when a man approached her and put a knife to her throat
just before 9 p.m. Wednesday.Police spokeswoman Diane Richard
said Todd told them the robber took $60, then became angry when he saw
a McCain bumper sticker on the victim’s car. The attacker then punched
and kicked the victim, before using a dull knife to scratch the “B”
into her face, Richard said.

Todd’s story kept changing, though, over small details like whether it was her bumper sticker or her campaign button that triggered the assailant’s rage, adding more details like sexual assault to the original story, and inconsistencies on whether she was attacked from in front or knocked down from behind. The “B” on her cheek was backwards, as if self-inflicted in front of a mirror, and there was no record of the attack on the ATM camera. Ultimately the story fell apart.

As they say, it’s not the crime, but the cover-up, and in this case the hoax is making the rounds on Twitter (where “Ashley Todd” is a Election Hot Topic) and blogsphere and news channels. Suffice to say, this doesn’t bode well for McCain, which may be unfair (since Todd was a volunteer and her actions do not represent those of the campaign in any way), but it is still a reality.

What will the true impact of Ashley’s October Surprise be? John Moody, executive Vice-president for FOX News, mused on his blog (before it was confirmed that Todd’s account was a hoax) that the incident represented a “moment of truth”:

Less than two weeks before we vote for a new president, a white
woman says a black man attacked her, then scarred her face, and says
there was a political motive for it.

Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old white volunteer for John McCain’s
presidential campaign, says she was mugged at an ATM machine in
Pittsburgh (my hometown) by a big black man.

[...]

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

I dont know if McCain’s quest is over, but it certainly has been dealt an ugly blow – ironically, by guilt-by-association, the very same tactic that McCain sought to employ against Obama to discredit his reputation.

The simple fact remains that Todd’s motivations are laid bare – naked political opportunism, attempting to harness the worst stereotypes of black men and tie them to the Obama campaign. The incident would have “revealed” the true nature of Obama’s supporters; instead it revealed the nature of McCain’s. Ashley Todd was plaing with fire and John McCain is the one burnt.

Obama will not leave Iraq. (good.)

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I’ve long argued that no Democratic president will fully withdraw from Iraq. There’s been plenty of evidence of Obama’s intentions in that regard; the latest is this exchange from Joe Klein’s recent interview with Obama:

[Q] Lets go back to we’re now moving to the issue portion. When you
questioned [General Petraeus] [in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] the last
time. You asked him about what [conditions on the ground] would be
‘good enough’ for us to leave Iraq.

[BO] Right.

[Q] As you sit here today, and you look at what’s happening in Iraq, is it good enough?

[BO] I don’t think it’s quite good enough yet because I think we have
to do a little more training. We’ve got to build up the logistical
capacity
. I think the possibilities of ethnic strife breaking out again
are still present, precisely because the political system has not
stabilized itself yet. But I do believe that we are at a point now
where we can start drawing down troops. I think we can time a process
where the drawing down of troops parallel to building up the capacity
in Iraq and the Sofa agreement that just, the Sofa that was just put
forward I think reflects that reality.

Now, this position has nuance and is markedly different from the stay-the-course, empty promise of victory policy of the Bush Administration (and John McCain). It’s still not enough for the “progressive” leftists, however, whose Responsible Plan still calls for total withdrawal of all combat troops. It may surprise many to hear that I am (marginally, but firmly) on the other side of the fence from them, and advocate what the CSIS calls “strategic patience” (PDF link) in Iraq. This is primarily because there is a blood cost to withdrawal and I believe the United States bears a moral responsibility as well as a strategic one.

Naturally, once Obama is elected, the Obama Administration is going to cause a lot of heartburn to progressive leftists and isolationist conservatives (like Daniel Larison) alike. Team Obama is well- aware of this, which may explain Joe Biden’s somewhat odd comments a while back about Obama being tested early on in his presidency. To me, the interesting part of Biden’s comments were as follows:

“Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. … And he’s gonna need help. And
the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you – not
financially to help him – we’re gonna need you to use your influence,
your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s
not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re
right
.”

“… he’s gonna need your help. Because I
promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going,
‘Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so
down? Why is this thing so tough?’ We’re gonna have to make some
incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I’m asking you
now, I’m asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the
faith you had at this point
because you’re going to have to reinforce
us.”

“There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go, ‘Whoa,
wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don’t know about that decision’,”
Biden continued. “Because if you think the decision is sound when
they’re made, which I believe you will when they’re made, they’re not
likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they’re popular,
they’re probably not sound
.”

emphasis mine – and keep in mind that total withdrawal from Iraq is very popular right now. I read the above as a warning to supporters who may think Obama will be the exact opposite of President Bush in every respect, that there may be (will be!) occassions where President Obama decides to use force in a manner that the “progressive” left willl not approve of. Maintaining a troop presence in Iraq, and expanding operations in Afghanistan, are likely to be only the start. And I approve wholeheartedly – it’s going to be a more dangerous world, not less, over the next ten years. I know this puts me at odds with most of the liberal mainstream but I am proudly a pragmatic liberal interventionist in these matters. After all, as a liberal, can one permit genocide to re-occur? How exactly, apart from joining Facebook groups, do we Save Darfur?

have they no decency?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

As many have heard by now, Obama is suspending his campaign for a couple of days to fly out to Hawai’i to visit his ailing grandmother. Normal human beings with compassion and love in their hearts would hear this news and say a prayer for his family, and recognize a basic human impulse in the act.Unfortunately, those in the throes of Obama Derangement Syndrome are far past “normal” – right-wing bloggers at the conservative Republican websites RedState.com and The Minority Report are speculating that Obama is in fact racing to Hawai’i to deal with a ludicrous lawsuit against him that he is ineligible for the presidency because he was not born in the United States as he claims, but was actually secretly born in Kenya and hence is not a natural-born US citizen. The alternative theory that these insane fools are pushing is that Barack Obama is actually the illegitimate son of famil friend Frank Marshall Davis. At any rate the details are sordid, disgusting, and utterly without merit (of course) given that the Obama campaign has already posted a copy of Obama’s birth certificate on his campaign website (though in the fevered imagination of these bloggers, the document is clearly a forgery). There’s something seriously wrong with these people.

The best debunking of this nonsense, it must be noted, is by another conservative blogger, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who stands up to these slime merchants and calls them out for their atrocious behavior. Kudos to Ed for doing the right, but unpopular, thing.

Related: Snopes.com debunks the “Obama not a US citizen” smear. Note that the “not a citizen” smear is really an evolution of the muslim smear, by emphasizing his “foreign” heritage. FactCheck,org, neanwhile, actually saw the original document.

Listen Islam: podcasts

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Over at Talk Islam there is a new feature called Listen Islam, which features podcasts between bloggers in the Islamsphere (and beyond) about various topics related to Islam. There are already two great podcasts posted, the first by myself and Razib Khan (who runs the GNXP website and is an avowed atheist) about the validity of the analogy between Catholics and Protestants when comparing Sunnis and Shi’a. The second podcast is by two women, blogger Muse and writer Willow, about mahr, the practice of bridal gifts. We had a lot of fun putting these together and inshallah we will have many more at Listen Islam.

Here’s direct links to each podcast:

  1. Sunnis, Shi’a, Protestants, and Catholics, oh my
  2. Willow and Muse on Mahr
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