City of Brass

City of Brass

Obama’s Rovian strategy?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Is the Obama campaign pursuing a Karl-Rove-inspired campaign strategy? This piece at the Christian Science Monitor argues yes, because Obama has opened campaign offices in Michigan college towns:

What does an office in this extremely left-leaning college town – as well as those in other “Campus and Careers” communities – have to do with the well-known Bush aide? Plenty.

In 2000 and particularly 2004, Bush won the White House by bringing
out the Republican base – driving up votes from reliably Republican
areas.

Going into the 2008 race, most thought “the base” strategy was over.
Bush’s low approval numbers meant that the Republican nominee, whoever
he was, would have to run more to the center to pick up moderate voters
who had turned against the president.

But on the other side of the ideological street, the Democrats are
not in such a bind, and the Obama campaign knows it. Thus, even as the
Illinois senator plays to the middle (and the middle class) in speeches
and proposals, he is devoting more effort to bringing out his base. And
if this town is any kind of example, it’s working.

Playing a GOTV strategy is hardly a Rovian innovation, however. The
reason there are campaign offices in university towns in Michigan is
because MI is (was) a swing state, and therefore every vote counts, since the candidate who wins the plurality of votes statewide will get all its electoral votes. This is campaign strategy 101, not some rare Rovian innovation.

A true Rovian strategy would be to atttack your opponents’
strengths, the classic example being how the Republicans and the Swift Boat veteran group went after John Kerry for his
military record and making light of his service and purple heart.
In the present campaign, McCain tried this Rovian approach with his short-lived ad series poking fun at Obama’s
celebrity. However, for the most part, McCain has focused on Obama’s perceived and alleged weaknesses (inexperience, character, etc) rather than strengths.

Obama hasn’t really followed the Rove game plan either, focusing more on critiquing McCain’s policies and extolling his own biography. McCain’s perceived strength is primarily his foreign policy judgement, and Obama has critiqued him on that score, pointing out that McCain’s support of the Iraq war was a diversion from the true terror threat in Afghanistan. This is more of discussion of policy differences, however, than an outright attack in Rovian fashion. If anything, McCain’s supposed advantage on foreign policy was undermined more by the fact that Obama shared the debate stage with him and was able to discuss it in articulate and knowledgeable fashion, holding his own. If Obama were truly outmatched, it would have been obvious. In one sense, McCain Roved himself.

Michelle Malkin’s defense of internment

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

defense_internment_malkin.jpgOne of the foundation stones of Islamophobia in conservative circles is, somewhat paradoxically, a book about Japanese-American internment in World War II, by Michelle Malkin. You can read  excerpts from her book online at Google books. Her book is rife with academic errors and selective sourcing – her entire argument was factually debunked, comprehensively and systematically by historians and law professors. The complete rebuttal runs 29 blog posts long.

So, suffice to say that Malkin’s basic historical premise is factually devoid of merit. Why did she write the book in the first place, though? The answer reveals itself in her writings – she is one of FAIR.org’s “Smearcasters” who portray Islam as a fundamental threat to Western values and civilization. She believes Islam is fundamentally hostile to American values as a matter of inherent doctrine, It’s not hard to connect the dots between her book, which lays out a case for dealing with a “fifth column” domestic threat, and her blog/writing, which describes American Islam in exactly those terms. Malkin includes a CYA statement in the introduction about the book not being a direct call to internment of Arabs or muslims, but one look at the cover, with a picture of Mohammed Atta (lead villain of the 9-11 attacks), reveals her intentions as clear as day.

In a nutshell, Malkin is creating what she hopes to be a foundation and precedent for internment of American muslims. There’s more to Islamophobia than rhetoric. There’s an instruction manual.

Obama Derangement Syndrome

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Every presidential candidate comes in for their share of partisan bile from their opponents’ more rabid supporters. The generic term for this is X Derangement Syndrome (example, BDS for Bush, etc) and to some extent it is a manifestation of the political passion that drives the system. It’s surely better than outright, pervasive voter apathy.

However, what’s disturbing about the bile directed at Barack Obama (ODS) is the racial and religious subtext, which was absent for obvious reasons from those afflicted by CDS and BDS. I’ve compiled a list of crazy accusations against Obama elsewhere, but two examples stand out for their common theme.

First, the case of Obama Waffles:

Activists at a conservative political forum snapped up boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.

Republican Party stalwarts Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were among speakers at the forum, which officials said drew 2,100 activists from 44 states.

While Obama Waffles takes aim at Obama’s politics by poking fun at
his public remarks and positions on issues, it also plays off the old
image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima,
which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is
portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate
of waffles and smiles broadly.

Placing Obama in Arab-like headdress recalls the false rumor that he is a follower of Islam, though he is actually a Christian.

On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican
dress, including a sombrero, above a recipe for “Open Border Fiesta
Waffles” that says it can serve “4 or more illegal aliens.” The recipe
includes a tip: “While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your
home, why not learn a foreign language?”

The novelty item also takes shots at 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, Obama’s wife, Michelle, and Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The Obama campaign declined to comment.

Wearing white chef’s aprons, Whitlock and DeMoss were doing a brisk
business at noon Saturday selling the waffle mix to people crowded
around their booth. Two pyramids of waffle mix boxes stood several feet
high on the booth’s table.

