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Obama’s strategy for anti-Obama efforts

Some supporters ask if he’s done enough to counter a bestseller.

By / August 17, 2008

"The Obama Nation," conservative author Jerome Corsi's latest attack on Democratic presidential hopefuls, was on display at a book store in New York.

Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

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Two months ago, Barack Obama decided enough was enough. He had just clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, and a reporter asked him about an Internet rumor of a video showing his wife, Michelle, using a derogatory term for white people. Senator Obama was furious. There is no such video, he insisted, and to this day, none has materialized.

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Then Obama told his aides: Time to get more aggressive about fighting rumors. The traditional technique of ignoring them, to avoid giving them added life in the media, just doesn’t work in the Internet age. Thus was born FightTheSmears.com, an Obama site dedicated to responding to rumors. Its goal is to give Obama supporters talking points as the charges fly.

Now, the most sensational hit job yet has reached the No. 1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list – “The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” by Jerome Corsi – and the Obama campaign has fought back with a 41-page rebuttal posted on the site. But Obama supporters are wondering if the senator is being tough enough. As the book got major play in the mainstream media last week, including a Corsi interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Obama was on vacation, leaving it to surrogates to reply.

“He’s got to be out there responding to these attacks himself, so people know he’s got the courage and the guts to be able to take those on directly,” says Leon Panetta, former chief of staff to President Clinton. “You need to have the sound bite, not from 40 different people, but from him.”

The Corsi book, which portrays Obama as a lying, left-wing black liberationist with ties to Islam, is just one of many anti-Obama books either on store shelves or in the works. But it has particular cachet, because Corsi co-wrote the 2004 bestseller “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” which was widely seen as helping to deflate the 2004 Democratic nominee’s Vietnam War credentials. Senator Kerry himself has launched his own website, TruthFightsBack.com, aimed at helping his successor at the top of the ticket from being “swift-boated.”

Some conservatives have suggested that “Obama Nation” won’t have the credibility of the anti-Kerry book, because “Unfit for Command” was co-written by John O’Neill, who was himself a Vietnam swift-boat veteran and who co-founded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that produced ads against Kerry.

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