The cover story in this week's issue of Newsweek includes this bit of objective analysis:
The Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968, when Richard Nixon built a Silent Majority out of lower- and middle-class folks frightened or disturbed by hippies and student radicals and blacks rioting in the inner cities. The 2008 race may turn on which party will win the lower- and middle-class whites in industrial and border states-the Democrats' base from the New Deal to the 1960s, but "Reagan Democrats" in most presidential elections since then. It is a sure bet that the GOP will try to paint Obama as "the other"-as a haughty black intellectual who has Muslim roots (Obama is a Christian) and hangs around with America-haters.
Not surprisingly, the McCain folks are unhappy with the piece, and Mark Salter has responded with a letter to the editor that can be seen here. Salter says that any suggestion the McCain campaign will run on the issue of "race and the false charge that [Obama] is a Muslim is scurrilous." He goes on:
Without a trace of skepticism, your reporters embraced the primary communications strategy the Obama campaign intends to follow: any criticism of their candidate is a below the belt, Republican attack machine distortion that should discredit the authors. And any attempt by our campaign to counter that suggestion will be dismissed as a rant.
It's worth reading the whole thing. It's also worth noting what Salter does not say. After furiously denying that the campaign will make an issue out of Obama's race or religion, Salter makes no mention of whether hanging around with America-haters is fair game. But the GOP won't need to "paint" anything to make that case. Obama pal William Ayres hated America enough to wage his own little war against the military, for which he is still unrepentant, and was photographed proudly stomping on the flag long after the two had become friends. And even Obama concedes that Rev. Wright is a legitimate issue. If these realtionships are to be considered out of bounds by the press, then as Salter writes, "every issue that raises doubts about his policy views and judgment is part of a smear campaign." That's just spitting into the wind though.