Reject or denounce the repudiator of your choice!

Ann Althouse has the most detailed analysis I've seen of Barack Obama's tap-dancing performance over the Farrakhan endorsement. I don't want to dissect the back and forth in the debate in detail, as Althouse has already done a marvelous job.

Basically, Hillary Clinton had Obama dead to rights, but then she blew it. I think she came off as a laughable school marm demanding and getting grammatical corrections (the "rejection" versus "denunciation" stuff), when what was called for involved Obama coming clean not about Farrakhan's endorsement but about Farrakhan the man, which he did not do. Instead, he wiggled and he evaded. Whether this was for political expediency or whether it was out of weakness, we may never know. But the whole incident raises doubts about the depth of his character, and of course raises questions about his fitness to be president. Personally, I still don't think his moral lapses rise to the level of Clintons, which I think are almost sui generis. (Yes, I'm biased against the Clintons, and I admit it.)

However, in light of yesterday's McCain flap, I think this might be a good time to look at the redudiation issue in more detail. Perhaps this will provide a contrast in the character of the two men who are poised to be the candidates of their respective parties; perhaps not.

Unlike Obama (whose Farrakhan denunciation/rejection had to be dragged out of him), McCain did not hesitate to immediately condemn the "red meat" (consisting in this case of gratuitously insulting references to Obama's middle name being "Hussein.")

For that he paid the price. Cunningham and like-minded conservatives are now furious.

Here's the video of the Cunningham remarks, and McCain's reaction:

McCain said, "I want to disassociate myself from any disparaging remarks."

OK, that's good enough for me. Should he have gone further, and denounced or rejected Cunningham himself?

I don't honestly know; while Louis Farrakhan's bigotry and venomous anti-Semitism are so well known as to make him a household word, until yesterday I'd never heard of Bill Cunningham. Now that I have, I have to say that unless I am missing something, he's a run-of-the-mill angry red meat conservative, and not comparable -- either in scope or in evil -- with Louis Farrakhan.

It would take an entire essay to explain why, though, and I'm afraid people who like red meat conservatism are not interested in long winded explanations -- especially mine. I'm sure they would not welcome my coming to their "defense" by allowing that "they're not as bad as Farrakhan." Ditto, the hard left, who accuse Cunningham of racism, and are already accusing McCain of playing a racist "who me?" game.

I'm afraid this election is going to get a lot nastier, and I can see why McCain wants to nip even the slightest hint of an appearance of bigotry in the bud.

Unfortunately, political debates are dominated by red meat and shrillness on both sides, and I'm glad McCain is rejecting it. Considering the totality of the circumstances, I think he's done a better job of rejecting it than Obama.

McCain is also paying a price, as the red meat eaters see this as an assault on their pride -- and of course, "conservative principles." No sooner did McCain distance himself from Cunningham, than the latter withdrew his support, and declared himself part of the Ann Coulter Hillary brigadistas.

Cunningham says he was told by party officials to give the audience red meat to warm up the crowd that came to see McCain. He says he did and the crowd loved it, but McCain then threw him under the bus. Cunningham says McCain has now lost his support.

"I'm gonna follow the lead of Ann Coulter. I've had it with John McCain," Cunningham told FOX News' "Hannity & Colmes."

"I'm going to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for president because she would do a better job in the Oval Office, I think, than the liberal John McCain. I'm done with him."

Cunningham said McCain "embarrassed himself," and then made up a name of his own for the Arizona senator, "John Juan Pablo McCain," an apparent reference to McCain's sponsorship of immigration reform legislation. He added that McCain should be "repudiating Democrats and leaving conservatives alone."

What should be the standard here?

Repudiation, rejection, or denunciation? Has Hillary weighed in? I mean, after all, aren't some of these people her supporters?

The latter raises an interesting (if somewhat surreal) question, for Hillary has herself welcomed the support of Coulter -- a woman who was forced out of the late Bill Buckley's National Review for advocating religious conversion of Muslims by force. (For the heresy of getting rid of the saintly Coulter, Rich Lowry and his fellows at the NRO were accused of being "girly boys" by "real conservatives.")

