Hilzoy, the essential blogger:
As a number of people have pointed out, it’s very odd that people like Tim Russert assume that Barack Obama is under some sort of obligation to denounce (and refuse!) Louis Farrakhan, but John McCain can accept the support of John Hagee, who has said that “I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans,” without anyone but us lefty bloggers so much as batting an eye. [...]
The two cases are different, and different in ways that ought to make McCain have to denounce Hagee a lot more than Obama had to denounce Farrakhan. Before Farrakhan ever announced his support for Obama, Obama was on record denouncing his views, and in particular his antisemitism. Obama did not solicit Farrakhan’s support, appear with Farrakhan, or put out press releases announcing it.
Louis Farrakhan is a very scary black man who everybody assumed had been dead for twenty years, and denouncing him means about as much these days as denouncing Peter Frampton’s hair. Now, I would say something like that, wouldn’t I just?, being as I am a callow and thoughtless Gen X’er with no appreciation for the heated racial politics of the 1970’s and the pure rock-n-roll awesomeness of listening to some bell-bottom’ed tit warble into a vocoder for 20 minutes. All true, and I also don’t give Obama any particular credit for denouncing Farrakhan, as it’s not like he’s risked alienating anybody outside Farrakhan’s immediate family with these remarks. The whole question seems fucking pointless to me, is the point.
These sorts of things differentiate me from, say, the Washington Post’s ROFL Cohen, who was sure that Farrakhan posed a ‘test’ for Obama, after Obama’s minister’s sister’s magazine (or something) gave Farrakhan some community service award. That last sentence could use a few more “or something”s in there to give the full flavor of how I can’t figure out what ROFL is talking about or why, but I think that’s basically right. Many people found this column upsetting and silly, and I understand why, although, really, it was a gift. Much like in 1992, when Bill Clinton was praised for denouncing one of Public Enemy’s background singers, a Democrat was being asked to display ‘courage’ by publicly disagreeing with some obscure, preferably black, nobody. One is not sure what to make of this odd spectacle, but it is tradition, and not to be questioned. The press moves in mysterious ways, its blunders to perform.
Only, having denounced Farrakhan, and thus given him even more attention that anybody with a general sense of what decade it is knows he doesn’t deserve, we get from the previously outraged and indignant Cohen … nothing. Well, we did get a column about Britney Spears, and one about how John McCain is totally mavericky and awesome, one about Israel, and several banal campaign horserace columns. But nothing about the fact that Obama had ‘passed’ the phoney-baloney ‘test’ Cohen had set for him. How very odd.