By Bill Berkowitz | Inter Press Service
OAKLAND, California, Aug 20 - Right-wing groups are stepping up their campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, with two new books on the best-seller lists, another on the verge of publication, and a full-length documentary that will premiere during the party conventions later this month.
Jerome Corsi, a veteran of the 2004 Swiftboating campaign that helped sink the candidacy of the Democratic Party’s John Kerry, had his book “The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality” debut at No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list on Sunday. Aug. 17 — although the list’s editors noted that some bookstores have reported receiving bulk orders.
“The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate” by David Freddoso is currently ranked at number five. And another Obama-bashing tome, expected sometime next month, is tentatively titled “Obama Unmasked,” and is written by Floyd Brown — the creator of 1988’s infamous Willie Horton television advertisement that helped put the kybosh on the presidential hopes of the Democrat’s Michael Dukakis.
Now, on Aug. 24, the eve of the Democratic Party’s convention in Denver, “Hype: The Obama Effect” — a full-length documentary that attacks everything about the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee — will be premiering at the Regal Pavilions 15 in the host city. The free showing is being sponsored by Citizens United and Chairman Dick Wadhams of the Colorado Republican Committee.
(The Regal Entertainment Group, which own Regal theaters, is the largest motion picture exhibitor in the world — it operates nearly 20 percent of all indoor screens in the U.S. The chain is owned by Philip Anschutz, an oil magnate, media mogul, and long-time contributor to conservative political causes.)
The film, through interviews with a host of Republican Party supporters, criticises Obama’s political positions, mocks the so-called cult of personality that many critics claim embodies his campaign, casts doubts about his judgment, and questions his character.
“While ‘Hype’ may not generate large box office receipts, it is sure to become another prong in the right-wing attack machine,” Mike Reynolds, a longtime investigative reporter covering politics and religion, told IPS. “[Citizens United head David] Bossie might be hopeful that as the campaign moves forward, some right-wing websites might offer the film as a premium as they have for the books.”
“In order to get regular voters to go see the movie, it will have to garner media buzz on the cable television news networks, like the anti-Obama books have,” Reynolds said. “Looking at both the television advertisement for the film and its five-minute trailer, it’s clear that neither Bossie nor Alan Peterson, the film’s director, have chops; they’re no Michael Moore.”
During the 2004 presidential campaign, one of the earliest attacks against the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Senator John Kerry — predating by several months the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth mega-attack on the candidate’s military record — was spearheaded by Floyd Brown’s group, Citizens United, a long-time conservative enterprise.
The ad became one of George W. Bush’s major themes: Based on Mastercard’s famous ad campaign, the spot cataloged the cost of Kerry’s expensive taste in clothes and his ownership of properties worth millions of dollars. It ended with “Another rich liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he’s a man of the people? Priceless.”
The goal of the Citizens United advertisement was to make Kerry look like an elitist; a premise that Bush advisor Karl Rove and the campaign of the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, has revived again this year. These days, in addition to the Obama-is-an-elitist message, he is also being defined by McCain as an empty suit — a “celebrity” who is out of touch with regular folks.
In June of this year, Rove — now a roving right-wing commentator with the Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media platforms — pulled the snob card from the deck. Speaking at a country club, Rove likened Obama, to “the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”
In other words, Obama, the first African American to run for the presidency, is oddly enough being tagged as an elitist who is out of step with the U.S. public.
Bossie, who co-produced “Hype: The Obama Effect”, which was directed and written by Alan Peterson — who also directed “Fahrenhype 9/11,” a response to Michael Moore’s award-winning documentary “Fahrenheit 911″ — recognises that the film will likely have a very limited — if any — run in theaters and he intends to market it via mail-order sales on the Citizen United website, and through other DVD outlets.
“Bossie is a political hatchet man whose career is based on smears and attacking Democrats,” John Stauber, the executive director of the Centre for Media and Democracy, told IPS. “His Obama documentary will provide plenty of footage for use on the internet and in commercials, but I doubt that in and of itself that “Hype” will make much difference in the campaign.”
“I assume that the overall theme of Obama as ’socialist agent disguised as cult hero’ must be resonating in the political marketing surveys of the Bossie-types and the McCain operatives, or they would switch to something more effective,” Stauber added.
“Going back to the days when he was unremitting in his attacks against Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bossie’s forte has never been accuracy,” Reynolds said. “It has been bloodletting. And in that regard, if ‘Hype’ gets any traction at all, it is likely to be viewed as the political counterpart of [the horror movie franchise] Saw V, due to be released just before the election.”
*Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column “Conservative Watch” documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.