No attempted political smear like an old attempted political smear

March 30, 2012

This New York Times photo feature is making the e-mail and Facebook rounds of Republicans and anti-Obamaniacs:

Obama carrying Zakaria's book, in 2008 - NY Times photo by Doug Mills

Then-candidate Barack Obama carrying a copy of Fareed Zakaria‘s best-selling book on why America has an optimistic future, The Post-American World, on the campaign trail in 2008

Should have noted, it’s making the rounds yet again.

In the note I got most recently, the sender posted this — probably a copy and paste message:

This picture will stun you

If each person sends this to a minimum of 20 people on their address list, in three days,
all people in The United States of America would have the message.
I believe this is one proposal that really should be passed around.
________________________________________________________________

THIS WILL CURDLE YOUR BLOOD AND CURL YOUR HAIR

Description: cid:image001.jpg@01CCB96D.4D1AFD50

The name of the book Obama is reading is called: The Post-American World, and it was written by a fellow Muslim.

“Post” America means the World After America ! , Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal. , Democrat or Republican, Folks we need to be aware of what our president is thinking–or planning
We must expose Obama’s radical ideas and his intent to bring down our beloved America!

Oy.  Where to begin with the factual corrections?

First, Zakaria is not exactly a Muslim extremistHe was born in India, a secular nation which practices religious diversity by law, his mother a former editor of The Sunday Times of India, his father a member of the popular Indian National Congress, the party of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh, to mention four famous Prime Ministers of India.

Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International...

Fareed Zakaria, [then

Second, Zakaria is a highly-respected journalist with great experience in international affairs.  He’s a former columnist for of Newsweek, and was editor of Newsweek International (is that American enough?).  Currently he has a column in Time, and a regular slot on CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS, after a program on PBS and assignments for ABC.  You probably know the man by sight, and he doesn’t scare you in your living room.

Third, it’s not about “after” America — it’s about life in the world after several other nations figure out the U.S. secrets to success (freedom and trade), and apply them to become, like the U.S., a world power.  Not the world “after America,” but the world after the domination of America and Pax Americana.  The note in the New York Times said:

Writing in the Book Review a few weeks ago, Joseph Joffe said about Zakaria’s book:

Zakaria’s is not another exercise in declinism. His point is not the demise of Gulliver, but the ”rise of the rest.” After all, how can this giant follow Rome and Britain onto the dust heap of empire if it can prosecute two wars at once without much notice at home? The granddaughters of those millions of Rosie the Riveters who kept the World War II economy going are off to the mall today; if they don’t shop till they drop, it’s because of recession, not rationing.

“Not another exercise in declinism.” Want to bet the people passing the photo around didn’t bother to read Zakaria’s book?  Heck, they didn’t even bother to check it out on Amazon, or Wikipedia.  Anyone who thinks this photo sinister clearly could use a good read of the book — if they can read.

Fourth, Zakaria’s book has an entire chapter on keeping the U.S. from falling into decline — it’s not a book to”bring down our beloved America,” but is instead a book aimed at doing the exact opposite.  Zakaria outlines how the U.S. can maintain influence and power in a world where superpower influence is problematic rather than an enormous advantage at all times, and a world where trade is better than war.

Fifth, The Post-American World got a lot of praise from conservative, Republican- and Libertarian-leaning people when it was published.  The pedestrian Wikipedia explained:

The Post-American World, at 292 pages long, was described as “a book-length essay”[5] and a “thin book that reads like one long, thoughtful essay”.[6] Written with an optimistic tone, it features little new research or reporting, but rather contains insights and identification of trends.[5] The reviewer for The Wall Street Journal described the tone as “infectious (though not naive) sunniness…but without Panglossian simplicity”.[1] The American Spectator reviewer noted that the prose had a journalistic style[7] while the reviewer for The Guardian noticed the writing sometimes displayed “news magazine mannerisms”.[8]

Zakaria’s view on globalisation was said to be similar to journalist and author Thomas Friedman.[9][10] Friedman reviewed The Post-American World and called it “compelling”.[11] The review in American Conservative compared this book with Rudyard Kipling‘s poems “Recessional” and “The White Man’s Burden“, both written at the height of British power and warning against imperial hubris.[12] The American Spectator review listed it as adding to similar themed books, comparing it to Oswald Spengler‘s The Decline of the West (1918), Arnold Toynbee‘s A Study of History, Paul Kennedy‘s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), and Robert Kagan‘s The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008).[7] Kagan labeled The Post-American World as “declinist”;[13] however, Martin Woollacott of The Guardian labeled Zakaria an exceptionalist.[8] The Commentary review added the works of Samuel P. Huntington and Francis Fukuyama to the list of comparisons and suggested there is now a sub-genre of books that consider the decline or demise of American hegemony.[14]

Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, Commentary — any self-respecting, halfway well-read neo-conservative would have all of those sources on her desk today.

Having read Zakaria’s book should be an indication of American patriotism.  Dwight Garner’s comment at Art Beat, a blog of the New York Times, said the photo was a “stylish book-ad,” and he meant it as a compliment.  He closed off his note:

Anyone know what book John McCain is — or should be — carrying around?

Grand question.  I’ll wager McCain knows the book, if he hasn’t read it.

But what about Mitt Romney?  I’ll wager he didn’t bother to read it.  Rick Santorum?  Surely not.  Newt Gingrich probably read it quickly, over-analyzed it, found some minor issue of historical interpretation to disagree with, and pronounced it not worthy of actual citation.

The people who try to raise fears with the photo?  They probably don’t read newspapers, don’t have library cards, and they hope to hell you’re too busy updating your Facebook profile to know anything at all about reality and world history.  Would they send the photo around if they had Clue #1?

Sixth, the book came out in 2008.    Even the paperbacks are in new editions with revisions, it’s been out so long.

How desperate are the Obama-obsessed folk?  They’re so desperate they are recycling hoaxes from 2008.  Worse, they find people willing to be hoaxed all over again, forgetting they got hoaxed back then.

Voter identification?  How about a voter sanity check?  Given a choice, a sane person might say “let illegal aliens vote, instead” — they know more about America and what makes it great than the perps of this hoax.

Is it significant that Zakaria has not been shy about criticizing serious policy errors promulgated by Republican candidates for president?  Nah.

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