Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Obama responds on Farrakhan

In my post this morning on Obama's Farrakhan Test, I anticipated that some people would attack Richard Cohen's column with that title (and/or Richard Cohen ad hominem) rather than addressing the substantive issues it drew attention to.
P.S. If Obama's supporters--in the blogosphere and elsewhere--now attack Cohen for having the temerity to raise this issue, that will be disgraceful. (I'm hoping they won't, but I have a sinking feeling that some of them might.) Actually, if Obama can get this out of the way early, and do it a morally appropriate and politically savvy way, that will be best all around.
Alas, my sinking feeling was correct. The blogosphere was immediately filled with angry and often absurd vilificaton of Cohen for writing this column, some of it from people who should have known better. But the question that Cohen raised was perfectly legitimate, and one that was bound to be raised at some point.

Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo tossed off some unfair knee-jerk attacks of his own, but he also took the useful step of actually putting the question to Obama--or at least his campaign. This is the response to Cohen's column that Sargent got from the Obama campaign:
I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. 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 decision with which I agree.
That's a good answer--clear, direct, and unambiguous. Obama doesn't try to pretend that Farrakhan isn't an anti-semite, and he states explicitly that he disagrees with the decision to give Farrakhan this award. (There is also no whining about the question having been raised, and no insinuation that raising it was some kind of racist slur.)

At the moment, this is just one brief response posted on one political blog, but it's a very encouraging start. Obama must have known for a while that this question was coming, and I assume he has a more extensive answer worked out already. (If he doesn't, then he's not the superb politician he appears to be.) I assume sometime soon Obama will give that full response publicly, in a place and in a manner of his choosing. If Obama deals with this issue as honestly and effectively as this immediate answer suggests he will, then he should be able to resolve the matter in a way that's morally serious, constructive, and politically successful--which would be a good thing not just for him but for all of us.

Yours for political sanity,
Jeff Weintraub

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