The most surprising thing is that it took this long. Frustrated Obama obsessives, unable to believe that the rest of the country doesn't share their paranoid suspicion that the president has dark secrets lurking under his amiable exterior, have finally stooped to slurring his mother through the time-honored method of calling her a slut.
Michelle Goldberg reports for the Daily Beast on this new round of rumor-mongering about Obama's origins, which comes mainly from two sources: Dinesh D'Souza's best-selling book Obama's America and a pseudo-documentary Dreams From My Real Father that is currently being mailed out to voters in swing states.
Dreams From My Real Father peddles a conspiracy theory so convoluted that more traditional birthers must be envious of its creativity. The director, Joel Gilbert, argues that Obama's real father is Frank Marshall Davis, a labor activist and poet, and that Davis took bondage photos of Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, that he then sold to nudie magazines. Naturally, these questionable photos are prominently displayed in the documentary, and a short clip from the movie with the photos is available for embedding on every two-bit birther blog on the Internet. Gilbert claims to have mailed out a million copies to voters in Ohio, and in this post-Citizens United era, it's quite possible he does have anonymous donors who made that kind of mail push possible.
D'Souza is slightly less conspiracy-minded, but still subjects Dunham to the same icky, dirty old man treatment conservative pundits seem to have perfected. He accuses Dunham of neglecting her son so she could sleep around Indonesia, painting her as a sexual predator and pretending to be amazed that she supposedly got it on so often despite being a heavy woman. Ginning up sexual hysteria appears to be its own reward for D'Souza; any connection between his accusations and Obama's political leanings is tenuous at best. The book really serves no other purpose than to promote the notion that Obama is the dreaded Other and imply that the nerdy family man exterior is simply a front for a subversive America-hating radical.
Will this sort of mud-slinging make a difference in the election? It's hard to imagine anyone who isn't already convinced that Obama is secretly a Kenyan-born Muslim communist radical being convinced to believe it because you called his mother a slut. This kind of sleaze always lurks at the fringes of the right. Many conservatives were absolutely convinced that Hillary Clinton was both a secret lesbian and had an affair with Vince Foster, who they believe she then murdered to cover up her wicked ways, but it didn't seem to hurt Bill on election day. The real danger in these sorts of things is that it helps contribute to a culture of paranoia on the right, which can bubble up to the top and create serious problems. Years of the Clinton rumor mill eventually spurred paranoid Republicans to push for investigations into the man, on the grounds that all this smoke meant there had to be fire somewhere. As you'll recall, those investigations then led to an impeachment on the slimmest, most embarrassing grounds imaginable. God only knows what this kind of growing right wing hysteria could mean for Obama in a second term.