Then, the Obama billboard:

A billboard in West Plains showing a caricature of Democratic
presidential candidate Barack Obama wearing a turban and using his
middle name — Hussein — in quotes has sparked outrage and accusations
of racism.

The sign, located south of West Plains on U.S. 63
across from the Dairy Queen, says: “Barack ‘Hussein’ Obama equals more
abortions, same sex marriages, taxes, gun regulations.”

Outrage
over the sign triggered West Plains resident Becky Estes to write a
letter in Monday’s edition of the Daily Quill newspaper saying “such a
tasteless display merely reinforces the wide-spread belief that
Ozarkers are ignorant country bumpkins.”

“People don’t like it.
They’re embarrassed by that sign, ashamed by that sign, horrified by
that sign and outraged by that sign,” Estes told the News-Leader on
Thursday.

Estes’ letter sparked responses from locals and
out-of-state former residents in Wednesday’s newspaper. The person who
created the sign remains anonymous.

“I can find nothing wrong
with this sign/cartoon, which is truthful by Obama’s own statements,”
wrote James E. (Jay) Gentry Jr. of Mountain Grove. “If this is
upsetting to Ms. Estes, then she should do some hard thinking about
what is forthcoming if he is elected.”

And of course there’s this poor soul protesting Obama yesterday in Ohio:

The theme here is the same old muslim smear – Obama = muslim = Arab = turbans = threat. Even John McCain, in correcting a supporter who insisted Obama was Arab at a campaign rally, implicitly validated the idea that Arabs and muslims are inherently suspect.

But really, most of the blame for this lies with Barack Obama himself. I argued early on during the primary that Obama could lay the muslim smear to rest by simply saying “I am not a muslim… but so what if I were?” Many in the media are now saying the same thing, but the words need to come from Obama himself, and that’s why the muslim smear persists.

Why I am supporting Barack Obama

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
  • I am a liberal. That is to say, I believe that in addition to the tyranny of governments, there also the tyrannies of economics, of prejudice, and of religion. I believe that Liberalism is the route by which the indovidual is empowered to fight back against these oppressive forces and more importantly, take ownership of them and channel them.
  • I am a pragmatic liberal interventionist. I believe that we have both a moral duty and a self-interest in using our national power – military and economic and social – to effect change around the world, to stop genocides and to encourage (but not impose) democracy’s flowering.
  • I am an American patriot, and I believe that what makes this nation great is the fact that unlike almost every other nation in the history of the world, literally anyone can come here, and succeed. Obama is living proof. This is an immigrant nation and that is why our identity perseveres above and beyond race and religion.
  • I believe that Obama’s solution to health care, while not perfect, goes in the right direction (PDF), with the most critical pieces being true universal coverage, and no denial for pre-existing conditions. McCain’s central promise of a $5,000 tax cut is useless given that health care premiums cost $12,000 and up.
  • I believe that the tactical conflict in Iraq is winding down, and as such it is time to reorient on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, where we are losing the strategic war.The counter-insurgency methods that worked well in Iraq do not apply to Waziristan. Obama’s selection of Biden was absolutely superlative in this regard, since few Senators have as much knowledge of Afghanstan and Pakistan.
  • I believe that energy independence is the central challenge of our century ahead, with all other major issues – security, economy, environment – tied to it in a fundamental way.McCain talks a great game on supporting alternate energy sources but in 26 years in the Senate, he’s shown no leadership on the issue – and in fact been AWOL on it this year. And “drill baby drill” sloganeering betrays a fossil-fuel centric worldview that does not bode well for understanding how to proceed forward.
  • Obama has a genuine record of reform-minded legislation in the Illinois legislature and in the US Senate. I’ve looked at the record in detail and it belies the rhetoric of the right that he’s done little. Obama’s record is in fact superlative on reform.
  • I cannot countenance how McCain has changed from a true maverick candidate I’d have voted for over Gore in 2000 to the Republicanist loyalist in 2008 that he has become – with dozens of flip flops along the way. This isn’t the McCain I knew.
  • I believe that the Republican party orthodoxy is dangerously wrong with respect to science, with the prevalent orthodoxy completely wrong on climate change, evolution, and stem cells, to name the major issues. The GOP dogma on these issues seems to be motivated by political ideology rather than any commitment to scientific method.
  • I consider the general Republican disdain towards the judiciary, and the alarming increase in executive power at the expense of the other branches of government (including outright dismantling of the traditional checks and balances), poses a fundamental structural threat to our American government. Since 9/11, the GOP has embraced an ideological, authoritarian, and crony-capitalist approach to government that is at odds with the duty of governing well, as the response to Hurricane Katrina woefully illustrated.
  • I am tired of red-state-blue-state politics. It is time to go purple. Obama may be a liberal, but his policies for the middle class and the nation are deep-hued purple indeed.

These are the major issues for me, as best as I can recall. Some of these are ideological, others a critique of John McCain on the merits of his proposals, and others a dissatisfaction and anger at the evolution of the Republican Party as a whole. If you agree with me that Barack Obama is the change we need, then join me in making a small contribution to his campaign:

It’s time to step up.

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