Monday, February 4, 2008

Sliming Barack

If American voters were to choose between a candidate who supported keeping US troops in Iraq for another 100 years at a cost of $2 trillion for the last six years (and 3,000 US lives) or a candidate who vowed to pull US troops out and use the money saved for the health and education needs of Americans in the US, there would be no question that Americans would overwhelmingly vote for the latter.

But elections in the US are not decided by the people who vote for the candidate who best reflects their views and interests. They are decided by people adept at manipulating voters into supporting or opposing candidates according to their prejudices and fears.

In January of 2000, Sen. John McCain scored an impressive victory in the New Hampshire primary and was on his way to securing the 2000 Republican presidential nomination when he entered the South Carolina primary as the heavy favorite. But supporters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush found a clever KarlRovian way to stop McCain. They simply made poll survey phone calls asking South Carolina voters: "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?"

In fact, there was no truth to the spurious claim other than the widely-known fact that McCain and his wife had adopted their daughter Bridget as a baby from Mother Theresa's orphanage in Bangladesh. But the “black” propaganda proved brutally effective as McCain lost the 2000 primary in South Carolina and the Republican nomination to George W. Bush.

A similar underhanded smear campaign is currently being waged against Sen. Barack Obama. In the last 2 months, I have already received more than a dozen emails from various sources asking the recipient to “forward the email to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?”

Entitled “Who is Barack Obama?” the email claims that Obama is "the son of a Black MUSLIM from Kenya and a white ATHEIST from Kansas" who was educated in a "Wahabi Islamic fundamentalist school in Indonesia". The email also claims that Barack is a Muslim who took his oath of office as a US senator on a Koran and not on a Bible and that he will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor show any reverence for the US flag. It ends with this ominous warning: “The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!”

Another anti-Obama Internet blast which I also received claims that Obama’s church, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, is anti-American, will only accept black parishioners and tilts toward Africa at the expense of the United States. The e-mail claims Obama is "certainly a racist" and "desires to rule over America while his loyalty is totally vested in a Black Africa."

At a Filipino social gathering I attended over the weekend, I heard a matron asking people "Have you heard?" and then proceeding to spread the anti-Obama information she had received via email and which she proclaimed to be gospel truth.

Even though I support Hillary Clinton, I could not help but ask the lady to please check her facts and not to blindly accept the scurrilous claims of the anonymously written emails forwarded to her. I suggested that she check out the site referred to in the email as well as with to determine the truth of the allegations.

Both online sources, I told her, debunked the anti-Obama email information as false. Barack had never been a Muslim and his mother was not an atheist but one who instilled in him a respect for all religions. As Barack wrote in his book, Audacity of Hope, “In her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education.”

Obama and his wife, Michelle, are members of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago which counts Oprah Winfrey as a member. The Trinity Church describes itself in its website as "a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian" and which "does not apologize for its African roots." It openly proclaims its commitment to Africa (where Oprah recently opened a school for girls in South Africa) and to the "historical education of African people in diaspora." Although the congregation is overwhelmingly black, it has a few white members and whites are welcomed at the church.

Obama took his oath of office before Vice President Dick Cheney on a Bible and not on a Koran and he regularly recites the pledge of allegiance.

The source of the anti-Obama smear is a January 2007 Insight Magazine article which is a publication owned by the News World Communications of Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon which also owns the very pro-Bush, pro Republican Washington Times.

CNN sent reporter John Vause to Jakarta to check ont he Wahabi story and learned that the school Obama attended was not even a Muslim school. Hardi Priyono, the school’s deputy headmaster, told CNN: "This is a public school. We don't focus on religion."

Aside from the fact that I believe she is the most qualified, one of the reasons I support Sen. Hillary Clinton is my fear that the Republicans will have an easier time destroying (“swiftboating”) Barack in the general elections than they would Hillary who has been hit with everything that the GOP could possible throw at her since she became First Lady in 1993.

In the 2004 presidential elections, I received dozens of emails directed at Filipino Catholics telling us that Sen. John Kerry, the Catholic Democratic candidate, was pro-abortion and that it would be a mortal sin to vote for him. The email asked the recipient to forward the email to everyone they knew who was a concerned Catholic. This KarlRovian email campaign proved effective in delivering the Filipino vote to Bush.

We can expect the sliming of Barack Obama to be even more vicious. I just hope the Filipino community will focus on the issues and reject the slime that has already reared its ugly head in the campaign.

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