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Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2008
By: Hilzoy


I want to second my Obsidian Wings co-blogger Eric Martin's condemnation of John McCain's attack's on Rashid Khalidi. Eric quoted Juan Cole, which led some commenters to question Cole's objectivity. I will therefore cite two other people. First, Barnett Rubin:

"I actually find it demeaning, insulting, and depressing to have to defend Rashid. I could say, I know him, he has been a guest in my home in New York and in my rented house in Provence, he bears absolutely no resemblance to the image these despicable people are trying to project of him, and lot's more. I could point out that I am Jewish and have VISIBLE JEWISH ARTIFACTS IN MY HOME, which did not appear to alarm Rashid, if he even noticed them, but it is all just so ridiculous I don't know what to say.

I don't want to treat these charges with the respect of a refutation. I just want to express my disgust with those who uttered them and my solidarity with my friend, Rashid Khalidi."

Second, Scott Horton:

"In the current issue of National Review, Andrew McCarthy continues his campaign to link the Democratic nominee to various and sundry Hyde Park radicals. This time it is "PLO advisor turned University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi," who now heads the Middle Eastern Studies Department at Columbia University. Khalidi, we learn, makes a habit of justifying and supporting the work of terrorists and is "a former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat." And then we learn that this same Khalidi knows Obama and that his children even babysat for Obama's kids!

This doesn't sound much like the Rashid Khalidi I know. I've followed his career for many years, read his articles and books, listened to his presentations, and engaged him in discussions of politics, the arts, and history. In fact, as McCarthy's piece ran, I was midway through an advance copy of Khalidi's new book Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East. (I'll be reviewing it next month -- stay tuned.) Rashid Khalidi is an American academic of extraordinary ability and sharp insights. He is also deeply committed to stemming violence in the Middle East, promoting a culture that embraces human rights as a fundamental notion, and building democratic societies. In a sense, Khalidi's formula for solving the Middle East crisis has not been radically different from George W. Bush's: both believe in American values and approaches. However, whereas Bush believes these values can be introduced in the wake of bombs and at the barrel of a gun, Khalidi disagrees. He sees education and civic activism as the path to success, and he argues that pervasive military interventionism has historically undermined the Middle East and will continue to do so. Khalidi has also been one of the most articulate critics of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority -- calling them repeatedly on their anti-democratic tendencies and their betrayals of their own principles. Khalidi is also a Palestinian American. There is no doubt in my mind that it is solely that last fact that informs McCarthy's ignorant and malicious rants.

McCarthy states that Khalidi "founded" the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). In fact, he neither founded it nor has anything to do with it. But AAAN is not, as McCarthy suggests, a political organization. It is a social-services organization, largely funded by the state of Illinois and private foundations, that provides support for English-language training, citizenship classes, after-school and summer programs for schoolchildren, women's shelters, and child care among Chicago's sizable Arab community (and for others on the city's impoverished South Side). Does McCarthy consider this sort of civic activism objectionable? Since it was advocated aggressively by President Bush -- this is "compassionate conservativism" in action -- such an objection would be interesting. Nor was Khalidi ever a spokesman for the PLO, though that was reported in an erroneous column by the New York Times's Tom Friedman in 1982. That left me curious about the final and most dramatic accusation laid at Khalidi's doorstep: that the Khalidis babysat for the Obamas. Was it true? I put the question to Khalidi. "No, it is not true," came the crisp reply. Somehow that was exactly the answer I expected. (...)

I have a suggestion for Andy McCarthy and his Hyde Park project. If he really digs down deep enough, he will come up with a Hyde Park figure who stood in constant close contact with Barack Obama and who, unlike Ayers and Khalidi, really did influence Obama's thinking about law, government, and policy. He is to my way of thinking a genuine radical. His name is Richard Posner, and he appears to be the most frequently and positively cited judge and legal academic in ... National Review."


