Middle East studies in the News
McCain The Mudslinger? [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Ian Faerstein
The Blogometer (of National Journal's The Hotline)
October 31, 2008
John McCain is under heavy fire from liberal bloggers today for his campaign's recent tactics. Lefty bloggers are blasting McCain for his "character assassination of Rashid Khalidi" -- especially his comparison of Khalidi to a "neo-Nazi." These bloggers contend that Khalidi -- a professor at Columbia Univ. -- is a "respected academic" and that "the only objectionable thing about him from a rightwing point of view is that he is a Palestinian". They're convinced that the McCain camp is making a big deal about Barack Obama's ties to Khalidi in order to exploit Americans' fears about Arabs. Josh Marshall complains: "Khalidi is in this new McCain set piece for one reason -- as a generic Arab, to spur the idea that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim."
In related news, lefty bloggers are furiously denouncing the McCain camp's recent ads. Several liberal bloggers believe that McCain's "Preconditions" ad, which plays Middle Eastern music while alternating images of Obama with images of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is intended to depict Obama as a Muslim. Other liberal bloggers believe that McCain's "Joe the Plumber" ad, which accuses Obama of wanting "to give welfare to those who pay [no taxes]," is intended to frighten working-class whites into thinking that Obama will take their money and give it to poor blacks.
While liberal bloggers protest McCain's tactics, conservative bloggers see positive signs for the GOP nominee. Hugh Hewitt thinks Dems "should be worried" about McCain's ability to win most of the remaining undecideds, "especially in Pennsylvania." Jim Geraghty crunches the numbers and concludes that McCain is "dramatically overperforming among early voters" in Nevada. Meanwhile, nearly 80% of Hot Air readers believe that McCain will win the election.
MCCAIN: Smearing Khalidi
Liberal bloggers are denouncing the McCain camp for attacking Obama over his ties to Khalidi, which they believe is a deliberate effort to exploit anti-Arab bigotry:
- TPM's Marshall: "The McCain campaign has been throwing around so much mud and smears in recent weeks that it's easy to miss just how ugly and shameful their character assassination of Rashid Khalidi is. This is an entirely respectable, highly respected scholar. To go further into making a case for him would only be to enable and indulge McCain's sordid appeal to racism. For McCain, personally, to compare Khalidi to a neo-nazi, it's just an offense McCain should never be forgiven for. It's right down in the gutter with Joe McCarthy and the worst of the worst. Khalidi is in this new McCain set piece for one reason -- as a generic Arab, to spur the idea that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim."
- Obsidian Wings' Eric Martin: "[This is] an attempt to, ultimately, diminish Obama's standing because he knows a Palestinian-American who participated (constructively!) in the Mideast Peace Process. It's vile, it's racist and, sadly, it's par for the course for the McCain campaign and far too many of its supporters."
- Juan Cole: "McCain's and Palin's attacks on Khalidi are frankly racist. He is a distinguished scholar, and the only objectionable thing about him from a rightwing point of view is that he is a Palestinian. [...] McCain even compared the gathering for Khalidi that Obama attended to a 'neo-Nazi' meeting! I mean, really. This is the lowest McCain has sunk yet. McCain is bringing up Khalidi in order to scare Jewish voters about Obama's associations, and it is an execrable piece of McCarthyism and in fact much worse than McCarthyism since it is not about ideology but rather has racial overtones. Not allowed to pal around with Arab-Americans, I guess. What other ethnic groups should we not pal around with, from McCain's point of view? Is there a list? Are some worse than others?"
- TAPPED's Adam Serwer: "Khalidi is a Palestinian academic who has been critical of Israel and has done work trying to promote democracy in the West Bank, and was trustworthy enough for McCain to have given Khalidi's group nearly a half a million dollars in grants while McCain chaired the International Republican Institute. [...] But with the Republican Party releasing web ads and sending out mailers with Obama's face superimposed over maps of the Middle East, I suppose that getting the media to repeat Obama's name alongside Khalidi's every five minutes reflects a perverse kind of message discipline. It was less than two weeks ago that Colin Powell was asking 'is there something wrong with being a Muslim in America?' Clearly, the McCain campaign hopes you think so."
- Obsidian Wings' hilzoy: "I think this is completely dishonorable. Comparing Rashid Khalidi to a neo-Nazi is just beyond vile. But even without that, it just plays on anti-Arab sentiment. Does anyone think that McCain's audiences know much about Rashid Khalidi, other than his suspiciously Arab name? [...] Khalidi is just a red flag to wave in front of McCain's audiences. Mentioning his name produces the effect it does because that name is Arab. McCain surely knows this. Colin Powell was big enough to denounce this kind of appeal to bigotry. Years ago, I would have imagined that McCain would do likewise, or at least that he would not engage in it himself. I wish I had been right. And I imagine that in a few weeks, when he contemplates the shredded remains of his honor, he will too."
