Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama vs Farrakhan!?!

[I didn't make the image, folks. This stuff's really out there.]

Well, I knew the N.L. had to kick in sooner or later. I've been saying it for weeks. Obama's dodged all types of attacks, from condescending Hillary, to that nutjob talk show host who kept calling his middle name, to those completely unnecessary photos of him in Gap khakis and a Somali headwrap. But when Minister Louis Farrakhan quietly endorsed him Sunday, I knew this might could come back to haunt him.

Last night, the other Nike dropped.
Sen. Barack Obama denounced the recent support for his candidacy expressed Sunday by controversial minister and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

“I have been very clear in my denunciation” of Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks, Obama said at the Democratic debate in Cleveland, “I did not solicit his support.” Obama said he “can not censor” individual endorsements but said there is no affiliation with his campaign and Farrakhan. “I can’t say to somebody that he can’t say that he thinks I’m a good guy,” Obama said, citing his support among Jewish Americans and stating that he would make it a priority to soothe historically tense ties between the African-American and Jewish communities in the nation. “I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this campaign,” he said, describing himself as a “stalwart” on supporting Israel.
The worst part of the whole exchange was when Obama was pressed by moderator Tim Russert (who played the Jew card splendidly) to say whether or not he "rejected" Farrakhan's support, he haphazardly said "I have been very clear in my denunciations of him". Distancing oneself from another person's views is one thing, but going the extra mile and distancing yourself from that person is another altogether.

Peep the video and meet me after the jump...

That sound you just heard was a million bean pies being dropped in homes across America.

I think Obama was presented with an unfair question (he never asked for Farrakhan's support in the first place, nor does he associate him) for which he was obviously unprepared. The question was the classic lose-lose proposition. Diss Farrakhan and you will maybe gain a few skeptical white supporters and lose some blacks (maybe you drop from 80% of the black vote to, say 75%). Approve of Farrakhan's endorsement, and your political career is pretty much toast. Just ask Arsenio Hall how well that one panned out.

So, Obama took the blue pill, and now he'll have to deal with the fallout from some black folks who think he threw the Minister under the bus. I can already hear the reckless talk in barbershops nationwide today.

After mulling this over a bit longer, I look at it a bit differently though. Had Farrakhan not bothered to endorse Obama the other day, he would never have been put in such a position of having to answer such a trivial and loaded question on the eve of four primaries that could potentially end this thing altogether. Not that it will likely make a difference either way, but I suspect Farrakhan is wise enough to know that he put Obama in a trick bag with his comments, and is mature enough to not see his debate response as an insult. Just peep the Minister's comments from his address the other day.
In the past, Farrakhan has sparked outrage for his controversial comments, which include anti-Semitic statements. But in recent years, most significantly after his battle with prostate cancer in the 1990s, he has tried to strike a more conciliatory tone. His popularity among young black Americans grew significantly after the 1995 Million Man March.

Farrakhan said he refused to be a stumbling block to Obama's success.

"Why do you hate him so that you want to make me a stumbling block?" Farrakhan asked. "I want to see that brother successful and I don't want them to use me or that Nation of Islam."
That said, I would expect Farrakhan to issue a statement to this effect tomorrow, which would nip this whole nonstory in the bud. If he doesn't, that's probably for the better. I would think the Obama camp wants this story in the news as little as possible.

Question: Assuming you watched the exchange in it's entirety, do you feel Obama threw Farrakhan under the bus or does it really not matter either way?

[Editor's Note: on an unrelated debate note, did anyone else catch Obama doing his best Sapphyri imitation while Clinton was discrediting his stance on Iraq? Seriously, for a good 15 seconds there, he had his hands clasped and eyes closed. I could swear he was having a "Lord, please don't make me whoop this ***** ***!" moment. I'm surprised he didn't offer Hillary any "lip chap". Ok, maybe it was just me.]

Obama's Farrakhan answer gives Clinton an opening [LA Times]

Louis Farrakhan backs Obama for president [Chicago Tribune]

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