I think McCain's attacks on Khalidi are completely dishonorable, and that comparing Rashid Khalidi to a neo-Nazi, in particular, 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? For that matter, does anyone think that McCain knows much about him? The fact that he repeats the charge that Khalidi was a spokesman for the PLO, a claim that Khalidi denies, and that there is independent reason to think is false -- suggests either that he doesn't know, or that he doesn't care what the truth is. [UPDATE: See here for an argument that Khalidi was, in fact, a spokesman for the PLO. I think that the evidence so far is inconclusive. END UPDATE] [FURTHER UPDATE: Ron Kampeas, who wrote the post I linked to right before the updates, now says that "the evidence of Rashid Khalidi's PLO past is now irrefutable." Thanks to Martin Kramer for bringing this to my attention. END FURTHER UPDATE>]

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.

Hilzoy 11:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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And I imagine that in a few weeks, when he contemplates the shredded remains of his honor, he will too.

No doubt. And when he crawls back with his phony-ass contrition claiming "I regret in the heat of the race, my campaign may have gotten out of control or gone a little too far" and tries to make amends and repair his tattered reputation, everyone tells him to fuck off.

Posted by: Mr Furious on October 31, 2008 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

damn straight! There needs to be more of this pushback--sliming Khalidi is completely wrong. The fact that McCain is doing this simply because Khalidi has a foreign sounding name makes things worse.

Posted by: bc on October 31, 2008 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

McCain has never, at any time in his political career, demonstrated that he has honor. His campaign ought to bury the notion that he is anything but a typical Republican: a rich tool of the corporate ruling class who inflames bigotry to garner political support.

Is the McCain/Palin campaign doing anything that is not a direct or indirect appeal to bigotry and fear?

Posted by: James E. Powell on October 31, 2008 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the memory hole will swallow all the discrete outrages of John McCain's despicable campaign. There will be an aftertaste, of course, but once the right-wing slime machine goes to work on the new administration, even that will be forgotten. About the same time, McCain will renew his frequent flyer miles on Meet the Press and be slobbered over by our millionaire media courtiers. Khalidi will become a footnote in the annals of Republican demonology.

Posted by: walt on October 31, 2008 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

This idea that McCain was once an honorable politician is somewhat mystifying to me. McCain engaged in his own sleazy robocalling in 2000 accusing Bush of being anti-Catholic. He publicly made the case in 2004 that Kerry brought the swiftboating on himself. In every case where this guy has shown up in a national political context, he has disgraced himself in one way or another. Guy's a scumbag. He has been for at least 20 years. Can we all please stop pretending that he has any honor left to degrade?

Posted by: brent on October 31, 2008 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you for the consistently fine posts. A small correction:

Years ago, I would have imagined that McCain would do likewise

Presumably you imagined that he would not do likewise?

Posted by: Daniel on October 31, 2008 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

McCain doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. He slimed Khalidi - so that he could have a Arab-sounding association to slime Obama.

he slimed Acorn for the same reason. He slimed community activists. He slimed people who live in certain parts of the country.

He consorts with the same people who slimed his own child.

The man has no honor.

Posted by: g on October 31, 2008 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of scumbags and those with no honor or integrity, that brings this famous quote to mind. "And Alaska - we're set up, unlike other states in the union, where it's collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs."

Who is this "collectivist", this "share the wealther" who boasts that every citizen of the state of Alaska, a state that is "sometimes described as America's socialist state, because of it's collective ownership of resources", gets a check for $1200 because of it's collective ownership of resources?

Why that would be scumbag #2, aka Chic Cheney, aka Sarah PalinAroundWithSecessionistAmericaHaters aka Royal Rank Hypocrite Extraordinaire.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on October 31, 2008 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

No kidding. When Palin slowly managed to say the name "Rashid Khalidi" her crowd started booing as if they (or she) had the first clue about whom she was talking.

It was just a foreign-sounding name, which is enough for those bottom feeders to start frothing.

