Sunday, October 26, 2008

In These Last Days...

…of the 2008 election I have twinges of an apocalyptic feeling, in which a Biblical or science fiction other-worldly conflict between cosmic forces is looming over the land. Then I remind myself that the forces locked in electoral combat are all too this worldly. I don’t know whether that makes me feel better or not. Here are a few examples of what’s been causing those tremors in me:

First, there was the McCain campaign volunteer, Ashley Todd, who made up a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter "B" scratched on her face in a politically inspired attack. On Friday the 20-year-old college student from College Station, Texas, admitted that the story was false,
police said.

Before her story unraveled and after Fox News had given it big play, John Moody, executive vice president at Fox News, wrote this on
his blog:
If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.
That is probably a reference to the McCain campaign passing out unconfirmed information on the story as though it was they best news they had in weeks. Moody’s blog article titled “Moment of Truth” may also contain some “truth” about the Fox coverage.

Second, there was the attack on because it appears to pro-Obama and can’t be tursted as a reliable source of accurate information. At the heart of the attack is that Snopes has discredited too many of the lies about Obama. The charges have been circulating around the world of email forwards for some weeks. I received a copy from a friend who wanted to know if there was any truth to the charges.

I think the attack has everything to do with the effectiveness of Snopes in providing reliable information about the legion of false stories circulated about Obama. The Snopes refutations are hurting the bigots who are circulating them. The author of the forward might at least have considered the possibility that the reason for so many articles on Snopes about Obama might be related the the number of false stories about him that have been circulated. But, no, that apparently was never a question of the author who assumed it must be the bias of “a flaming liberal”.

Want to know more about the charges and their being baseless? Check the analysis of titled, “
Snopes Under Fire.” For a response to the particular version my friend received about a State Farm agent in Louisanna check Snopes account, titled “Chicken Hawked” and documentation; be sure to read the “Update” at the end of the article.

See what I mean about the apocalyptic sulfur smell of these days? But that’s not all.

Third, there is what Nicholas Kristof today called
“The Endorsement from Hell.” Earlier in the week, John McCain received an endorsement he didn’t want. A commentary on a password-protected Islamist website that is closely linked to Al Qaeda said that “Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election.”

The McCain camp was shocked. Their first lame response was to point out that that Hamas said it prefers Obama. Then, some campaign staffers began to argue that the story was a plant to suggest just the opposite of what they actually said—if Al Qaeda says it is for McCain the American people will recognize that they mean just the opposite. Kristof is not so sure.
…the endorsement of Mr. McCain by a Qaeda-affiliated Web site isn’t a surprise to security specialists.
Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism director, and Joseph Nye
, the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, have both suggested that Al Qaeda prefers Mr. McCain and might even try to use terror attacks in the coming days to tip the election to him.

“From their perspective, a continuation of Bush policies is best for recruiting,” said Professor Nye, adding that Mr. McCain is far more likely to continue those policies.

An American president who keeps troops in Iraq indefinitely, fulminates about Islamic terrorism, inclines toward military solutions and antagonizes other nations is an excellent recruiting tool. In contrast, an African-American president with a Muslim grandfather and a penchant for building bridges rather than blowing them up would give Al Qaeda recruiters fits.
Finally, and more hopefully, I think Paul Krugman may have it right. Like looking down the barrel of a gun from the wrong end, the prospect of a second Great Depression has concentrated the public’s mind. Krugman is the recently named Nobel Prize winner in economics who has been right on our economy for a long time.
As someone who’s spent a lot of time arguing against conservative economic dogma, I’d like to believe that the bad news convinced many Americans, once and for all, that the right’s economic ideas are wrong and progressive ideas are right. And there’s certainly something to that. These days, with even Alan Greenspan admitting that he was wrong to believe that the financial industry could regulate itself, Reaganesque rhetoric about the magic of the marketplace and the evils of government intervention sounds ridiculous…

But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is something less concrete and more meta than the fact that events have discredited free-market fundamentalism. As the economic scene has darkened, I’d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obama’s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign…

The McCain campaign’s response to its falling chances of victory has been telling: rather than trying to make the case that Mr. McCain really is better qualified to deal with the economic crisis, the campaign has been doing all it can to trivialize things again. Mr. Obama consorts with ’60s radicals! He’s a socialist! He doesn’t love America! Judging from the polls, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Will the public’s new demand for seriousness last? Krugman is skeptical; he remembers how 9/11 was supposed to end the focus on trivialities. For now, anyway, voters seem to be focused on real issues.

And that makes me a little less anxious about this apocalyptic feeling I have in my gut. However you are feeling, I hope you will be active in the campaigns this last week and not neglect that other little civic responsibility called voting.

- Milo

No comments: