Smearing Obama

The smear machine is taking out after Barack Obama, and with a vengeance. Not that this is surprising, or even anything new: they’ve been conducting a low-level hate campaign ever since he attained front-runner status, and now they’re going into overdrive with a commentary by Ron Kessler in the Wall Street Journal that uses the same guilt-by-association technique that they used against Ron Paul.

With Paul, it was tarring him with the brush of "white nationalism," even though any sort of nationalism – white, black, pink, or purple – is anathema to libertarians of Paul’s ilk. That didn’t stop the character assassins, however – including those Beltway "libertarians" who have imbibed the political correctness that is de rigueur on the Washington cocktail-party circuit. Newsletters written during the 1980s, excoriating race rioters and opining that they reflected the welfare-state mentality that pervaded our politics at the time, were condemned by these worthies because to even address the culture of entitlement in the black community is supposedly prima facie evidence of "racism." A campaign contribution from an obscure racist was blown up as proof positive that Paul is hoping for the revival of the Third Reich, although no one can be held responsible for who contributes to their campaign, and certainly the money – $500 – was to be used to achieve political objectives that aren’t even remotely connected to racism or bigotry of any sort.

In the case of Obama, the assault is taking the form of an attack on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the now-retired pastor of Obama’s church whom Obama describes as a religious "mentor" in his autobiography The Audacity of Hope. Again, the basic strategy is to make Obama answer for each and every one of Wright’s pronouncements, no matter how wacky or lame-brained, such as the contention that AIDS was created by the U.S. government. Aside from the logical fallacy inherent in the guilt-by-association tact – after all, Obama didn’t say AIDS was a U.S. government plot, Wright did – implicit in all this is the assumption that all blacks believe the same thing, that they are a collective entity linked by some sort of ethnic consciousness, and, therefore, Obama can and must be held responsible for Wright’s opinions on every subject under the sun, including those he had no knowledge of.

So, what, aside from the AIDS comment, did Wright say that was so terrible? The War Street Journal piece simply quotes these, without offering much of an argument for their iniquitous nature. Here’s Wright on racism and foreign policy:

"We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college. Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run, Jesse [Jackson], and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body."

Of course, Wright’s contention that "no black man will ever be considered for president" is refuted by the very fact of Obama’s front-runner status. Perhaps only Hillary Clinton – who recently offered Obama the vice presidency, in spite of the fact that he’s ahead of her by every measure – and a few yahoos out in the sticks are stuck in this old mindset. As for the rest, it’s undeniably true. We do have more black men in prison than in college – way more. Racism is alive and well; driving while black is still a dangerous pastime. This country was founded with a near-fatal flaw in the constitutional order, one that permitted slavery to continue for another hundred years. While I don’t agree with everything Wright says in this statement, I don’t see anything that isn’t part of the broad spectrum of popular opinion in this country, though a lot of what he says may be considered out of bounds for the elites.

Kessler, however, is convinced that it is only necessary to repeat what Wright has said: no explanation is really required. In the same vein, he continues citing Wright:

"Mr. Wright thundered on: ‘America is still the No. 1 killer in the world…. We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers…. We bombed Cambodia, Iraq, and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi…. We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.’

But of course the American government is the number-one killer in the world: we pride ourselves on it. Why else would our "defense" budget exceed the military expenditures of all other nations combined? We glory in our ability to kill, and we don’t hesitate to exercise our talents. In Iraq alone, the U.S. invasion has led to as many as a million deaths.

The racial aspect of all this is dramatized, in rather vivid terms, by the Pentagon’s refusal to count Iraqi deaths. Only American casualties are reported, because only Americans matter, as John McCain avers in his rationalization of the war and continued occupation:

"We’ve been in Japan for 60 years, we’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That’d be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me."

