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No Exaggeration

Atrios may be reading secret e-mails from Fox News containing Protocols of the Elders of Obama that I haven’t seen — oops, I shouldn’t have made a joking reference to that noxious forgery, because by so doing I have played into the hands of anti-Semites — but I haven’t come across any right-wing hits on Obama that feature an American flag burning in the White House fireplace and a portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall. ~Gary Kamiya

That’s true.  You’d have to rely on Larry Johnson to come up with something like that.  But the flag in the fireplace isn’t much of an exaggeration at all of various false charges that Obama has no respect for the flag or the Pledge of Allegiance or what-have-you.  The hubbub over Obama’s “endorsement” by Hamas as some kind of “proof” that he was friendly to Hamas or bad for Israel and the basic assumption shared by many Republicans that leaving Iraq is “surrender” to Al Qaeda (or something like that) aren’t exaggerated very much by the picture of Bin Laden.  Considering how much trouble that Hamas “endorsement” caused Obama, I was amazed to see Christopher Beam finish his piece in Slatewith these words:

And, no, Obama’s fist bump was not a secret show of solidarity to Hezbollah. It’s really a secret show of solidarity to Hamas. Just kidding!

Yes, laugh all the way to McCain’s inauguration! 

Of course, it will take some enterprising chain e-mailer about five seconds to remove that last sentence and cite it as more “proof” of Obama’s abiding love of Hamas.  Anyone who has any familiarity with these chain e-mails knows that they are ripping Obama’s own words from The Audacity of Hope out of context to “prove” that he has some higher loyalty to Muslims, and this is being credulously circulated around all the time.  Sometimes critics will include the context and then ignore the significance of what it means when he wrote, “I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”  Of course, he was writing here about American citizens who are Muslims, and he is talking about standing with them in the event that there are attempts to curtail their civil liberties.  Would that this supposedly ardent civil libertarian Obama had been voting to support a filibuster of the FISA legislation! 

It amazes me that we have just come out of an era in which roughly half the population was at one time certain that Saddam Hussein not only had operational ties to Al Qaeda (false) but was responsible for 9/11 (some embarrassingly large number of people still believe this), and yet we still get these harangues from Kamiya and The Los Angeles Times about how harmless and unimportant misinformation is.  “People aren’t that stupid!” they declare.  They’re not stupid, but they can be ignorant, and that ignorance can be exploited, just as the Bush administration did in its arguments concerning Iraq.  When national polls are finding that nearly 40% of the public believes Obama went to a religious madrassa (madrassa itself ultimately just means “school”) and about one out of eight people think he is a Muslim, you have to be strangely optimistic that this kind of misinformation won’t spread any more than it already has.        

I intend for this to be my last post commenting on this cover image matter, because one of the most damaging things that the image and controversy about it have done is to distract almost entirely from recent things related to The New Yorker that aren’t phenomenally stupid.  These would be the enormously important reports derived from Jane Mayer’s book on the torture and detention regime and, less importantly, also overshadowed Ryan Lizza’s interesting investigation into Obama’s Chicago political past.  The former is obviously of great importance to debates on national security, treatment of detainees and most of all to understanding what crimes were committed by members of the government.  The other has some notable points, the most important of which was this concluding one:

Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them.

While I have tended to put it more harshly than this, this is what I have been arguing for some time now.  Obama is not interested in challening the status quo in any fundamental ways, and he has no interest in confronting powerful interests and lobbies.  This is why the people who are most critical of him because of his alleged “weakness” on Israel, antiterrorism or national security have been entirely wrong about him, while those who keep hoping that his hawkish gestures are only temporary are being taken for a ride.  The closer he gets to being elected, the more he will accommodate the Bush era status quo in all these areas.  Those who are basically satisfied with the foreign and national security policies of the last eight years can feel very comfortable knowing that they have two candidates who will reliably line up with them on almost everything.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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