The Note: Image Nation

What we'd like to know this Wednesday:

1. How many Obamacans does it take to equal a Lieberman? (And what will it take to finagle a Hagel?)

2. Will it be enough to throw the book at Sen. Barack Obama this fall? (And no, it won't be one that belongs to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright after all.)

3. Do external events convince Obama to go in a different direction with his running mate? (And does a "keynote" Virginian -- and one who is very much not Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- mean no-Kaine-do?)

4. What is the state of Obama's finances really? (And how many donors do you have to have before you're staying at one's house by pure coincidence?)

5. Is it better if we're all Georgians or all Germans? (And is Sen. John McCain really approving the messages he's airing?)

Here's one thing we know about Obama: He's maintained control of his image -- but just barely. It's all out there -- the rumors, the innuendos, the outright dirty vile hatred -- at just enough volume to register, yet just quietly enough to be ignored.

That might be about to change. (Flashbacks, anyone?) Jerome Corsi is back, this time with anti-Obama screed that's rocketing up the charts and bouncing through the talk radio/Website echo chamber faster than it can be fact-checked away.

The book is set to debut at No 1. on The New York Times bestseller list. (And you thought Democrats were worried about the direction of Obama's campaign before?)

"Almost exactly four years after that campaign [against Sen. John Kerry] began, Mr. Corsi has released a new attack book painting Senator Barack Obama, the Democrats' presumed presidential nominee, as a stealth radical liberal who has tried to cover up 'extensive connections to Islam' -- Mr. Obama is Christian -- and questioning whether his admitted experimentation with drugs in high school and college ever ceased," Jim Rutenberg and Julie Bosman write in The New York Times.

"Significant parts of the book, whose subtitle is 'Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,' have already been challenged as misleading or false in the days since its debut on Aug. 1. Nonetheless, it is to make its first appearance on The New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction hardcovers this Sunday -- at No. 1."

How key is this: "Mr. Obama's campaign has yet to weigh in heavily on Mr. Corsi's accusations. It appears to face the classic decision between the risk of publicizing the book's claims by addressing them and the risk of letting them sink into the public debate with no response," Rutenberg and Bosman write.

Says Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor: "We will respond to these smears forcefully."

Obama is spared, at least, further Wright ruminations: "There will be no book coming in October because Rev. Wright has not written a new book," ABC's Teddy Davis and Rigel Anderson report. "A statement to the news media will be released on Wednesday according to a spokesperson for Trinity United Church of Christ."

The real question to emerge of the Clinton memos -- other than who was behind the parking debacle, and who constituted the "cabal": Will McCain take Mark Penn's ball and run with it? And, ultimately, will McCain reinforce the libelous junk that's out there on Obama with suggestions that have just enough truth to hold up?

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