Bob Kerrey has been getting kicked around various districts within Western Blogtopia (TM Skippy) for his complimentary remarks about Barack Obama that may not have been all that complimentary. In fact, they may have been mean and nasty. It depends on whether or not you think that mentioning Obama's middle name, family background, and skin color is a dirty trick meant to incite racist and xenophobic Iowans to head to the Caucuses to vote for Hillary Clinton or if you think that Kerrey was just bringing up facts about Obama about which Obama himself says he is proud, facts which he also claims give him the necessary "experience" to be President.
Most of what Kerrey said, when read whole, is fairly innocuous. The bit about "underperforming black youth" rankles. That's a highly suspect and easily substituted for adjective, "underperforming." But Kerrey followed it up with what sounds like sincere praise and, perhaps unfortunately, the truth, "He gave a speech in Selma that was incredible that no white person could ever give. No government program could ever do what Barack Obama can do."
Obama's whole campaign is based on his ability to inspire people with his words, so again Obama, and his supporters, are only hearing Kerrey repeat what they themselves have boasted of.
Ah, but context is all.
Was it really necessary for Kerrey to bring any of this up? Did he have to mention Obama at all? He was supposed to explaining why he's endorsing Hillary. Why he isn't for Obama isn't a question that ever needs answering and certainly didn't need it at the moment.
Steve Benen is similarly dubious.
Now I'm all for kicking Bob Kerrey to the far edge of Western Blogtopia (TM Skippy) and back, just for fun, but as it happens I think he's done us a favor, whether you want to read his remarks as simple statements of fact or as racist dog whistling. This is a dress rehearsal.
Listen, folks, if saying Obama's middle name out loud is dirty pool, we've got a real problem if he gets the nomination.
Because, guess what, the Republicans aren't about to keep quiet about it.
Or about his skin color.
Or about his father's religion.
Or about the madrassa.
As I've said before, I'm for whichever candidate the Democrats nominate---although as of today I'm feeling very pro-Dodd. The three front-runners have their respective strengths and weaknesses; none is perfect, none is terrible, and if one more person comes along to tell me that Hillary is a Republican that person better come along with all of her votes on every bill, treaty, and appointment that has come before the Senate in the last six years and be prepared to show me how her record matches up vote for vote with Trent Lott's.
But it continues to surprise me...no, actually, it continues to utterly shock and baffle me when people who say they don't want Hillary because she's too polarizing, too divisive, too hated, talk about either Edwards or Obama---or Richardson or Kucinich or Dodd or Biden or Gravel---as if the Republicans are going to give them an easy time of it and run a campaign that's based on the issues and the candidates' records.
A lot of people aren't going to vote for Hillary because she's a woman and a Clinton.
But how much of the country do you think is all set to rush out to the polls to vote for a skinny, intellectual, Ivy League-educated black man with a funny name---Barack and Obama aren't exactly John and Smith---a middle name that's the same as the last name of one of our late enemies, a Muslim father, and an unusual childhood that includes time spent at a Musilim school in Jakarta?
And let's not forget the fact that he's allowed himself to be made a pet project of Oprah's.
Oprah is formidable, no doubt. But guess what? Lots and lots and lots of people hate her.
Looked at from one angle, Obama appears to be this generation's John Kennedy. Looked at from another, he's a smoother, hipper, re-tooled version of Gene McCarthy, another beautiful loser Progressives can take pride in having voted for because it shows how much cooler they are than the majority who rejected their guy at the polls.
If Obama's going to be the nominee, then he is going to run as Barack Hussein Obama whether he likes it or not. He is going to run as a black man. He is going to run as the product of a madrassa. He is going to run as the guy who admitted using drugs in high school. He is going to run as everything he is and a lot of what he isn't and people are going to hate him for it and they're going to use it all to try to get other people to hate him too.
There's no stopping this just by getting all huffy and self-righteous when someone brings it up, especially when Obama is going to be bringing it all up himself.
You can't run for President claiming that your ethnic background and personal history are what qualify you for the Presidency and simultaneously insist that no one is allowed to mention your ethnic background or personal history and that anyone who does is "smearing" you. That's not going to play.
If Democrats think that Hussein and Muslim and madrassa and black are dirty words, just think what fun the Republicans are going to have with them.
Whistling for the dog update: What Orange Fur says:
That's not a dog whistle--because we're not dogs. We're Democrats. There is nothing wrong with noticing that Obama's unique background would make him an extremely strong ambassador of American values in the Middle East, and that he makes an excellent role model for black youth. It's Republicans who are supposed to go nuts when John Kerry mentions the extremely well-known fact that Mary Cheney is gay, wondering how anyone would dare mention such a shameful fact. We're Democrats. We know better. And we know that while Obama is Christian and proud of it, that he does have Muslim family, and that in our vision of America, that's a good thing.
Obama's grade school update: A while back, I thought the story that Obama had attended a madrassa was a bit of Right Wing nonsense inspired by winger ignorance, paranoia, and hatred. Then I started seeing Obama's defenders saying that "madrassa" is just a word for school.
CNN reports that the school Obama attended, for just two years when he was a little kid, was and still is a public school with a mixed student population. In other words, not a madrassa. Thanks to Mike J. and Coughie for the link.
The question is, when Kerrey described it as a "secular madrassa" was he as misinformed as those Obama defenders or was he trying to misinform others?
By the way, the CNN story has me thinking that there are Republican moles in the Clinton campaign who are there just so amplifiers of the Right Wing noise machine like Insight and the Washington Times can report that their smears are coming from "inside sources."