HAVING SEWN UP THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY’S nomination for the US presidency, Senator Barack Obama now hears history calling. The crucial question is: can he sustain his momentum?
Obama’s race and youth were originally regarded as points of strength. His supporters portrayed him as the embodiment of a new America, casting off the “white men only” image of the presidency and reviving the spirit of hope for the future that swept John F. Kennedy into office. “Powered by hope… and supporters like you,” reads one of the slogans on his Web site (www.barackobama.com).
But to quote former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, “A week is a long time in politics.” Obama not only has to deal with sensation-driven media (some featuring neo-conservative commentators hellbent on lowering his credibility); he also must debunk Web sites and postings dealing in distortions, half-truths and outright lies.
The Obama File (www.theobamafile.com) describes Obama as “A privileged African-American, who has not shared the black American experience… by birth, blood and training, a Muslim… a socialist whose politics are rooted in Marx…”
Postings at www.snopes.com/politics/obama/obama.asp#quotes aim to test the veracity of various claims made about Obama. Most of the allegations are found to be unsupported by facts, but there are also indications that he’s been less than truthful at times.
So concerned has Obama’s campaign become about all the innuendo, that it has launched a “Fight The Smears” campaign linked to its official site (see above). But even more damaging than cartoon magazine covers and rumours that his wife uses Blank Panther-style language in private, is the perception that Obama is acrificing principles for political expediency. New York Times columnist BobHerbert recently accused Obama f “lurching with abandon” towards the right, promising to increase taxpayer funding for religious-based initiatives andagreeing with arch-conservative Supreme Court justices that the death penalty may be justified for some crimes apart from murder.
With less than 10 percentage points separating him from Republican John McCain in opinion polls, the Senator from Illinois faces the challenges of not only drawing disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters into his fold, but assuring the substantial swinging vote that backing him will not just bring about more of the same.