Over at the Liberal Conspiracy, everyone has caught Primary Fever. JamieK thinks that Hilary Clinton may use Barack Obama’s middle name and tenuous links to Islam to unsettle his campaign. I doubt that she would stoop that low, but it looks like the Republicans may well seek to use it against him in the General Election Campaign later in the year (should he win the nomination, of course). Some on the right have already test-driven the Muslim slur (via) but it is so crass as to be parody:
As defenders of this great Republic, and of the pinnacle of Western civilization that it represents, we should all come together tonight and agree on a common strategy that will keep the White House from becoming a madrassa.
This sort of attack – that Obama is some kind of Muslim Manchurian Candidate – are easily rebutted, and the majority of the American electorate will scoff at the suggestion, and anyone who dares to make it.
However, the issue of his middle name will persist, for slightly subtler reasons. Whether Obama faces the uber-hawk Rudolph Guiliani, the evangelical Mike Huckerbee, or some other candidate in the November election, his Republican opponent will insinuate that Muslims at home or abroad are lesser people than those of the Christian faith, and imply that any sympathy or understanding Obama may have for these ‘others’ is essentially a lack of judgement. Elsewhere in the world, Obama’s multi-ethnic heritage is seen as positive trait, which should enable him to better understand someone else’s point of view. But in the USA, in an election-year, this risks being spun as a trait which means his priorities lie elsewhere, and that he will not always “put America first”.
Note that is concern should not be reason for Democrats to vote against an Obama candidacy (although if Senator Clinton does “go negative”, then that is precisely the argument she will make). Rather, it just means that the Obama campaign needs to neutralise such attacks at an early stage. Let us hope that Senator Obama, clearly an excellent orator, has already composed the rhetoric to see off this insidious, divisive red-herring.