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Thanks for saying this, Lance. I was utterly baffled by the reaction to Kerry's remarks. Oh, sure, he was being a bit uppity about it, but this constant whining on kos that something or other just isn't faaaaiiiirrr is getting on my last nerve. This isn't middle school, this is the NFL, and you better be willing to play the game. By the time the republicans are finished with him, half of America will believe that Obama was behind the 9/11 attacks.

And after watching Dodd on Countdown last night, I made up my mind. I'm voting Dodd in the primary. Yes, I'm quite sure he won't win. I don't care.


Kerrey had one straight-up smear in there: "madrassa." Turns out Obama attended what Americans call a "school":

Mike J

Kerrey's "secular madrassa" remark was a flat-out smear.

His Muslim school was not a madrassa. And yes, I know that everyone from now until Obama loses the race/wins the presidency will say he studied in a madrassa, but then we're moving away from dog whistling into plain old lying.

Jack Roy

I really have to disagree. Yes, we can expect Republicans to do all this and worse. To that I have two initial thoughts: (a) Shouldn't we expect Democrats to be better than the other side? and (b) Don't we lose our moral high ground to complain at Republicans' subliminal race-baiting if we tolerate it from our own candidates?

I'm not going to go as far as some, but it strikes me that when the Clinton campaign puts out speculation that Obama may have dealt drugs, inserts the word "cocaine" repeatedly into even their apologies for bringing it up, and starts talking about Obama attending a madrassa (a charge that is total crap, by the way, and you should know better), it's hard not to think that they know exactly what they're doing. Imagine the shoe on the other foot: If Obama were raising speculation that Clinton couldn't get elected because she'd be swift-boated by people talking about the Vince Foster murder, would you really think Obama was making an innocent point?

Jack Roy

Whoops---Coughie and Mike J beat me to the punch on the madrassa story (evidently my comments are getting stuck in spamfilterland).


I'm not sure what happened to Bob Kerrey since he left politics for academia. He seems to have become less politic in his behavior. When he was our governor and senator, I actually came to admire the man quite a bit.

Some of his words sound to me like carefully-honed little needles, the sort of thing the Clinton staff would think up. Sad and disheartening.


From someone who knows a language in which "madrassa" means school, let me explain why the word came to be synonymous with "religious school." In Pakistan, at least, 'secular' schools are actually called "school." The English word has been appropriated into the Urdu language. The schools that teach only religion are called madrassas -- the word for school in Urdu (madrassa) is used, because there is a subtle appreciation there of their backwardness. Mostly uneducated people send their kids to madrassas, those who can't afford REAL schools and are suspicious of real schools' secular/western character. There is enough of a post-colonial sense of inferiority in the more educated/urban people of Pakistan that anything western is thought to be better than anything home-grown.

Hence madrassa. And 'secular madrassa' is a contradiction in terms. There was no reason to use the word 'madrassa' for an ordinary school in an Islamic country, except as a smear.

We Pakistanis seem to be responsible for bringing this concept into the western lexicon since we patronize madrassas more than any other Muslim majority country. It's rather strange to think about -- before 9/11, I used to have to explain to westerners that Pakistan was right next door to India, because the country was so obscure.


I'm less interested in holding the high moral ground in 2009 than I am in holding the White House. Lance is right-what Kerry did is child's play compared to what is coming, and I for one am not certain Obama is ready for it.


Apostate, I bow to your first-hand knowledge of Pakistan. But I studied Modern Standard Arabic (under an Iraqi) back in the late '70s, and "madrassa" does in fact simply mean "school". It is a noun regularly formed from the root verb "darasa" -- to study. As often happens, it has in some subcultures taken on the specialized meaning of "religious school" to the exclusion of the original meaning. Isn't it fascinating how cultures borrow words and languages evolve?


As at least one commenter at DK noted, however, Indonesia -- where Obama attended "school" -- is not an Arabic-speaking country.



you are indeed correct. The standard Indonesian word for 'school' is 'sekolah'. As far as I know, the term 'madrasa' - or 'madrasa diniyah' in full - is used exclusively for religious schools and in fact means just that, 'religious school'.


I'm not convinced that "having Muslim family", while not being of the Faith oneself, is going to help anyone be an ambassador to the middle east. I can't help but remember Churchill's war memoirs where he recollects sending Sir Stafford Cripps to Moscow as British Ambassador, reasoning that as a staunch socialist Stafford would be able to truly connect - only later realizing that for a true-believer, nothing is to be hated more than a man who comes close to Communism without actualy being a Communist.

If you want to reach Islamists,I recommend you don't send half-Moslem "apostates" as your emissaries


Stinger, since I'm Pakistani and grew up in Saudi Arabia, I know both Urdu and Arabic. And I fully admitted that madrassa does mean school. You didn't read my comment carefully enough, but thanks for your input.

andy phx

Kerry's comments are the equivalent to a push poll but in the form of a speech.
Why is it these politicians take us for such fools? Oh yeah, Bushes two terms.

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