Monday, June 30, 2008

4 Investigations into Origin of Obama Smears

Three reports now have been issued, investigating the source of the email smears.

First, the Obama campaign itself has done an excellent job. Excellent because to discredit these trouble makers, they cite Republicans - George Bush (41), Newt Gingrich and Mary Matlin.
  • George H.W. Bush's campaign, referred to Bossie, Floyd Brown, and their associates as "the lowest forms of life."
  • Newt Gingrich: "I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the conference at the circus that went on" under Bossie in the House investigation of Clinton-Gore campaign finances.
  • Mary Matalin: "I'm not a big fan of Floyd Brown...He gave us the Willie Horton ads that the Republican Party has had to eat for two election cycles now."
They also provide a pretty good map, showing the links between the men, conservative organizations and various scandal mongerings. Click here to check it out.

Second, Saturday's Washington Post had a lengthy piece by Matthew Mosk entitled, An Attack That Came Out of the Ether: Scholar Looks for First Link in E-Mail Chain About Obama. The scholar is Danielle Allen.

Her credentials (which Politico labeled as "breathless" - funny and true):
Allen was ideally suited to embark on such a difficult hunt. She boasts two doctorates, one in classics from Cambridge University and the other in government from Harvard University, and won a $500,000 MacArthur "genius" award at the age of 29. Last year she joined the faculty of the institute, the only African American and one of a handful of women at the elite research center, where she works alongside groundbreaking physicists, mathematicians and social scientists. They don't have to teach, and they face no quotas on what they publish. Their only mandate is to work in the tradition of Einstein, wrestling with the most vexing problems in the universe.
Politico again, a bit disparaging, headlines - Allen's eureka moment: "Then she had another thought: What if she took some of the unusual phrases from the text of the e-mail and Googled them?"

It's quite a survey and the reporter allows these scumbags to expose themselves for the pond scum that they are. One is Andy Martin, a political opponent of Obama's back in Illinois. (emphasis added)

Martin was trying to launch a Senate bid against Obama when he says he first ran the Democrat's name by a contact in London. "They said he must be a Muslim. That was interesting to me because it was an angle that nobody had covered. We started looking. As a candidate you learn how to harness the Internet. You end up really learning how to work the street. I sort of picked this story up as a sideline." Martin said the primary basis for his belief was simple -- Obama's father was a Muslim. In a defamation lawsuit he filed against the New York Times and others several months ago, Martin says that Obama "eventually became a Christian" but that "as a matter of Islamic law began life as a Muslim" due to his father's religion.

The belief that Obama unavoidably inherited his religion was not uniquely Martin's -- as recently as May, it was proffered by Edward N. Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, in a New York Times op-ed piece.

(After the Times was deluged with complaints, the paper's public editor, or ombudsman, later wrote that he had interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them disagreed with Luttwak's interpretation of Islamic law.)


"I'm not trying to smear anybody," Martin said. "I just felt that was an underreported story."

But Martin said he understands how his initial article has taken on a life of its own. "There's nothing sinister here. I was thinking of running for Senate and was looking for a story to put some sizzle on the plate."

Also named are Andrew Walden, Ted Sampley, Donna Shaw. They seem to have in common the Free Republic web site - a conservative web site. Re the shameless Donna Shaw
She began repeating the phrase "Once a Muslim, always a Muslim," when discussing Obama.

With the help of Allen's biographical sketch, The Post located Eva in rural Washington state. She is Donna Shaw, 60, a teacher who said Obama's ability to captivate audiences made her deeply uneasy because his "tone and cadence" reminded her of the child revivalist con-man preacher Marjoe Gortner.

Shaw says she has done extensive online research about Obama but believes many of the initial sites that provided "proof" of his Muslim background have been removed from the Internet: "Everything about his Muslim background was readily available on the Web in 2004. But they were all cleared from the Internet before he ran for Senate." Shaw says she's always had a hankering for politics. Probably, she muses, that's because her father served for a spell as a New Jersey state assemblyman. He was driven out, she notes without a hint of irony, when he became the victim of a 1950s smear campaign that wrongly accused him of being a communist.

Third, Ben Smith, Politico points to a piece he and Jonathan Martin did last October on the subject, Untraceable Emails Spread Obama Rumor . They name yet another source:
The first clear appearance of the theme on the Web came in a Dec. 18, 2006, column by Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit-based writer who often alleges ties between mainstream American figures — most recently, former Sen. Fred Thompson — and Islamic radicalism.

“I had a lot of readers ask me about Barack Obama and his background, and a lot of them had heard he was a Muslim or thought he was a Muslim,” Schlussel said. “I looked into it, I found out his middle name was Hussein.”

The result: a column titled “Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim.”
Then they make this observation:
The story jumped to Fox and then faded from public view in the face of Obama’s angry response.

