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The US Republicans

March 15, 2011
I reproduce without comment the first half of Joe Klein’s column in the March 21 edition of TIME:

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.

Click here to read the article in full


  1. Watson permalink
    March 15, 2011 4:39 pm

    I can’t remember a time when American politics has been so polarized. There has always been robust debate, but never this level of hysterical hyperbole. Obama the Mau Mau terrorist! No abuse or exaggeration is too extreme for these people.
    Is it all harmless ‘sparring’? Or is the US political divide widening into violent hatred? The actions of the Republicans at State and Federal level seem determined to cause as much pain, as much resentment and as much dissent as possible. Why? Surely the country has enough external problems without generating unreasoning hatreds at home?
    Calmer heads keep re-assuring us that the 200 year old democracy is secure, but if that is true, why does the social contract seem so fractured? Most of the civil reforms of the 20th Century are being systematically wound back. Economically, the US has not been so divided since before the great depression. Since Reagan began to unpick the reforms of ‘New Deal’, wealth has become concentrated in the top 1% of the population to the point where they now control more than half of all funds – and they’re not about to share that obscene wealth with anyone, especially the weak, the sick or the poor. Quite the contrary, they seem determined to punish them by removing or repealing any social welfare program still operating, cheered on by the baying hounds of the Tea Party movement.

    I’ve noticed of late that certain elements of the ‘Liberal’ Opposition in the Australian Federal Parliament are singing from the same song book as their American cousins.
    Once upon a time Australians would have laughed at Tony Abbott’s increasingly self-contradictory rants, but now it seems to be gaining traction. Are we headed into the same abyss?

    • Bob Carr permalink
      March 15, 2011 9:33 pm

      There is quite a bit of learning from the US Right in Australian conservative circles. It was evident in the Howard years. The US conservatives are a very seductive lot when it comes to impressing small-time, tin-pot cultural conservatives in our little commonwealth. Abbott and his friends will be soaking up a lot of this stuff although from Klein’s analysis much of it is too wild to work here.

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