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Tue

25

Dec

2007

Hillary’s ‘Southern Strategy’: Muslim-Baiting
Tuesday, 25 December 2007 15:48
by Tony Karon

So this is the big secret that Hillary’s campaign is trying to warn us will crop up like some old floozie of Bill’s to wreck the Dems chances if they nominate Obama? Hillary surrogate Senator Bob Kerrey casually tossed out this little bon mot on Sunday: “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.” Kerrey added, “He’s got a whale of a lot more intellectual talent than I’ve got as well.”

So was Kerrey’s smarmy bit of racist fear-mongering endorsed by Hillary? Plausible denial, we’re sure. And what is Kerrey’s reward for stooping this low? You really expect better from a fellow whose day job is running the New School than to come off like some country-club racist:

Oh, isn’t it just charming that Obama (rhymes with Osama) just happens to have the middle name of the former Iraqi dictator. Muslims, you gotta love ‘em. And there’s a billion of them, you know. Very important experience that young Barack HUSSEIN Obama has there. Wonder why he doesn’t make more of it?

I guess this is the equivalent from a clearly panicked Clinton camp of Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” unsubtly telegraphing message of fear and loathing to a racist base.

Actually, it may be more like the Polish election campaign strategy of that scumbag Lech Walesa in 1990, which pushed the idea that his rival, Solidarity President Tadeusz Mazowiecki, was actually Jewish. That Mazowiecki was actually Catholic was beside the point (Obama, by the way, is a church-going Christian); the point was to trade on the residual anti-Semitism of a section of the Polish electorate.

A sad, day, I’m afraid for a Democratic Party whose front-running candidate is a lot longer on personal ambition than on vision. Tested candidate, indeed…


Tony Karon is a journalist from Cape Town, South Africa and resident of New York since 1993. He is currently a senior editor at TIME.com (although his writings at Atlantic Free Press and personal blog he does on his own time and is personally entirely responsible for its content, which in no way reflects the views or outlook of anyone else).

Karon has worked for Time since 1997, covering the Middle East, the “war on terror” and international issues ranging from China’s emergence to the Balkans. He also does occasional op-eds for Haaretz and other publications, as well as bits of TV and radio punditry for CNN, MSNBC, and various NPR shows. Karon did an ever-so-brief stint at Fox News (measured in months!) and worked at George magazine in its startup year. Having majored in economic history, he cut his analytical teeth in South Africa in the struggle years, where he worked both as an editor in the “alternative” press and as an activist of the banned ANC. And in that context, his obsession with understanding global events took root, as a means of contextualizing the choices and obstacles faced in the struggle against apartheid. In 1990/1, he gave up his activist career almost as soon as Nelson Mandela was released, the ANC was unbanned and the regime conceded to a transition to democracy — and a “normality” was achieved in South Africa politics. Karon then went to work in the mainstream media at the Cape Times and the Mail & Guardian Weekly, before leaving for New York in 1993 on what he imagined would be an extended holiday.

A brief research gig at Time Out opened his eyes to the possibilities of working in the U.S. — as well as hooking up to the first connections of the sort of ever-expanding networks that make life in the city possible. What followed was a mad array of freelance gigs ranging from the sublime (television work for Britain’s Channel 4 that involved escapades such as spending three days with the rapper Notorious B.I.G.) to the ridiculous — writing the script for a Geffen Records “rockumentary” on Manowar, an upstate New York heavy metal band, really big in Spain and Greece, whose brief spell in the Guiness Book of records as the world’s loudest band underscored their image of themselves as Norse warriors and Wagner’s true inheritors.

While he relished the professional holiday from the serious themes that had preoccupied his life during the 80s, and the opportunity to explore other interests and passions, he gravitated back to writing about geopolitics. The optimism surrounding the new paradigms of post-Cold War politics suddenly began to recede, and familiar patterns began to repeat themselves. Reading the New York Times on the subway en route to various day jobs, Karon found himself drawn back to the big themes. There were things that needed saying, and he had more to offer than commentaries on the marketing strategies of the Wu Tang Clan.

In the aftermath of 9/11, he found many friends and acquaintances asking me to share private observations about the “war on terror” and related subjects and started mailing those out to a list of friends and colleagues, that just kept growing as they forwarded them to others. And finally, after a substantial hiatus, they’ve evolved into Rootless Cosmopolitian - where he blogs regularly

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