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Obama's Farrakhan answer gives Clinton an opening

When you've debated as often as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have, it's hard to find fresh material to spar over. But -- who knew? -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan provided such fodder Tuesday night. And the result may have been some crucial points scored by Clinton in their face-off in Ohio.

Obama said he denounced and rejected support from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan

At the least, Obama appeared to dance around how far he should distance himself from the unsolicited backing he received over the weekend from Farrakhan until Clinton cornered him. At that point, he both denounced AND rejected that support.

Obama had been asked a straightforward question by moderator Tim Russert: Did he accept Farrakhan's support.

The following exchange occurred:

Obama: "You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think 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.

Russert: "Do you reject his support?"

Obama: "Well, Tim, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy."

True enough, but probably ...

not the answer most Jewish Americans wanted to hear. As a result, Obama risked creating the perception for some that he might be somewhat reluctant to completely throw overboard a controversial leader who is not without some stroke within the black community (witness the 1995 Million Man March).

Clinton clearly saw it that way, and sought to put Obama on the spot. She interjected that, during her initial Senate run in 2000, she was endorsed by a splinter party in New York that "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. ... And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting."

Obama responded: "I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting."

He needs to check a dictionary on that.

Then he decided to yield the point: "But if the word 'reject' Sen. Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce."

He could have saved himself some potential grief if he had been less circular arriving at that point.

-- Don Frederick

 
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Oxford American Writers Thesaurus, 1st Edition:

denounce

verb

1 the Pope denounced abortion
condemn, criticize, attack, censure, decry, revile, vilify, discredit, damn, REJECT; proscribe; malign, rail against, run down, slur; informal knock, slam, hit out at, lay into; formal castigate.

I agree with LX. Obama is careful with words. We "reject" things that are offered to us when we do not want them. We "denounce" people, actions, words that we find objectionable. What was Obama being offered? What was Russert asking him to reject?

-

So what's next on the slime agenda?

Barack is having sex with a black woman?

Hugo Chavez is providing the Obama family with free winter heating oil?

The only card left is the Joker.

~

As a Jewish American, I care deeply about this issue. I want to make two points.
1. Obama did not simply parse the word “reject” in his response to Russert; he also affirmed his support for Israel and gave numerous examples of his public rebukes of anti-semitism, but MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, he invoked historic Jewish-African American alliances, such as the civil rights struggle. This in my view is healthy and unifying political speech.
Clinton, by contrast, highlighted the question of whether Obama was anti-anti-Semitic enough. She implied in her story that she was stronger than Obama in opposing anti-Semitism. That was the extent of her response; it was entirely self-serving; not a smidgeon of public value in it.
2. I don’t think Clinton’s analogy was apt. Who has heard of the “Independence Party”? What resonance or influence could such an organization have had with any significant voting bloc in the state of New York, in the 2000 Senate race? I don’t think Clinton did anything so “courageous” in rejecting their support. On the other hand, Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have a very mixed and colorful, problematic and occasionally ambiguous symbolic role in African American life. It is a much less clearcut proposition for Obama to categorically denounce everything about Farrakhan and what he represents in this country. I despise the man myself, but I can’t deny the power of an event like the Million Man March. So I do think Obama is required to be a bit more careful vis-a-vis Farrakhan than Clinton had to be vis-a-vis the Independence Party of New York, whoever the heck they are.

The only grief Obama will receive is from reporters on this topic.

Move from it quickly! Farrakhan doesn't rate getting a headline.

Putting Obama's name in the same sentence is a slam.

He's now Obama's Farrakhan, problem.

Nice rant, Obama's answer didn't serve your purpose, he wasn't defending Jewish American's feelings? Are you serious? Jewish Americans shouldn't get Farrakhan a thought to ruin their day.

Obama doesn't have own any opinion about Farrakhan to reject. He's not responsible for that guy in any way.

I just read the whole transcript and that point in their conversation wasn't worth spending time on. They had more substantive topics in their discussion.



Don Frederick is clearly a Hillary supporter and also delusional. I watched the very same debate and saw a different view from what is posted in this article. Even the crowd applauded at Barack's response.

And to all those whom continue to belittle Barack by calling by the name "osama", you should be ashamed of yourselves. This is America and your actions are very Un-American.

This is an embarassing column. Perhaps you should check a dictionary. "Denouncing" someone's views is clearly stronger than mearly "rejecting" them, and there was no specific support offered by Farrakhan for Obama to reject. So he spoke with intelligence and proper English, Clinton replied with silly "gotcha!" politics, and look who you feel for.