- Firedoglake's Attaturk: "Dear John McCain, Joe McCarthy called and wants his act back."
MCCAIN II: McCarthyism Lives
Liberal bloggers (along with Andrew Sullivan) are slamming McCain campaign blogger (and ex-Weekly Standard blogger) Michael Goldfarb after he asserted that Obama has "a long track record of being around anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American rhetoric" but refused to give an example other than Khalidi (video here):
GOLDFARB: Look, you're missing the point again, Rick. The point is that Barack Obama has along track record of being around anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American rhetoric.
CNN'S RICK SANCHEZ: Can you name one other person that he hangs around with who's anti-Semitic?...We got Khalidi on the table, give me number two. Who's the other anti-Semitic person that he hangs around with?
GOLDFARB: Rick, we both know who number two is.
- Sullivan: "Michael Goldfarb, McCain spokesman, accuses Barack Obama of hanging around with anti-Semites -- plural -- on CNN. Asked to name one other anti-Semite other than his allegation about Rashid Khalidi, he can't. He won't. But he leaves it hanging, refusing to disown or retract the charge. This is pure McCarthyism. And it is the rotten core of McCain."
- The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates: "The town deserves a better class of McCarthyite. I mean, seriously. If he meant [Jeremiah] Wright, why not say it?"
- Marshall: "Shorter McCain Spokesman Michael Goldfarb: Palestinian = 'Unsavory'."
- Mother Jones' Kevin Drum: "John McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb is one of the creepiest of the creepy gang of attack dogs that inhabit McCain's dysfunctional communications shop. The guy seems to have about the maturity level of a sixth grader and the social skills of your average Unix programmer. Every time McCain lands in hot water over something or another, Goldfarb is always there to vomit up a statement even nastier and more boorish than whatever he said on his last outing. He's a real piece of work. Which means, long story short, that I was happy to see this bit of comeuppance. What a jackass."
- Obsidian Wings' publius: "I've honestly never seen someone (at that level) act like such a complete d*** on TV before. He's attained some Platonic ideal of d***ness. I'm no PR coach, but I suspect the goal is to make something less than 100% of your audience detest you."
- Balloon Juice's John Cole: "I know this is getting old, hearing me say it over and over again, but when I said that the McCain campaign was being run by wingnut bloggers, I was not engaging in hyperbole. I was simply describing who is running the McCain campaign -- wingnut bloggers. The GOP just needs to be destroyed."
On the right side of the blogosphere, Dan Riehl was disgusted by the exchange: "Watching Goldfarb twist in the wind the other night because he dare not mention Jeremiah Wright was pathetic and emblematic of McCain's approach to the attack component of the campaign. We want to hit him hard, oh but not that hard. What a freaking joke. So once again McCain takes the high road and has the carpet pulled out from under him. If that's good judgment, then there's actually a conservative on the ballot this year. Fact is, there ain't -- not in the top slot, anyway."
MCCAIN III: I Don't Accept Your Premise
Liberal bloggers are also disputing Goldfarb's claim that Khalidi is an anti-Semite:
Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
- Time's Joe Klein: "Here we have the McCain campaign's execrable Michael Goldfarb slinging around accusations of anti-semitism -- a favorite pastime, as we've seen this year, among Jewish neoconservatives. I've never met Rashid Khalidi, but he is (a) Palestinian and therefore (b) a semite, so the charge of anti-semitism is fatuous. Khalidi is also a respected academic, the sort of person who is involved in foundation work that John McCain, for one, was willing to support financially. I'd say that if we have a bigot here, it's Mr. Goldfarb who, if he's intent on calling people antisemitic -- or any other epithet -- should be required to provide chapter and verse, which he does not do on CNN. (I'd also like to know on what basis CNN's Rick Sanchez can stipulate that Khalidi is antisemitic.)"
- Think Progress' Matthew Yglesias: "[This] couldn't have happened to a more loathesome operative. At the same time, I have no idea why we're conceding the premise that Rashid Khalidi is motivated by anti-Jewish racism. I suppose their might be some evidence for that, but one would think that being a Palestinian would be a perfectly sufficient reason for being a Palestinian nationalist."
- Atrios: "Sanchez shouldn't have internalized the premise of Khalidi being anti-Semitic. Just because the McCain campaign says something doesn't make it so."
receive the latest by email: subscribe to campus watch's free mailing list