Friday, January 26, 2007

Barack Obama Takes A Hit On Muslim Connections

Sen. Barack Obama is already finding out that running for President can be a nasty, challenging business.

His campaign has been hurt -- to what extent, we don't yet know -- by allegations on the web, and then picked up by Fox News, that he had important Muslim connections in his early life, that his father and stepfather were Muslims and that he attended a radical Muslim school for two years when he was living as a boy in Indonesia.

Apparently, the school he attended was not so radical. ABC News, checking out the report, found it was a moderate school. The Obama campaign now says it at first chose not to respond to the web allegations out of hopes they wouldn't be much noticed and would go away.

As Sen. John Kerry could have told Obama, it is unsafe in a campaign to ignore any widely-disseminated allegations. Kerry found out this when he was too late in responding to suggestions he had not been all that heroic in fighting in Vietnam. By the time, he denied them, they were already out there, and quite a few people believed them.

Obama seems to be fairly moderate. He is not all that far from Hillary Clinton's centrist position against the Iraq war, although he always opposed the war while Clinton originally voted for it, and he is certainly less stridently against American involvement in the Middle East than John Edwards, who has staked out a McGovernite position.

But the news that Obama's father was a Muslim, even if he had little contact with him after the age of two, could prove highly detrimental to the Obama campaign. It is clear most Americans would not vote for a Muslim for President, and Obama simply cannot afford any identification with Islam, even if, as he says, he is now a Christian.

As we saw in Harold Ford's losing campaign for the U.S. Senate last year in Tennessee, a black candidate can easily be sidetracked by scurrilous suggestions. In Ford's case, it was the Republican ad that showed him somehow consorting with a white woman at a Playboy party that may have cost him the election.

If the Obama candidacy does go forward, and I'm beginning to wonder slightly if it will, his race may well become more and more of a factor, just as John F. Kennedy was identified throughout the 1960 campaign primarily as a Catholic.

This is something Obama is going to have to overcome somehow, and we have not yet seen the worst of it. Wait until they start making a lot down South out of his white mother being involved in interracial marriages.

The charges, unfortunately, don't have to be entirely true, or even partly true. All they have to be is out there. And it's inevitable they will be.

--

I'm glad to see the new House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and her friend, the Iraq war critic John Murtha, visiting in Baghdad today. They may benefit from a firsthand prospective on the war as Americn efforts are revved up in Baghdad.

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