A year or two ago, if you’d told me that Democratic Senator Barack Obama would be leading Republican Senator John McCain by a seemingly comfortable margin with two weeks to go and asked me what, in their desperation, the Republicans would be talking about to try and scare my fellow US citizens into voting against him, I’d have said race.
After all, Republicans have race-baited in one form or other in most of our presidential contests since former US president Richard Nixon’s time, so it would have seemed impossible to me that they’d miss the chance to do so at a time when Democrats had actually gone to the trouble of nominating an African-American candidate.
It’s true that we’re hearing racial-code talk here and there. But the main fear tactic being employed now is something else. It’s that Obama and his associates — and for that matter his supporters and even the regions of the country that he’s destined to carry — are anti-American.
On Oct. 17 at a rally in North Carolina, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told her audience that she was proud to be “with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” She means here of course that there are anti-American areas of the US, and they are where the liberals live, and the people there are voting for Mr Anti-America.
This was especially interesting coming from a woman whose husband, Todd Palin, was until just six years ago an enrolled member of a rightwing fringe political party that wanted the state of Alaska to secede from the US. But if you understand rightwing logic, then you’d know that Todd had no choice but to join the Alaska Independence party in 1995, because by that time the US he thought he knew and loved had been brought to ruin by the liberals and socialists and America-haters. See?
Likewise, earlier this month, Joe McCain, the brother of John, said that Alexandria and Arlington, the two major cities in the northern Virginia suburbs that lie just across the Potomac River from Washington, were “communist country” as far as he was concerned. His brother lives in Arlington when in the nation’s capital for work, and his brother’s campaign is headquartered there as well, but never mind.
‘THE REAL VIRGINIA’
A McCain spokeswoman offered a wan apology at the time, but lo and behold, just last Saturday a different McCain spokeswoman said on television that while Obama would perform well in northern Virginia, “the rest of the state — real Virginia if you will — I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain’s message.” This did not seem to be a planned one-liner. The spokeswoman made the fatal error of saying what she actually thinks. Republican Virginia equals real Virginia. Democratic Virginia is alien and impure.
This point was proven most dramatically by a woman named Representative Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress from Minnesota. In an interview on Oct. 17 on Hardball, a leading US cable talk show, host Chris Matthews asked Bachmann whether Obama worried her.
“Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” she said.
He asked her what she thought distinguished liberal from hard left from anti-American. If she maintains such distinctions in her mind, she refused to acknowledge them. Then, finally, Matthews — who deftly fed her the rope to hang herself — asked her how many members of the US Congress held, in her view, anti-American views.
It’s been almost a two-year campaign. There have been moments we’ve thought of as memorable at the time, only to see the high tide of new events erase their mark from the sand. Bachmann’s answer, however, will live imperishably.
PRO OR ANTI-AMERICAN
“What I would say — what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that,” she said.
Before we go any further — who is this Bachmann? She’s a first-term backbencher from exurban Minneapolis who says the Lord told her to run for Congress. She declared herself “a fool for Christ” in 2006 when she announced her candidacy. By all accounts she’s down with the whole rightwing Christian package: Immigrants bring disease and pestilence, homosexuals want to indoctrinate straight children and so on. Republican leadership undoubtedly pushed her out on to television because she is, as some say, a looker — at least by the standards of Congress.
The call for an investigation into the beliefs of every federal lawmaker and an expose of those found wanting in their patriotism certainly takes us into deeply creepy territory. I would not call Bachmann herself a fascist. Odd as it sounds, to do so would be to grant her far too much credit. For one to embrace an -ism, even a repugnant one, one needs to have read a certain amount of history and political philosophy.
Bachmann is just an idiot. She wouldn’t know Edmund Burke from Billie Burke — she played the good witch in the Wizard of Oz — and she obviously has no idea that, in her rejection of the two bedrock American principles of separation of church and state and freedom of thought, she is the one who is as anti-American as they come.
But friends, all is not darkness. Bachmann’s appearance caused a national uproar. Her Democratic opponent raised nearly US$500,000 from around the country in just 24 hours, and he now has a chance of beating her.
That would be nice. But let’s go back to the big contest. With Bachmann, the lid came off the rightwing id. It will happen many more times over these next week. McCain, who now openly uses the word “socialist” to describe Obama’s proposals — the week after his friend US President George W. Bush took federal control of nine major banks — and especially Palin have shown every sign of encouraging it. Their goal is to scare the US citizens about Obama, but moderate, independent voters might well decide that Obama looks a lot less scary than they do.
Michael Tomasky is editor of Guardian America.
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) spoke during the opening ceremony of this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). For the first time in the assembly’s history, attendees, including Xi, had to dial in virtually. Xi made no acknowledgement of the Chinese government’s role in causing the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was there any meaningful apology. Instead, he painted China as a benign force for good and a friend to all nations. Except Taiwan, of course. The address was a reheated version of the speech Xi gave at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Xi again attempted to step into the
The World Health Assembly (WHA) held its annual meeting this week; Taiwan was still not represented. Its journalists were also barred from covering the online-only proceedings, despite the nation’s clearly demonstrated pandemic expertise that has set an example for the world. When the SARS epidemic reached Taiwan from southern China in 2003, dozens of lives were lost, but its health experts learned the importance of general testing, masks, technology to locate infected persons, swift decisions and quarantines. The lessons were applied immediately across Taiwan when COVID-19 arrived this year. From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated as an observer in the assembly under