Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Obama-Farrakhan Smear (JM)

When Russert asked about Louis Farrakhan's endorsement of Barack Obama, Obama responded quite firmly. His terminological vaccilation was a bit silly, but Hillary should nothave parsed words and demanded that Barack reject his support. Instead, had she been gracious and pointed out that that it is quite clear Obama is not anti-Semitic, she could have had a moment similar to the type we saw Obama have when defending Joe Biden against charges of racism at an earlier debate.

However, the truly reprehensible aspect of this whole exchange is when Russert began reading out some of Farrakhan's most disgraceful anti-Semitic comments. It served no purpose in the debate, other than driving the perception that Obama is connected with this same rank racism. It's unclear if this was even a legitimate topic of discussion (I am sure there are several base individuals endorsing various candidates of whom we are unaware, probably more often in the GOP). Josh Marshall has excellent analysis about this over at Talking Points Memo. But the larger point is this: This is not just bad for Obama, but also bad for people of the Jewish faith and pretty much everyone who believes in civil discourse.

If Russert really wanted to agitate the perceived divided between Barack Obama and Jewish-Americans (it's unclear if this divide is empirically proven) he could have asked a question about Obama's quotes about Israel that I discussed earlier this afternoon. This is a legitimate political issue that would have fostered important debate amongst the candidates. Instead, he chose to go for the "gotcha" and trade in racism for ratings, it's disgusting and Russert and MSNBC should be condemned for it.

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