pageok
pageok
pageok
Cohen, Obama, and the Blogosphere:

Given all the criticism that been leveled in the Left blogosphere at Richard Cohen (see, e.g., this compilation) for raising the issue of Obama's close ties to a minister and church that praise and honor Louis Farrakhan for his "honesty" and devotion to truth, I'm sure glad that prominent liberal bloggers, and leading Cohen-basher Andrew Sullivan never think to cast aspersions on other candidates because of their rather less close ties to other religious leaders with dubious views. Otherwise, I might have to think that some of the criticism of Cohen is hypocritical. [Above links from about ten minutes of searching, I'm sure there are lots more examples.]

Ralph Phelan (mail):
All the Cohen-bashing is pointless ad-hominem.

What's on the other end of the TUCC.org link is what it is independent of who pointed it out to you, when, and why.
1.16.2008 4:01pm
Viceroy:
Ah, the hypocrisy charge. You've strayed so far from your original point. Not surprising.
1.16.2008 4:02pm
tarheel:
THIS JUST IN!!!! Sources say partisans tend to ignore their candidate's mistakes but emphasize the same mistakes in other candidates. In other news, a man was bitten by a dog.
1.16.2008 4:06pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

When you have video like this of Obama and Farrakhan together on a stage, you'll have something on Yglesias, but only then. You can't possibly think the two situations are comparable.
1.16.2008 4:07pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

From that video: According to Giuliani, Pat Robertson is "someone who has a great and well-deserved reputation." (He goes on.) Sure, that's exactly what Obama said about Farrakhan.
1.16.2008 4:08pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

And, BTW, finding that YouTube clip took me less than 90 seconds of searching, and I'd never seen it before.
1.16.2008 4:09pm
EH (mail):
Cohen has been trying to force people to disavow Farrakhan for over 20 years. He did it to Jesse Jackson in 1988 and he did it to Jack Kemp in 1996. He's a one-trick pony with a laughably literal bete noire.
1.16.2008 4:13pm
Kovarsky (mail):
there are two distinct questions, and i think people confuse them.

the first is whether the candidate has some sort of racial or religious animus. i doubt most are, and political relationships are rarely probative of this issue.

but the second is whether a candidate is likely to court or to ignore the interests of a particular constituency. political relationships are very probative of this question, for reasons that should be self-evident.

it is therefore galactically obtuse to demand similarly critical treatment of giuliani's attempt to court an evangelical constituency and obama's attendance at a church that sponsored a magazine that at one point gave an award to a renowned anti-semite. the latter circumstance is not at all probative of the likelihood that obama will ignore the interests of the relevant constituency.

if you believe that one circumstance is probative of the constiutuency-disfavoring effect, and the other is not, then it is also fair to distinguish cohen's piece for what it was - a rank piece of innuendo better suited for the national enquirer than the washington post.
1.16.2008 4:16pm
crying wolf:
Slight correction needed to the post:
Given all the criticism that been leveled in the Left blogosphere at Richard Cohen (see, e.g., this compilation) for raising the non-issue of Obama's close ties to a minister and church that praise and honor Louis Farrakhan for his "honesty" and devotion to truth, I'm sure glad that prominent liberal bloggers, and leading Cohen-basher Andrew Sullivan never think to cast aspersions on other candidates because of their rather less close ties to other religious leaders with dubious views. Otherwise, I might have to think that some of the criticism of Cohen is hypocritical. [Above links from about ten minutes of searching, I'm sure there are lots more examples.]
1.16.2008 4:17pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Cohen was right, and if anything, too kind to Obama.

The hypocrisy of Obama's defenders is hard to stomach.

I cannot imagine what logic could support attacking Romney, whose family staunchly backed civil rights, based on his church's past history, while people see nothing disturbing about the fact that Obama's spiritual guide and mentor is a flagrant racist TODAY, and Obama continues to seek his counsel TODAY, and refuses to recognize his flagrant racism.

Many of the posts defending Obama, by focusing on Richard Cohen's ancestry, are clearly anti-semitic.

(Since you're wondering, I am not Jewish. So don't accuse me of being hypersensitive about anti-semitism. (I'm Norwegian/Swedish/German/Hungarian/Romanian, etc.)).

Obama's ludicrously false claim that the racist, antisemitic Farrakhan was honored because of his work with ex-offenders (rather than, as his Obama's own church expressly stated, because of his "racial" statements, which are antisemitic and anti-white in the extreme, and which racist statements Obama's church claims embody the "truth") is itself worthy of criticism.

It's like Trent Lott saying that his praise for Strom Thurmond and wish that he had been elected in 1948 (when he ran on an expressly segregationist platform) was based on his support for mainstream conservative values.

It didn't work for Trent Lott, and it shouldn't work for Obama. Obama shouldn't get a free pass for turning a blind eye to racism, anymore than Lott did.
1.16.2008 4:18pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Tyrone, my reference to Obama's close ties to a religious with dubious views was a reference to Rev. Wright, not Farrakhan. Clearly, Obama is far closer to Wright than Giuliani is to Robertson.
1.16.2008 4:18pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I cannot imagine what logic could support attacking Romney, whose family staunchly backed civil rights, based on his church's past history, while people see nothing disturbing about the fact that Obama's spiritual guide and mentor is a flagrant racist TODAY, and Obama continues to seek his counsel TODAY, and refuses to recognize his flagrant racism.

