Matt Bai's "Political Times" column for Thursday's New York Times, "Obama the Other, Deployed as Election Tactic ,"
deplored what Bai saw as an emerging G.O.P. strategy against Barack
Obama in 2010 and 2012. Bai predictably brought up former House speaker
Newt Gingrich accusing Obama of "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," based
on a Forbes cover story by conservative Dinesh D'Souza.
This cultural critique of Mr. Obama - a general portrayal of otherness based on his age and ideology, his upbringing and, inescapably, his race - is reminiscent of similar attacks on Bill Clinton, whom 1990s-era conservatives reveled in depicting as a symbol of the socially permissive, self-indulgent hippie left....
After the allusion to racism, Bai tried to portray things in starkest terms:
Mr. Obama's alleged sympathy for so-called Muslim extremists who would desecrate the World Trade Center site, his socialist African ancestry and his early years in Indonesia - all of this creates a shadowy archetype that every conservative enclave (fiscal, foreign policy and religious) can find a reason to fear.
You can probably expect the tenor of these attacks to grow shriller as 2012 approaches and Republican presidential hopefuls begin courting activists in Iowa. For now, at least, the president has no plans to respond - perhaps other than to affirm his Christianity more regularly than he used to. White House advisers contend that as the conservative insinuations about Mr. Obama grow more pronounced, the extremism that underlies them will become self-evident to the public.
Last month Bai fretted in knee-jerk liberal fashion over the "nativist impulse " leading Americans to oppose building a huge Islamic center, topped by a mosque, in a building damaged during the 9-11 terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam.
Clay Waters is director of Times Watch . You can follow him on Twitter .