In Jewish folklore, a golem is a monster made of mud. In the US, if President Barak Obama wins, he will be the first Golem president of the USA.
Much of the mud will be supplied by Republican strategist Karl Rove, who is expected to use an estimated $300 million that he has stashed away in American Crossroads, a Super PAC, to attack Obama in an advertising blitzkrieg the likes of which the US has never seen before.
According to a concept paper distributed to wealthy Republican donors in June 2010, American Crossroads explained that it would build a “micro-team(s) of researchers and polling professionals” and “list development professionals and direct contact (mail/phones) consultants” to develop and disseminate “hard-hitting issue advocacy” to attack Democrats by “exposing ObamaCare,” as well as “the great ‘stimulus’ rip-off” and “the new federal bureaucrat elite – paid for by struggling private sector families.”
We have the first taste of what is to come in the run-up to the November election. An early ad is built around an “open mic” moment, when Obama told Russian president Dimitry Medvedev that he will have “more flexibility” to deal with hot-button issues like missile defense after the election. Showing marching Russian troops, undoubtedly to revive memories of the red menace, the ad portrays Obama as the Manchurian candidate, and America “can’t afford the risk.”
In what has become an arms race, it is inconceivable that Super PACs supporting the Democrats are expected to also indulge in negative campaigning. You have to go back to 1940 for the last clean election in the US, when the candidates spent more time explaining their own policies than attacking those of their opponents. On the Republican side you had Wendell Willkie, who was up against the formidable Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Both men had secrets that would have seen them undone.
Willkie was having a very open affair with Irita Van Doren, who edited the book review section of the New York Herald Tribune. When asked what might happen if the news of the affair had gotten out, Willkie shot back that his private life was his own. “Everybody knows about us – all the newspapermen in New York,” he told friends. “If somebody should come along to threaten or embarrass me about Irita, I would say, ‘Go right ahead.’” To their credit, Roosevelt and the press kept quiet. The public only became aware of the affair well after the election, when, in 1948, the film State of the Union was released. Directed by Frank Capra, it is loosely based on the 1940 presidential campaign. Willkie is wonderfully portrayed by Spencer Tracy, with Angela Lansbury playing the role of Irita Van Doren. Katherine Hepburn plays his long-suffering wife, as opposed to real-life where she was Tracy’s long-suffering mistress.
Roosevelt also had secrets. He was a serial philanderer, while Eleanor had a lesbian affair with Lorena Hickok. The other cloud that hung over the campaign was letters between his vice president, Henry Wallace, and a Russian mystic, Nicholas Roerich, who was Wallace’s personal guru, something that would not have gone down well in Middle America had the letters leaked out.
Both candidates kept quiet about the other’s personal lives, and those who lived through that campaign remarked that it was a surprisingly clean fight in which both men respected one another, something unimaginable in America of the twenty-first century.
So, expect whoever is the victor of the 2012 election to emerge covered in mud (although presumably less mud than their opponent), and Americans will have to just live with a president who has been so reduced by the mudslinging that he will have the national and international credibility of a Golem.