I don't understand. Didn't Obama say he didn't agree with all of Wright's positions, and his endorsement of Farrakhan in particular?
1.16.2008 4:27pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):
Tyrone, my reference to Obama's close ties to a religious with dubious views was a reference to Rev. Wright, not Farrakhan. Clearly, Obama is far closer to Wright than Giuliani is to Robertson.

Very lawyerly, but the point of Cohen's column is that Obama should disavow Farrakhan, not that his ties to Wright are otherwise troubling. Cohen concludes:

I don't for a moment think that Obama shares Wright's views on Farrakhan. But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man. We know little about him, and, for all my admiration of him, I wonder about his mettle. ... Farrakhan, in a strictly political sense, may be a tough issue for him. ...


But not for the award to Farrakhan, it is difficult to imagine that you, Cohen, or anyone else (Ralph Phelan excepted) would care about Wright.
1.16.2008 4:31pm
CJColucci:
Other than Andrew Sullivan -- there's always somebody, after all -- just who is it that has been harping on Romney's Mormonism? It didn't seem to hurt him in lib'rul, Democratic Massachusetts, but it sure seems to be hurting him in his quest for the Republican nomination.
1.16.2008 4:37pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
It's not so much a case of Sullivan bashing Cohen, or even genuinely supporting Obama as a candidate really.

It's just his testosterone-fueled HATRED of Hillary Clinton.

[rest of post deleted by editor]
1.16.2008 4:46pm
Baseballhead (mail):
I don't understand. Didn't Obama say he didn't agree with all of Wright's positions, and his endorsement of Farrakhan in particular?


Not good enough, apparently. Obama needs to slay Wright, rip his still-beating heart from his chest, stake it with a wooden post, and do a little dance.

This has been the worst series of threads I've ever read on VC. Each successive thread pushes me closer to voting for Obama. David Bernstein, please, please, PLEASE stop dragging VC through the gutter.
1.16.2008 4:49pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
Isn't this the exact kind of stuff that is supposed to be beneath the VC?

I sure hope not.
Like it or not, this is the kind of issue that the primary nomination is going to turn on: What types of people do you surround yourself with, what are their values, and how do they influence your as-yet-nonexistent foreign and domestic policy credentials.

No need to even respond defensively to the "critics" DB (and Cohen). When you've got them so afraid of even rationally discussing an issue such as this, your responses are akin to swatting flies. Their swarming presence tells voters more than they need to know about why this is so important.

It's like if Ron Paul supporters suddenly came out denying and downplaying the importance of those newsletters -- their response here tells us all we need to know, and then some!
1.16.2008 4:52pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
Cohen has been trying to force people to disavow Farrakhan for over 20 years. He did it to Jesse Jackson in 1988 and he did it to Jack Kemp in 1996. He's a one-trick pony with a laughably literal bete noire.

Sounds to me like it's nothing personal against Obama then, as some of his critics are claiming, and just an honest assessment of the dangers of letting men like Farrakhan cross over into having mainstream influence. Containment, containment, containment.
1.16.2008 4:54pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
I don't understand. Didn't Obama say he didn't agree with all of Wright's positions, and his endorsement of Farrakhan in particular?


Not good enough, apparently. Obama needs to slay Wright, rip his still-beating heart from his chest, stake it with a wooden post, and do a little dance.


That's a bit unfair.

Specifically, Obama's "distancing" danced around why Farakkahn received the award, and did little to explain why if this Reverend is his chosen "spiritual mentor" and such a strong influence on his life that he encouraged him to pursue Christianity and join the black nationalist church he attends -- he hasn't already influenced Obama on other issues as well.

Peruse the earlier threads to see what DB offered up as a complete and effective "distancing" from Wright's support of Farrakahan that might satisfy those to whom this issue raises questions. Hint: it's not just Jewish people who are concerned either.
1.16.2008 5:02pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Ok Gary -

What exactly does the "relationship" posited between Obama and Farrakhan tell you about Obama's likely foreign and domestic policy. If the answer is very little, then the op ed is jew-baiting innuendo.

Sounds to me like it's nothing personal against Obama then, as some of his critics are claiming, and just an honest assessment of the dangers of letting men like Farrakhan cross over into having mainstream influence. Containment, containment, containment.

I guess you think this is cute, or clever, or something. I don't think anybody's suggested it's something personal against Obama (especially the commenter you're citing). I think everyone would agree that this is a generalized problem that Cohen has.
1.16.2008 5:05pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Specifically, Obama's "distancing" danced around why Farakkahn received the award, and did little to explain why if this Reverend is his chosen "spiritual mentor" and such a strong influence on his life that he encouraged him to pursue Christianity and join the black nationalist church he attends -- he hasn't already influenced Obama on other issues as well.

it doesn't dance around - it presupposed the most benign conceivable justification for the award and then said in no uncertain terms that he still disagreed with giving it. to point out that the award was given for a less benign purpose than obama identified is to miss the point entirely (and judging from your posts, predictably) as to why obama identified any potential purpose in the first place.
1.16.2008 5:08pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):
Specifically, Obama's "distancing" danced around why Farakkahn received the award....

