In responding to criticisms Obama has developed a pattern: his policies spring from only the purist of motives and are, despite abundant appearances to the contrary, completely consistent with his previous statements. In contrast, his opponents are motivated by deception and greed or worse.
Obama has gone so far as to claim that the campaign ahead is sure to be based on fear and smear tactics rather than a debate about the issues. At a fundraiser in Florida he claimed:
We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. ‘He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?’
Notice how he quickly connects a legitimate concern, youth and inexperience, with nefarious accusations and racism. In Obama world, any criticism is prohibited, any characterization suspect, and any attack based on fear.
This was comically illustrated when Jon Stewart joined the rest of the media in mocking Obama for creating his own presidential seal and his self-serving explanation for refusing to participate in the public financing system.
No sooner had Stewart declared that “You're Allowed to Laugh at Him” did the liberal Huffington Post decry Stewart’s humor as “playing right into the Republican line.” In Obama’s world even a joke is inappropriate, as it might tarnish the image of the political messiah.
Obama likes to portray himself as the candidate of hope, openness, transparency and civil debate. But he is the one who quickly questions the motivations of anyone who dare criticize and who labels huge swaths of issues off limits or distractions.
This attempt to portray his opponents as out to smear him is deeply disingenuous and meant to stifle debate, not encourage it. The campaigns have spent the last few weeks debating energy policy, the proper strategy for the war on terror, and significant Supreme Court cases among other issues. I don’t recall the RNC sending out press releases about Obama’s middle name or his race. I don’t recall John McCain giving major speeches on these points or talking about them in interviews.
Instead McCain and Republicans have been working furiously to pin Obama down on his policy positions – not easy with his ever shifting answers – and show how these are to the left of most of Americans.
In fact, McCain challenged Obama to travel across the country holding townhall meetings so that voters could meet the candidates and ask them questions directly. This is not exactly the strategy for a campaign of fear and smear.