A few days, I pointed out that the way that conservatives are making allegations against the administration that are rooted in the continuing misperception that President Obama is a Muslim -- for instance, the nonsensical allegation that the liberal academic Harold Koh (President Obama's nominee for State Dept. legal adviser) wants to institute sharia law in this country.
The newest example comes from conservative gadfly Frank Gaffney, who was given airtime by MSNBC to claim that Obama's apparent bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (which would constitute a breach of protocol) was "code" telling "our Muslim enemies that you are willing to submit to them":
GAFFNEY: I’m a member of Dick Cheney’s fan club. I think he’s absolutely right that when you yes, have wonderful road shows that encourage all kinds of acclaim from people by telling them what they want to hear — whether it’s European friends that you’re a transnationalist just like they are, or our Muslim enemies that you are willing to submit to them, which is the kind of ground-breaking that was done today.
This is not going to make us safer. It is going to make the world a more dangerous place when you alienate your friends and you embolden your enemies, and that’s what Barack Obama is doing.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: You’ve got to stick to facts here.
GAFFNEY: I am.
CORN: Where in that speech does he say we’re going to submit to anybody?
GAFFNEY: I think what he is using is code —
CORN: No, no. I’m asking a very specific question.
GAFFNEY: I’m answering your question.
CORN: Ok. Where did he say he’ll submit?
GAFFNEY: When he uses the word “respect,” in the context of a waist-bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, for example, and talks about respectful language, which is code for those who adhere to Sharia that we will submit to Sharia. We will submit to the kind of program –
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC: We have to know the code? We all have to know the code to understand how we’re making ourselves more vulnerable?
GAFFNEY: You should. You should know the code. If you don’t (CROSSTALK) —
SHUSTER: But David Corn was asking you for a specific example, and you’re referring to code. You’re referring to code!
GAFFNEY: I’m telling you the code as they receive it in the Taliban headquarters and in al Qaeda’s cave and in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They perceive this as submission.
There is no way that Obama's apparent mistake becomes the lead story on Drudge if the Muslim misperception does not exist. It just wouldn't be big news -- George W. Bush held hands with Abdullah and no one cared. Why else would anyone think Obama wants to submit to sharia law? He's a liberal on social issues! It doesn't even make sense.
In this world, however, Obama's opponents in the press and the blogosphere are using his misstep to characterize him as somehow foreign or disloyal. The Washington Times, for instance, characterized the bow as "a shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate" in an editorial that said Obama "belittled the power and independence of the United States" -- extremely loaded language given many people's beliefs about Obama. The Times then goes on to darkly suggest that people who believe the President is a Muslim may be right:
Mr. Obama's bow to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques does not help his image with those who believe he is secretly a Muslim, and why he chose to bow only to the Saudi King and not to any other royals remains unexplained.
The worst part is that the White House (perhaps fearing this sort of response) is denying the story -- creating conflict and controversy that could draw in bigger media outlets.