This would be almost funny if it weren't pathetic. Bernstein quotes from and links to a magazine in which some other person, writing for the magazine, explains vaguely that the magazine (not Wright) is giving Farrakhan the award for unspecified contributions to the black community. Obama's statement sounds like his people -- unlike Gary Anderson, apparently -- actually read this, and were unclear why they picked Farrakhan. Apparently, one would have to have attended the event or watch this video that Bernstein later linked to (I'll confess I still haven't watched it) to hear Rev. Wright's more specific explanation. Bernstein is the only person I'm aware of who has actually seen it. To be in a position to dispel the "questions" that Gary Anderson and others think are "raised" here, Obama would have to demonstrate an interest in this stuff that actually would raise questions about his judgment.
1.16.2008 5:25pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
Apparently, one would have to have attended the event or watch this video that Bernstein later linked to (I'll confess I still haven't watched it) to hear Rev. Wright's more specific explanation.

His wife Michelle was present at that awards ceremony, is active in her husband's campaign, and presumably communicates to her husband issues of this sort -- which surely they are aware would affect perceptions when one is running as president?

Sorry, nice try but no cigar. The Obama campaign clearly wants to have it both ways: not to risk losing support of those black nationals who support Farakkahan and the Nation of Islam by effectively distancing themselves from such an award; not to lose support of those who might judge the candidate and his minister who is clearly influential by the company he keeps.

That's why, the more time passes and the more people try to deny it, it becomes more and more a clue of how the candidate would handle such important issues.
1.16.2008 5:39pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
it doesn't dance around - it presupposed the most benign conceivable justification
It presupposes an justification that is directly contradiction by Wright's own words. It's a lie.

Apparently, one would have to have attended the event or watch this video that Bernstein later linked to (I'll confess I still haven't watched it) to hear Rev. Wright's more specific explanation.
I don't know if Obama attended the event himself, but if he didn't he could always have asked his wife, who spoke at it.

Obama didn't just tell a lie about thinking Rarakhan got the award for his work with reforming criminals - he told and embarassingly obvious lie. Given that the fact that he did so is apparent to me from sources independent of Cohen, the question of what kind of Farakhan-obsessed crank Cohen is and whether he still beats his wife becomes irrelevant and far less interesting than the nature of Obama's character.
1.16.2008 5:43pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
I think everyone would agree that this is a generalized problem that Cohen has.

Look: you're free to downplay the importance of the Nation of Islam gaining mainstream acceptance not only in the black community, but also in the American political mainstream. Others are free to be more concerned about this particular issue.

But the more you criticize the messenger, so to speak, for pointing out that the unity candidate has chosen to belong to such a church, and highlights his relationship to the minister as a profoundly important one in his life, the more the rest of us are free to wonder what exactly such a connection might mean -- to his candidacy now, and presumably also in the future.

And the Obama campaign clearly was alerted that Wright's personal views might become an issue -- as was highlighted by the quote on the earlier thread where the two discussed that the candidate might have to distance himself should he make it into the general election. So it's not like anyone should be caught by surprise, and this anemic response at this time can be evaluated by anyone who cares to, in assessing not only character and connections, but the premeditated mindset such distancing would entail.

Look:
If people aren't voting Mitt because of the LDS connection, surely this is fair game to consider too? Or are you just as outspoken in speaking out about how those were "smear tactics" too?
1.16.2008 5:45pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
I don't understand. Didn't Obama say he didn't agree with all of Wright's positions, and his endorsement of Farrakhan in particular?

No, no. He didn't say it with exactly the same words that David Bernstein demanded so it does not count.

Rudy! never disavowed any of Robertson's views -- I am waiting for DB to give Rudy! the script he must read to satisfy him.

Ah, the hypocrisy charge. You've strayed so far from your original point. Not surprising.

Well put. Because, you know, if Matt Yglesias does something then it's fair game for Obama.
1.16.2008 5:49pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
You're free to downplay the importance of the Nation of Islam gaining mainstream acceptance not only in the black community, but also in the American political mainstream

Ummm, the Nation of Islam has gained "mainstream acceptance in the black community"? Really!?! There are about 50K members of the Nation of Islam -- I think the KKK probably has more members.

Even more of a laugher is the contention that it has gained "mainstream acceptance in the American political mainstream." I guess that's true. Everytime I turn on one of those cable channels, I see a representative of the right, the left, the Democrats, Republicans and the Nation of Islam. There are also tons of members of Congress and state legislators (read zero) who are members of the Nation of Islam. I think the Secretary of State may be one too.
1.16.2008 5:54pm
Deoxy (mail):
If my church honored David Duke for his "honesty", I'd laeve it and never come back. That they would do such a thing would tell me that my opinion of them was wrong, and I needed to stay away from them, because they are racist hate-mongers.

That Obama just "disagrees" with it and still hangs out with them tells me a lot more about him than some politician courting a particular voting bloc (such as the Pat Robertson thing).

I find Robertson disturbing, and I dislike that politicians court the vote of his particular group, but courting votes is almost nothing like being personal friends with. Show me a politician who is a member of Pat Robertson's group, and we'll have a good analogy.
1.16.2008 6:00pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Deoxy

That Obama just "disagrees" with it and still hangs out with them tells me a lot more about him than some politician courting a particular voting bloc (such as the Pat Robertson thing).

What does that tell you about him? What officer, policy, or constituency is he likely to favor or disfavor based on the information disclosed here. Seriously, what piece of predictive information is established by this data?
1.16.2008 6:06pm
Baseballhead (mail):
Obama didn't just tell a lie about thinking Rarakhan got the award for his work with reforming criminals - he told and embarassingly obvious lie.