Posted by: DB on October 31, 2008 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

All elections take on a unique quality given the competitors, but this one is unlike any I can recall. Constant name calling and references to the past. Anxious to see it come to end-- someone is clearly leaving me with a very eerie feeling deep in the stomach, and that is not good. Would that be you MacShame?

Posted by: Travis on October 31, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

All elections take on a unique quality given the competitors, but this one is unlike any I can recall. Constant name calling and references to the past. Anxious to see it come to end-- someone is clearly leaving me with a very eerie feeling deep in the stomach, and that is not good. Would that be you MacShame?

Posted by: Travis on October 31, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

All elections take on a unique quality given the competitors, but this one is unlike any I can recall. Constant name calling and references to the past. Anxious to see it come to end-- someone is clearly leaving me with a very eerie feeling deep in the stomach, and that is not good. Would that be you MacShame?

Posted by: Travis on October 31, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

What frightens me so much: this actually puts Khalidi in danger. Obama has Secret Service protection and is probably safe from all the nutcases. What defense does Khalidi, a private citizen, have against people who've been whipped into an insane racist fervor?

One of the many things that's gone wrong with the GOP is that they've lost any notion of collateral damage. If there's some political benefit to doing so, they will rip you to shreds whether or not you were just minding your own business. If you're a child who gives a speech about an issue that affects your family, a husband of a woman in a coma, a war hero related to a popular Democrat, or just someone who happened to be at a party almost a decade ago. It doesn't matter whether they did anything to the GOP, or whether there could be terrible consequences for them.

The only plus side is that most people find this kind of thing disgusting, and it's causing the party to distill into its least appealing elements. Good riddance.

Posted by: Mike B. on October 31, 2008 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

You just have to watch Palin mention Khalidi's name to a crowd of her supporters when this crap started to hear them bristle at the mention of a middle eatern sounding name.

Posted by: Kevin on October 31, 2008 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

McCain is now a disgrace to everything his father and grandfather defended and fought for. It might have been better if he'd died that day in October 1967.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on October 31, 2008 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

I would sincerely hope that Khalidi sues Andy McCarthy, John McCain and Sarah Palin for defamation.

As an author he might be considered a public figure, but he has certainly done nothing to bring himself into the public eye in this context.

I am not a lawyer, but even if he has to meet the higher standard of actual malice, I think a strong case could be made that McCarthy knowingly printed falsehoods and that McCain and Palin repeated them with a reckless disregard for their truth.

And it could certainly be very damaging to him to not refute these ridiculous allegations. If enough people associate him with terrorism or terrorist sympathies, it could affect his ability to find employment or to sell books, despite his excellent reputation as an academic. Even universities or publishers that know the allegations are completely false might be dissuaded by fears of a public backlash against him.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 31, 2008 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

I am ashamed for John McCain. He has no sense of honor or decency. And white America wonders why it's getting a bad rap ...

Posted by: Out & About in The Castro on October 31, 2008 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm so angry right now!! John McCain is a disgrace to this nation.
How dare he drag this mans apparently fine name and reputation through the mud in furtherance of an increasingly desperate grab for power??
This disgusting behavior has no place in my country! I hope that this is the final nail in the rotting coffin of the McCain/Palin travesty.
I believe I must volunteer now. I can't sit around wringing my hands and doing nothing!

Posted by: Greywolf1014 on October 31, 2008 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain has a reputation for "honor" because he was captured and held by the enemy in wartime. But really that reputation is a crock. Yes, we should honor people who have served and sacrificed for our country. No, that does not mean we have to expect that they are or will be, in their present or future behavior, "honorable." Certainly John McCain isn't, and hasn't been.

I just wish the press could have done a better job of pointing that out all along, rather than swooning for the "hero." Fortunately, the blogosphere and independent media have been filling the gap. My best laugh all week was this NSFW attack ad that came out today,

If that's what it takes to knock that halo of honor off his head, I say go for it.

Posted by: maxpenny on October 31, 2008 at 3:33 AM | PERMALINK

The REAL tragedy is in the original LAT story.

