TNR Blog: Obama wins Farrakhan moment


Noah Scheiber of The New Republic gives Barack Obama the win in the Farrakhan exchange:

About two-thirds of the way through the debate, Barack Obama took a question about Louis Farrakhan’s support for his campaign. He gave a sufficient, if not quite stellar answer–saying he’d repeatedly denounced Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic statements, that he’d long been a supporter of Israel, etc. At that point Hillary asked to weigh in. Her voice softened a bit, and she began: “I just want to add something here, because I faced a similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000.” I was sure she was going to invoke the firestorm she ignited after watching Suha Arafat deliver an anti-Israel tirade. Something like: “I stirred up a controversy by failing to condemn anti-Semitism, even though that’s how I felt, so I understand how sensitive the issue can be. But I also know Senator Obama is a good friend of the Jewish people.”

Instead, Hillary went with an anecdote whose point was to demonstrate her own vigilance on the issue. She lectured Obama about how it’s not sufficient to denounce anti-Semites; you have to actively reject their support. It was a sanctimonious turn, and Obama defused it with typical good humor. “I have to say I don’t see a difference between denouncing and rejecting,” he said. “But if the word ‘reject’ Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word ‘denounce,’ then I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”

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