During the election campaign, it definitely got out of hand. Losing and desperate, the McCain campaign tried to capitalize on Barack Obama's weak connection to '60s radical William Ayers. That people confused this attack with a separate email smear campaign saying that Obama was a Muslim and, perhaps, a terrorist himself was probably less than coincidental. Barack Obama was the "soft on terrorism" candidate, which in turn became the "terrorist candidate" in many people's minds. The far right and the racist crowd aren't known for their deep intellect. I know that most people immediately suspect claims that are too good to be true, but I'll never understand how people can fall for claims that seem too bad to be true. If a claim about a candidate is so bizarre that it seems absurd, then guess what? It probably is.
Still, as I said, there are always plenty of dopes who'll fall for anything and it's probably safe to assume that most of those people voted McCain-Palin. But the McCain campaign needed every vote they could get and they weren't extremely picky about where they came from. If someone would cast a ballot for McCain-Palin because they were terrified that Barack Obama was going to sell out America to al Qaeda, then so what? A vote's a vote.
But they were playing with fire. Stupid people can be brutal people and gullible people are about 90% stupid people. The decision to believe that Barack Obama was an actual, honest to goodness terrorist betrays a bad decision-making impulse that goes farther than just that one choice. That decision led to other decisions and those decisions were just as idiotic. Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported that, as the William Ayers talk increased on the stump, there were entirely predictable consequences.
Sarah Palin's attacks on Barack Obama's patriotism provoked a spike in death threats against the future president, Secret Service agents revealed during the final weeks of the campaign.
The Republican vice presidential candidate attracted criticism for accusing Mr Obama of "palling around with terrorists", citing his association with the sixties radical William Ayers.
The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling "terrorist" and "kill him" until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.
It got so bad that Michelle Obama asked a campaign aide, "Why would they try to make people hate us?"
The answer is simple -- that's just what Republicans do. They can't win the debate if it's based on policy, so they make it about personality. Listen to right wing talk radio any day of the week and you'll hear it. They don't just misrepresent facts, they make stuff up. During the campaign, Team McCain tried to paint Obama as a supporter of infanticide. Again, the concept of "too bad to be true" is completely foreign to many minds. They believed that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim terrorist who supported killing babies without reason. There is no lower limit as to how stupid and gullible some people are willing to be. Al Qaeda openly hoped McCain, not Obama, would win. But that didn't bother these chumps, who couldn't possibly have been paying attention to the real world.
So it's more than a little ironic that and a lot less than surprising that al Qaeda came out with an attack against the President-Elect.
In a propaganda salvo by Al Qaeda aimed at undercutting the enthusiasm of Muslims worldwide about the American election, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy condemned President-elect Barack Obama as a “house Negro” who would continue a campaign against Islam that Al Qaeda’s leaders said was begun by President Bush.
Appealing to the “weak and oppressed” around the world, the Qaeda deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a video released Wednesday that the “new face” of America only masked a “heart full of hate.”
It's less than surprising, because al Qaeda would've launched a propaganda attack against any of the candidates. But it's ironic because Barack Obama -- painted as the "terrorist candidate" -- turns out to be al Qaeda's worst nightmare.
"While it’s a bit irritating to have an atavistic mass murderer presume to dictate appropriate politics for a black American, Zawahiri’s diatribe is good news," writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker. "In fact, it may be the best news we’ve gotten in the struggle against al Qaeda since the so-called Sunni awakening in Iraq. Zawahiri and his fellow jihadists are clearly worried both about the symbolic power of an Obama presidency and about the smarter strategy against terrorism that Obama has laid out."
Bush's strategy in fighting terrorism has been idiotic. Invading Iraq was a pointless distraction and treating al Qaeda as a military problem, rather than a criminal problem, is using the wrong tool for the job. We've been treating a loose association of religious nutjobs like a foreign power. Tucker describes these actions as "a gift to al Qaeda and its recruiting efforts."
"They allowed bin Laden and Zawahiri to paint the U.S. government as an imperial power bent on a 21st-century crusade against Islam," Tucker writes, "However, that’s a more difficult argument to make when the Oval Office is occupied by a black man whose Kenyan grandfather was Muslim and who played with Muslim friends during his childhood years in Indonesia."
The things we were all supposed to be suspicious of are the things that makes him a huge problem for terrorists. It was easy to accuse Bush of prosecuting a racist crusade to wipe out Islam, but Barack Obama? Yeah, that doesn't fit as well. They're reduced to racism.
Of course, the people who fell for the "Obama's a secret terrorist" lie are no dumber than those who care what al Qaeda thinks. But it's the broader message that causes them trouble and the lie is much harder to swallow this time around. Obama's plan to withdraw from Iraq doesn't help any, either. Al Qaeda wanted McCain because they could count on him to foolishly continue the occupation until time stopped, if that's how long he thought it would take. Nothing would make terrorists happier. The United States' greatest military victory may have been a war with two fronts, but it's the sort of thing you want to do only if you absolutely have to. Many in al Qaeda see Afghanistan as being what brought the USSR down -- the expense of the invasion bankrupting the invaders. This was their greatest victory and they probably hope to be able to use the same strategy twice -- keep the enemy shooting until they can't afford bullets anymore.
But they know Barack Obama won't fall for that. So they try to provoke him with taunts worthy of a racist schoolyard bully. Sadly, this sort of thing probably worked with Bush, but "no drama Obama" is a leveler head. He won't be insulted into making a stupid decision to prove his tough guy bona fides. The days of having a reliably violent fool in the White House are nearly over.
Likewise, closing Guantanamo will be a blow against terrorism. Ending torture will be a blow against terrorism. Restoring justice and constitutional principles will be a blow against terrorism. Everything Bush argued we absolutely had to do to fight terrorism was an overreaction. You don't have to commit crimes to fight criminals. If the United States once again becomes a just nation, it's a lot harder to convince people that we're evil. It's a lot harder to convince people we're crazy when our approach to fighting international criminals is rational and measured.
It may be that there was no more crippling blow to terrorism than the election of the "terrorist candidate."