While the American presidential election moves towards its greatly-to-be-welcomed denouement on November 4 and the happy prospect of people asking a few month from now, “Sarah who?” the campaigns grow more bitter by the day.
The McCain machine reminds you of a desperate gambler who places everything he has on the last shake of the dice. Obama, however, will have the last laugh. He will not only win but he would have outspent the Republican party, which will be another first in American politics since the Republicans have always been the Big Money party, the Democrats, the underdogs.
In one month alone, Obama has raised the phenomenal sum of $150 million, which means he can saturate — and is saturating — the airwaves in battleground states, Virginia being one, with his message. Our president may have thought Sarah Palin to be gorgeous, but she now hangs around McCain’s neck as the albatross hung around the neck of the sailor and his cursed ship in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Mercifully, the hockey mom and moose skinner extraordinaire will remain where she is: Alaska, which is good news for the American people but bad news for the moose population of her state.
It now turns out — thanks to an expose in The New Yorker — that the woman who was being sold to the voters as the antidote to Big Bad Washington not only hired a lobbyist in that intrigue-ridden metropolis but had cultivated some of the more lethal of the neocons who crawl around the power corridors here and strike at anyone showing the least sign of being liberal.
Palin invited some of these unbearable pundits of the right to the Alaskan city of Juneau last year and in return for her hospitality — and who knows what else — they were instrumental in securing her the nomination. But as good wine speaks for itself, so does its bad sister.
After their initial fascination with the hockey mom from Alaska came disillusionment, at least to some. Peggy Noonan wrote in the conservative Wall Street Journal, “The Palin candidacy is a symptom of a new vulgarisation in American politics. It is no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain.” But that is enough Palin for now, and one hopes, for the future as well.
That being so, there is one count on which I fault both McCain and Obama, the former more than the latter. While the McCain attack machine has been jabbering away at Obama’s ethnicity (though by implication rather than direct reference), his patriotic credentials and his Muslim origins, the Obama camp has been on the defensive and almost apologetic with regard to the Muslim bit. And only once has the mealy-mouthed McCain distanced himself from such attacks, but kind of half-heartedly by stating that his Democratic rival is a decent man, as if he would not have been a decent man had he been a Muslim.
Maureen Dowd, the acerbic and delightful New York Times columnist, wrote on October 22: “Even the Obama campaign has shied away from Muslims. The candidate has gone to synagogues but no mosques, and the campaign was embarrassed when it turned out that two young women in headscarves had not been allowed to stand behind Obama during a speech in Detroit because aides did not want them in the TV shot.”
Obama should have said, but has not done so, “And what if I were a Muslim and running for President of the United States?” There are an estimated six million Muslims in America — the same number as the much admired and mollycoddled Jews — who are as good American citizens as, say, the super patriot John McCain. Are they to be considered disloyal to the country of their birth or adoption?
Obama has also refrained from using his middle name Hussein. Americans often use their middle name but Obama has been afraid to. This diffidence has not lowered but increased the anti-Muslim-tainted attacks on him.
Those who have been damning Obama by saying outright or through innuendo that the only “true Americans” are Christian Americans, preferably WASPs, an acronym for white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, have been put to shame — assuming they do have the capacity to experience such a feeling — by the recent publicity given to a 20-year-old Muslim who laid down his life in Iraq and who was buried with full military honours in Arlington cemetery. His name was Kareem Rashad Khan and his headstone carries under his engraved name his gallantry awards: a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. The headstone also bears the engraving of a crescent to denote his Islamic faith.
But the man who deserves to be saluted is General Colin Powell who told Tom Brokaw in an NBC interview on October 17: “ I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”
Powell, referring to the picture of the headstone cradled by Kareem’s grieving mother, said “I stared at it for an hour. Who could debate that this kid lying in Arlington with Christian and Jewish and nondenominational buddies was not a fine American?”
One last question: Who are the Pakistani-Americans going to vote for this time? In order to expiate their past sins — because they overwhelmingly voted for Bush — they will have to go with Obama. However, Agha Saeed’s American Muslim Alliance has yet to take a position on this. One only hopes it won’t go Republican as it did last time.
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Daily Times, 26/10/2008