From the author who destroyed John Kerry, a hatchet job on Obama

Jerome Corsi's 'Unfit for Command' helped George Bush win the 2004 election. Now he has written a book about the 2008 Democratic candidate. Obama should be worried, says Rupert Cornwell

It is piled high at the entrance of Washington's leading book stores, with a close-up of the candidate staring from the front cover; pensive and enigmatic – or should that be, sinister and scheming? The book is called The Obama Nation, and this weekend it is set to make a triumphant debut on The New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers, in the No 1 position. Even more to the point however, Barack Obama is now getting the "Swift Boat" treatment that many say helped doom John Kerry, the Democrats' previous nominee for the Presidency, in 2004.

Four years ago, Jerome Corsi, a former Harvard PhD in political science, leapt to prominence when he co-authored Unfit for Command, in which Vietnam veterans attacked Mr Kerry, suggesting the candidate had lied about his record in the war, and had deliberately sullied the reputation of the US forces who fought in it. Now Corsi is at it again, with The Obama Nation. The title itself, with its deliberate assonance with "abomination", is a giveaway. Any lingering doubts about its contents are banished by the subheading Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality.

Already 475,000 copies are in print, a vast number even for a controversial book about a fascinating candidate in a fascinating election year. It has become instant fodder and inspiration for America's conservative media, above all the hosts that rule the country's mighty universe of talk show radio. According to The New York Times, Corsi has fed the beast already with 100 separate interviews. The reward for such diligence (backed up with some aggressive bulk marketing) is now spectacularly evident in the bestseller lists.

In essence, the The Obama Nation is a 364-page assemblage of everything unfavourable that has been written about the Democratic candidate, sifted and distilled by Corsi. A selection of chapter headings gives the picture. The first is entitled "Myths from His Father", a play on Mr Obama's 1995 autobiographical memoir, Dreams from My Father. That is followed by "Black Rage, Drugs and a Communist Mentor" and "Kenya, Odinga, Communism and Islam".

Next come chapters devoted to Tony Rezko, the sleazy Chicago operator and briefly an Obama fundraiser, and to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, once Mr Obama's pastor, who preaches black liberation and whom the candidate was forced to disown earlier this year. Finally there is an examination of Obama the national politician, with chapters entitled "The Cult of Personality", "A Far Left Domestic Policy", and "Obama's anti-war, anti-Israel Foreign Policy".

In short, the first African-American with a serious shot at the Presidency is portrayed as a raving ultra-leftist whose patriotism is dubious at best and who has far more links to Islam and militant black politics than he has ever let on.

Corsi naturally insists base partisanship is the last thing on his mind. The book, he claims, is merely to spare the country, "a repeat of the failed extremism that has characterised and plagued Democratic Presidential politics since the late 1960s". He maintains he has never been either a registered Republican or Democrat. "The only political party I ever consciously joined is the Constitution Party," he says. (a primitivist, isolationist and socially conservative party that, among things, wants to abolish income tax, and allow individual states the right to secede).

Corsi denies his opposition to Mr Obama stems from racism, noting that he supported Ken Blackwell, the black candidate in Ohio's 2006 election for governor – which Mr Blackwell lost. It might be noted en passant that Mr Blackwell was an extremely partisan Republican who, as Ohio's secretary of state in the 2004 attracted much criticism from Democrats for his organisation of the presidential vote in the state which, had Mr Kerry won it, would have given him the White House. Nonetheless, shame on anyone who imagines the book is a paean to John McCain, or even Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party's candidate for the White House in 2008.

"I am writing this book strictly to examine and oppose Barack Obama," Corsi says. Even so, The Obama Nation smells like a Republican hit job – not least because the chief editor of Threshhold Editions, the subsidiary of Simon and Shuster which has published it, is none other than Mary Matalin, a longtime Republican operative, and recently a senior staffer of the Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Obama supporters would argue that The Obama Nation belongs in the fiction rather than non-fiction category. Several of its accusations have been challenged; others, it is said, are misleading and taken out of context. But no one should claim to be shocked.

Such assault literature has long been a staple of US Presidential campaigns – well before Unfit for Command made headlines in 2004. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have been especially popular targets, to the point of lurid and nonsensical tales of assassination plots and drug smuggling in their home state of Arkansas. With good reason, Hillary complained of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband and herself. George W Bush, a no less polarising figure, has endured dozens of equally blistering assaults from the left, on everything from his probity and courage to his religious faith and IQ.

Thus far the Obama team has not gone out of its way to attack the Corsi book – probably in the belief that it is mainly preaching to the long-since converted, and thus does not constitute a particular danger. Indeed, its author himself has conceded to The New York Times that his latest opus does not have behind it an organisation like "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" – a tax-exempt group known as a 527 under American electoral law, that is permitted to indulge in "issue advocacy", unhampered by the financial restrictions imposed on conventional political special interest groups.

In the case of Mr Kerry, of course, the issue was his alleged unfitness to become Commander-in-Chief, on the basis of his purported distortions of his service record in Vietnam, especially as a young officer on a Swift Boat, used for counter-insurgency operations against the Vietcong, and some ancient accusations that some US soldiers in Vietnam had committed war crimes.

Just how seriously the assault damaged his bid for the White House is still a matter for debate. But many argued at the time that the Democratic candidate should have reacted more quickly and more forcefully than he initially did. At the very least, the Swift-Boaters muddied what should have been one of the most clear-cut differences between Mr Kerry and Mr Bush, the former's outstanding combat record in Vietnam, a war which the man who would defeat him famously managed to avoid. In the process a word has been added to America's political lexicon. Be it a small town mayoral election or the struggle for the highest office in the land, no politician today wants to be "swift-boated".

But Mr Obama's advisers nonetheless face a tricky calculation. To come out against the book all guns blazing, would risk drawing attention to its claims. On the other hand, to ignore it, as Mr Kerry first tried to ignore the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, might simply allow the claims to gain a currency of their own. In politics as in life, refuting a falsehood is far more time-consuming, and difficult, than disseminating one. In other words, mud sticks.

* A man barged into the Arkansas Democratic headquarters yesterday and fatally shot the state party chairman before speeding off in his pickup truck. Bill Gwatney, 48, died four hours later at University Hospital in Little Rock. Police said they did not know the motive of the 51-year-old suspect, who was shot dead after a 30-mile chase.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator - Financial Services

£32000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Administrator

£8000 - £10800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Supply Chain Administrator is ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor