In his September 16 column about Sarah Palin's appearance at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds yesterday, Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin expressed disbelief that Barack Obama and John McCain are running neck-and-neck in most national polls despite the hideous condition of the U.S. economy -- a situation symbolized by Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing and the sale of Merrill Lynch. But I'm not surprised by the size of the challenge confronting Obama, who speaks at the Colorado School of Mines' Lockridge Arena at 9:30 a.m. today -- and one reason is a clue I stumbled upon while visiting a south suburban doctor's office for my annual checkup (which, I must admit, I hadn't undergone in four years). Flipping open a recent copy of Newsweek -- the edition with Obama and Joe Biden on the cover -- I turned to an article about the Democratic presidential nominee's background and discovered the word "Muslim" written on the page, with an arrow pointed to a photo of young Barack.
The persistence of the Muslim rumor makes perfect sense. It's culturally impermissible for all but the most virulent racists to claim that they'd never vote for Obama because he's black. But in this post 9/11 age, it's perfectly fine in more settings than we'd care to admit to attack an individual for being a Muslim. Never mind that there's absolutely zero evidence to suggest that Obama secretly subscribes to this faith -- and ignore the fact that he's denied it again and again and again. The rumor continues to linger, and it's been accepted as fact by a sizable percentage of the electorate -- helping to give McCain and Palin a real chance to win in November during a year when the Republicans should be behind by double digits.
Littwin may be shocked by this prospect, but not me. And I've got an issue of Newsweek to thank. -- Michael Roberts