Stay on the reservation, please. Obama's statement WRT the issue said: "I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decisions with which I agree." [emphasis mine]

Obama didn't lie about Trumpet Mag's reasons because he apparently had no idea what the reasons were. He had to assume a reason, which means there's a fair possibility that he didn't even care enough about Farrakhan to read the reasons why Trumpet Mag did what it did. I suppose one could question his honesty here (I mean, people here are outraged over what they thought he said, I'm sure they'll be outraged over whatever it is he actually said) but there's no proof either way. Again, you're off the reservation.
1.16.2008 6:15pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Prof Bernstein-

Getting in arguments with old Greedy Associates like Tyrone Slothrop is like wrestling pigs-- you get dirty and the pig likes it.

HWB
1.16.2008 6:35pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'm inclined (not surprisingly) to agree that my own posts on this controversy were better written and reasoned than Cohen's. But the hysteria directed at Cohen is really something to behold. And he did in fact focus attention on Rev. Wright in the second to last paragraph of his piece.

Also something to behold is that otherwise intelligent people get so caught up in their enthusiasm for a candidate, be he Ron Paul, Barack Obama, or whomever, that they lose all perspective. Put not your faith in kings...
1.16.2008 6:41pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Also something to behold is that otherwise intelligent people get so caught up in their enthusiasm for a candidate, be he Ron Paul, Barack Obama, or whomever, that they lose all perspective. Put not your faith in kings...

or that otherwise intelligent people get so caught up in their enthusiasm for a particular issue, they loose all perspective on when it is relevant and when it isn't.
1.16.2008 6:48pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
I voted for Bush in the last election, wouldn't vote for Obama unless Huckabee was the Republican candidate, and I think this whole brouhaha is silly, so please stop saying that everyone who isn't interested in the story is a liberal.
1.16.2008 6:52pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Maybe, in the end, Obama's unity act is just a sham. He claims to be all about hope for all, but his minister and mentor is a racist. He claims to want to bring people into the political process--but it turns out, if you challenge him, he'll use every esoteric rule out there to eliminate opposition:


The day after New Year's 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city's South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama's four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.


In the end, maybe he's just not a nice person, despite the present media image. If voters perceive that, he's toast.
1.16.2008 6:56pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I've explained why I think it's relevant, and I've also said "it's not the most pressing issue" facing Democrats. Merely raising the issue and then following it as it develops is hardly a sign that perspective has been lost.
1.16.2008 7:09pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
please stop saying that everyone who isn't interested in the story is a liberal
It will be very easy to stop, since I never started (what the heck are you talking about?)
1.16.2008 7:11pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):
Getting in arguments with old Greedy Associates....

Hey, now. Calling me "old" is just plain mean.
1.16.2008 7:12pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I've explained why I think it's relevant, and I've also said "it's not the most pressing issue" facing Democrats. Merely raising the issue and then following it as it develops is hardly a sign that perspective has been lost.

Nor does explaining why that issue is not relevant indicate that enthusiasm for a candidate has overwhelmed perspective.
1.16.2008 7:18pm
JK:
Let's not forget that the truth is that all these, guilt by (higly attenuated) association, attacks are rediculous, not just the ones on Democrats, or just the ones on Republicans. I'm getting pretty sick of all the "they're hypocrits for doing the same thing I'm doing in reverse" that I see on all corners of the political blogosphere.
1.16.2008 7:27pm
seadrive:
The surest sign that you've picked a candidate to support is that you make excuses for his errors.

I don't see much point in saying a candidate has to do this, or a candidate has to do that. I suppose it's shorthand for "I wish the candidate should..." or similar. But for someone who hasn't the political skills to get elected [type name of office here] to dictate is presumptuous.
1.16.2008 7:28pm
Baseballhead (mail):
Also something to behold is that otherwise intelligent people get so caught up in their enthusiasm for a candidate...


Also something to behold is that otherwise intelligent people get so caught up in their enthusiasm against a candidate.
1.16.2008 7:33pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Farrakhan's 'church' may have only 50,000 members, but his influence goes far beyond that. Who organized the "Million Man March"? How many members does Jesse Jackson's organization have?

And Farrakhan is not comparable to Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell. The "Nation of Islam" is explicitly racist. Indeed that was its entire raison d'etre: its distinctive doctrines are all about race - besides being both heretical and blasphemous to any genuine Moslem.

As to Rev. Wright, it's his church. He grew it from 87 members to 10,000. And it's his magazine. Does anyone seriously contend that all staff of the magazine are not his employees? Or that the award to Farrakhan was made without his approval, if not at his direction?
1.16.2008 7:38pm
pete (mail) (www):

Seriously, what piece of predictive information is established by this data?


That Obama is willing to surround himself with advisors who think anti-Semitism and racism against whites is praiseworthy. Do you want a president taking advice from people who support and praise David Duke or stormfront? If not, then why is it ok for a president to take advice from people who support Farrakhan?


If my church honored David Duke for his "honesty", I'd laeve it and never come back. That they would do such a thing would tell me that my opinion of them was wrong, and I needed to stay away from them, because they are racist hate-mongers.


Amen. All churches are flawed, but to knowingly heap praise on an unrepentantly wicked man like Farrakhan is not excusable.

