Smiling as he twists in the knife
EVAN AGOSTINI/Getty Images You have to admire Bob Kerrey’s skill as a political assassin. While casually shooting the breeze over the weekend with the Washington Post‘s Shailagh Murray after a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton, the former Nebraska senator and 9/11 commissioner had this to say about Barack Obama: It’s probably not something that appeals ...
EVAN AGOSTINI/Getty Images
You have to admire Bob Kerrey’s skill as a political assassin. While casually shooting the breeze over the weekend with the Washington Post‘s Shailagh Murray after a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton, the former Nebraska senator and 9/11 commissioner had this to say about Barack Obama:
It’s probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There’s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.”
Kerrey kept it going Monday on CNN:
[T]here is a smear campaign going on. And people are acting as if he’s an Islamic Manchurian candidate. And I feel it’s actually a substantial strength. He is a Christian. Both he and his family are Christians. They’ve chosen Christianity. But that connection to Indonesia and a billion Muslims on this Earth I think is a real strength and will add an awful lot of value in his foreign policy efforts. […] I’ve watched the blogs try to say that you can’t trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa.
The point Kerrey makes in these statements is, on the face of it, a nice one: Obama’s diverse roots could be a real asset abroad. But if you think the Obama campaign is eager to receive compliments that include the words “Hussein” and “madrassa,” especially from someone who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, then I have a bridge to sell you in New York City. (Also, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t a “madrassa” in any case.) Obama supporters and others recently jumped all over the Washington Post for running a front-page story about how rumors that the candidate is some sort of “closet Muslim” could hurt him politically. The critics accused the Post of essentially laundering a smear. But the point made in the story seems to be on solid ground: Americans simply aren’t ready to elect a Muslim president or even someone falsely rumored to be Muslim. It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s simply a fact that associating Obama with Islam hurts him politically.
And thanks to Kerrey, this issue became the dominant political story of the week. The only thing many voters will hear is “Obama Muslim,” even though the Illinois senator is a Protestant Christian. Emphasizing his father’s African roots is standard fare for Obama, and it’s one of the first items on his campaign bio. But the Muslim thing? That’s a bit tricky given today’s political climate.
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