And that's how, already in 2000, Obama was starting to kowtow to the Israel lobby.

Just.Another.Polician. Even if he has "cooler" Kool-Aid.

Still not too late to vote Green. (Or Socialist/Social Democrat.)

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on October 31, 2008 at 4:26 AM | PERMALINK

What the bloody hell is next>

Obama receiving coded messges from Hezbollah through Casey Kasem?

The surreal, slanderous, shadow-packed McCain-Palin campaign propaganda has eclipsd hyperbole, eclipsed satire.

Let them wallow in the muck. We'll wave a cheery bye-bye as the American electorate passes them by, walking upright on the road to the future.

Posted by: NotMax on October 31, 2008 at 6:25 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy, John McCain is a vile, hate-mongering man who thinks violence is the answer to every problem. The more we learn about McNasty the more clear it is that this wretched human being has no business being anywhere near the White House - I don't give a shit if he spent 100 years in a Vietnamese prison camp!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on October 31, 2008 at 6:25 AM | PERMALINK

Reading about this dastardly Khalidi fellow,I assume he is on TSA's No Fly Terrorist Watch List. Or is he safely ensconced in Gitmo?

Posted by: DAY on October 31, 2008 at 6:28 AM | PERMALINK

Having only a thin knowledge of the Middle East Studies literature, I ran through a number of Khalidi's papers and found nothing particularly "exciting" (in a political controversy-way) in them.

Then -- on the other hand -- I ran a LEXIS/NEXIS (search terms "Rashid Khalidi" and "Date before 1/1/08").


Guess who Rashid Khalidi's "intellectual" enemies are?

The Neocons! Daniel Pipes; Pipes' front organization Campus Watch; the Middle East Forum (where Bill Kristol is an "expert" on U.S. Middle East policy); Patrick Clawson; Charles Krauthammer; Meyrav Wurmser (David Wurmser's spouse, he of the 1999 "oust Saddam" book, _Tyranny's Ally_); and the Washington Times and New York Daily News.

Now Professor Khalidi might very well be an unreconstructed radical PLO sympathizing lout. But I suspect, given the identity of so many of those who hate him, that that's probably not the case.

Daniel Pipes, among the lot, is not exactly known for his level-headedness and sober analytical judgment.

Posted by: Prof B on October 31, 2008 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK

If Khalidi and Ayers are terrorists [and Obama, for that matter] and they've been on American soil, doesn't that make them enemy combatants? Shouldn't they all be at Gitmo? I guess the Bush administration has been asleep at the War-on-Terror wheel. Shouldn't we be torturing somebody?

Posted by: chrenson on October 31, 2008 at 7:12 AM | PERMALINK

This is just another reason that, when John McCain tries to make amends for his actions by begging the American People's forgiveness, he should be given a "straight-talk" Navy answer:


Posted by: Steve W. on October 31, 2008 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

Think about this situation for a moment. The bottom feeders are jumping on Obama because he actually knows a scholar (an American in this case) with a foreign sounding name and a few different ideas. We are electing a President.

I would hope to God anybody who would be President would know a whole range of bright people full of different ideas.

How far have we descended into mindless tribalism.

The irony is that John McCain's connections to Khalidi are at least as strong as Obama's.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 31, 2008 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, I know somebody who met Osama bin Laden --- or at least some of his many siblings -- when he was a kid. Happens to have been the son of the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, but it is all very suspect. And now the guy is a well know academic at a Ivy League school and a naturalized US citizen.

No wonder I'm voting for Obama.

Posted by: stefan on October 31, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Palin didn't even get the name right. It came out as "Kaladi" or something like that.

Posted by: jrosen on October 31, 2008 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, didn't the Bush family treat Osama's brother Bandar like a son. And didn't McCain royally hug one of their sons. So, by the McCain Six Degrees of Slime Association, John McCain is associated with Osama Bin Laden (only 3 degrees too)!

Posted by: royalblue_tom on October 31, 2008 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers is right, which is what makes McCain's comment particularly vile.

