Author who hurt Kerry turns sights on Obama

By Rupert Cornwell

It is piled high at the entrance of leading Washington bookshops, with a close-up of the candidate staring from the front cover; pensive and enigmatic - or should that be sinister and scheming?

The book is called The Obama Nation, and this weekend it is set to make a triumphant debut on the New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers, in the No 1 position.

Even more to the point, however, Senator Barack Obama is now getting the "Swift Boat" treatment that many say helped to doom Senator John Kerry, the Democrats' previous nominee for the presidency, in 2004.

Four years ago, Jerome Corsi, a former Harvard PhD in political science, leaped to prominence when he co-authored Unfit for Command, in which Vietnam veterans attacked Kerry, suggesting the candidate had lied about his record in the war, and had deliberately sullied the reputation of the US forces who fought in it.

Now Corsi is at it again, with The Obama Nation. The title itself, with its deliberate assonance with "abomination", is a giveaway.

Already 475,000 copies are in print, a vast number even for a controversial book about a fascinating candidate in a fascinating election year. It has become instant fodder for America's conservative media, above all the hosts who rule the country's mighty universe of talk show radio.

According to the New York Times, Corsi has fed the beast already with 100 separate interviews. The reward for such diligence (backed up with some aggressive bulk marketing) is now spectacularly evident in the bestseller lists.

In essence, The Obama Nation is a 364-page assemblage of everything unfavourable that has been written about the Democratic candidate, sifted and distilled by Corsi.

A selection of chapter headings gives the picture. The first is titled "Myths from His Father", a play on Obama's 1995 autobiographical memoir, Dreams From My Father. Then follow "Black Rage, Drugs and a Communist Mentor" and "Kenya, Odinga, Communism and Islam".

Next come chapters devoted to Tony Rezko, the sleazy Chicago operator and briefly an Obama fundraiser, and to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, once Obama's firebrand pastor, who preaches black liberation and whom the candidate was forced to disown this year.

Finally, there is an examination of Obama the national politician, with chapters titled "The Cult of Personality", "A Far Left Domestic Policy", and "Obama's antiwar,anti-Israel Foreign Policy".

In short, the first African-American with a serious shot at the presidency is portrayed as a raving ultra-leftist, whose patriotism is dubious at best, and who has far more links to Islam and militant black politics than he has ever let on.

Corsi naturally insists base partisanship is the last thing on his mind. The book, he claims, is merely to spare the country "a repeat of the failed extremism that has characterised and plagued Democratic presidential politics since the late 1960s".

He maintains he has never been either a registered Republican or Democrat.

Further, Corsi denies his opposition to Obama stems from racism, noting that he supported Ken Blackwell, the black Republican candidate in Ohio's 2006 election for governor - which Blackwell lost.

"I am writing this book strictly to examine and oppose Barack Obama," Corsi says. Even so, The Obama Nation smells like a Republican hit job - not least because the chief editor of Threshold Editions, the subsidiary of Simon and Schuster which has published it, is none other than Mary Matalin, a longtime Republican operative, and recently a senior staffer of Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Obama supporters would argue that The Obama Nation belongs in the fiction rather than non-fiction category. Several of its accusations have been challenged; others, it is said, are misleading and taken out of context. But no one should claim to be shocked.

Such assault literature has long been a staple of US presidential campaigns - well before Unfit for Command made headlines in 2004. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have been especially popular targets, to the point of lurid and nonsensical tales of assassination plots and drug smuggling in their home state of Arkansas.

George W. Bush, a no less polarising figure, has endured dozens of equally blistering assaults from the left, on everything from his probity and courage to his religious faith and IQ.

But Obama's advisers nonetheless face a tricky calculation. To come out against the book, all guns blazing, would risk drawing attention to its claims. On the other hand, to ignore it, as Kerry first tried to ignore the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, might simply allow the claims to gain a currency of their own. In politics as in life, refuting a falsehood is far more time-consuming, and difficult, than disseminating one. In other words, mud sticks.


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