Obama haters mill theory on Kenya poll chaos

Saturday November 20 2010

By MURITHI MUTIGA [email protected]

According to the controversial American talk show host Glenn Beck, the man who caused the violence that followed the 2007 elections is a billionaire businessman most Kenyans have never heard of.

Mr Beck’s charge that George Soros, who backs civil society organisations around the world, was the author of the post-election crisis is the latest in a series of wild statements the conservative talk show host has made in his bid to cast himself as President Obama’s most savage critic.

In the process, Kenya has become the unwanted object of his attentions, with his favourite claim being that Mr Obama was born in Mombasa and was therefore ineligible to run for president in 2008.

Mr Beck is the most prominent of a group that has come to be referred to in the US media as “Obama haters” – right wing figures that have made it their mission to see the nation’s first Black president fail.

Despite Mr Beck commanding a wide following, most of his statements have no foundation in truth.

Great fear

He has compared the Democratic leadership to the Nazis “in the early years of Adolf Hitler” and claimed that Mr Obama is on track to replace the American capitalist economic model with socialism.

Kenya is rarely far from Mr Beck’s attentions in his rants delivered to a two million-plus audience on the conservative Fox TV network.

Mr Beck helped to publicise a claim by an obscure author that Mr Obama’s every move is dictated by the anti-colonial views and resentments of his father, Barack Obama Sr.

Mr Beck, a former radio DJ and recovered alcoholic, is also one of the intellectual pillars of the Tea Party Movement, a group of right wing Republicans opposed to Mr Obama.

Some Tea Party members, alluding to claims that Mr Obama was born in East Africa but forged a birth certificate to indicate he was born in Hawaii, have been known to sport T-shirts and caps declaring “a village in Kenya is missing its idiot”.

While the Tea Party Movement may seem to outsiders as a lunatic fringe that would stand no chance of influencing mainstream political positions, the group has in fact emerged as a potent political force.

It has energised the Republican Party base and exploited anxieties about the sluggish recovery from the global financial meltdown. They encourage their supporters to blame all their problems on Mr Obama.

The movement was widely credited for helping defeat the Democrats in the recent mid-term elections, the first test of their electoral might since Mr Obama was elected.

Many theories have been advanced to explain the rise of the Tea Party. One of the most prominent of these is race.

The election of a black president, says New York Times columnist Frank Rich, sowed “fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country”. Mr Rich was referring to census projections that show Latinos and blacks will outnumber whites in the US by 2042.

Unlike many other commentators, Mr Beck and other opponents of Obama have not been shy to cast the president as an outsider who can never hope to understand American culture.

Row on remark

After Mr Obama commented on a controversy involving the attempt of a white policeman to arrest the distinguished professor Henry Louis Gates for a minor offence, Mr Beck said:

“This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture ... You can’t sit in a pew with (Reverend) Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff, and not have it wash over.”

Writing in the New Yorker magazine in October, Princeton University professor Sean Wilentz said the Tea Party Movement was inspired by forerunners such as the John Birch society, which believed the entire Democratic party leadership, led by President John F. Kennedy, were undercover agents for the Soviet Union.

Other prominent members of the Obama haters club include the author Jerome Corsi, the radio host Rush Limbaugh and former CNN contributor Lou Dobbs.

No member of this group has drawn Kenya into his diatribes against Obama as frequently as Mr Beck. His latest claim that Mr Soros caused the violence was widely dismissed as fanciful and illogical.

Mr Soros was an early supporter of Mr Obama, backing him from his days as an Illinois Senator. Mr Soros, who donates to various liberal causes, is a favourite target for criticism by Mr Beck, possibly owing to his connections with Mr Obama.

Beck’s assertion was that the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, which receives funding from Mr Soros, caused the violence through its pro-democracy civil society initiatives.