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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Republicans use Obama’s Kenyan heritage to stoke fears

The genial and Smurf-like Republican presidential candidate Mike Hucakbee raised eyebrows last week for his comments regarding President Barack Obama’s origins.

In an interview with conservative talk radio host Steve Malzberg, Huckabee said the president, “”having grown up in Kenya,”” had developed a fondness for the Mau Mau, a group of guerilla fighters who, according to popular lore, slit the throats of white settlers.

Of course, Obama never set foot in Kenya as a youth, though he did spend four years in Indonesia before moving back to Hawaii.

Alluding to the president’s upbringing yet again, Huckabee then suggested Obama’s Kenyan father and grandfather had negatively influenced his view of the British. “”He probably grew up hearing that they were a bunch of imperialists,”” said Huckabee, referencing the fact that he sent back a bust of Winston Churchill, that George W. Bush Jr. had displayed in the Oval Office, to the British Embassy.

The public relations nightmare that followed sent Huckabee into damage control. He put out a statement on his HuckPac website attempting to clarify his statements, but he only made matters worse.

Doubling down on his previous remarks, Huckabee told the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer that Obama’s worldview was “”molded out of a very different experience.

“”Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with rotary clubs, not madrassas,”” Huckabee added.

But Obama never attended an Arabic school as a child, and his hometown of Honolulu has been home to a rotary club since 1905.

Huckabee isn’t the first mainstream Republican to invoke the president’s Kenyan heritage. Former House Speaker and Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich caused a firestorm last fall when he told the National Review Online that Kenyan anti-colonialism was “”the most accurate, predictive model”” of the president’s behavior.

The argument that Obama’s unique heritage and upbringing have influenced his perception of America and the West may seem nuanced on its face, but stripped down to it core, it is in fact very rudimentary. Huckabee and Gingrich are intentionally stoking

racial fears.

With the 2012 presidential primaries fast approaching, the GOP is in need of an election strategy that will help them win over as many voters as possible. Painting Obama as un-American foreigner by highlighting his “”otherness”” (i.e. his black African roots) is a strategy the party is using to appeal to racist whites.

If their objective wasn’t to inspire fears of a black president, why wouldn’t they cite the political views of Obama’s white maternal family as evidence of his “”world view?”” The grandfather who raised Obama as a child was a sergeant in the army during World War II and is related to six former U.S. presidents, three of which are still alive. Obama’s mother was an anthropologist who specialized in rural development and economic anthropology. Her views can easily be seen as anti-colonial.

But the inclinations of Obama’s white family members aren’t as relevant or scary as those of his “”head-hunting”” Kenyan father and grandfather.

The GOP has used every weapon in its arsenal to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, but propagating the idea that he is genetically predisposed to hate white people is as low as it gets.

— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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