The Republican propaganda machine

Blemish integrity of Democratic opponents by rumor and innuendo.

gordon donkey elephant (photo credit: )
gordon donkey elephant
(photo credit: )
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing; 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands: But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed. - Othello Shakespeare's Iago misleads when he suggests that character assassination does not profit the assassin. In politics, character assassination can lead to election victory, and lies - especially big lies - are a despicable, but sadly, a useful tool. Now that Barrack Obama's candidacy has become more serious, the Republican propaganda machine has intensified its smear campaign to besmirch his good name and reputation. The tactics are a trademark Republican tactic: to blemish the integrity of Democratic opponents by rumor and innuendo. Representative Emmanuel Celler said some 4 decades ago: "We pledge to fight the dark forces high in the counsels of the Republican Party which have made political capital out of the techniques of character assassination by innuendo." Sadly, these discredited tactics continue to this day. A libel or falsehood is, unfortunately, an effective attack on character as it is far easier and less time-consuming to make than to refute. It takes only a few seconds to break a leg, but months to recover from the injury. Raise enough charges, and their very number creates an aura of truth. "Where there's smoke, there's fire" may be a useful saying when walking in a forest, but in political campaigns, rumor and innuendo are the smoke that often hides the truth. Republicans point out, for example, that the pastor of Obama's church decided to honor Louis Farrakhan, who, among his other views, is an anti-Semite. The pastor wished to honor Farrakhan's achievements as a leader, but the sneaky implication is that Obama, because he is associated with his pastor, who is associated with Farrakhan, who is associated with anti-Semitism, is somehow bad for Jews. What rubbish! If they were interested in the truth, instead of using mysterious and illogical methods of discerning Obama's views, they could have simply listened to the candidate himself who has denounced Farrakhan, anti-Semitism and racism, and his pastor's decision to honor Farrakhan. This issue resurfaced in the debate held in Cleveland on February 26 in which Obama said: "I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community. And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community. But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically - it was true in my US Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency - is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable. When I … had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti- Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States." Why do the propagandists believe the words of Obama's pastor but not the words of Obama himself? Or worse: why would they hide the fact that Obama denounced Farrakhan directly? Truth and logic are not welcome; the propagandists care little about truth or accuracy. Guilt by Association is a logical fallacy that is as old as Aristotle, but that doesn't dissuade smear practitioners. A major email campaign, for example, has recently charged that Senator Obama has associated himself with foreign policy advisors who do not support Israel. One charged that one of Senator Obamas advisors, Robert O. Malley, is an unabashed advocate for the Palestinians and has written a tract that blames Israel for the failure of the Camp David talks". This is a vicious charge, and it is false. The article in question, for example, did not blame Israel for the failure of the Camp David talks; it only suggested that there might have been a different outcome had Israel and the US adopted different tactics. The accusations against Robert Malley have prompted some prominent individuals, including Ambassadors Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, to issue a statement: "They claim that he harbors an anti-Israeli agenda and has sought to undermine Israel's security. These attacks are unfair, inappropriate and wrong. They are an effort to undermine the credibility of a talented public servant who has worked tirelessly over the years to promote Arab-Israeli peace and US national interests. They must stop…." The full statement can be read at The smear tactics also include half-truths that are the equivalent of lies. Obama was charged with saying: "No one is suffering more than the Palestinian people." In fact, he said: "Nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region. Israel is the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East." Half of the statement is a distortion of the full statement, which pins the source of the suffering of the Palestinian people upon their own misguided leadership. At the AIPAC Policy Forum on March 2, 2007, Obama laid out the conditions for achieving peace: by requiring the Palestinians, principally Hamas, to change its policy towards Israel. He said: "But the Israelis must trust that they have a true Palestinian partner for peace. That is why we must strengthen the hands of Palestinian moderates who seek peace and that is why we must maintain the isolation of Hamas and other extremists who are committed to Israel's destruction. The US and our partners have put before Hamas three very simple conditions to end this isolation: recognize Israel's right to exist; renounce the use of violence; and abide by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority." The list of Jewish leaders who know and support Barack Obama are legion. They do not need hokey methods to understand his true intentions. They know his views on Israel directly: from the way he acted in the Senate and from his words. Among the signatories of a letter that complained of the "hateful emails that use falsehood and innuendo to mischaracterize Senator Barack Obama's religious beliefs and who he is as a person" were heads of prominent Jewish organizations including the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The full letter can be viewed at The New York Sun editorialized: "We're no shills for Mr. Obama, but these Republicans [who questioned the Senator's support for Israel] haven't checked their facts. At least by our lights, Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel, as he has articulated it so far in his campaign, is quite moving and a tribute to the broad, bipartisan support that the Jewish state has in America." One final word: regarding the charge that Senator Obama is inexperienced. It should be noted that the principal candidates of both parties share the same experience - as Senators. Only a Governor or a big city mayor has experience that is somewhat similar to that of a President, but none remain in the running. Legislative experience alone, however, did not stop an earlier "inexperienced" candidate from Illinois - Abraham Lincoln - from becoming a great President. Lincoln had served in the Illinois state legislature but only one term as a US Congressman. Several other Presidents, including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, came to the Presidency largely on the strength of their military careers. In 1960, the then Senator John F. Kennedy was running against Richard M. Nixon, who had served as the two-term Vice-President under Eisenhower, and whose main campaign slogan was "Experience Counts." In October, the long time baseball manager for the New York Yankees, Casey Stengel, was fired. Later at a dinner, Kennedy quipped: "But I think the worst news for the Republicans this week was that Casey Stengel has been fired. It must show that perhaps experience does not count." I would choose Senator Kennedy over the "more experienced" Richard Nixon. And I would also choose Senator Barack Obama, a true friend of Israel. The writer is Counsel to Democrats Abroad Israel