The US Republicans
“ There may be some fundamental anti-Americanism in this President,” the radio host suggested, and Mike Huckabee — the Republican presidential front runner in the current meaningless polls — quickly agreed, capping an orgy of insinuation and misinformation about Barack Obama during a late-winter book tour. First, Huckabee said Obama had been raised in Kenya and sympathized with the “anticolonialism” of the Mau Mau rebellion. Then, backtracking, he said he simply meant to imply that Obama had a “different worldview,” having been raised in Indonesia. “Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings, and our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrasahs.”
To which one can only say, Ick. Of course, Obama was raised in neither Kenya nor Indonesia (where he did spend four years) but in Hawaii, by his Kansas Republican grandparents. He was a Boy Scout. He didn’t attend a madrasah. There are a multitude of Rotary Clubs in both Indonesia and Hawaii. And about that anticolonialism business, isn’t that why we, especially the Teasies among us, adore the Founding Fathers? But the facts aren’t nearly as virulent as the insinuations. That Huckabee was able to associate the President with the terms mau-mau and madrasah on successive days has to qualify as sheer, surgical brilliance. For those of a certain age — my age — mau-mau has a certain resonance, our first association with half-crazed black militancy. (Or so it seemed. Was the Mau Mau rebellion any more brutal than the British occupation? I doubt it.) Tom Wolfe made the noun a clever verb: to mau-mau was the act of black people intimidating white people. And madrasahs are where Islamic militants are bred.
This, of course, is the ultimate right-wing radical fantasy: Barack Obama is not only a black militant; he’s also an Islamic radical. And while Huckabee’s crude use of these canards should disqualify him from the presidency, his statements can’t merely be dismissed as book-tour Huckabucking — certainly not at a moment when the number of Republicans who believe that Obama is not even a U.S. citizen has surged to 51%. Their views will have to be respected by the Republican candidates lining up for the primaries. That respect will not be expressed as baldly as in Huckabee’s eruptions; it will be evinced in winks and nods.