It partly died because it was debunked but also because many mainstream conservatives refused to pay it much heed.
Of interest (remember this was written and reported last October):
“The Obama campaign have to be very vigilant about this,” said John Weaver, a former adviser to John McCain who saw McCain’s campaign stall in 2000 in South Carolina amid false rumors that he had fathered an African-American child.

“It’s a difficult thing to combat, and you have to ask yourself, at what point will it ever stop? How many African-Americans do we have to have do well until this kind of stuff stops?”

Weaver said campaigns rarely have the resources to trace a whisper like this to its source.
Well, yes he does. Obama does have the resources, evidently.

Fourth, Smith also points to a piece by Chris Hayes writing in the liberal The Nation, also last October who also traced the origin back to Martin in The New-Right Wing Smear Machine.
On how these email smears differ from what scummy conservative wrought before: the e-mail forward doesn't fit into our existing model of the right-wing noise machine's structure (hierarchical) or its approach (broadcast). It is, instead, organic and peer-to-peer.
He also provides some intriguing context:
"A lot of the chain letters that were accusing Al Gore of things in 2000 were recycled in 2004 and changed to Kerry," says John Ratliff, who runs a site called, which, like Snopes, devotes itself to debunking chain e-mails. One e-mail falsely described a Senate committee hearing in the 1980s where Oliver North offered an impassioned Cassandra-like warning about the threat of Osama bin Laden, only to be dismissed by a condescending Democratic senator. Originally it was Al Gore who played the role of the senator, but by 2004 it had changed to John Kerry. "You just plug in your political front-runner du jour," Ratliff says.
He then goes on to survey quite a few others, and notes
But even if the identity of the e-mail's author was unrecoverable, it was still possible to trace back the roots of its content. The origin proved even more bizarre than I could have guessed.
And then he concludes with this about Martin:

On August 10, 2004, just two weeks after Obama had given his much-heralded keynote speech at the DNC in Boston, a perennial Republican Senate candidate and self-described "independent contrarian columnist" named Andy Martin issued a press release. In it, he announced a press conference in which he would expose Obama for having "lied to the American people" and "misrepresent[ed] his own heritage."

Martin raised all kinds of strange allegations about Obama but focused on him attempting to hide his Muslim past. "It may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel," read Martin's statement. "His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles where Obama now enjoys support."

A quick word about Andy Martin. During a 1983 bankruptcy case he referred to a federal judge as a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race." Martin, who in the past was known as Anthony Martin-Trigona, is one of the most notorious litigants in the history of the United States. He's filed hundreds, possibly thousands, of lawsuits, often directed at judges who have ruled against him, or media outlets that cover him unfavorably. A 1993 opinion by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, described these lawsuits as "a cruel and effective weapon against his enemies," and called Martin a "notoriously vexatious and vindictive litigator who has long abused the American legal system." He once even attempted to intervene in the divorce proceedings of a judge who'd ruled against him, petitioning the state court to be appointed as the guardian of the judge's children.

When I asked Martin for the source of his allegations about Obama's past, he told me they came from "people in London, among other places." Why London, I asked? "I started talking to them about Kenyan law. Every little morsel led me a little farther along."

Within a few days of Martin's press conference, the conservative site Free Republic had picked it up, attracting a long comment thread, but after that small blip the specious "questions" about Obama's background disappeared. Then, in the fall of 2006, as word got out that Obama was considering a presidential run, murmurs on the Internet resumed. In October a conservative blog called Infidel Bloggers Alliance reposted the Andy Martin press release under the title "Is Barack Obama Lying About His Life Story?" A few days later the online RumorMillNews also reposted the Andy Martin press release in response to a reader's inquiry about whether Obama was a Muslim. Then in December fringe right-wing activist Ted Sampley posted a column on the web raising the possibility that Obama was a secret Muslim. Sampley, who co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry and once accused John McCain of having been a KGB asset, quoted heavily from Martin's original press release. "When Obama was six," Sampley wrote, "his mother, an atheist, married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim, and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia.... Soetoro enrolled his stepson in one of Jakarta's Muslim Wahabbi schools. Wahabbism is the radical teaching that created the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad on the rest of the world."

On December 29, 2006, the very same day that Sampley posted his column, Snopes received its first copy of the e-mail forward, which contains an identical charge in strikingly similar language. Given the timing, it seems likely that it was a distillation of Sampley's work.


"Everybody started calling me" when the e-mail first made the rounds, Andy Martin told me. "They said, 'Hey, did you write this?' My answer was 'they are all my children.' "

How do these people sleep at night? Have they NO shame? Now as in 2007, conservative - political and journalistic - need to step up and stamp this down.

It really makes Hillary's "not as far as I know" truly dispicably and disqualifying her for the VP slot.

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