Oh, please - he's a Harvard Grad. He KNOWS there is a difference between "DENOUNCE" and "REJECT"... He only changed his tune when he was called on it. Unfortunately, Obama is being given a free ride, that is until he gets the nomination, then the gloves will come off and the sh*# will hit the fan - then everyone will see they've purchased a ball of fluff. Hopefully people will realize this deception sooner than later and Clinton will win... otherwise the republicans may well pull it off again... and if you doubt that... who ever thought Bush would win a second term...

In a speech at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.served as pastor, Barack Obama talked about the existence of institutional racism, the sensationalizing of race "by the media" and the creeping of race as an issue into the presidential campaign.

But Obama's speech will likely be remembered for his calling on the black community to do its part to fight homophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
"the scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community," and "for too long, some of us have seen the immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity."

Merriam-Webster dictionary says:

Denounce = to pronounce especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil.

Reject = to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use.

There could be two reasons for not seeing a difference between the two words:
1. Lack of proficiency in English language. This, I doubt is the reason.
2. Obama probably didn't care much for Farakkan's support, and Obama might have been thinking of why he doesn't care about it. That is, Farakkan's anti-civilized behavior. So, denounciation was more important and came up first in the process.

But it is a shame that Clinton couldn't pronounce the name of the Russian president. If she is elected president... meeting between Hillary and Medvedev...

Hillary: Good Morning president Whatever. How are you?

You fill in the rest.

As a Jewish American, I resent the author's presumption that Obama's answer was "probably not the answer most Jewish Americans wanted to hear." This is nonsense. Obama's answer was sensible and appropriate. Clinton was splitting hairs to try to win points with a few organizational leaders, but it certainly didn't persuade me that there is a meaningful difference between them.

The bigger issue in my opinion is that if your pastor shares some of Farakahn's views and in fact honored him a year ago, is that a church or spiritual leader you would seek counsel from? Not saying that Obama is anti-Semitic but perhaps another example of exercising bad judgment.

It's interesting that I can't find anything on the internet indicating Obama's denouncement of Farrakhan before last month -- though the Trinity United Church of Christ, which awarded its lifetime achievement award to Farrakhan gave it to him last November.

It appears he didn't see a need to distance himself from Farrakhan until recently -- and still hasn't denounced his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- his black nationalist pastor, who is close to Farrakhan, and to whom Obama has much closer entanglements.

On this and many issues the Jr. Senator of Illinois is not held to the same standard of examination as is Senator Hillary Clinton. It is as if the moderators are afraid of going after him because he is the first African American running for President yet feel no such intimidation of going after the more Senior Senator from New York--though she is the first woman to ever run for President of the United States.

Since when is it anti-semitic to be anti-Israel? We need a lot more 'anti-semites' in America.

I think it's tme to reject the 'Obama' notion..
and his magic potion....

:) hill 08

If "reject" is a stronger word that "DENOUNCE", then I'll concede the point."

Hillary failed.

I find it amusing how the demo's are arguing over things such as this. It's amazing to me. It's entertaining to watch them drag up each others dirt. It would be more interesting if the repub's were doing it but members of their own team? It's more splintered than the repubs side.

Dictionary:

Reject = to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff.

Denounce = To condemn openly as being evil or reprehensible.

Now if Hillary Clinton gets endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan......and doesn't slam the endorsement......you can just about bet Barack Obama will be slapping her around in the press too.

Farrakhan is a straight up rascist. Obama needs to grow some between his legs and say so. The KKK are a bunch of rascists as well as Farrakhan. Farrakhans sheet is just another color with a different torch.

Guys,

I think it is indicative of by how far Obama won the debate that this is the exchange featured in criticism of Obama.

If Tim Russert in the question highlighted that the Obama campaign had already denounced the remark (as Obama mentioned) did everything they can to distance themselves from it than there would be no reason for this question.

What should Obama do, go on a 5 minute rant on how bad Farakhan is, the guy answered the question in the first few words. Should he instead of giving the most truthful AND strongest answer that he denounces the support, should he have opted for the one that is neither but the most politically correct saying "reject."

He answered the question appopriately, his job is not to spent the whole debate talking about what he doesn't like about Farakhan. You guys are basically saying if he gave the more popular, less honest, less strong answer of just using the incorrect word that would mean he would be more truthful of his feelings towards Farakhan and against anti-semitism?

