Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Reject" vs. "Denounce"

Virtually every commentator believes that Obama hit a home run last night by his handling of the Farrakhan endorsement. In the context of the Democratic primary, I agree. More on this in a moment.

But first, while I understand, better than Obama professes to, the difference between "denouncing" the positions taken by Farrakhan and "rejecting" his endorsement, I do not understand why Obama or any other candidate is expected to "reject" anyone's endorsement.

I'm reminded of how Ronald Reagan once declined to reject the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, saying, reasonably enough, that as far as he was concerned, their endorsement implied their support of low taxes and a strong defense. It did not imply that he, Reagan, was pro-gay. Similarly, Obama is responsible for his own beliefs, not Farrakhan's. In light of the endorsement, it is entirely fair play to ask Obama, straight up, whether or not he shares Farrakhan's allegations about, say, the conspiracy of Jewish doctors to inject black children with AIDS (or something). Absent further evidence, I see no reason to take Obama's denial of such beliefs (if denial it be) at any other than face value. This should be the end of the issue.

Or perhaps not. Farrakhan presumably has other reasons for endorsing Obama. I don't know what those reasons are, and I'm too busy to go parsing Farrakhan's lengthy endorsement speech to tease them out. But I will speculate, plausibly I think, that Farrakhan believes Obama's election will advance the interests of blacks at the expense of whites. How so? And in what other ways does Obama merit Farrakhan's endorsement? If those reasons are obnoxious, then the follow-up questions should be directed at Obama: do you, senator, believe that your election would benefit blacks at the expense of whites? Etc.

This is not an attempt at guilt-by-association. Farrakhan's endorsement does not, ipso facto, make Obama a bad person. For that matter, a particular belief or policy does not become bad by virtue of being believed by Farrakhan. But to the extent that Farrakhan's beliefs are odious, and to the extent that Farrakhan expects Obama to advance odious beliefs, then journalists should start earning their pay and ask Obama these kind of questions.

But here's the kicker: in every reference to Farrakhan, both Obama and Clinton very carefully limit their denunciations of Farrakhan to his anti-semitism. The only problem is, Farrakhan is comprehensively anti-white, in which category he includes Jews. This fact should be pointed out forcefully by the debate moderators, and they should require the candidates to address the full scope of Farrakhan's hatred, not just that portion directed at a favored class of liberal Democrats.

Which brings me back full circle. Among Democrat primary voters, standing up for white people earns no points; indeed, I expect that Democratic primary voters overwhelmingly believe that white people as a class are evil and deserve whatever minorities have in store for us. So Democrats aren't interested in hearing denunciations of Farrakhan in this regard.

I can only hope the general electorate has a stronger instinct for self-preservation.

UPDATE: As usual, Steve Sailer says it better.

UPDATE2: According to Rod Dreher, there are calls for McCain to "reject" the endorsement of John Hagee. But applying the test:

Hagee, standing beside the candidate, said he admired McCain's pro-Israel stance, commitment to nominate conservative judges and opposition to abortion.

Agree with them or not, these are all pretty mainstream Republican positions. In light of Hagee's specificity, and in consideration of McCain's past statements about the religious right, it will be very difficult for McCain's opponents to tar him with Hagee's supposedly harsh anti-Catholicism, etc.

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