Barack Obama is the recipient of a very tough political strategy from the Clinton campaign. The strategy is basic: Peel off marginal constituencies. It works best in a cumulative and sequential assault.
First, remind everyone that Obama is black, that will cost him let's say 3% who will never vote black. Next, remind everyone he is or has been Muslim, another 3%. He is young and inexperienced, 3%. He admittedly used drugs and until recently was still a chain smoker, 3%. Those four together make for a 12% advantage. That is a very big deal and lethally effective. Obama has almost no defense to such a strategy.
DECEMBER 17, 2007, 9:45 PM
Kerrey Tries to Explain Obama ‘Muslim’ Remarks
By KATE PHILLIPS NYT
Yet another day, yet another Clinton campaign surrogate explaining remarks made about one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s top rivals, Senator Barack Obama.
Let’s step back for a minute. Former Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat from Nebraska and president of the New School in New York who has just endorsed Senator Clinton, said this in a dispatch (it’s the second item in the linked post) this morning from Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post:
“The fact that he’s African-American is a big deal. I do expect and hope that Hillary is the nominee of the party. But I hope he’s used in some way. If he happens to be the nominee of the party and ends up being president, I think his capacity to influence in a positive way . . . the behavior of a lot of underperforming black youth today is very important, and he’s the only one who can reach them.”
Kerrey continued: “It’s probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There’s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.”
It’s probably not something that appeals to him? We don’t think we’ve seen anywhere that Mr. Obama has disowned his name, and in fact, he recently took heat from the Clinton campaign and Senator Clinton herself for talking about his breadth of experience — uh, foreign experience — by citing the fact that he spent part of his childhood growing up in Indonesia.
Well, Mr. Kerrey’s comments rippled around on Monday, in part because the Muslim-mentions permeate the Internet and are pervasive among the derisive comments on many blogs, including our own here at the Caucus. Mr. Obama’s father was indeed Muslim, from Kenya, but the senator is a Christian, as he says over and over — an especially important point in regions like Iowa or South Carolina where Christians form an influential part of the Democratic voting base. And an especially important point given the anti-Muslim sentiments that rival those of anti-Mormonism when it comes to Republican Mitt Romney, though granted for different reasons, that waft through various Internet venues (including our own).
So today, CNN’s correspondent John King asked Mr. Kerrey in the SitRoom about those comments:
Mr. King: Now, senator, you say that at a time when Barack Obama has to go out from time to time in his events and tell people “I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian,” because he thinks there’s a smear campaign going on under the radar about who he is, trying to maybe peel some people away who might get worried about a guy named Barack Hussein Obama.
So some would say this is cynical — a new Hillary Clinton supporter doing this to try to stir this up again.
Mr. Kerrey: Well, it’s now. … And I think that he is qualified. And the two things that I liked very
much about him, that I think will add a tremendous amount of value if he becomes the nominee and gets elected is the fact that as an African-American he can speak in an authentic way to underperforming black youth, who I think will follow his example.
And, secondly, I do — there is a smear campaign going on. And people are acting as if he’s an Islamic Manchurian candidate. And I feel it’s actually a substantial strength. He is a Christian.
Both he and his family are Christians. They’ve chosen Christianity. But that connection to Indonesia and a billion Muslims on this Earth I think is a real strength and will add an awful lot of value in his foreign policy efforts.
Mr. King: Well, you have to know when you’re about to say something like that, that some will twist it, especially in this age of the Internet and blogs. Did you think about that before you talked about it, or is it Bob Kerrey saying this is what I think; I’m going to say it?
Mr. Kerrey: No, it’s something — by the way, I’ve told Barack Obama when I’ve met with him. It’s something that I’ve spoken about before. So this is not something that just sort of came out in the head-birth (right term, my question?) out there in Iowa. I’ve thought about it a great deal. I’ve watched the blogs, try to say that you can’t trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa.
I feel quite opposite. I think it’s a tremendous strength whether he’s in the United States Senate or whether he’s in the White House. I think it’s a tremendous asset.
O.K. Reel back to last week. New Hampshire’s William Shaheen, spouse of Jeanne Shaheen, Senate candidate and former governor; he is one of the Clinton campaign’s co-chairmen who stepped down after the Clinton camp disavowed his speculation in an interview about how the Republicans would use Mr. Obama’s admitted drug use — in his youthful days, uh, into his college years, doing marijuana and cocaine — against the Democrats. It played along the riding theme that Senator Clinton is espousing again and again that she is “battle-tested,” has no surprises in her background because it’s all out there and has been vetted.
Then this week, Mr. Kerrey — however in character as he is wont to speak his mind — raises the Muslim-madrassa-middlename Hussein of Senator Obama.
Thematic? Who knows. Code? Orchestrated? Anyone’s guess. But let’s think about the cumulative effect. That is what matters. Only words are heard, seen, read … over and over. Playing into wild rumors on the Internet that the Washington Post has already been criticized for reporting a few short weeks ago.
We asked the Obama campaign for comment on Mr. Kerrey’s comments to CNN. No response coming soon, a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, we’ll wait and listen and watch. Whisper campaigns reverberate off the buzz words.