Monday, May 12, 2008

Evolving Right-Wing Smears Against Obama

I can barely keep track... One day, Obama's a secret Muslim reared in a radical Islamic madrassa, and is plotting to take over the country. The next day, he's a wild-eyed black man enthralled by a radical preacher whose teachings "aren't Biblical". Now it seems he's a Christian, which means the Muslim world wants him dead. Really, that's the argument of Edward N. Luttwack in today's New York Times, where he was granted space for an editorial despite what appears to be a complete lack of credentials on religious matters, let alone Islamic law. (Insight into the flaws in Luttwack's interpretation of Islam may be found here and here.)

One of the glories of writing an editorial, of course, is that you're not fact-checked, but that doesn't stop various right-wing hacks and haters from trying to suggest that Luttwack's position has somehow been endorsed by the Times. The smear piece relates this history:
Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.
Perhaps "most Americans" understand that Obama is not a Muslim because he wasn't raised as a Muslim, has never been a Muslim, and... is a Christian. The phrasing here seems intended to suggest that Obama was once Muslim and converted to Christianity - that's consistent with a right-wing smear piece, but it's completely at odds with the facts. As for the "apostasy" claim, Luttwack claims,
With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings.
For all adults? So in Luttwack's fevered imagination, when Obama was born and his parents chose not to raise him as a Muslim, the newborn baby Obama was an adult who chose not to be a Muslim? This is the best he can do to sustain his smear?
More broadly, most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity once it became widely known — as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House.
Because in Luttwack's mind, Muslims are really, really stupid and thus, despite international coverage of the campaign and the "Rev. Wright" pseudo-scandal, have no idea that Obama is a Christian.

This smear is bizarre. First and foremost, who cares what the Muslim world thinks of Obama? Isn't "being hated by the Muslim world" a bragging point for G.W.? Isn't the notion that Islamic extremists will "fear" him a cornerstone of John McCain's campaign? Second, if the test of who we want for President is "hope that [the President] would decisively improve relations with the world’s Muslims", assuming the worst of Luttwack's smear piece to be true, how does that distinguish Obama from McCain? As for the possibility that there might be Islamic radicals who would like to kill the President, again the difference between McCain and Obama would be... what?

Meanwhile, in his increasingly loathsome manner, Joe Lieberman is advancing a related smear against Obama, suggesting that Hamas will be happy if he wins. (Where was Luttwack during Lieberman's Presidential run, to "warn" us that the Islamic world may not be thrilled with the idea of a President who is also an Orthodox Jew?) Yes, this is the same Joe Lieberman who solicited Obama's endorsement against Lamont, after losing the Democratic primary for his Senate seat. Perhaps eventually these attacks will become coherent, as if you combine Lieberman's smear with Luttwack's you're left with the near-psychotic notion that Hamas is eager for an Obama victory so that they can condemn him, refuse to cooperate with him, and try to kill him.

If you took all the neurons in Luttwack's head and banged them against all the neurons in Lieberman's head, would you generate enough energy to create a spark? Meanwhile, considering the origins of this particular smear, one wonders why the Times thought it was "fit to print".


  1. Hi!

    Thanks for the link to my post. I find your blog very interesting, and thanks for introducing the Lieberman element into the discussion. It's sad when people with liberal credentials from the past start acting this way. It's the sheer spite of Hillary and Lieberman that is surprising.

  2. I think it's more suitable for me to be thanking you for your post. I searched out informed religious perspectives toward the end of writing my post (as I'm no expert, to put it mildly) and let's just say most of the responses I found to the editorial were not informed.


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