I'm not making a moral comparison between Coulter and Farrakhan, but many on the left think Coulter is an extreme bigot, and I've seen no demands that Hillary live up to the National Review's standard -- and reject or denounce Ann Coulter.

Double standard? Or am I confusing politics with satire?

I don't know. These double standards are hard to keep track of. Earlier today I heard that the Idaho Values Alliance has condemned Planned Parenthood for racism, because they allegedly accepted money from callers claiming to be bigots who wanted to fund black abortions.

A longtime anti-abortion activist and conservative lobbyist - Idaho Values Alliance Executive Director Bryan Fischer - called Kersey's response in July reprehensible and said she should have been fired.

"It turns out that blatant racism is alive and well in Idaho, but it's not coming from the Aryan Nation types - it's coming from way-left organizations like Idaho's own Planned Parenthood," Fischer said. "They should have stridently rebuked that donor for being a racist and a bigot and refused to take that money."

OK, FWIW, I agree with Fischer. Planned Parenthood should have fired all of the people responsible and refused the money (although because this was a "sting operation" the money would most likely have never been forthcoming).

I'm not much of a Planned Parenthood supporter, but my deceased mother was, and the way this organization is shrilly attacked and routinely compared with Nazis almost makes me want to send them a check.

I think it's also fair to point out that Fischer and his group are on record as calling for the Republican Party to not allow homosexuals to hold office -- and they gratuitously and illogically throw in an analogy to slavery:

The Party, in the wake of the Mark Foley incident in particular, can no longer straddle the fence on the issue of homosexual behavior. Even setting Senator Craig's situation aside, the Party should regard participation in the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle as incompatible with public service on behalf of the GOP.

No member of the Republican Party in the 1860s could represent his party and be a slaveholder at the same time. Nor can the Republican Party of today speak with authority and clarity to the moral issues that confront our society and at the same time send ambivalent messages about sexual behavior. It is time for the Republican Party to be the party that defends the American family in word, deed, and by personal example.

How's that for a moral comparison? Homosexuality is like slavery. (Against my better judgment, I once had a bit of a debate with a determined commenter over that issue.)

While I don't think anti-gay bigotry is the same as racist bigotry, I do think it's a bit disingenuous for the IVA to get so exercised about racism when it actually calls for outright anti-gay bigotry. (At least, I think it's bigoted to declare homosexuality "incompatible with public service.")

I have to say, I'm getting a little tired of the shrillness in American politics. I think Obama was wrong for not going far enough, and McCain handled his incident just right.

As to how far anyone should have to go in repudiating, rejecting, or denouncing, I'm a bit unsure.

What are we electing? A president, or a repudiator in chief?

MORE: Now Obama seems to be in trouble for advertising on "racist" Bill Cunningham's radio station.

Oh the irony!

posted by Eric on 02.28.08 at 12:20 PM



I find it interesting that you are using a post from my blog as an example of the "hard left." You are brutally incorrect, but that is not surprising. I raised the Farrakhan endorsement of Obama on my blog as well, which you completely missed or purposely forgot to mention, that too not being a surprise.

And please spare me talking about shrillness, Mr. Cunningham knew exactly what he was doing when repeatedly stating Barack Obama's middle name over and over again. Don't pretend that wasn't done on purpose.

Folks like Cunningham play into the unfortunate limitations of certain kinds of people in this country, who get frightened by someone's name or by that individual wearing clothing from Kenya, or trying to label indiviudals as Muslim when they are not.

I find Farrakhan just as problematic, but Obama is not using him to open speeches for him is he?

Tracey   ·  February 29, 2008 9:52 AM

If you're not hard left, my mistake. I was kind of hoping this wasn't mainstream Democratic Party thinking, but it's appearing that I was wrong. I don't see any moral equivalency between Cunningham's red meat demagoguery and the rabidly anti-Semitic Farrakhan.

Eric Scheie   ·  March 2, 2008 8:16 AM

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