A Double Standard on 'Reject and Denounce'

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, March 1, 2008

With the crucial Ohio and Texas Democratic primaries only three days away, this might not be the best time for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to slip away to ponder what he has gotten himself into. The temptation, though, would be understandable.

Coping with Hillary Clinton's special code of conduct is surely an unbelievable burden. Simply put, Clinton sets a standard for political opponents that she wouldn't think of applying to herself.

Consider her practice of holding a candidate accountable for a supporter's remarks.

In the Ohio debate this week, Clinton wouldn't quit until Obama said that he would "reject and denounce" the endorsement of his candidacy by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. That Obama had not solicited the endorsement and has consistently deplored Farrakhan's anti-Semitism did not matter to Clinton.

Then there's the current Newsweek story "Good for the Jews? Hillary Clinton's surrogates are questioning Obama's commitment to U.S.-Israel relations."

In a January conference call with American Jewish organization leaders, the magazine reports, Clinton senior adviser Ann Lewis attempted to denigrate Obama's pro-Israel credentials by pointing out that Zbigniew Brzezinski is Obama's "chief foreign-policy adviser." Brzezinski, Newsweek noted, "has a reputation that is close to toxic in the American Jewish community."

It mattered not to Clinton's clan that Brzezinski is not a key Obama adviser, that Obama has said he has had lunch with Brzezinski only once or that they have exchanged e-mails perhaps three times. Linking Obama to someone who is anathema to the Jewish community was the point to be scored -- even if it meant committing a foul.

The Clinton folks apparently had the same thing in mind when, Newsweek also reports, they sent around e-mails raising questions about Obama's relationship with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Why? The church's Trumpet Newsmagazine had once honored Farrakhan as someone who "truly epitomized greatness."

So what if Obama has said that he doesn't agree with everything his pastor says -- or that Obama has said giving Farrakhan an award "was a mistake and showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community"?

Neither did it matter to the Clinton attack machine that Obama has said his church has never issued an anti-Semitic statement or that he had never heard anything that would suggest anti-Semitism on the part of his pastor or that if he had heard hints of anti-Semitism he would have left the church where he and his wife, Michelle, were married and their two daughters were baptized.

The Clinton campaign has done all this to paint Barack Obama as bad for Jews and Israel.

Sadly, they aren't the only ones perpetuating falsehoods about Obama. The Internet is full of lies about the candidate, such as the accusation that Obama does not swear allegiance to America, that he took the oath of office with his hand on the Koran and that he is a Muslim. All untrue.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company