The real question should be why this question was asked when Obama has denounced Farakhan's views publicaclly for 13 years now, has no association with him and rejecting the possibility Farkahan would be at any of his events or being parrt of his campaign, and renounced the endorsement? He should of just been asked his thoughts on it.

One last point. Please take a chance to look through those short interviews New York Times does with a dozen random voters in each of these states....please look at what % of the women that vote for Hillary stress their main reason as how important it is we have a women's president, seniors saying how important it is to have a women's president before they die and she is their last chance and the whole excitement of having a woman president. This movement existed before Hillary announced she would run publicaly or had any platform of idea or any opponents arise...and by the way Women make up close to 60% of Democratic voters....

Now the women that knowing nothing about her platform or opponents would vote for her because it is important to have a woman's president are not giving an "equal opportunity" to this opponent a black male that they would have to under equal opportunity laws at any company in america.

I don't think a single woman that is voting for Hillary because they feel they must be loyal to women, and create the unintended consequence of a black male opponent being overlooked are better than Farakhan feeling Obama is superior because of his race.

I am Jewish, but look at anti-semitism equal to discrimination of any group. I look at a woman that is biased against a male candidate the same as a white person that is biased against a black candidate, or biased against a Jewish person.

If the LA Times and those reading this are serious about improving race relations, religion relations, ending discrimination we can't support or publish pieces like this that are all about bickering and trying to pull straws here.

I as a strong Obama supporter feel Hillary's campaign is morally corrupt...I saw this first hand volunteering in Nevada and seeing all the violations Hillary's supporters had at caucus locations, and in Hillary's campaign. I saw this in her approach to Florida, Michigan, Superdelegates, lying saying she won (the most delegates) Super Tuesday when it was clear by then she didn't. I also thing Obama is an amazing candidate..Nonetheless when I get upset about Hillary's tactics I don't post on blogs that by doing some dirty politics towards Obama this shows she is racist towards black people by denying a black candidate an equal chance. I think this would be the same regardless of who she is running against.

Lets talk about real race issues in this country, not fabricate them. I think every single person in the audience at Cleveland State University was satisfied with Obama's response...maybe some people can be confused when it is quoted in print, broken up but to those that saw it they saw otherwise. By the laughter at Obama's response, they were laughing at the ridiculousness of the question Hillary asked him, and this isn't mentioned in the article.

And by Obama renouncing this immediately he didn't beat around the bush like Hillary's answers or worry that if he answered trutfully he would have now this enemy that is the #2 figure in black america, and leader of a major religion. He reounced it, explained his personal reason he didn't like Farakhan, that was it...it wouldn't have been appropriate to turn this into a 5 minute rant on Farakhan.

If you really think that his response alienates the jews (the group you seem concerned about here) ask the heads of major jewish groups if they were somehow upset he didn't say reject right away.

Do you guys realize if he just said "Yes, I reject this endorsement" this whole issue would go away and he would be taking less of a strong position than what he did by renouncing it, and explaining his reasoning why. What would you guys be writing then?

Look, Obama just did much better...to not seem biased your paper doesn't need to fabricate negative stories about Obama's performance to have an equal number as Hillarys.

"He needs to check a dictionary on that."

Or maybe Don Frederick needs to. In the context of Farrakhan's statement praising Obama, what's the difference between refusing to accept it or dissaproving of it (reject) and speaking out against it (denounce)? Answer: no significant difference. In fact, if anything, denouncing someone arguably goes further than merely not accepting them. If Mr. Frederick thinks otherwise, I'd appreciate a post from him explaining it to the rest of us.

an opening?? we all watched the debate..he denounced lewie..give me a break..how much israeli ass kissing does a canidate have to do in this race..to become president of the..UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

You say "witness the 1995 Million Man March" to show the importance of Farrakhan. The United States Park Police officially estimated the crowd size at 400,000, so if you are going to use it as a reference, call it what it was "The 400,000 Man March".

If Obama has indeed "rejected" anti-Semitic, anti-Israel types, and if he is not all talk and if he believes that his actions speak louder than words, one would assume that he will no longer be attending a church that "In December 2007, the Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) bestowed its highest social achievement award upon Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam." Right? Or is the difference between talk and action the same as the difference between "renouncing" and "rejecting"?

Well, I completely reject and denouce HRC. Her campaign has been one of the most if not the most tasteless displays of reputation-smearing tactics ever seen. My respect for Sen. Obama has quadrupled after tonight's debate. He demonstrated calmness and coolness under fire. Sen. Obama (hopefully soon to be president-elect Obama) has tirelessly campaigned under duress with courage, grace and restraint. He has demonstrated over and over again he is by far the more qualified candidate. It will be an honor to vote for him in the general election.

