cnn-capture.thumbnail.JPGLast night CNN aired a segment wondering aloud whether or not Obama is the Antichrist. It’s just the latest step in making what ought to be an outrageous and nonsensical bit of religious nuttery into an actual campaign issue. Raw Story has the details:

CNN notes that regardless of its intent, though, the ad seems to have spurred increased interest in the baseless speculation. At least one entire blog is devoted to the question and a Google search for "Obama Antichrist" returns nearly 1 million returns.

And regardless of CNN’s intent, it too managed to handle the story in such a "fair and balanced" fashion that the interest of which it speaks will, in turn, ratchet up yet another notch.

The story that inspired the segment — in which "Left Behind" authors Tim LaHaye and Dan Jenkins officially pronounced Obama NOT the Antichrist — was actually a clever bit of politicking: Even though the verdict was negative, it gave the very question a veneer of legitimacy it does not deserve. It made the question seem like a serious theological problem — one that could then be debated further — rather than the scurrilous nonsense it really is.

That story in turn was sparked by the discussion that followed the release of the McCain campaign’s anti-Obama ad, "The One", which was just chock full o’ nutty images that clearly were intended to lead viewers to wonder whether there was a sinister, even diabolical, side to Obama’s celebrity.

Back when the ad first aired, Amy Sullivan in Time pointed out:

A new TIME poll finds that the most conservative Evangelicals are the least enthusiastic about McCain’s candidacy. Convincing them that Obama does have two horns and a tail might be the best way of getting them to vote. That’s what worries Campolo, who also sits on the Democratic Party’s platform committee. "Those books have created a subliminal language, and I think judgments will be made unconsciously about Barack Obama," he says. "It scares the daylights out of me."

obama-nation-v1.thumbnail.jpgIt probably should, because this is yet another component of the larger strategy being planned this fall by Republicans. Like their dog-whistle racial campaign ads, these are in fact very subtle appeals — the kind that let the McCain campaign send messages to their lizard-brain base while giving them a measure of plausible deniability about doing so. As Jane said awhile back, their strategy is to make "implicit" appeals without creating the backlash that would result from more explicit appeals.

The same theme courses throughout Jerome Corsi’s smear job. Indeed, it’s going to be an endless stream of this crap until November. The Obama campaign’s frontal assault on these smears has been somewhat effective, but the subtler appeals have proven a thornier problem — one that ain’t going away.