Monday, October 27, 2008

The Ashley Todd Hoax

I think Obama just might win this thing.

I know he’s been up in the polls for a long time, but the polls also keep tightening and widening. Mostly, I kept expecting some huge October surprise or stunt from McCain that would re-align everything. I went to bed last Thursday night afraid that it had just happened.

A McCain campaign worker, Ashley Todd, was reported to have been mugged and then mutilated by a large black man who was angry that she had a McCain bumper sticker on her car. It was reported as a brutal attack, with a large B carved into the side of her face. If true, I was worried this would tap into deep-seated racial fears among whites, as the McCain campaign and conservative media outlets would play it for all its race-baiting glory.

The thing is, if the story were true, it would have been completely unfair to Obama. He’s not the one injecting hate and fear into this campaign. Once McCain got behind in the polls, he made this campaign about how scary Obama’s character is, and whipped up many of his supporters into a frenzy. Before McCain threw a small bucket of water on it by rebuking a supporter at a rally, I was afraid things were going to get out of hand and someone might get hurt.

Compare that to Obama’s message, whose negativity has always been about McCain's policies and actions, and never about McCain's character or shady associations of his own. Obama’s message and really, his whole life, has been about unity and hope and reconciliation and understanding among diverse peoples.

So, if violence were to happen, it would be a result of McCain stirring the pot, not Obama. But, it would not have mattered. A large black man mutilating a young white girl would just re-awaken racial animosity from whites, and who knows who deep the wound would have become.

So, I found myself hoping against hope that this did happen. I had solace in one fact last Thursday night – she did not seek medical attention after the attack. That just didn’t fit. Anyone who was brutally attacked would surely seek medical attention. So, I was hoping for a hoax. And yet, how do you root for something like this to be a partisan hoax? It’s like not quite believing a rape victim. If you get it wrong, you are a serious a-hole.

By Friday morning, the reports seemed more wary about the event. Even Michelle Malkin, not someone who is normally all that interested in the truth, publicly doubted it. After seeing the photo, it just looked wrong. Her face wasn’t carved up. There were scratch marks in the perfect shape of a backwards B. Why would a mugger do that? And there was no way a knife made those marks. It looked more like fingernails, done in a mirror. Her story had changed now too, adding both that she was sexually assaulted and was unconscious. The Pittsburgh police seemed very skeptical and were checking the tapes of the crime scene.

Finally, by Friday afternoon, she had recanted her story. The October surprise turned out to be nothing but a crazy campaign operative. It was then that I finally believed Obama was going to win.

One thing that has not panned out is that I thought the McCain campaign would be unfairly blamed for the hoax. If Obama was going to be unfairly blamed for the attack, I assumed media would unfairly go after McCain for it. But it hasn’t. While appropriate, I think it does underscore the basic differences in the campaign. Had the situation been reversed, we would now be subjected to McCain mailers, robocalls, and press conferences claiming Obama perpetuated a hoax and what that says about his character.

Nevertheless, this story softens any subsequent story that might develop, since everyone’s ear is now attuned to potential hoaxes. For example, over the weekend, some houses in Virginia were vandalized with anti-McCain messages. Could be Obama supporters. But, it could be McCain supporters perpetuating a hoax, as they are now known to do.

So, without a serious game-changing story that people believe, the current status quo in the polls with prevail, and Obama will win.


Tim said...

What was the 'B' supposed to stand for, anyway? Black? 'Bama? Booger? Binglefritch?

I don't get it, but then again, I don't get most of the race-related fears McCain supporters have voiced in the news. I've heard the following fears voiced by white racists on NPR: 1.) If Obama wins, he'll only serve the interests of African Americans, 2.) With one of their own in the white house, blacks will abuse their new-found power and push whites off sidewalks, and 3.) Obama will put Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in his cabinet.

These people clearly live in a scary fantasyland that has nothing to do with reality.

Anonymous said...


Robert Sievers said...

The pepole who are using race as a factor in their vote are those voting for Obama, not those voting against him.

(Minus a few nut jobs, which are everywhere.)

PG said...


That last comment -- those using race in voting are voting for and not those voting against -- goes against everything I have read and heard to date. (See this article about Pennsylvania voters as one example:

Yes, race is a factor in how I am voting. I'm exhilarated to be voting for a black man for President. See these letters -- one from a U.S. Agency for International Development leader -- to see how the race of Obama will have an impact on world opinion of the U.S.

But more than that, it is a wild generalization you are making. It lessens your authority on the sweeping generalizations you have made about Islam, too, in my opinion.


Fingtree said...


Nate said...

I actually posted an AP article in regards to the race issue last month. The article stated that one third of white Democrats may not vote for Obama because of thier view's on black people. Here is the link.