Obama, who seems awfully gaffe-prone recently, referred to "my Muslim faith" on ABC this morning. Obviously, that was a simple slip of the tongue. Ironically, it happened while Obama (who has usually not been especially unfair) was engaged in making perhaps his
sleaziest [most unfair] personal criticisms so far: trying to smear the McCain Campaign as being behind the false Muslim claims ("these guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand"). When George Stephanopoulos pressed him, Obama backed off to some extent.
What an unfortunate distraction from the genuine issues, even the genuine issues of the candidates' personal history. I don't think this nonsense helps either side.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mention your Christian faith. Yesterday you took off after the Republicans for suggesting you have Muslim connections.
Just a few minutes ago, Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, said they've never done that. This is a false and cynical attempt to play victim.
OBAMA: You know what? I mean, these guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand. The...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The McCain campaign has never suggested you have Muslim connections.
OBAMA: No, no, no. But the — I don't think that when you look at what is being promulgated on Fox News, let's say, and Republican commentators who are closely allied to these folks...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But John McCain said that's wrong.
OBAMA: Now, well, look. Listen. You and I both know that the minute that Governor Palin was forced to talk about her daughter, I immediately said that's off limits. And...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But John McCain said the same thing about questioning your faith.
OBAMA: And what was the first thing the McCain's campaign went out and did? They said, look, these liberal blogs that support Obama are out there attacking Governor Palin.
Let's not play games. What I was suggesting — you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. And you're absolutely right that that has not come...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Christian faith.
OBAMA: ... my Christian faith. Well, what I'm saying is that he hasn't suggested...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Has connections, right.
OBAMA: ... that I'm a Muslim. And I think that his campaign's upper echelons have not, either.
What I think is fair to say is that, coming out of the Republican camp, there have been efforts to suggest that perhaps I'm not who I say I am when it comes to my faith — something which I find deeply offensive, and that has been going on for a pretty long time.
UPDATE: Reading the first hour of comments, I see that most commenters below do not read the exchange the same as I do.
Here is how I see it.
Stephanopoulos says: "Just a few minutes ago, Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, said they've never done that. This is a false and cynical attempt to play victim."
Obama clearly responds: "You know what? I mean, these guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand."
The two guys just mentioned were McCain's campaign manager and McCain. It is "these guys [who] love to throw a rock and hide their hand."
As I see it, that's the unfair attempt to smear the McCain campaign, not what Obama said when challenged on that charge. IMO, as Obama sees himself slipping (temporarily) behind, he is willing to make unproven charges that he probably wouldn't have been willing to say a week ago: that these guys are throwing rocks and hiding their hands.
And Obama would probably have gotten away with it if Stephanopoulos had been willing to accept that. But Stephanopoulos pushed back and forced Obama to back down, Obama finally admitting: "Well, what I'm saying is that he [McCain] hasn't suggested ... that I'm a Muslim. And I think that his campaign's upper echelons have not, either."
So when McCain's campaign manager is raised, Obama says, "these guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand." But when Stephanopoulos points out that he has no basis for making such a reckless charge, Obama admits that they haven't thrown rocks on this issue.
Most of you — at least most of you commenting — see it differently, and focus only on Obama's final position, the one he settles on after Stephanopoulos won't accept the original charge. In this view, there is only one view expressed, the final one.
So we see things differently. And commenters have already pointed the opposite position below. That's what makes a discussion.
2d UPDATE: Ann Althouse, whose post was the trigger for this post, originally saw things much as my early commenters did. But she has now come over to my view on it. Indeed, she takes the next step (which I didn't and wouldn't) of speculating that Obama is projecting his own campaign's behavior onto McCain's campaign.
We know that some of the attacks on Palin's mothering skills do come from people in the Obama Campaign (Howard Gutman of his National Finance Committee). But these are not "hidden" attacks; they are on the record.
Interestingly, I went back to look at how Obama handled the Jack Ryan revelations in his 2004 campaign. Ryan was the Republican whose divorce papers were unsealed, revealing that he had suggested to his wife that they have sex in a public club. Ryan then withdrew from the race.
Here is part of an April 3, 2004 Chicago Sun Times article on Obama's efforts in that one, just before the bombshell divorce files were released:
Barack Obama reversed his position on Republican rival Jack Ryan's divorce file Friday, calling on fellow Democrats to refrain from trying to inject it into the campaign.
"I don't think it's an appropriate topic for debate," Obama said.
Obama has consistently said that his campaign would not focus on Ryan's 1999 divorce from TV actress Jeri Ryan.
But when he first made that pledge, Obama refused to call on other Democrats to follow his lead.
"It's going to be up to other people to determine what's appropriate and what's not," Obama said the day after his March primary victory.
Since then, Mayor Daley called on Democrats and the news media to avoid delving into politicians' divorce records, and Ryan urged Obama to insist all Democrats lay off the matter.
Speaking at a taping of the WBBM-AM radio program "At Issue" on Friday, Obama took that additional step and insisted he was not being inconsistent.
"I'm not the policeman for what the media and everybody else does," Obama said. "What I can take responsibility for is my campaign and those people who are supporting me. And to the extent that people who are supporting me, including the Democratic National Committee or the Democratic [Senatorial Campaign] Committee are engaging in these kinds of things, I would urge them not to do so because I think Illinois voters really want to focus on those issues that are going to help them in their lives." . . .
Obama pledged Friday that even if the media uncovers something embarrassing, he would not try to capitalize on it.
"I can say unequivocally that this is not something that we are going to be focused on in our campaign," Obama said.
Ryan spokeswoman Kelli Phiel called Obama's remarks "a bit hypocritical," because the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already e-mailed reporters copies of news media articles about the divorce controversy. . . .
A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee official said they would have no problem adhering to Obama's request. . . .
"Other than our standard procedure of forwarding stories around to talkers and politicos about some races, I don't believe we've engaged in any on-the-record commentary about his divorce files," he said.