Veiled Racism Seen In New Attacks on Obama

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As CNN's pundits wondered whether instant post-debate polls favoring Sen. Barack Obama meant he would win on election day, analyst David Gergen - who has been an adviser to Republican and Democratic presidents - stopped them.

"I think it's too early to declare victory, because Barack Obama is black," Gergen said Tuesday night. "And until we play out the issue of race in this country, I don't think we'll know and maybe (not until) late in the campaign."

This video image provided by the Fox News Channel shows Sean Hannity interviewing Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008, in Cleveland. Stefan Forbes, a documentary film-maker and authority on smear campaigns, explains how, "Palin is the friendly face, or George W. Bush was the guy you wanted to have a beer with. They'll dance around it and say (these tactics) aren't racist, but they are." (AP Photo/Fox News Channel) While Obama's campaign has fended off racially rooted attacks since its inception, analysts say the ones surfacing in the past few days have been more overt, arriving as many undecided voters are making their final decision. They are part of a recent stream of attacks on his background, including his religion and his connections to a former '60s radical.

"It is the Willie Hortonization of Obama," said University of San Francisco associate professor of political science James Taylor. Horton, an African American man, was a Massachusetts felon who committed a rape and armed robbery while on a weekend furlough. Republican strategist Lee Atwater used a TV attack ad featuring Horton to create a negative impression of the 1988 Democratic nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, in the campaign's final months.

'Coded' language

Instead of using a grainy photo of a grizzled convict as Atwater did, the current attacks, analysts say, are embedded in "coded" language. They cite as examples Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin portraying Obama as a cultural outsider and friend to terrorists and the dismissive way his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, referred to Obama at their Tuesday night debate as "that one."

Other recent attacks include the unsubstantiated allegation on Fox News' "Hannity's America" Sunday that Obama's community organizing work in Chicago was "training for a radical overthrow of the government." The incendiary allegations - as well as the anti-Semitic background of the source of the allegation, commentator Andy Martin - went unchallenged and undisclosed by the host, conservative commentator Sean Hannity. Fox said that the program is the host's opinion, even though the allegation was presented as a documentary. Obama did not respond to Hannity's request for comment.

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