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Anti-Obama smear campaign gets rolling in South Carolina

January 23, 2008 |  8:58 am

South Carolina has a history of rough politics.

Allright, they're downright mean and dirty. Sen. John McCain wasn't the first to get a bitter taste of that in 2000. And now, it seems, some anonymous sources are trying the same smear tactics on Sen. Barack Obama in advance of Saturday's state Democratic presidential primary.

There's a whispering campaign underway across the entire state, often using forwarded e-mails, suggesting that Obama is a closet Muslim schooled in anti-American lessons who refuses to take the Pledge of Allegiance.

To be honest though, Illinois politics is no kindergarten either. So Obama's campaign....

was ready. It has sent out a new mailer with the large headline: "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," depicting the candidate in a church pulpit before a large white cross. It talks about how Obama accepted Jesus Christ in his life.

Obama hasn't hesitated to raise his faith while speaking, but now it's become even more prominent. “I’ve been at the same church, the same Christian church for almost 20 years," he said at a recent Columbia rally. "My wife and I were married in that church, our children were dedicated in that church. I was sworn in with my hand on the family bible. Whenever I’m in the U.S. Senate, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” Then, he added, “If you get some silly e-mail, send it back …Tell them this is all crazy.”

During Monday's acrid Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach, he still managed to slip in, “I am a proud Christian.”

And Obama supporter Sen. John Kerry responded in greater detail in a Tuesday e-mail: “Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by e-mail," Kerry said. "These attacks smear Barack's Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of 'Swiftboat' style anonymous attacks.

“These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we've learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked. But not this time," the former presidential candidate vowed. "We're fighting back."

Kerry said Obama could not counter the rumors alone. “We need you to e-mail the truth to your address books," the Massachusetts senator urged. "Print it out and post it at work. Talk to your neighbors. Call your local radio station. Write a letter to the editor. If lies can be spread virally, let's prove to the cynics that the truth can be every bit as persuasive as it is powerful."

The Obama campaign has created a website for supporters to acquire the facts. "Next time you hear these attacks on Barack," Kerry adds, "take action immediately.”

--Seema Mehta