I have noticed that several people on these threads have tried to minimize how bad Farrakhan is. He espouses crazy ant Jewish and racist conspiracy theories that regularly blame Jewish "bloodsuckers" for most of the worlds problems and accuses Jews of engaging in a multinational conspiracy to oppress blacks. He leads an organization which has a long history of using violence to crush dissent and threaten critics, with the most notable being the late Malcolm X who was murdered after Farrakhan wrote in reference to him that "such a man is worthy of death". Many, including Malcolm X's family, believe that Farrakhan may have even ordered Malcolm's death. He preaches that the evil big headed scientist/devil Yakub created the white man to oppress the black man. He has a record of about 40 years of preaching this stuff to as wide an audience as he would listen. And that is leaving out the copious amounts of crazy UFO and numerology stuff.

This is not the sort of person that normal, moral people go out of their way to praise and recognize and I hope our next president does not listen to advisors who would go out of their way praise such a man.
1.16.2008 7:41pm
Kovarsky (mail):
The surest sign that you've picked a candidate to support is that you make excuses for his errors.

I don't see much point in saying a candidate has to do this, or a candidate has to do that. I suppose it's shorthand for "I wish the candidate should..." or similar. But for someone who hasn't the political skills to get elected [type name of office here] to dictate is presumptuous.


Huh?
1.16.2008 7:45pm
Kovarsky (mail):
pete,

you do understand that obama didn't "heap praise" on farrakhan right? you do understand that he said that he does not agree with everything that wright does, and that the magazine wright's church sponsors giving farrakhan an award is one such thing, right? and that he rejects anti-semitism, racism, and animus of any kind, right?

this isn't an example of asking "the tough questions" about a candidate. this is a contextually insipid kevin bacon game.
1.16.2008 7:49pm
Kovarsky (mail):
er, that should be "improper religious or racial animus."
1.16.2008 7:50pm
SenatorX (mail):
Kovarsky, do you really think you get to decide what is relevant for other people?

For me I like to consider myself a fiscal conservative and a believer in a return to the gold standard. In spite of this I had to drop Ron Paul utterly when I failed to be convinced he wasn't aware of those articles written in his name years ago. Yet Obama's "spiritual advisor"(whatever the heck that really means)is accused of :

"And yet Wright heaped praise on Farrakhan. According to Trumpet, he applauded his "depth of analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation." He praised "his integrity and honesty." He called him "an unforgettable force, a catalyst for change and a religious leader who is sincere about his faith and his purpose." These are the words of a man who prayed with Obama just before the Illinois senator announced his run for the presidency."

Why wouldn't I hold Obama to the same standard I held Ron Paul too? You can say its not relevant, its ad hominem, it's guilt by association, it's bigoted, it's racist, or any other number of fallacial arguments but they all fail to convince by a large margin. Quite the opposite really as I for one (while amused at first) am disturbed by free pass Obama seems to be getting. Until Obama or his defenders address the issue directly I will have to assume they cannot and therefore the chance that the worst is true, has increased.
1.16.2008 8:31pm
cvt:
I just saw this reprinted on Daily Kos. I don't know if it is directed at people like Richard Cohen and David Berstein, but it sounds like it to me.

January 15, 2008

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community:

As leaders of the Jewish community, none of whose organizations will endorse or oppose any candidate for President, we feel compelled to speak out against certain rhetoric and tactics in the current campaign that we find particularly abhorrent. Of particular concern, over the past several weeks, many in our community have received hateful emails that use falsehood and innuendo to mischaracterize Senator Barack Obama's religious beliefs and who he is as a person.

These tactics attempt to drive a wedge between our community and a presidential candidate based on despicable and false attacks and innuendo based on religion. We reject these efforts to manipulate members of our community into supporting or opposing candidates.

Attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy. Jewish voters, like all voters, should support whichever candidate they believe would make the best president. We urge everyone to make that decision based on the factual records of these candidates, and nothing less.

Sincerely,

William Daroff, Vice President, United Jewish Communities

Nathan J. Diament, Director, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League

Richard S. Gordon, President, American Jewish Congress

David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Phyllis Snyder, President, National Council of Jewish Women

Hadar Susskind, Washington Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

1.16.2008 8:43pm
pete (mail) (www):

you do understand that obama didn't "heap praise" on farrakhan right?

Kovarsky, did you even read what I wrote? I said

That Obama is willing to surround himself with advisors who think anti-Semitism and racism against whites is praiseworthy

Wright is by Obama's own accounts one of the persons he most looks to for advice. Wright and his church did heap praise on Farrakhan because of his statements on race, which are, to put it bluntly, evil. They gave a man who has called for the mass murder of whites and who calls Jews "bloodsuckers" a freaking award for his views on race. Normal, moral people do not give racist nutcases like Farrakhan awards. They shun them from polite society. I hold churhes to an even higher standard and expect them to condemn evil behavior and not to praise it. Again, if my church or close friends pulled something like this with a Duke/Farrakhan I would be livid and try to get to the bottom of it, which is not something that Obama has done as he has not even seem to have bothered to find out why they gave him the award. If they were unrepentent I would definitely end the relationship if it was a church and dramatically limit the relationship if it was a firend. I would only not end it completely because I would want to try and help the friend repent of their racist ways.

