Virginia GOP Chairman claims "connection between Obama and bin Laden"

Reporters who are minimizing and dismissing the McCain campaign's uniquely dangerous smears are aiding and abetting those efforts.

Published October 12, 2008 4:06PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

In the post below, I referenced an angry defense of the McCain/Palin campaign from Politico's Jonathan Martin, who mocked accusations that the McCain campaign was exploiting racist themes as nothing more than the by-product of "the outrage industry, ever on the lookout for any sign of racism and quick to pounce even when it's not there."  To do so, Martin dismissed a truly vile and overtly racist newspaper article (.pdf) written by Bobby May -- McCain's County Chairman in Buchanan County, Virginia and former GOP County Treasurer -- as nothing more than "one isolated piece from a low-level party activist in a rural paper."

Today, Time's Karen Tumulty reports on what she heard after being invited by the McCain campaign to observe its "ground game" in Southern Virginia.  Tumulty reports on a speech she heard delivered to gathered McCain volunteers by the Chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, Jeffrey M. Frederick -- no "low-level party activist" he:

With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon," he said. "That is scary."

After noting that this is "not exactly true," Tumulty described how that accusation was nonetheless "enough to get the volunteers stoked":

"And he won't salute the flag," one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, "We don't even know where Senator Obama was really born." Actually, we do; it's Hawaii.

This is why it is so disgraceful for reporters and pundits to minimize and dismiss what the McCain/Palin campaign, and Republicans generally, have been doing as they become increasingly desperate.  Here is the top Republican official for the State of Virginia comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden and provoking claims that he hates the flag and isn't really even American.  The raw tribalism and resentments that are being stoked here, and the pure hatred against Obama based on his Terroristic Foreignness, is unprecedentedly ugly and dangerous, and reporters who dismiss and minimize it all through false equivalencies and other justifications are doing nothing less than aiding and abetting it.


UPDATE:  Virginia blogger Lowell Feld has more on this, noting:  "this wasn't some offhand remark by Frederick; he said it knowing that a reporter from TIME MAGAZINE was in the room taking notes for a story! Imagine what he says when the media isn't present?!?"


UPDATE II:  Ezra Klein points to this Marc Ambinder post, in which Ambinder writes:  "Ron Brownstein, our in-house Atlantic Media political safe, pens a balanced column on health care that neither campaign will like (which is why it's worth pointing to)!" (emphasis added).  It's not "worth pointing to" because it's true or informative, but because it's "balanced" -- meaning both sides will hate it equally -- and, therefore, for that reason alone, it must be worthwhile, regardless of whether the "balance" is warranted by the truth.  

Ezra says:  "Even after a couple of years as a professional journalist, I still find that mindset very weird."  "Very weird" is definitely one way to describe it, but what it really is more than anything else is the core sickness of modern journalism (hence:  the McCain campaign is stoking tribal hatred and mass incendiary resentments toward Obama but Republicans say that Democrats do it, too).  NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen is on a mad Twitter roll, collecting multiple examples of this corrupt form of GOP-aiding "journalism" -- what he calls "both sides bliss" -- from the last 24 hours alone.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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