Friday, October 31, 2008

LA Times Video Tape Flap - Rashid Kahlidi

OK, I've been reading about this stink bomb of an "issue" for the past week or so. Interestingly, the original article that spawned this latest Republican smear fest first appeared back in April of this year. The story is that Obama attended a farewell party for a fellow professor, and friend, at the University of Chicago. This professor, Rashid Kahlidi is also a prominent Palestinian. At the event, Obama "paid tribute" to Kahlidi and spoke of his wife's cooking and the dinners they shared where Kahlidi challenged Obama's thinking on issues.

Now, the story by the times is very in depth and raises Obama's ties to the Palestinian American and the Jewish American communities in Chicago and the possible effect on his policies towards Israel. I heartily suggest you read the entire thing if these issues are of importance to you.

I've always felt that a legitimate discussion of ANY candidate's associations can be had and that it is legitimate to base one's decision at least partially on these associations. That is NOT what is happening here. Here we have a classic case of throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks.

Oh, and before I even proceed to deconstruct this, I just wanted to point out John McCain's "ties" to Rashid Kahlidi. Think this is irrelevant? I don't disagree. really, I think it's as irrelevant as this entire non-issue

There are two issues here:

1) The real question about Obama's Palestinian ties and the potential importance of these in the minds of supporters of Israel. Personally, I think there's no issue here. Kahlidi is well known as a Palestinian who has condemned terrorism and suicide bombings in particular. He does claim the right of self-defense/resistance for Palestinians in the occupied territories against Israeli troops. Now, that may be disturbing to many supporters of Israel but it doesn't particularly bother me. I would love to see everyone in the are lay down their arms and figure out a workable permanent peace. This is obviously a problematic situation well outside of the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that there is a right recognized in international law to resist occupation and there are many in Israel who agree that the Palestinians have such a right within the territories. Decide this for yourself and what it means to you. For me, Barack Obama's clear and consistent statements on Israel are of primary importance. I don't believe that talking with Palestinians is a negative. One again, diplomacy requires a certain flexibility and the willingness to talk to your enemies. If you don't then there's no one to talk to but the mirror. Seemed good enough for Menachem Begin.

2) Is the Times refusal to release the original tape a cover up? This is a none issue. Here's my argument and my belief as to why the Republicans are harping on this.
  • The Times is claiming, as is usual with all legitimate reporting outfits, that they may not release the original tape because the source made that a condition of his provision of the tape.
  • This does not mean that the Times is hiding something. Here you must read the entire article to determine for yourself whether or not it's a fair depiction of both the event and Obama's overall ties to Palestinians and the influence that may have on his polcies. My personal take is that the articles is an in depth, if not exhaustive, look at these issues. It is also not wholly flattering and presents the content of alledged private conversations between Obama and Palestinians in addition to the tape content. These supposed private conversations, directly contradicted by Obama, are potentially more troubling than anything related in the tape, where Obama praises his friend for challenging his thinking and assumptions. WOW! That's damning. This from an academic? God forbid. If there were some bombshell in the tape it seems unlikely that the Times wouldn't have presented it in the article or that it wouldn't have found its way in the wilds of the internet by some other means.
  • And this is where my opinion of the real reasons for the demand that the Times release this tape come into play. They have NO INTEREST IN THE TRUTH! For that, the article would seem to suffice. They simply want the tape so they can cut it up into another misleading ad to smear Obama.
Now, you may say that it is a bit arrogant of me to claim to know the minds of these people. I would counter that any fair reading of the Times article and an examination of the timing of the firestorm around it lead directly to this conclusion. The only way for this tape to have any impact on the upcoming election is:
  1. As it is now, a conspiracy theory talking point.
  2. As an attack ad distorting Obama's words and tying him to radical Palestinians.
  3. As a 24 hour fake "news" cycle piece on Fox news.
If truth were the true goal of this demand, the people making it should be satisfied with the article in the Times or, at most, a transcript of the tape (or relevant portions). It's the high impact video of Obama talking about Kahlidi that is the target. In the hands of skilled editors - and the Republican attack machine editors are very skilled indeed, this could/would be turned into an ad showing Obama praising suicide bombers and Hamas! Don't believe me? Did you forget the attack ad claiming that Obama supported sex ed for Kindergartners? I haven't.

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