I never once accused Obama of praising Farrakhan. Only that he choses to surround himself with people who think that anti-semetism and racism are praiseworthy and that when he found about it he chose not to disassociate from that organization or to do anything about it. He can claim to disavow racism and antisemitism, but it takes more than mere words to defeat these evils. Who you chose to associate with and get advice from matters and it does not seem like this event will effect Obama's relationahip with them at all.
1.16.2008 8:56pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
It's actually aimed at an absurd email campaign claiming that Obama is really a Muslim "Manchurian candidate." I received such an email myself in late December, but it's composition suggested (1) that it was written many months earlier; and (2) that it's primary audience was American Christians, not Jews. Unless there is some evidence of a specific Jewish-targeted email campaign, I find it a bit odd that the organizations in question thought it important to make it a "Jewish issue." The condemnation from the Jewish leaders is welcome, but the vast majority of the recipients of this email are not Jews.
1.16.2008 8:57pm
cvt:
You might be right, at least in part. I've read about the email campaign and don't know who is behind it, but if the emails were sent out last year, the timing of the statement of the Jewish leaders suggests it is concerned at least in part with Richard Cohen's attack on Obama.

I also note that the ADL issued a statement that "welcomed" Obama's statement about Farrakhan. The ADL statement also said that it was something that Obama "needed" to do. I suppose he needed to do it in a practical sense, but he shouldn't have needed to do it.
1.16.2008 9:14pm
homunculus (mail):
I'm confused why some posters think it's a mark of questionable character if one does not extricate oneself from any kind of personal relationship w/ another who professes who ascribes to questionable, objectionable or downright deplorable political/social ideology (misogynist, racist, yankee fan).

I certainly have friendships w/ people who believe things that I think are deplorable...it doesn't make me think those beliefs are any less deplorable. Here's the thing...some folks who hold evil beliefs aren't completely evil people.
1.16.2008 9:26pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
Presumably, homonucleus, because you and your choice of personal choice in friends are in no position to affect the direction of the country through your leadership.

It says a lot about a man's character who he chooses to associate with. I don't think any body is saying Obama's minister is evil, but he is a preacher/leader whom the candidate obviously is influenced by. He said last night if elected, he wouldn't be running the government, but would choose people to run it for him. Not saying he'd choose his minister, but this choice of church/religion/spiritual mentor gives us a clue on how good Obama is at choosing. It's just another clue to figure out what the vague "hope and promise change" thing he's talking about means in concrete terms.
1.16.2008 9:53pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
Sorry, wrote that comment above before I re-read the thread and say DB felt the need to censor and delete my earlier comment.

Nevermind then...
1.16.2008 9:55pm
Baseballhead (mail):
Until Obama or his defenders address the issue directly I will have to assume they cannot and therefore the chance that the worst is true, has increased.


Obama: "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan."

I still don't understand how the above statement is a dodge of some sort, especially taken in conjunction with Obama's previous statements regarding his personal differences with Wright. It's become painfully clear that there are some people here who, for whatever reason, seem to really want Obama to be racist and anti-semitic, but you can't blame Obama for that.

Congratulations go out to David Bernstein, though, for achieving the tempest in a teapot he was aiming to create.
1.16.2008 9:58pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I still don't understand how the above statement is a dodge of some sort, especially taken in conjunction with Obama's previous statements regarding his personal differences with Wright. It's become painfully clear that there are some people here who, for whatever reason, seem to really want Obama to be racist and anti-semitic, but you can't blame Obama for that.

It really is unbelievable. The Cohen article was calculated to elicit exactly the response from Obama that it got - an unequivocal repudiation of Farrakhan. But that won't stop people from parroting the "free pass" meme.
1.16.2008 10:57pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
G. Anderson, I didn't "censor" your comment, I deleted part of it because it was crude, but left the rest.
1.16.2008 11:08pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Baseballhead said:

Obama didn't lie about Trumpet Mag's reasons because he apparently had no idea what the reasons were.

To believe that you have to not only believe that Obama didn't accompany his wife when she went to the awards ceremony (where she made a speech), but also that she didn't tell him anything about it afterwards.

Gimme a break.
1.16.2008 11:39pm
SenatorX (mail):
Repudiating Farrakhan? Big friggen whoop. I am so impressed that he had the courage to do that. You are kidding right? He plucked the lowest hanging fruit possible.

The problem isn't just Farrakhan OBVIOUSLY but his close personal religious advisor. Obama appears to have converted and therefore one would suspect religion is important to him and that his chosen spiritual advisor is important to him. And if his chosen spiritual advisor is a fan of the vision and "truth" of an undisputed bigot? Your answer is "It says nothing at all about Obama". You people aren't that stupid so what gives?

Your final fallback is that he has said he doesn't agree with everything his advisor says. Really? What exactly does he listen to him about then? Wright is a spiritual leader of a black church that is focused on a black perspective. He says Farrakhan is great and sees the truth. Are you suggesting he is advising Obama on spiritual matters outside of his perspective on religion and truth? Maybe he gives him market advice huh?

The intellectual dishonestly going around on this defense of Wright is shameful.
1.16.2008 11:43pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
The Cohen article was calculated to elicit exactly the response from Obama that it got - an unequivocal repudiation of Farrakhan. But that won't stop people from parroting the "free pass" meme.

Cohen, who according to information upthread is obsessed with making people denounce Farakhan, may be satisfied.

