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Special Report

Are Attacks on Obama's Religion Proxies for Something More Sinister?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Reading Between the Headlines

PBS correspondent Ray Suarez says what he calls "pseudo controversies" about Barack Obama's background are symbols for a "racial calculus" prevalent in U.S. politics.

Suarez said during an appearance in Michigan that opinions about Obama's inexperience, his childhood in Indonesia and the debunked rumors that he is a Muslim are stand-ins for something his detractors cannot admit: "Religion has become a proxy for race," he said.

Characterizing Obama as a Muslim "is a way to confer otherness on him for those people who are uncomfortable saying they're against him because he's black," Suarez added.

The Grand Rapids Press also reports Suarez said Republicans are leaving it to vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin to "pile on the doubt" about Obama's religion. However, Palin has never made a reference to the false rumors that Obama is anything but a Christian.

Online Chatter

Documents have surfaced suggesting that Obama was a member of the socialist New Party during his 1996 run for the Illinois Senate. The New Party was an offshoot of the Democratic Socialists Party of America, or DSA. The Power Line blog links to several Internet pages supporting the claim.

A Progressive Populist article in November of 1996 said, "New Party member Barack Obama was uncontested for a State Senate seat from Chicago."

An archived page from the New Party's Web site in October 1996 says, "Three N.P. members won Democratic primaries last spring and face off against Republican opponents on election day [including] Barack Obama."

A spokesman for the Obama campaign insists his candidate ran as a Democrat in that race and said, "Don't believe the trash you read on the Internet."

Journeyed Journalist

Veteran CBS correspondent Dean Reynolds — who has covered many a race including both the Obama and McCain campaigns this year — says Obama's campaign plane is "cramped, uncomfortable and smells terrible most of the time."

Reynolds also writes the Obama aides working with the media on the campaign plane are "often overwhelmed, overworked and uninformed about where, when, why or how the candidate is moving about."

He says Obama's national headquarters in Chicago "airily dismisses complaints from journalists" asking why daily schedules cannot be printed or e-mailed early enough to enable adequate planning.

Contrary to what you might expect, he says the McCain camp actually treats the media better.

To Tell the Truth

Despite his Republican and Libertarian rivals agreeing, the Democratic incumbent in Indiana's Ninth Congressional District is declining to say if he will jump onboard a proposal that would strap all three candidates to lie detectors during a debate.

The proposal was put forth by Republican Party chairman of that district, Larry Shickles, who says, "While this format may be unusual, I feel strongly that voters need to be able to make a clear decision without all the usual spin."

The district Democratic chairman calls the idea "pretty bizarre."

FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.