As long as it’s mainly Iraqis being killed, then that’s just fine with McCain. Another war he supported, and continues to valorize, killed, maimed, and traumatized millions of Vietnamese, but the "gooks" – as McCain unapologetically put it – don’t count, either. It was American, not Vietnamese, casualties that triggered our retreat from Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, too, where water-boarding was a routine method of interrogation, we slaughtered thousands, justifying our savagery with the "progressive" (at the time) rhetoric of moral and cultural uplift, the 19th-century equivalent of "it takes a village." Teddy Roosevelt, McCain’s idol, preached this doctrine and was lionized by the liberals of his era as a great innovator and a heroic figure.

Racism is closely linked to imperialism, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why. Since, by definition, a policy of conquest means conquering foreigners, and these peoples are often, albeit not always, of another race, it behooves the conqueror to rationalize his aggression in racial terms. "Take up the white man’s burden" – up until very recently, Kipling’s poetic phrase has been the leitmotif and battle cry of the global Anglo hegemon. It was, and is, a world order founded on racism, mercantilism, and militarism, the three pillars of hegemonist thought. Yet the Wall Street Journal has its own version of history and is certainly no critic of mercantilism, either historic or contemporary. In any case, the Journal‘s real beef with Wright isn’t mentioned until midway through Kessler’s piece:

"His voice rising, Mr. Wright said, ‘We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-Semitic…. We care nothing about human life if the end justifies the means….’"

One wonders on what grounds Kessler or the Journal would dispute Wright’s contention; alas, we can only speculate, since no argument is even attempted. The evil of Wright’s remarks is apparently self-evident – except it isn’t.

We have supported Israel unconditionally, in spite of Israel’s defiance on the settlements issue and its continued occupation of conquered territory that imposes what former President Jimmy Carter rightly likens to a system of apartheid. Worse, we have encouraged Israeli aggression, cheering on and actively aiding the invasion of Lebanon and conflating Israel’s right of "self-defense" with a policy of expansionism.

As for branding critics of Israel as anti-Semites, is Kessler really maintaining that this never happens? It’s the smear-of-first-resort of the Israel-first lobby, as professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have recently discovered. Everyone knows that to traduce this terrain is to walk through a political minefield, which is why most American politicians scrupulously avoid it – a testament, by the way, to the trenchancy of the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis that the Israel lobby wields an inordinate and ultimately unhealthy influence over the conduct of American foreign policy.

There was a similar brouhaha from those quarters when Obama opined that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." The Lobby’s antennae quivered – doesn’t he know who holds the official monopoly on suffering? – and they’ve been on him ever since.

The rest of Kessler’s piece is an extension of the guilt-by-association technique, in which a new factor is added to the Obama = Wright equation: Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. Wright’s church magazine apparently gave Farrakhan some sort of award, so now the equation is Obama = Wright = Farrakhan. This feeds directly into the widely circulated rumor that Obama, having imbibed Islam in Indonesia, is a secret Muslim – a jihadist at heart.

The smear campaign against Obama has just begun. As he wins primary after primary, racking up delegates and leaving Hillary in the electoral dust, these gusts of slanderous invective will take on full gale force. What we are witnessing is the first stage of a calculated attempt to characterize the putative Democratic nominee as a secret Muslim, a black nationalist, and a 3 a.m. threat to hearth and home.

The author of this piece, Kessler, is the head honcho over at, a site that is the prototypical example of right-wing "movement" hackery. During the Clinton years, it used to run stuff about Vince Foster and the alleged Clinton connection to his death. Today they are shilling for the Clintons, carrying out the widely noted Clintonian scorched-earth strategy of making Obama unelectable, then biding their time until 2012. Talk about strange bedfellows – or, on second thought, not so strange.

Clearly, Obama is the candidate the neoconservatives fear and loathe: the loathing is on account of his antiwar views, at least when it comes to Iraq, and the fear stems from the fact that campaigning against him will be difficult. Hillary they can handle: she’ll mobilize the troops and weld together the fractured Republican coalition in opposition.

The War Party is in full battle mode, and it is determined to destroy Obama. Will it succeed? Stay tuned…

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].