Bravo Steve! Indeed, Obama's last name *is* quite similar to the word Osama! Somebody needs to notify the American people pronto. Just imagine what other words his name might look like that brilliant minds like Steve's haven't even thought of yet! How insidious...

Mr. Frederick has got it all wrong. He needs to read the dictionary again:

http://miscablogger.blogspot.com/2008/02/denounce-v-reject.html

Sorry Steve..I suppose that would be Pat with the mind blowing insights...

Obama's personal minister is where he will run into trouble, I think. I don't have bigots as friends.

You guys obviously didn't get enough to talk about from this debate. This is really the best you can do? An argument of semantics? Let's hope we don't have to read various interpretations of this all day tomorrow.

I've been quite disturbed since I heard about Farrakan's endorsement on Sunday. It's strange that I only saw reference to it once, when CNN ran a very short clip about it. I've been wondering why there hasn't been more about it in the press.
I would have been a lot more comfortable had Obama given a more direct response right off the bat, during the first minute,. I hoped that he would be a lot harsher on "the Black Hitler." Beating around the bush was not the best way to denounce/ reject him.
I'm an Obama supporter, but I've been a Jew a lot longer.

No doubt about it, the Jeremiah Wright connection makes this newsworthy. Bush's evangelical meetings have shown Americans the influence religious figures can play in an administration. Barack, by his own admission, is close to Mr. Wright, who has shown great admiration for Farakhan. When you consider Nader's comments on MTP regarding Sen. Obama's "flip flop" on the Israel-Palestine conflict, it's not a stretch to in some capacity, rightly or wrongly, question his support of Israel.

Now all that being said, I'm just calling it like I see it and explaining the conclusion voters are likely to reach. What I hope comes of this is the realization by Americans that it is possible to criticize Israel without automatically being labeled as anti-semetic. Some of the most vocal critics of US/Israeli policy are Jews, but this hot button issue with very far reaching consequences in the ME is treated with kid gloves.

Excellent point to corner him Hilary. That's why I admire you. Obsma is obvisly tryng to gain votes. No matter how hateful peole is. We need you in the white house Hillary!

I think this shows what Obama really is? He is closer to such fanatics, and God forbid if he becomes President, we are going to dance to their tunes. These hate mongers have no place in our democracy. If Obama cannot differentiate between rejection and denunciation than he must go back to law school. I am scared even to think of him being our President.

I think that if you rejected every candidate who was endorsed by someone disagreeable, you'd have nobody left to vote for.

I think some people need to learn how to use a dictionary. In fact, denounce is a stronger statement than reject. Denounce means condemn something publicly as veil or evil.
http://www.answers.com/topic/denounce

While reject simply means that you simply do not accept an offer, not necessarily because it is veil or evil, but maybe just because you have no need for it.
http://www.answers.com/topic/reject

That was the point of the comment Obama made that he can't reject something since nothing was offered, but he will denounce Farrakhan's statements. It was a nice lesson in linguistics there from Obama, obviously completely lost on Clinton. And to think that her husband so eloquently argued about the meaning of "is"...

we will not find the map of " Islael" if "Hussien Obama" win...

I thought there were some legitimate things to call into question in Obama's performance -- but I thought he handled the Farrakhan issue well enough. Clinton seemed determined to play a somewhat childish appearing game of doubles and Obama finally relented. He seems to get somewhat exasperated with childishness. But he's going to have to get used to that as leader of the Free World.

Americans are not to bet rusted to elect officials for their government. LOOK AT GWB!!!! He ran on a platform of family and change. He was and still is completley inexperienced in foreign policy, look what he has done. So you want to put another inexperienced buffoon in office because Hillary seems to tough? Get real America, the decisions you make affect therest of the world too. Hillary should be President and Obama her running mate. She would have the experience, and he could be their to guide her to change..... common sense, which your people seem to lack.

This post is silly and indicative of the extreme childishness of contemporary US politics. People don't care about issues anymore... We prefer a dumbed-down back & forth about issues that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the major issues facing America today.

This post is silly and indicative of the extreme childishness of contemporary US politics. People don't care about issues anymore... We prefer a dumbed-down back & forth about issues that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the major issues facing America today.

