Obama Blows his 'Sister Souljah' Moment

It's about moral courage and the conciliatory reflex he has to extend grace to people who haven't earned and don't deserve it. People like Louis Farrakhan.
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Clinton fights for children and families.

She fights for women's rights around the world.

She fights for health care. She fights for veterans' health care too.

After a year in the primary season, Hillary Clinton has found her theme: I'm a fighter.

It does not go unnoticed that she's fighting to win this nomination even as people want to push her out of this race.

The first part of the debate it was obvious that it was three on one. Clinton didn't flinch at first, but finally let it rip.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. I -- you know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious, and if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow. (Laughter, boos.) I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it. (transcript)

It was clear she was furious. The flash from her eyes was obvious, but it was organic so the rest of the debate washed over it, as everything settled back down.

Clinton also finally cornered Obama about the NATO sub-committee on which he has yet to convene a hearing. He admitted that was the case, that since January 2007 he hasn't. But his answer was basically that he was too busy. Unfortunately, there was no follow up to ask: why? Afghanistan is going to hell and Obama's too busy to get involved in his own sub-committee. This just doesn't pass the test. There is no excuse considering what's happening in Afghanistan. It was a prime opportunity for Obama to lead, which he failed. Clinton nailed him on it.

Time and again Clinton fought back to make an additional point on subjects that are important to her, fighting her way through Obama's continual word blizzards.

Russert then threw out a question on Russia, which he later said on MSNBC was a "jump ball," which even the wingnuts knew was a gotcha.

Gotcha BS [Andy McCarthy]

Good for Hil getting the name of the new president of Russia right (more or less). Catty of Russert to ask. She got the essential part of the question right -- he's Putin's marionette. Did she really need to know the guy's name off the top of her head to convince us she understood what's happening in Russia?

Dmitry Medvedev, for those of you who care.

On the next issue, I'm playing the contrarian.

Because it was on Louis Farrakhan that the debate shifted and you really saw the differences in these candidates. As much as it's popular to beat up on Bill Clinton these days, at least he knew a moment when a marker is laid down. Last night, Barack Obama missed his Sister Souljah moment by a mile.

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Tim, you know, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy. (Laughter.) You know, I -- you know, I -- I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements, and I think that indicates to the American people what my stance is on those comments.

Word blizzard again. It's really simple. You don't go near anyone like Louis Farrakhan. The question on Rev. Wright deserved the same. Larry Diamond can explain for those of you who don't get it.

Clinton then took Obama to school.

CLINTON: I just want to add something here, because I faced a similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence Patty, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti- Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that. But I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people in our country.

And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know, fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on principle?

CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching.

OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. 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.

CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.

As a Scots-Irish broad, I saw Obama's tepid response to Farrakhan, and was appalled. Emails from Jewish friends confirmed that I wasn't alone. That Obama had to be led to this reality is proof of his ruffle no feathers at any cost mentality. It has nothing to do with him believing in our "special relationship" with Israel, or insinuating anything remotely anti-semitic. It's about moral courage and the conciliatory reflex he has to extend grace to people who haven't earned and don't deserve it. People like Louis Farrakhan.

So the winner in political terms was Clinton, because she found her theme and it fits.

Obama was a push, because he remained cool throughout. For me that's a draw back. I like my politicians with passion, but pontificating on an air filled hill suits some. But conceding the point on Farrakhan was important and showed a bit more of the man, which is good, even though he had to be led to it.

Take away of the night: Clinton, the fighter. That's for sure.

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