As one who volunteers for Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign, I follow the coverage of him and the campaign in the German language media. Later this week the voters in Iowa will caucus to determine who the nominees will be for both the Republicans and the Democrats. The candidates are getting desperate, and the attacks are getting vicious. There are the overt "attack ads" that appear on television, which criticize specific policies or inconsistencies in a candidate's record. And then there are the covert attacks in the form of whispers, rumors, and outright lies that can be heard on right-wing hate radio or that swirl around cyberspace in blogs and forwarded e-mails. Senator Obama has been the target of some of the most viscious and perposterous covert attacks. An excellent article on Senator Obama in the NZZ-Online picked up on this:
Seine Vorname reimt sich auf den Namen des Landes, wo die USA ihren opferreichsten Krieg seit Jahrzehnten führen, sein Nachname erinnert an Amerikas Todfeind Usama (bin Ladin). Und der islamische Mittelname Hussein zeugt vom muslimischen Glauben seiner kenyanischen Vorfahren. Kein Wunder, dass sich um die Biografie des demokratischen Präsidentschaftsbewerbers allerlei Verschwörungstheorien ranken. Am Rande einer Wahlveranstaltung Hillary Clintons behauptete kürzlich ein Zuschauer allen Ernstes, dass Obama Muslim sei und ein Schläfer-Agent der Terrorgruppe al-Kaida sein könnte. Auf seiner Website betont Obama hingegen, dass er einer christlichen Kirche angehöre. (His first name rhymes with the name of the country where the USA has been conducting its costly war for years, his last name reminds us of America's arch-enemy (bin-Laden). And the Islamic middle name Hussein was given out of the Muslim faith of his Kenyan ancestors. No wonder all kinds of conspiracy theories swirl around the biography of the Democratic candidate. At one campaign event for Hillary Clinton someone in the audience - in all seriousness - claimed that Obama is a Muslim and a sleeper agent for Al-Qaeda. On his Web site, Obama emphasizes his membership in a Christian church).
Neues Deutschland delves into the sources of these "rumors" about Senator Obama:
Im November ließen zwei Wahlkampfhelfer [des ClintonLagers] E-Mails zirkulieren, in denen nicht nur fälschlicherweise behauptet wurde, Barack Obama sei Muslim, sondern auch, er arbeite an der Zerstörung der USA. (In November two campaign workers from the Clinton camp circulated e-mails that not only falsely claimed that Obama is a Muslim, but that he is working to destroy the USA)
These covert attacks on Senator Obama are having an effect. I spent a good part of the weekend knocking on doors in New Hampshire (in the ice and snow) for the Obama Campaign. I heard from more than one voter that they couldn't vote for Senator Obama because "he's a Muslim" or that "he grew up in a mosque." Of course, in an ideal world, it shouldn't matter either way if candidate is Muslim or attended a mosque. But in this period of hyper-religiosity in America it is political suicide if a candidate identifies himself/herself as Muslim/atheist/Buddhist, etc. - anything but devout Chiristian (even Mormons are highly suspect). Now, it could be that these voters are just bigots, who never would have voted for Senator Obama in the first place. But I wonder how many potential voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have refused to consider the candidacy of Barack Obama because of the covert false attacks made by the right-wing noise machine in America and the campaigns of his political rivals.
We'll know by January 8 (the date of the New Hampshire Primary).