Thursday, October 9, 2008



The Standard
Nairobi, Kenya

October 9, 2008

By David Ohito, Karanja Njoroge and Agencies

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s popularity continued to soar even as it emerged the decision to eject Dr Jerome Corsi, who had come to Kenya to launch a book discrediting him, was taken by top Government officials.

Obama, whose father came from Siaya District, has had to contend with a spirited negative campaign, especially from the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

On Tuesday, the high stakes in the US election played out in Nairobi when security officials held Corsi minutes before a press conference to launch his book, Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality at Laicco Regency Hotel, Nairobi.

The Immigration officials said Corsi had come in on a visitor’s visa and the launch of his book was a commercial venture that contravened his immigration status.

The details of the involvement of top security chiefs and Government officials in the decision to bundle him out of Nairobi, emerged hours before the second debate between Obama and his Republican rival John McCain. Snap polls by CBS and CNN showed Obama won the Tuesday debate.

During the debate, McCain was steady on attack against Obama. But did he provide the kind of performance that could shake up a race in which he is the underdog?

Probably not, analysts said after a 90-minute encounter in which the two candidates prowled around a stage and questioned each other’s judgement on the economy, taxes, energy and foreign policy.

"I think McCain finished exceptionally well," said Republican strategist Scott Reed. "But overall, the event is not going to rock the race."

McCain is hanging on for dear life in a race that favours Obama. He is down in opinion polls ahead of the November 4 election, and in the middle of a US financial crisis that many Americans believe Obama is better prepared to handle.

McCain was in his element at the debate — a "town-hall" format in which regular voters pose questions, a style he used effectively earlier this year to come back from the political grave and defeat a host of Republican rivals.

At Nashville’s Belmont University, he turned just about every question into an attack on Obama as his Democratic opponent sat by in a tall chair looking sometimes amused, sometimes annoyed.

McCain quickly went on the offensive in an opening discussion about who was to blame for Government policies that led to the Wall Street crisis, saying Obama has benefited mightily from campaign contributions from executives of the two troubled mortgage companies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

"They’re the ones that, with the encouragement of Senator Obama, his cronies, and his friends in Washington, that went out and made all these risky loans, gave them to people that could never afford to pay back," he said.

But Obama gave as much as he got, firing back at McCain often, for example accusing McCain of getting sidetracked from winning the war in Afghanistan by allowing the Bush administration to launch the Iraq war.

"This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, ‘Next up, Baghdad,’" Obama said.

For McCain, 72, the format did not lend itself to attacks on Obama’s character and he shied away from such tactics after earlier in the week trying to raise questions about the Democrat’s ties to William Ayers, who was a member of The Weather Underground, a home-grown anti-Vietnam War extremist group of the 1960s.

Senior adviser Charlie Black said McCain accomplished what he needed to do, saying the Arizona senator needs to move the polls five or six percentage points in 28 days and "I think we probably got a little momentum tonight, but we’ll see how that goes."

"Very few debates produce haymakers. The purpose of the debates when you have a huge number of American voters actually watching is to draw the differences on issues, and to some extent on experience and judgement," Black said.

Linda Fowler, a political science professor at Dartmouth College, said McCain appeared to hew closely to the script from the first debate, two weeks ago in Mississippi.

"Nobody fell on their face, but if McCain is the person who needed a strong performance, the fact that it was adequate means it wasn’t good enough," she said.

An officer at the Immigration headquarters in Nairobi, who sought anonymity because he is not authorised to speak for the department, said Corsi’s deportation orders have been prepared and are only awaiting Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’s signature. The orders would effectively mean that Corsi would not be allowed re-entry.

Before his latest book, Corsi was famed for co-authoring Unfit for Command, a book that was highly critical of the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry. Critics have discredited his books for serious factual errors and fabrications.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said the Government has a right to deport any foreigner, even without explanation.

But Peter Mbae of Eagle Communications who organised the press conference said his role was only to facilitate the event.

Mbae told The Standard yesterday he had warned Corsi — who was flown out of the country on Tuesday night — that holding the anti-Obama press conference would not go down well with Kenyans who were highly supportive of the Senator’s candidature.

"I am not Corsi’s publicist, but was just requested to organise the press conference last Friday," he said.

Mbae said he had no apologies as he was just discharging his responsibility.

He, however, said it was wrong for the Government to deport Corsi, adding it had given him the international publicity he was craving.