From a purely strategic standpoint, it would have been wiser for Obama to distance himself from the firey pastor at some earlier stage in the development of his political ambition. The entire situation has provided the right wingers with the Swift Boat narrative of 2008 and it’s not going to go away. Sean Hannity, who is exceedingly proud of the fact that he was the first major media figure to provide the Swifties with a platform in ’04, continues to replay the pastor’s incendiary sound bites a couple dozen times each hour, and if that’s not enough, to draw further guilt by association — When is someone going to ask Barack Obama if he’s ever met with Louis Farrakhan?, followed by an incendiary Farrakhan sound clip.
Hannity has actually been asking that last question for at least a month. As a major media figure with a nationally syndicated radio program and an hour long show on one of the biggest cable news networks, you’d think that Sean could just ring up the Obama campaign and ask the question himself — my guess is someone would get back to him with an answer within the hour. But then he couldn’t keep mentioning Louis Farrakhan and Barack Obama in the same sentence, over and over again, day after day. Scary scary black scary.
The strategy is simple, as is appropriate to the simple minds to which it is intended to play: continue the guilt-by-association until voters cannot hear Obama’s name without subconsciously visualizing him peering out a window with a carbine rifle in his hand. (Another example: buried somewhere in the public portions of Obama’s website there is a link to the New Black Panther party, which prompts Hannity to ask repeatedly and with great concern, Why is Barack Obama linking to the New Black Panther party?, as if the link is contained within a giant flashing banner ad at the top of Obama’s home page, personally sanctioned by the candidate himself.)
Add to this the rest of Hannity’s litany — Obama’s shocking refusal to, um, wear a flag pin, and his wife’s blatant anti-Americanism, as expressed in a poorly-worded remark at some event somewhere — and you’ve got trouble with a capital B-L-A-C-K.
Here’s the thing: Hannity’s a front line combatant in the propaganda wars, and an utterly reliable harbinger of whatever achingly stupid right wing tangent will occupy our political discourse in the months ahead. Occasionally someone will send me an email suggesting that there’s no point in paying attention to what the radio nutjobs are talking about, as if they have no influence, everybody already knows they’re nutjobs, so why bother. To which I can only reply, tell it to President John Kerry.