Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guilty by Compliment

In last night's presidential debate, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama answered questions from a wide, yet dispersed, range of topics. From NAFTA and Iraq to campaign tactics, none was more ridiculous, or insulting, than the NBC moderator's questions to Mr. Obama about The Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan.

The Minister endorsed Mr. Obama, despite never being solicited "formally or informally", according to the Illinois senator last night. Still, Mr. Obama was asked to comment on the endorsement, as though Minister Farrakhan's orthodoxy goes to the heart of the campaign's message. I mean, if Mr. Farrakhan, known for unapologetically making anti-semitic remarks, endorsed Barack Obama, then clearly, Mr. Obama must be...anti semitic?

The answer is a resounding no, yet Mr. Obama's "denouncement" wasn't enough for Mrs. Clinton, who needed a "rejection" of the endorsement. Mrs. Clinton, feeling the heat to perform like the Giants' front four, didn't miss the opportunity to paint Mr. Obama as a member of the Nation, with his bow tie and bean pie. His retort was clever and profound, "rejecting and denouncing" Minister Farrakhan's anti-semitic remarks.

However, the true crime belongs to the moderators for asking Mr. Obama to comment on Minister Farrakhan's endorsement. We can sympathize with Clinton attacking Obama, for she's behind in the polls and in need of major wins next week. But for the moderators to link Obama to Farrakhan is a disgusting reach. Yes, both men are Black. Yes, both men are from Chicago. So, obviously, yes, both men are of the same ideology.

It seems this is part of a trite narrative of Black politicians who seek national office. Some how, they have to be placed in a corner as "the Black candidate". There's a reason the word viable is thrown around with reference to Mr. Obama, and not towards Senator John McCain or Governor Mitt Romney. Thus, if a known controversial, Black minister is endorsing Mr. Obama, the possibility of Mr. Obama accepting it has to be relatively high, right?

In 2000, no one ever asked then-Governor George W. Bush if he ever solicited the endorsement of Ross Perot, nor if he accepted it. The media also doesn't bring up the extreme right wing of the Conservative movement that tends to be quite bigoted, and supportive of the Republican party. Still, Mr. Obama must address the endorsement of Minister Louis Farrakhan, and in doing so, must reassure Americans of his support for Israel, of America's imperative support for the Jewish state and of his work with Jews. All good, but can't it be taken for granted that a left of center politician is not in a cabal with the Nation, despite its endorsement? Like Mr. Obama said last night, he's not going to complain if someone thinks he's right for the country.


Xavier said...

Excellent post. The true racist nature of the extreme right wing of the Elephant party will show itself in October and November.

MJD said...

I also watched the debate last night and I thought the exchange about "denouncing" versus "rejecting" painted Senator Clinton in a desperate light and showed how great Obama is at handling potentially divisive questions. I loved your post because it brought up racial issues embedded in the moderator's questions that I did not find readily apparent while watching the debate.