Last Friday, Michael Bloomberg went to the nation’s most prominent swing state, into the heart of Palm Beach County, and spoke to a Jewish audience in Boca Raton. He went there to tell voters to ignore the “whisper campaign” of lies and falsehoods being spread through the Internet and on right-wing talk radio, and even network TV, about Barack Obama’s supposed ties to radical Islam. Mayor Bloomberg deserves praise for speaking out loudly against those pernicious whispers.
The lie first infested the Democratic primary, kindled by right-wing bloggers and stoked by a Clinton campaign employee sending Matt Drudge a photo of Senator Obama trying on traditional African robes and turban, as well as Senator Clinton’s misunderstood and overplayed statement that her opponent was not a Muslim “as far as I know.” Meanwhile, the Obama campaign noticed that each time they went into a new state to campaign, that state would be flooded with e-mails claiming the candidate was a Muslim pretending to be Christian.
Such drivel will be repeated and retailed ad nausea by behind-the-scenes Republican operatives in the next several months. While New Yorkers may find it incredible that any sane American would believe such a transparent falsehood, several polls have shown that 10 to 15 percent of Americans believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim. One has only to look into right-wing blogs and e-mail chains to find the poisoned weeds of paranoia, xenophobia and racism in full bloom. Many such e-mails, in this case calling into question Mr. Obama’s support for Israel, have found their way to the in-boxes of Floridians. “Israel is just being used as a pawn, which is not that surprising, since some people are willing to stoop to any level to win an election,” said the mayor.
As mayor of New York, Mr. Bloomberg’s own notable ability to work effectively and build bridges among diverse ethnic and racial groups echoes the Democratic presidential nominee’s message of inclusion. Speaking the truth loudly and plainly, with outrage and disdain for voices that seek to deepen the country’s divisions, is a mark of an honorable elected official. We wish more politicians, of all ethnic and racial and religious backgrounds, would emulate Mike Bloomberg on this score.