1) Rashid Khalidi is not a terrorist, an apologist for terrorism, a spokesperson for Yasser Arafat or any of the other vile things that Andy McCarthy, John McCain and the NRO have said about him.

2) Obama's ties to Rashid Khalidi are limited to working at the same university and attending the going away party when Khalidi got hired by a different university.

3) While McCain was Chairman of the International Republican Institute, it gave nearly half a million dollars to Khalidi's Center for Palestinian Studies.

4) The only reason the party that is the subject of number 2 above is public knowledge is that it was the subject of a news article by the LA Times. The Times based their article on a videotape supplied by someone that was at the party and specifically promised their source not to release the tape itself, but now the McCain campaign is accusing the Times of bias for not violating that agreement and releasing the tape.

Truly disgusting from start to finish.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 31, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Was Andrew McCarthy's father named Joe?

Posted by: molly bloom on October 31, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

If McCain is allowed to recant after this election then this type of shit will be allowed to continue. Not only should the McCain campaign be repudiated, but Mr. McCain should have earned himself a permanent place of exile. Unfortunately,his Senate colleagues seem capable of closing ranks around almost anything after an election is over.

Posted by: Scott F. on October 31, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

When is John up for re-election?

I'd be happy to donate to his opponent. Plus, the Arizona ground structure of the Obama camp could be pulled from moth balls to aid in McAce's defeat.

Dito for Palinaroundwithterrorists.

Posted by: Jim on October 31, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

"Colin Powell was big enough to denounce this kind of appeal to bigotry. Years ago, I would have imagined that McCain would do likewise."
---- ----

McCain's done a great job of selling himself as sincere and upright. As Hitchcock supposedly said, sincerity is the most important thing for an actor -- once you can fake that, you can do anything.

I'm actually surprised that Powell would repudiate the hate-mongering, not that McCain would tolerate it. It must finally have occurred to Powell that he will eventually die and be remembered, and for what?

It's a little late for polishing his reputation, I think, and what he's got to use for polish smells bad and doesn't polish well, but he must be hoping that it will polish well enough, and wash off later.

Posted by: on October 31, 2008 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

It is disturbing to me, as a Jew, that in right-wing circles support of Israel is equated with unquestioned suppoirt of her actions. There is no other US ally that we have such a twisted relationship.

Mccain and Palin have bought into the notion that whatever Israel does that is OK. Sorry, but there are plenty of Jews _even in Israel- who do not support the actions of the Israeli government. Does that mean they too, myself included, are anti-semitic???? NO.

We desperately need a healthy relationship with Israel and we will have one under Obama.
Under mccain we'd omly have more of the same- a simplistic view of a very complex situation.

Posted by: zoe in pittsburgh on October 31, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy wrote: "Colin Powell was big enough to denounce this kind of appeal to bigotry ... I imagine that in a few weeks, when [McCain] contemplates the shredded remains of his honor, he will too."

Not if the Republicans succeed in stealing the election with voter disenfranchisement, intimidation and fraud as they did the last two.

I'm not going to worry about McCain sulking over the "shredded remains of his honor" until I hear his concession speech ... and frankly after that I couldn't care less what becomes of him. He isn't going to be around much longer in any event.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 31, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be angry about it, just vote. Be sure your friends and neighbors vote. This is all that can be done.

Posted by: TBone on October 31, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I really don't see how anybody can sleep at night when they slander an AMERICAN CITIZEN so they can get perhaps a point in the polls. Absolutely disgusting conduct.

Posted by: jduffy on October 31, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

WA Po has an editorial on this today, not happy with McCain's attack:


Final paragraph: "We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days."

Idiot wind, indeed!

Posted by: Hannah on October 31, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Mccain and Palin have bought into the notion that whatever Israel does that is OK. Sorry, but there are plenty of Jews _even in Israel- who do not support the actions of the Israeli government. Does that mean they too, myself included, are anti-semitic???? NO no,you are just stupid

Posted by: on November 1, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK



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