Double standard

If you’re black, and you’re a Muslim, and you slander an identifiable social group, politicians have to turn somersaults to prove that they repudiate you.

On the other hand, if you’re white, and a Christian, and you slander an identifiable social group — that’s different.

Let’s be very clear about one thing:  McCain is much more exposed on this issue than Obama is — or at least, he ought to be.

Barack Obama never solicited the support of Louis Farrakhan and yet Tim Russert wouldn’t accept Obama’s clear answer to the Farrakhan question.

On the other hand, John McCain appeared in public with John Hagee, expressing his gratitude for Hagee’s support.

Let’s also point out that Hagee is not pro-Israel, as McCain’s proxy claims.

Hagee, who heads a 19,000-member church in San Antonio, is best known for his outspoken support of Israel and writings on the Middle East, where he envisions a blood-soaked clash between East and West leading to the return of Jesus Christ.

As Yglesias comments, “it’s not obvious in which sense envisioning a blood-soaked Middle East clash that leads to the return of Jesus Christ constitutes support for Israel.”

Why isn’t Hagee outside the pale like Farrakhan? Why isn’t McCain held to the “denounce and reject” standard that Obama was held to?

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 08:52:43

    “Why isn’t Hagee outside the pale like Farrakhan? Why isn’t McCain held to the “denounce and reject” standard that Obama was held to?”

    Well, one obvious reason I suppose is that, whatever Hagee’s views, (and I agree that they’re stone-cold nuts) at least he has never gone on record as praising Adolf Hitler as “a very great man” and nor has the church he belongs to ever given an award (for speaking the truth, no less!) to him.

    People are perfectly entitled IMHO to ask why Obama declines to sever his connections with a church that has no problems with honouring people like Farrakhan, and they are also entitled to suspect that – given Obama’s continuting association with Trinity United Church – that his disavowal of Farrakhan is tactical rather than principled.

    Reply

  2. aaron
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 09:31:29

    Stephen,
    I’m waiting for the general election debates to see if Russert will ask the parallel questions to McCain — my bet is that he won’t, especially given his history — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-hamsher/tim-russert-obama-respon_b_89427.html

    FWIW, Glenn Greenwald is probably the person most responsible for breaking this story, and he’s doing a great job keeping up. Here’s one of his recent posts on the subject —
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/02/29/hagee/index.html

    Reply

  3. Stephen
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 10:49:41

    • Random:
    There is no direct link from Obama to Farrakhan. I know that Obama’s church has expressed support for Farrakhan, but Andrew Sullivan’s church thinks it’s a sin to be gay. Very few people agree with their church’s position on everything.

    The subtext is, Obama is black and a closet Muslim. That’s why ignorant and bigotted people are challenging him about Farrakhan. Or people who actually know better, but want to put that smear out there for ignorant and bigotted people to absorb.

    Aaron:
    Thanks for the link. I’ve been following this story for a few days now, but Salon isn’t one of the sites I visit. I would read Greewald regularly if there was an url that took me directly to him, but as far as I can make out I have to scroll through everything published on Salon each day.

    Reply

  4. Random
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 15:13:19

    Just thought I’d add that Obama’s answer to the Farrakhan question was entirely proper and correct and what he needed to say. I think you’re getting overexcited with the “somersaults” thing though – asking him if he accepted Farrakhan’s support was a perfectly legitimate question, however it’s clear that the moderator expected Obama to equivocate and had prepared a follow-on question with some of Farrakhan’s juicier quotes. He was taken by surprise by Obama’s actual response but lacked the dexterity to think up a new question on the spot and tried to go ahead with his pre-planned question anyway, only to be quite rightly shot down in flames by Obama. More cock-up than conspiracy, IMHO.

    Obama should nevertheless be grateful to the moderator – his clumsiness on the Farrakhan issue allowed Obama to get away with evading the question of his links with Trinity United Church, which comes across in it’s own publicity as something like a Christian version of the Nation of Islam (doubtless why they’re so comfortable with honouring Farrakhan). I rather doubt that come the autumn the Republican attack machine will be so easily distracted.

    One other potential hostage to fortune which I’m sure has been noted by the Republicans, namely Obama’s description of Israel as “one of our most important allies in the region?” “One of”? Just who does Obama regard as a more important ally in the Middle East?

    Difficult to comment on the McCain/Hagee stuff as you’re only giving us a clip of one of McCain’s supporters (being given a far more thorough going-over than Russert gave Obama BTW) rather than the man himself. For what it’s worth McCain’s own words are (from his website):

    “Yesterday, Pastor John Hagee endorsed my candidacy for president in San Antonio, Texas. However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee’s views, which I obviously do not.

    “I am hopeful that Catholics, Protestants and all people of faith who share my vision for the future of America will respond to our message of defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society.”

    Which stripped of the rhetoric isn’t that different to what Farrakhan says (listen again – while Obama is forceful about denouncing Farrakhan’s views, he’s careful about not rejecting his endorsement). But yes, McCain should probably not have appeared on the same stage as Hagee. One can only hope he did not realise the company he was keeping at the time and that it’s his subsequent comments that represent his more considered opinion.

