During last night's debate, Tim Russert asked Barack Obama a series of questions regarding Louis Farrakhan, president of Nation of Islam.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in a campaign is that you have to react to unexpected developments.
On Sunday, the headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune: "Louis Farrakhan Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago." Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?
SEN. OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear... [remainder of non-answer omitted]
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... [remainder of non-answer omitted]
MR. RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."
OBAMA: Tim, I think — I am very familiar with his record, as are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it... [remainder of non-answer omitted]
RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church [which Obama attends]. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."
He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."
What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?
As one might expect, thoughtful questions such as these provoked outrage on the left.
TPM, the mysteriously named Liberal Values, the more appropriately named Comments from Left Field, the DailyKos, the aptly named Crooks and Liars, the non-sequiterish FireDogLake, and the catchily named NewsHoggers represent some of the left's responses to questioner Russert's --er-- questions.
Andrew Sullivan's response is worth noting:
Does Obama understand that saying he has consistently denounced him is not the same as simply saying, "I denounce him"? A weak response - reminiscent of Dukakis. (By the way, why is it somehow only a question for Jewish Americans that Farrakhan is a fascist hate-monger? It's a question for all Americans.) Obama's Farrakhan response suggests to me he is reluctant to attack a black demagogue. Maybe he wants to avoid a racial melee. But he has one. He needs to get real on this. Weak, weak, weak.
Clinton sees an opening and pounces. She wins this round. He is forced to adjust. His worst moment in any debate since this campaign started. I'm astounded he couldn't be more forceful. His inability to say by himself, unprompted, that Farrakhan's support repels him and he rejects it outright really unsettles me.
I have not believed that Obama has an ounce of sympathy for a creep like Farrakhan. But Obama has now made me doubt this. If David Duke called John McCain a good man, would McCain hesitate to say he'd rather Duke opposed him? If this is how Obama wants to tackle this emotive issue, he needs to get real...
Barack Dukakis... I like that!
Hat tips: Don Surber and Larwyn