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After a mess of forwards, I received this email that I was disturbed to see originated from a good friend.

obama-smear-email-thumb

Having tossed and turned most of the night (not pretty at 7 1/2 months pregnant) grappling with disappointment, I finally drafted this response:

Tell me you are voting for McCain because you think his tax policy is better or because you agree with the direction he wants to take health care. Or maybe you really do believe in less diplomacy and more military involvement around the world. That is a line of reasoning on which we can respectfully talk and disagree because it is the heart of what we need to decide about where our country is going. But to get this email below through a bunch of forwards and see that you are persuaded by and are perpetuating this line of base campaign ugliness that stokes the fires of ignorant fears and suspicions is disappointing.

Think about it. You can come up with a bunch of random associations and facts to create a story about anyone. Haven't there been people in your life who made judgments and assumptions about you based on specious facts that they were all too happy to whip up into an ugly picture of you? It is how slander and suspicion work and you know that. We could do the same about McCain. In his case, his close friendship with Charles Keating actually did influence him and how he legislated. However, there is absolutely no evidence in Obama's record that he has ever been influenced as a legislator, as a constitutional law professor, as president of the Harvard Law Review, as a Christian father and husband, or even as a candidate (he has run a campaign WITHOUT lobbyist money, he has not proposed a radical left wing agenda, he has never once attacked Republicans in general - only very specifically does he address the mistakes that Bush has made and how McCain has been complicit in those mistakes, and by the way, where are all of the scary Palestinian or Muslim groups or staff that should be funding and advising him if he were on some radical track?) There is no evidence in his record that he has actually been influenced to pursue some agenda that correlates in the least with the scary picture that this set of “facts” is trying to paint. Everything points to him as quite a level headed moderate who likes to seek consensus. Leading conservatives have been the first to point this out and, in fact, they seem to think Obama will be a disappointment to the more left leaning Democrats. Not since McCarthyism and the black list has it been a crime to 'know' people. Maybe, MAYBE, as I said, it would have some legs if he were more of a Sharpton or Farrakhan figure in general and we could find some relevance to how he has approached public service. But, it is irresponsible to go down this line of thinking when the man in question has lead nothing but a pretty honest life, particularly in public service and the kind of agenda he has pursued. Has any other candidate written himself about all of his own dirty laundry in two autobiographies? What could he possibly be hiding and why aren't you similarly worried about McCain, especially after his close ties to Keating and Liddy? And McCain actually has on staff a SLEW of lobbyists with agendas who actually DO advise him and will influence policy in ways we can only spin suspicious tales about. Which brings me back to the fact that anyone, ANYONE can be made into a suspicious or unsavory character if you try hard enough. Perpetuating this set of supposedly hard facts only serves to support the ugly and suspicious reasons people probably already won't support Obama. You call these facts as though it gives them some gravitas, but the reality is that you are using the facts to foster suspicions that have no basis in reality. There is a big difference there. And suspicions are a pretty thin way to make a decision about a president.  It is truly base behavior and just appeals to the ugly side of people. Again, I'm disappointed. I've respected your political opinions because I assumed your basic ideology just falls more in line with what McCain wants to do with our country. But I have no respect for this kind of suspiciousness. It sounds a bit like Oliver Stone or Michael Moore. Do you honestly believe that MANY conservatives who are much smarter and informed than either of us would embrace someone who has even the slightest hint of introducing Sharia law? Or of turning America into a Socialist state? In contrast, stop and think for a second about the fact that Gov Palin is ACTUALLY campaigning from an extreme, incendiary place, with comments about “pro-American” parts of the country and appealing to the right wing cultural conservatives regarding guns and abortion. No one denies that her role is to appeal to cultural conservatives and rally the hard right. Who is ACTUALLY more likely to push for radical cultural change? Which candidate seems to actually have an agenda that is at the far end of the political spectrum? It is suspect that you are more worried that Obama MAY be extreme when Gov Palin is ACTUALLY openly for a highly partisan agenda. Did you hear her say that she and McCain support the Republican platform? (This isn't true, as McCain himself does not...oops.) Have you read the Republican platform? It is pretty extreme and calls for a lot more radical changes to our country than you have ever heard from Obama. Point is, this ugly scary picture of Obama just doesn't bear out with reality. It is for people who want a reason not to support him and it leaves me thinking that you aren't basing your vote on policy but on something in your gut that is suspicious and primitive, not fair or rational. And that is the disappointing part.

I also have to remark about this Socialist nonsense. Please educate yourself on the progressive tax system and the fact that we have had it in our country for a very long time. It was advocated by McCain's hero, Teddy Roosevelt. McCain himself has defended it. Again, the fact that you are being influenced by this stuff concerns me because it is simplistic and appeals to the “let’s label people with scary words” instead of engaging in conversations that are a little more difficult and less dramatic. In fact, when pushed, none of McCain's surrogates will actually call him a Socialist - they say Liberal instead - because they know it just isn't true. By the way, is any state more “Socialist” than Gov Palin's? The reason she is/was so popular is because she wrangled another $1200 check for every Alaskan citizen from the oil companies, above and beyond the $2100 they already get. That is quite literally the definition of the most extreme, Marxist form of socialism. She actually took money from the rich and gave it directly to the masses. It wasn't invested in infrastructure or common development the way that taxes are supposed to be used. (She actually bonded that out, borrowing to fund infrastructure, putting her state in debt, like the rest of the fiscal conservatives seem to be doing these days.) Do I think she is a Socialist? Of course not, but that pesky "fact" about how she has actually governed (not how she MIGHT govern without any basis in reality) can be used to make her sound like one if I were so inclined. The progressive tax system doesn't take from the rich and give to the poor. The progressive tax system takes from everyone and uses that money to HELP everyone, particularly the rich. Don't the rich benefit equally if not more from bridges and roads and airports and beaches and parks and education and all of the wonderful things we decide as a country that we want for everyone? And don't the rich benefit most from ensuring a healthy and educated and productive middle class to work in their companies and buy their goods? No one, NO ONE is taking from the rich and giving to the poor (ok, except Gov Palin). Again, it is irresponsible to just throw this Socialist label around to make him sound radical - it bears no relationship to the reality of the tax system Obama proposes which is fundamentally in keeping with what we have done for decades. So don't worry, you can vote for him without worrying he is a Socialist.

If you want a president who tells the truth, I'm not entirely sure how the McCain-Palin ticket fits that definition. It doesn't take much fact checking to find various ways they have tortured the truth in order to rally the base. I'm not saying Obama hasn't tweaked a few facts either. The line between spin and lying can become fuzzy. But enough people have actually said that McCain is capital "L" lying that if "speaking the truth" is really your measuring stick, you haven't exactly gotten it from McCain or Palin, either.

I do believe people from both sides of the aisle can be friends and even talk politics, when it is responsible, respectful and rational. But I have no idea what to do with this email and how you believe it is part of responsible discourse. And it would be irresponsible of me not to call you out on it.

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