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 16:51:06

    The Youtube video ended before Clinton joined in the fun, pressing Obama not merely to denounce Farrakhan’s views — that wasn’t sufficient! — but to reject Farrakhan’s support. That was a tactical mistake on Clinton’s part, because it enabled Obama to make an even more ringing repudiation of Farrakhan, while making Clinton look foolish at the same time.

    But you’re missing the point when you say that McCain was given a rougher ride than Obama. McCain ought to be given a rougher ride than Obama, because he directly and voluntarily associated with Hagee.

    Whereas Obama’s only offence is that he is linked with a church that expressed approval for Farrakhan’s work on behalf of African-Americans.

    Also: Obama was already on record as repudiating Farrakhan’s outrageous opinions. So why had Russert prepared this extensive line of questioning, as if there was something suspicious in Obama’s record?

    Finally, note that McCain doesn’t identify any specific point on which he disagrees with Hagee. On the other hand, he does allude to areas where he and Hagee agree ("defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society").

    Imagine the backlash if Obama had done the same thing: (1) appeared onstage with Farrakhan; (2) pointed out areas where he agrees with Farrakhan; and (3) distanced himself from some of Farrakhan’s positions, without saying which ones he found objectionable.

    Reply

  6. Anonymous
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 17:57:18

    “So why had Russert prepared this extensive line of questioning, as if there was something suspicious in Obama’s record?”

    Presumably because Farrakhan endorsed Obama at the weekend, making it a news story.

    “Whereas Obama’s only offence is that he is linked with a church that expressed approval for Farrakhan’s work on behalf of African-Americans.”

    Ah, no. That’s Obama’s defensive spin on it. The actual words of the award citation amongst other things applauded his “depth of analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation.” – Obama’s church did not honour Farrakhan despite his obnoxious racist views in other words, they honoured him *because* of them. We are entitled to ask why Obama merely seems to regard this as a minor issue over which civilised people can disagree rather than as a fundamental point of principle. For he certainly does not regard his church’s association with Farrakhan as an obstacle to his own membership of it.

    “Finally, note that McCain doesn’t identify any specific point on which he disagrees with Hagee.”

    In other comments he has specifically disassociated himself from Hagee’s anti-Catholic prejudices. This is doubtless too why Catholics are listed first in the “people of faith” bit.

    “On the other hand, he does allude to areas where he and Hagee agree (“defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society”).”

    Erm Stephen, don’t *you* agree with Hagee on these? I know I do (okay, I would probably extend “traditional marriage” to cover civil partnerships for gay couples, and I’m sure you would too – though I’m equally sure he wouldn’t). This is motherhood and apple pie stuff.

    “Imagine the backlash if Obama had done the same thing: (1) appeared onstage with Farrakhan; (2) pointed out areas where he agrees with Farrakhan; and (3) distanced himself from some of Farrakhan’s positions, without saying which ones he found objectionable.”

    I agree. McCain made a bad mistake here. The only mitigation I could offer is that he may not have known what he was getting into, Hagee is a much more obscure figure than Farrakhan after all.

    Reply

  7. Random
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 18:02:21

    Oops, anonymous was me. Sorry about that!

    Reply

  8. Stephen (aka Q)
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 20:40:50

    The actual words of the award citation amongst other things applauded his “depth of analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation.” – Obama’s church did not honour Farrakhan despite his obnoxious racist views in other words, they honoured him *because* of them.

    I think that’s overstating the case. One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers submitted this comment:

    Chicago politicians, white and black, find it in their political interest to maintain friendly public relations with the Farrakhan, just as they do with Jesse Jackson. In their Chicago bases of operation, neither man carries the local controversy that a Sharpton does in New York. Both have very friendly relationships with the local political establishment powers.

    So, while Fox News and the rest of the country rail against Farrakhan, here in Chicago there is relatively little open conflict with the man. To see Chicago Mayor Daley and Farrakhan together at a public event, arms over shoulders, laughing and whispering to each other, you’d never know that this is the same Louis Farrakhan known and despised by the rest of white America.

    Despite the above, I wouldn’t defend Obama if he was hanging out with Farrakhan. The point I’m making is this: many people respect Farrakhan for the work he does among blacks. And I think that’s where Obama’s church is coming from, however much you and I may disapprove of Farrakhan’s racism.

    Obama could have made the mistake of saying — like McCain — “I don’t agree with everything Farrakhan says, but I admire the good work he does on behalf of disenfranchised African-Americans.” But that wouldn’t have been adequate, given some of Farrkhan’s statements. If Obama had said that, he would have been in serious political hot water.

    It’s exactly what McCain did re Hagee: “I don’t agree with everything Hagee says, but he’s on the side of the angels when it comes to right to life issues.”

    Not only has Hagee referred to Catholics as the Great Whore of Babylon, he has also said this about the Jews:

    It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.

    I don’t think it’s good enough to say, “I don’t agree with everything Hagee says, but he’s right about some important stuff.” McCain ought to be held to account for this.

    Reply

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