I know that the traditional press is experiencing budget cuts and staff shortages, but there’s never a good reason to use Debbie Schlussel, the low-rent Ann Coulter, as a source. However, Peter Wallsten of the LA Times did just that yesterday in a smear of Barack Obama. Schlussel is someone who blamed Pakistanis for the Virginia Tech massacre. She’s a fearmonger of the rankest kind who is so unhappy about her position in the sewers of the pro-hate insaneosphere that she routinely emails cable news outlets daily reminding them of her availability. She should not be within 100 yards of anything that makes its way into respectable newsprint. And yet she was a source for this terrible Wallsten article.
The evidence Wallsten presents is scant and hardly alarming: Obama said nice things about Rashid Khalidi at a going away party for the respected Palestinian scholar, who moved from the University of Chicago to the Columbia University; he attended a speech by the late Palestinian expert Edward Said in 1998; he occasionally made statements supportive of Palestinians to Palestinian activists he knew in Chicago.
Yet the implicit tone of Wallsten’s article suggests that Obama is not to be trusted on matters relating to Israel. Left aside is the fact that one can be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel (at least in Chicago). Or the fact that the majority of Israelis support a two-state solution to the conflict, the same position held by Obama. MJ Rosenberg brilliantly parodied the gist of the Times’ article in a blog post at Talking Points Memo today: “LA Times Today: Obama Not To Be Trusted, Doesn’t Hate Arabs!!”
I used to work for Sen. Carl Levin, a Jew and a strong supporter of Israel, who is a close friend of the Arab community (in part, because he represents more Arab Americans than any other senator). I’ve seen Carl at Palestinian dinners (last year I saw him at one with Condi Rice). In fact, Joe Lieberman, not exactly an enemy of the State of Israel, has always gone out of his way to keep an open door to Arab-Americans, Palestinians and others.
In other words, this article is utterly bogus. Yes, Obama has empathy for Palestinians, just as he has empathy for Israelis. The man is naturally empathetic which will help repair some of the damage inflicted to our country’s image by the current xenophobic administration.
If Arab-Americans and Palestinians trust Obama and think he plays fair, he will have considerably more leverage with them than either of the other two candidates who are not perceived that way. As Congressmen Bob Wexler and Steve Rothman, both Obama supporters, like to say, an American President who can speak to and be heard by Arabs can do a much better job in helping Israel and the Palestinians achieve peace and security than a President who is considered utterly unsympathetic to their concerns.
This is something to pay attention to and not dismiss, because the “Obama is an anti-Semite” rhetoric has been amped up as we approach the general election. It’s foul nonsense, and Peter Wallsten, along with the LA Times’ editorial staff, ought to know better. Of course, they believe people off the street who tell them that P. Diddy killed Tupac, so I guess this isn’t all that surprising or unbefitting of their editorial standards.