Less than a week into the formal general election campaign and Republican operatives have already pulled the Is-Barack-Obama-A-Muslim? card.
Famed dirty trickster Floyd Brown - of Willie Horton fame - has released a new web advertisement through his National Campaign Fund PAC, suggesting that Barack Obama is covering up a Muslim heritage.
Of course, countless ink has been devoted to debunking the myth that Obama was attended a Muslim school when he lived in Indonesia. And Brown, whose group is not exactly rolling in finances, has operated under the premise that the more outrageous the material one puts together, the more likely it is to be aired and the more money one is likely to raise. Earlier this cycle, for instance, he put together an inflammatory ad blaming Obama for gang murders in Chicago.
But the current installment is, perhaps, the sleaziest (and most tired theme) yet. It begins:
Question: Was Barack Obama ever a Muslim. He says no, but the Associated Press found records that showed Obama was in school as a Muslim living in Indonesia and the Obama campaign can't explain why.
There is much context left to fill. For starters, the school Obama attended at the time was Catholic -- a spokesman for Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs said as much. And while someone did list Obama as a Muslim (the religion of his step father) on a document that required students to list religious affiliations, the campaign has insisted that it was a mistake.
"Senator Obama has never been a Muslim," Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director, said. "As a six-year-old in Catholic school, he studied the catechism."
Moreover, Brown's own ad concludes that the issue is inconsequential. "Maybe it doesn't matter if Obama were a Muslim back then," the spot goes, before questioning why he won't tell the truth now.
What may be more telling than the smear ad is the reaction that it engenders. Brown has a history of using barely discreet racist messaging to drive political discussion. So it is hardly a surprise to see him meddling in the Obama-is-a-Muslim affairs.
But Sen. John McCain has pledged to run a smear-free campaign. His candidacy has no direct connections to Brown's National Campaign Fund. And yet, his reaction to the group's latest work could go a long way in determining the tone and tenor of the general election.