Farrakhan has been a victim of white racism in his life. He has never advocated for anyone to do harm to whites and Jews. In fact, this country is anti-Jewish! After World War II, America rejected 500,000 European Jews (victims of the holocaust) because of anti-semitism. They would not let them in this country; consequently, the US and Great Britain set up the Balfour Agreement that stole Palestine (Israel) from the Palestinians. Furthermore, rich and influential White Americans are the true anti-semites when you consider how they stole the election from Gore/ Liebermann. Just think, they could not stand to have a Jew one heartbeat away from the presidency. In conclusion, white America and the media apparatus should shut their mouths when it comes to racism. Let us not forget the despicable plight of the Native Americans in this country. I believe these acts of outright murder and subjugation put whites in no moral position to condemn anyone.

And the LA Times will of course immediately "reject and denounce" Farrakhan and associates for any support through unsolicited purchasing of their newspapers. etc, etc.

What a load of drivel. Actively stirring up religious intolerance and hatred like this reveals desperation by Clinton (and this site). If Farrakhan is racist, why get down in that gutter with him?

Mr. Obama was confident, calm, clear, concise, and to the point! He certainly exemplified those traits we want in our President. On foreign relations, I think Mr. Obama won big time!! Talking about being against the Iraq War when he was running for U.S. Senator and how he made the right call; then when asked about "bombing" Pakistan; he reminded us all that he had stated that if Bin Laden and terrorists were hiding in Pakistan, he would take action with or without the Pakistan leaders OK. (My words, but same thing). He had gotten a lot of criticism for making that statement, especially from Hillary. He also reminded us that Mr. Bush had done just that and had gotten the #3 Alquida by using a drone. I thought his reply was absolutely priceless. Hillary seemed to be surprised!!

Hillary tends to "hog" debate time. She never answers the questions directly, she runs around in circles and talking about how she'll "fight" everything and everybody and goes off in tangents. Somebody, quick, please get her some boxing gloves and a helmet!!

Just looked at a poll, in which you can vote, on Newsday, Subject: "Who Will Win the Democrat Nomination:

Mr. Obama: 21,572 responses for a 68.5% vote!!

Hillary: 9,891 responses for a 31.5% vote

TOTAL VOTES: 31,463

Why not ask AIPAC what they think of Obama?

"Almost unanimously, American Jewish leaders say Obama's voting record and public pronouncements paint him squarely as an Israel supporter. "Senators Clinton, Obama, McCain and Governor Huckabee have demonstrated their support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship," AIPAC president Howard Friedman wrote to Newsweek. (AIPAC says all three senators have strong congressional voting records on issues important to the U.S.-Israel relationship.) "

Dear LA Times! I love your fair commentary on the debate. You are quickly becoming a more trusted source of news for me than the NYT. Thank you for respecting Hillary, believing in her, and not mindlessly becoming an Obama follower.

Mr. Obama was confident, calm, clear, concise, and to the point! He certainly exemplified those traits we want in our President. On foreign relations, I think Mr. Obama won big time!! Talking about being against the Iraq War when he was running for U.S. Senator and how he made the right call; then when asked about "bombing" Pakistan; he reminded us all that he had stated that if Bin Laden and terrorists were hiding in Pakistan, he would take action with or without the Pakistan leaders OK. (My words, but same thing). He had gotten a lot of criticism for making that statement, especially from Hillary. He also reminded us that Mr. Bush had done just that and had gotten the #3 Alquida by using a drone. I thought his reply was absolutely priceless. Hillary seemed to be surprised!!

Hillary tends to "hog" debate time. She never answers the questions directly, she runs around in circles and talking about how she'll "fight" everything and everybody and goes off in tangents. Somebody, quick, please get her some boxing gloves and a helmet!!

Just looked at a poll, in which you can vote, on Newsday, Subject: "Who Will Win the Democrat Nomination:

Mr. Obama: 21,572 responses for a 68.5% vote!!

Hillary: 9,891 responses for a 31.5% vote

TOTAL VOTES: 31,463

Does anyone really care about this garbage? I bet Clinton, McCain and Obama have supporters who are registered sex offenders, rapists, drug dealers, etc. Should they make a point of saying that they don't want such support?

Much more importantly this country has much bigger issues to deal with than the New York Times endorsing McCain or Ferricon endorsing Obama. Perhaps it would be inappropriate to take their money, though in both cases none was offered, but to go out of their way to say they reject the support, that's just stupid.

Why does the news media want so badly to create controversy where none really exists? Let's see why would the news media want to create... a contoversy... where none exists.....

And Hillary kissed Suha Arafat, also a Jew hater.

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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