Archive - Nov 2008

November 3rd

One Last Reason

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Memo to anyone still thinking of voting for John McCain: YOU DON'T CARE.

Over the course of this year, I've offered my readers a laundry list of reasons not to vote for John McCain, but I didn't expect any of them to resonate beyond the choir to whom I preach most weekdays. Differences in policy, differences in tone, all these things can be set aside and looked past even by seemingly moderate conservatives whose lust for low marginal tax rates lets them maintain the illusion of the Straight-Talking Maverick.

People who, unlike me, are interested in maintaining a civil and polite discourse like to say that despite our political disagreements, most Democrats and most Republicans are decent human beings. And you know, I'd like to believe that. So let's give this a try. I'm going to describe something John McCain has personally done, along with his vice president and his surrogates, in the closing days of his campaign. It is something that no decent human being should condone. And it is something that any decent human Republican will have to willingly condone in order to walk into a voting booth tomorrow and cast a vote for John McCain. So if you know any decent human Republicans, make sure they know about this, and know what they're voting for.

Rashid Khalidi is a professor at Columbia University, where he heads that school's Middle East Institute. He's an American of Palestinian descent, born in New York. He's a historian, a respected scholar, praised by people across the political spectrum. So respected, in fact, that the International Republican Institute, chaired by John McCain, gave Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies a $450,000 grant ten years ago.

But that was then, and this is now. John McCain, war hero, maverick, straight-talker, bipartisan and moderate, has turned Rashid Khalidi into an enemy of the state based on trumped-up charges and lies. Why? Because Khalidi was friends with Barack Obama in Chicago.

In the extensive* research I've done on this whole sorry mess, the worst thing I can find about Rashid Khalidi is the claim that he was a "spokesman for the PLO" in the late 70's and early 80's. The take on this ranges from him giving his expert opinion / Palestinian perspective to reporters, making the claim erroneous, to, at the very worst, being one of a team of go-betweenss when Israel wanted to negotiate with the PLO without being seen to be negotiating with the PLO.

Oh, and he's criticized Israel. This is not a crime, no matter how it's treated by American politicians who've spent the last four or five decades treating Israel as an even more perfect country than America, a nation whose every policy is embodied in the flesh and blood of every single Jew in the world. And thus, suggesting that Israel has done things that are wrong is equivalent to wanting to kill all the Jews. But that's not actually the way things are.

The crux of this ginned-up controversy is Rashid Khalidi's farewell dinner from the University of Chicago in 2003, which Barack and Michelle Obama attended. According to the LA Times, at that dinner, Obama praised the challenging intellectual discussions he'd had with Khalidi over the years. From this, McCain has attempted to paint Khalidi as a dangerous radical, demanding that the Times release its tape of the event, which the Times says would violate their agreement with the tape's source. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

""If there was a tape of John McCain in a neo-Nazi outfit, I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different." - John McCain.

"Among other things, Israel was described there as the perpetrator of terrorism rather than the victim. What we don't know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he professes to support." - Sarah Palin.

John McCain, with his own words, elevated two professors discussing the complicated and nuanced Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a United States Senator dressing up in neo-Nazi gear and parading in front of a video camera. He and his are taking an American college professor and slandering him, portraying him as someone so dangerous that having dinner with him is a sign of moral corruption and unfitness for office.

I'm not even going to argue that McCain is doing it because Khalid has a beard, is of Palestinian descent, and has an Arab name. I'm not going to argue that it's all part of a shameless attempt to portray Obama as someone who secretly sympathizes with terrorists. That's all true, but even without the obvious hate-baiting, what McCain is doing is deliberate and reprehensible.

Rashid Khalidi did nothing wrong, and he is being turned into the object of right-wing frothing hatred, a caricature for Americans to fear, someone for Fox News to chase down with cameras, then portray his refusal to talk as further evidence for suspicion. John McCain is doing this, and he's doing it on purpose in order to win a few extra votes tomorrow.

And if you read this and still vote for John McCain, I'm afraid you can't actually be considered a decent human being. I'm not saying you have to vote for Barack Obama. You can stay home. You can leave the top line of the ballot blank and vote for Norm Coleman, Saxby Chambliss, or Elizabeth Dole for all I care. You can write in Mickey Mouse, or do something even more futile and vote for Bob Barr. But if you vote for John McCain, then you're saying that what's being done to Rashid Khalidi is acceptable. And it's not.

*At least compared to the usual rigor I pour into this column.