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Barack Obama's REAL Albatross

By Leigh Saavedra

06 May, 2008

If Obama finishes up this endless primary season with the Democratic nomination, he will have conquered almost impossible hurdles.

Nevermind the early confusion about his background, the lies about his faith (13 percent of our voters believe he is Muslim), and the fact that we have found there are more people than expected who will not under any circumstances vote for an African American. If it stopped there, it would be a cakewalk. It's not.

Despite the fact that Senator Obama has literally broken records with the amount of money he has been able to raise so that he's had no problem with his financing, he has not just faced the supporters of Hillary Clinton. Despite many opinions that the other Clinton's campaign has played loosely with misleading and untrue statements, his might still be an easy victory.

But the real problem is that in addition to having his opponent wage war on him, as is expected, he has the Republican party out en masse campaigning for Hillary Clinton. A year ago, I would have said, "Huh?" to such a statement, but it proves itself more true every day.

Personally, I first saw this when a diehard Republican relative told me right before the Texas primary that he was going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Yes, he who hates Democrats was going to vote for one in the primary. His vote wasn't necessary for the presumed Republican nominee, John McCain, so he was going to choose the Democratic primary (in Texas, you can choose either the Democratic or the Republican primary to vote in). The reason? Because she would be easier to beat than Obama.

It wasn't long after that surprising revelation that Rush Limbaugh began to make news by telling his followers to vote for Hillary. He claimed the purpose was "Operation Chaos," to bring confusion and disarray to the Democratic primary. He called for "confusion" all the way to the doors of the convention in Denver, describing scenes he hoped for, including rioting in the streets and burning cars. But word on the net was that it wasn't choas so much as keeping Obama out of the general election that was fueling Limbaugh's cries

Certainly, decent Republicans didn't wish for the rioting and property destruction Limbaugh sought, but some of them fell into the fury of voting in a Democratic primary, still trying to keep their most feared opponent, Obama, off the final ticket. It should be noted that some (perhaps many) Republicans eschewed this action completely. One especially high-minded young person I know (another relative), who is a devout Republican, showed that the Republican party is not devoid of decency. She voted in the Democratic primary and voted for Obama. Her reason was that she didn't think McCain could win and in such event, she wanted the candidate she felt would make the best president. We can hope that she represents many Republicans.

We have the figures for how many Republicans crossed over to vote Democratic, but we can't know how many of them simply preferred Obama (or Clinton) next to how many were chanting Limbaugh's mantra.

Tonight, a few hours from the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, I tuned onto Sean Hannity, as I force myself to watch at least half an hour of FOX each week just to know what they are saying. While the rest of the world was letting the maelstrom created by Obama's former pastor's over-the-top comments die down, Hannity devoted his entire hour to it. First he reminded us of every radical and sometimes-parsed word Reverend Jeremiah Wright has uttered in the past twenty years. From there he went into uncharted territory, telling the audience that in the eighties Wright had supported communist Nicaragua's Sandinistas and their dictator, Daniel Ortega.

That's always been a very touchy spot for me, outright lies of what was going on in Nicaragua in the eighties. Though it's sometimes been difficult to catch people's interest on the out-of-date topic, the fact is that Ortega was elected in 1984 in a large turnout election observed and approved by EVERY NATION WHO SENT AN OBSERVER, EVERY ONE EXCEPT THE UNITED STATES. Never for five minutes was Ortega a dictator. Hannity went further with the Nicaragua accusations, twisting them together so that a young listener with no information on the period might well have come away with the idea that Obama himself had once been a communist. (The Sandinistas were left leaning, much like Denmark, but among their competition in elections were the Marxist-Leninists and the Communist Party.) These are not faulty presentations. They are facts I myself have recorded on videotapes. I do know, as I was there for two winters during that period. I spoke several times with President Ortega and other members of his cabinet, even with his opponent, Violetta Chamorro. I daresay I know Daniel Ortega far better than Sean Hannity ever will.

While many of us know that Hannity is not above lying (and that's putting it politely), many young people listen without questioning. How many votes did this one-hour performance cost Obama? And that's just one hour of Rupert Murdock's Republican-supporting "news" channel. In channel flipping I've paused there many times to hear Hillary being praised. She appeared on O'Reilly, and for that performance a person might easily have thought O'Reilly was a gentleman.

It's baffling. And it's false. While most of these Republicans are going to great lengths to see that Clinton beats Obama in the primary, most of them will not be voting for her. For those of us who like straight talk, it's not quite on the up-and-up.

The question is WHY? The easier (and possibly still correct) answer is stilll that they want to run against Clinton because she'll be easier to beat. But with all the mudslinging directed at Obama, the race has narrowed in more than one way. Now the polls show that Clinton has basically the same chances of beating McCain that Obama does. And yet the Republican cheerleading by so many goes on.

A terrible theory struck me last night. WHY are they so sure Clinton won't beat McCain? Is it possible that they have something against Clinton that they are saving for the general election? It could be something as unsound as blaming Obama for sitting on a charity board with a man who was a member of the radical anti-war Weatherman forty years ago (when Obama was eight years old), but those things work with some people. What MIGHT they know about Clinton? I should think anything useful would have come out with all the trumped up "scandals" they've manufactured during the Bill Clinton years. But maybe they've saved one, and whether or not it's true (I personally don't think there could be anything substantial against Ms Clinton) is often irrelevant to their fierce attack machine.

If I were anywhere near being undecided betwen the two Democratic nominees, I would ask myself one question: WHY are the Republicans campaigning so hard for Clinton? If she is telling the truth -- and as far as I know, she is -- about getting the U.S. out of Iraq and about rolling back the tax cuts designed for the upper two percent -- then why do they like her so well?

Much of our lives are defined by the company we keep. Do we want to vote WITH the Republicans, or do we want to study the issues a little more carefully and make up our own minds, by casting aside the empty complaints and the cheering squad that gave us eight years of George Bush?

Leigh Saavedra (writing for years under Lisa Walsh Thomas) is a veteran political activist. She has been a teacher, gifted education specialist, arts columnist, and author of two books, one the winner of the Washington State Governor's award. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, and can be reached at (note the period after "leigh").


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