As I am far more concerned by Jeremiah Wright's beliefs and his influence with Obama, I am not at all satisfied. This is about neither Cohen nor Farakhan any more, it's about the much bigger problem they drew my attention to.

Wright's admiration for Farakhan is only one part of a large, disturbing pattern which indicates that Wright is a racist, far-left, anti-American wingnut. I don't want a President who'd have the likes of Jeremiah Wright in his "kitchen cabinet."
1.17.2008 12:03am
Baseballhead (mail):
Your final fallback is that he has said he doesn't agree with everything his advisor says. Really? What exactly does he listen to him about then?

I'm guessing religion, but not so much race relations. At what point did Wright go from pastor to puppet master?
The intellectual dishonestly going around on this defense of Wright is shameful.

Speaking of dishonesty, nobody is defending Wright.
1.17.2008 2:04am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Baseballhead (mail):
I'm guessing religion, but not so much race relations.
When you describe your religious philosophy as "black liberation theology" the two are kind of hard to separate.
1.17.2008 7:40am
vdc1234 (mail):
Mr. Bernstein,
Getting back to your original point, are you suggesting that Sullivan has been ignoring examples on the right such as the ones you point to? I read his blog fairly regularly, and I remember him being very strong against the religious right's endorsements of various candidates.
1.17.2008 8:39am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"black liberation theology"

BTW, the "liberation theology" that inspired Wright has been officially deprecated by the Catholic Church's theological quality control board.
1.17.2008 10:16am
Ken Arromdee:
Obama didn't lie about Trumpet Mag's reasons because he apparently had no idea what the reasons were. He had to assume a reason

Because this was an off the cuff statement and he couldn't figure out what was causing the controversy before saying anything?

Come on. On a blog, you can assume things like that. But a politician making a public statement? He'd research it. He'd have advisors tell him what it's about. It's beyond belief he wouldn't have found out what the magazine really praised Farakkhan for. Making this "assumption" is just another way to avoid alienating Farakkhan's supporters by not bringing up what was actually said.
1.17.2008 11:12am
wfjag:

For me, the most important part of Cohen's article, "Obama's Farrakhan Test", was the last paragraph:


I don't for a moment think that Obama shares Wright's views on Farrakhan. But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man. We know little about him, and, for all my admiration of him, I wonder about his mettle. The New York Times recently reported on Obama's penchant while serving in the Illinois legislature for merely voting "present" when faced with some tough issues. Farrakhan, in a strictly political sense, may be a tough issue for him. This time, though, "present" will not do.


According to a NPR report this morning, the latest rap by Clinton against Obama in an ad in Nevada is that while she voted in favor of a "reproductive rights" bill in the Senate in 2001 (depending on your outlook, also called "pro-choice" or "pro-abortion" bill), whereas on a substantially similar bill in the Illinois legislature, Obama voted "present". Clinton contends that this shows that she's more "pro" the "pro [choose your term]" than Obama -- whereas Obama contends that he's really the one who's pro-er.

The "An Open Letter to the Jewish Community" (quoted above) ends "We urge everyone to make that decision based on the factual records of these candidates, and nothing less." I agree.

So who is this guy Obama? While I'm glad that Oprah and some others have decided to speak for him -- but, after running for President for nearly a year, it's time for him to start speaking for himself. With as thin a record as he has, 3 to 7 minute speeches that are filled with one vague, pleasing but empty platitude, after another, isn't sufficient.
1.17.2008 11:34am
markm (mail):
wfjag: But they're much safer than actually taking a stand...
1.17.2008 11:46am
neurodoc:
I don't think anybody's suggested it's something personal against Obama (especially the commenter you're citing). I think everyone would agree that this is a generalized problem that Cohen has.
If nobody has intimated "it's something personal against Obama," then to whom/what was the "odious and slimy" supposed to pertain? And it certainly isn't everyone who would agree with you that Cohen has a "problem" or is a "one-trick pony" because over the course of two decades or more he has repeatedly called Farrakhan out as the bigot that he is (like a Henry Ford or a Father Coughlin) and reproached those who have buddied up to Farrakhan.

Many would discount Farrakhan's racism and anti-semitism as not all that significant or consequential, and allow him into the circle of "acceptable," like Reverend Sharpton. I am emphatically not one of them, though. So no, not everyone agrees that this is "a generalized problem that Cohen has."
1.17.2008 2:12pm
Baseballhead (mail):
Clinton contends that this shows that she's more "pro" the "pro [choose your term]" than Obama -- whereas Obama contends that he's really the one who's pro-er.


Off-topic, but this is just another example of the Clintons at their finest/worst. The Obama "present" votes were part of a strategy devised along with Planned Parenthood and NOW (two pretty damn pro-abortion groups) to pull wary Dems and offer Repubs some deniability come election time.

Just another reason to hate the Clintons — as if anyone need another. Nothing gets on my last nerve faster than those two.
1.17.2008 2:44pm
Mark Field (mail):

If nobody has intimated "it's something personal against Obama," then to whom/what was the "odious and slimy" supposed to pertain?


Since I'm the one who defended Josh Marshall for the use of that phrase, I'll now support you and say that I did read the column as a personal attack on Obama and only tangentially related to Farrakhan. Of course, since this was the first column by Cohen I've ever read, perhaps a greater knowledge of his background would have caused me to see in reverse, i.e., as an(other) attack on Farrakhan, with Obama as collateral damage.

