I more than anyone else I've read have spoken out strongly against the Obama campaign's promulgation of "identity and mystique politics" -- that he by his unique upbringing and exposure to different cultures and the like would bring a radically different decision-making calculus to modern American statecraft.
I'm a wonk -- and I appreciate solid policy analysis and ideas. I think rather than resorting to mysticism that there is much in Obama's profile that shows an ability to requisition smart thinking and organize the building blocks of policy differently than has been done in the past. He showed this on Cuba to some degree. I wish he'd be more expansive. And there is some that I would like to criticize him for -- as I have on his health care plan.
But the smear campaign currently underway designed to spread the fear that Barack Obama will somehow be a portal for all things alien, al Qaeda-connected, Muslim related, anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Jewish is wrong. I fear that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg of what those who want to push "high-fear buttons" will try and do to slime Barack Obama.
If the Clinton campaign is behind this, it should stop -- and apologize. This kind of innuendo defiles what is good and great about America. . .or what is left of the good part. (Clinton camp denies involvement.)
But I think that the McCain camp as well as many of those not part of any of the campaigns but motivated by a neo-strand of American nativist bigotry will try and swift boat Obama's unique lineage, about which he should be proud.
It's a gross part of American politics, and I have a feeling that this bigotry will backfire on those purveying it.
But here's a question for the Ohio debates that should be posed to both candidates:
DO YOU HILLARY CLINTON -- AND BARACK OBAMA -- HAVE ANY PROBLEM AT ALL WITH A MUSLIM SERVING AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES?
That's what it boils down to -- so let's put it out there. I want a Muslim to be President of the U.S. to demystify the issue. I'd like to see a Jew as President -- and a Buddhist. Perhaps one day we can get some agnostics and atheists in office too.
When Barack Obama was asked about his religion in the past in debates -- he quickly got defensive and talked about his Christian views, faith, and upbringing. I think Barack Obama should be able to celebrate his Christian faith -- but I would have loved to have seen him embrace the ability of any American citizen of any faith aspire to the presidency.
And I think Hillary Clinton and John McCain should embrace the same. And if not -- if they can't see Muslims on the Supreme Court, in the Senate and the House, as Governors, as scholars, as firemen and county clerks, as whatever they can be in our free society -- then they are promulgating a racism that is Un-American.
Zalmay Khalilzad is a Muslim and is Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations -- and he's doing a darn good job in my view -- given the circumstances.
It's time that our candidates stop trying to surreptitiously slime each other -- and frankly -- they should all be compelled in public to either embrace all religions -- including those of Muslim belief and background -- or to spit on it so that all can see.
-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note