Fanning Fear of a Black President

With Hillary's big Ohio win and smaller Texas one, look for the whackos to become unhinged in their racist attacks on Obama now that they perceive some vulnerability in the candidate. And they'll do it in a way that makes it seem like Obama acts like he has something to hide.

For a case study on how to insidiously inject race into the race, take a look at Amir Taheri's column today in the New York Post: "Obama's Real Mideast Problem - It's His Policies, Not His Heritage."

While Taheri's headline focuses on Obama's mideast policies, those don't come up till more than halfway through his piece. The first half reveals Taheri's true agenda: getting voters scared about a black American running for president who happens to have a father who's Kenyan. First is a detailed exposition of the name "Hussein": "one of the most popular names for Muslims, especially Shiites." How special. Next up, details on where the names "Barack" and "Obama" come from: the former, Arabic for 'blessing,' and the latter referring to Obama's "father's tribe who converted to Islam." Taheri ultimately bottom lines it: "In other words, 'Barack Hussein Obama' is a perfectly common identifier for someone with an ethnic East African Muslim background [emphasis mine]."

Has anyone informed Taheri that Obama's parents separated when he was two years old and that he was raised -- mostly in Honolulu -- by his white mother and her parents? Or that, throughout his early years, Obama was commonly known at home and school as "Barry"? Or that Obama's East African Muslim father -- so integral to Obama's "exotic" "family story" -- attended Harvard University to pursue Ph.D. studies?

The column fairly oozes racial innuendo. For example, somehow the fact that Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia (not even living with his "Kenyan Muslim" father, but his Indonesian, Johnny Walker Black-drinking, tennis-playing stepfather, should make us wonder whether Obama's loyalty isn't really, underneath it all, to Islam. (This is not the first time that Taheri has, um, shaded the truth.

It's not enough for the author to position Obama as basically the same as a Muslim living in Africa. He has to add insult to injury by implying that because Obama defends his Christian faith -- and by implication his American-ness -- he's somehow ashamed of his Muslim background. Says Taheri: Obama "has behaved as if he did have a family secret, and as if the name Hussein was something to be ashamed of -- or worse still, as if a Muslim background is somehow a handicap for an American politician in ways that a Christian, Jewish, Mormon or any other faith is not." Wow.

When we do finally get to Taheri's argument about Obama's supposedly radical new approach to the Middle East, it's more of the same simplistic, neo-con fearmongering: because Obama has suggested a dialogue with countries in the region, Obama has a "revolutionary idea" about US relations with the mideast, based on a "new relationship with radical forces in the Islamic world."

One can disagree, as I do, with Taheri's summary of what Obama's approach towards the Middle East would mean in practice. But in order to even get to Taheri's argument one would have had to endure a highly-distorted, nausea-inducing view of Obama's background and supposed shame around it. What it boils down to is an attempt -- now apparently becoming commonplace in mainstream media outlets such as the Post -- to make Obama seem something "other" than American, something I hope and trust most Americans will know better than to fall for.