But I don't think so. If Cohen had been merely going after Farrakhan again, he would have limited his criticism to the magazine award and perhaps the daughter. It's a stretch to include the minister, but whatever. By calling out Obama in some weird version of the Kevin Bacon game, Cohen made it about Obama rather than about Farrakhan. I'd note that three other factors support this:

1. The spat over racial issues then taking place between the Clinton and Obama camps;

2. The fact that the events in question were a year old; and

3. The fact that Cohen published the column on MLK's birthday.
1.17.2008 3:22pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
It's a stretch to include the minister
In what concievable way is it a bigger stretch to include the fact that Jeremaih Wright said "[Farrakhan's] depth on analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation is astounding and eye opening. He brings a perspective that is helpful and honest." than to include the fact that it was J. Wright's daughter who transcribed those words and put them in the magazine? This whole "daughter" thing is purely a distraction play.

And items 1 &3 are how a columnist in need of a subject turns year-old news into a useable "hook." Remember, any journalist's primary job is to attract eyeballs to the advertisements, and his primary concern is getting paid.
1.17.2008 4:00pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
David Bernstein, latest tool.
1.17.2008 4:32pm
Yankev (mail):

So who is this guy Obama?

A charming and apparently upright politician who believes that the state can do a better job of distributing goods and services than the market can, that financial success should be penalized to reward the indolent, and that gun ownership should be severely restricted, and who displays a terrifying naivete in matters of defense and foreign policy and takes his foreign policy advice from a former secretary of state with a demonstrated record of failure, naivete and incompetence.
1.17.2008 6:03pm
neurodoc:
if the emails were sent out last year, the timing of the statement of the Jewish leaders suggests it is concerned at least in part with Richard Cohen's attack on Obama.

Your surmise is wrong. I know that the statement was finalized the day before and waiting release when the Cohen column appeared in Tuesday's paper. It was fortuitous that the release came on the same day as Cohen's column, though it is understandable that you might think they were linked.
1.17.2008 6:26pm
neurodoc:
Mark Field: Since I'm the one who defended Josh Marshall for the use of that phrase, I'll now support you and say that I did read the column as a personal attack on Obama and only tangentially related to Farrakhan.
I don't understand how what you are saying now is much different than before, and thus how it supports what I have said, which is that what Cohen did was entirely legitimate.

Somewhere above is a link to that Harper's item which calls Cohen a "one trick pony" because he has called out so many over the course of so many years for going along with any promotion or cover for Farrakhan. Perhaps you should go from that to Cohen's previous columns on the subject of Farrakhan and others who Cohen thought promoted that racist or provided him cover. Then you might see for yourseslf, whether you agree with Cohen or not about the responsibility others have to stay far away from Farrakhan, that Cohen did not treat Obama much differently or less fairly than he has others where Farrakhan has been concerned.
1.17.2008 6:38pm
MarkField (mail):

Then you might see for yourseslf, whether you agree with Cohen or not about the responsibility others have to stay far away from Farrakhan, that Cohen did not treat Obama much differently or less fairly than he has others where Farrakhan has been concerned.


Well, since I don't agree with Cohen on the merits, I could still think him odious for taking his position. (I don't have any affection for Farrakhan, I just think Cohen is overdoing it.)

I'd still stand by my (really, Josh Marshall's) characterization, though. What stands out to me is the timing sequence I noted above. That makes Cohen look less like he's pursuing a consistent obsession and more like he's engaged in the literary equivalent of a drive-by shooting.
1.17.2008 9:39pm
MarkField (mail):

I don't understand how what you are saying now is much different than before, and thus how it supports what I have said, which is that what Cohen did was entirely legitimate.


Perhaps I misunderstood the sequence of posts. I thought someone had challenged you by denying that anyone had intimated that Cohen's attack was personal to Obama. You responded by quoting the "odious and slimy" phrase, and I was agreeing that you were correct in seeing that as necessarily inferring that the attack was personal to Obama.

This, of course, leaves open the issue whether I was right in my conclusion.
1.17.2008 9:47pm
Yankev (mail):
Yes, Mark, it is odious for anyone to engage in repeated and consistent condemnation of an unrepentant and vicious anti-semite and racist, and of those who abet him.

It is even more odious of this obsessive condemnation comes from someone with a Jewish name, and who is presumably Jewish.


What is this world coming to when some Jew thinks he has the right to tell non-Jews what to do, what to think and whom to associate with, eh? If they don't like it, let them go back to where they came from.

Oh, wait a minute -- that's another thread, and we don't want them doing that, either, do we? Okay, let them stay here and shut up.
1.18.2008 9:15am
Mark Field (mail):

Yes, Mark, it is odious for anyone to engage in repeated and consistent condemnation of an unrepentant and vicious anti-semite and racist, and of those who abet him.


Your sarcasm is wasted. I already said that I don't give a hoot for Farrakhan and don't care much what Cohen says about him. My criticism of Cohen has essentially nothing to do with his comments about Farrakhan and everything to do with his comments about Obama.

To the extent that Cohen feels it necessary to demand some form of purity -- a subjective test known only to him -- for those who come within 6 degrees of separation from Farrakhan, he's engaging in race-baiting identity politics of the slimiest kind. I have nothing but contempt for that.
1.18.2008 11:24am