Media

Declarations of Doom

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Here's the story: Insight, the Washington Times offshoot that everyone assumed had been mothballed years ago, published an article speculating whether the young Barack Hussein Obama had been educated in a madrassa. The sources consisted of unnamed members of "Hillary's team." Unsurprisingly, this was enough to blow up the rumor mill online; slightly more surprisingly, it became a white-hot topic on Fox News. Howard Kurtz tells it:

On Friday afternoon, John Gibson, host of Fox's "The Big Story," began a segment this way: "Hillary Clinton reported to be already digging up the dirt on Barack Obama. The New York senator has reportedly outed Obama's madrassah past. That's right, the Clinton team reported to have pulled out all the stops to reveal something Obama would rather you didn't know—that he was educated in a Muslim madrassah."

Reportedly?

The "is Clinton behind it?!?!" angle is predictable and more than a little dull; the more interesting bit is that this is the third fact about Obama that he disclosed before it became a scandal. In his 1995 autobiography (reissued in 2004) and his 2006 political memoir, Obama talked about attending a Muslim school. A couple weeks ago, Fox hosts went after Obama's drug use, which he wrote about in the 1995. Their rationale for dredging it up was that "something like only 20,000 copies exist, but somebody at the Washington Post found a copy, read it." Which isn't true; the 2004 reissue sold like hotcakes stuffed with crack. Around the same time, journalists were "revealing" that Obama smoked. But he's disclosed that, too (although he avoids getting photographed doing it).

This is really pretty stupid. It's growing increasingly difficult to keep secrets, and as a result most smart political actors disclose whatever they're doing and whatever they've done. In response, their enemies… claim they never disclosed it. Take the example of Daily Kos, who disclosed that he was working for Howard Dean, and then a year later was attacked for not disclosing it "enough." Take Jacob Sullum and Ronald Bailey, who are regularly accused of not disclosing their conflicts of interest or corporate ties, even though they've done so. (I think Ron did it twice while I was writing this post.) More and more of what political figures say is public, and that hasn't protected them from scandal; the scandal-mongers only have to remind people of the scandal, and some journalists will be lazy enough to think this is a new hot story.

NEXT: Remember Lieberman/Gephardt? Man, What A Fiasco for the Democrats!

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  1. Shouldn’t you disclose that you are really a Democratic shill, David?

  2. Isn’t the real problem that we spend our time worrying about form and not substance? I don’t care when he disclosed it, I want to know if it is true and if it is true just what the hell did learn there and how did he effect him. If Obama is wahabi Islam’s Manchurian Candidate, which I doubt, I would kind of like to know that and the fact that he admitted it early doesn’t seem to make much difference.

    As far as the drugs, I think if you are against the drug war, the last thing you want in the Whitehouse is a reformed drug addict. Sort of like Nixon to China, the only President who will ever be able to do anything about the drug war will have to have impeccable law and order credentials. Someone with significant past drug use is most likely going to try to be more Catholic than the pope and show the electorate that his drug days are behind him by passing harsher laws against drug use.

  3. Actually, pace Weigel, the Obama campaign is denying the substance of the report. That is, while they admit readily that he attended a largely Muslim school, they are denying (a) the it was a “madrassah” and (b) that Obama was raised a Muslim – the two key points in the Insight article.

  4. If I was Obama, here is how I would play it:

    “My time spent in Maddrassa, has given me the ability to ‘get-into-the-mind’ of the Terrorists, and will make me an effective leader in the war to destroy them”.

    While I can’t say I particularly like Obama, I would take an Obama over a Hillary Clinton any day.

  5. “If Obama is wahabi Islam’s Manchurian Candidate…”

    we shouldn’t ever have to worry about getting enough cheap oil.

  6. Wanna know what really sucks? That we’re talking about this shit two years before the goddam election.

  7. Wanna know what really sucks? That we’re talking about this shit two years before the goddam election.

    I’m here to announce my candidacy for the 2032 election. I’m running on a platform of change. You can learn more about it by linking your neurochip to my virtual world.

  8. “[A proposed new law] could have been read to require political activists and bloggers to register and file reports as lobbyists. Read my post from yesterday to see my puzzlement giving way to vague understanding, which no doubt eventually would have become outrage had the threat not already been averted.”

  9. two years before the goddam election

    That’s ok. By 2008 we’ll be well into the 2012 discussion.

  10. Upon seeing David Wiegel’s name, I was fully expecting another bejewelled diatribe exposing yet another engrossing and hideous array of the utter repugnant moral evil that the pig Bush represents. And yet, here I am to find that David Wiegel also defends the glorious revolutionary Kos! What an enormous and magnificent surprise! I’m so pleased that I think I might convert to Islam to assuage my white guilt and fully prostrate myself to multiculturalism.

  11. Mr Weigel’s posts are much like a Rorschach test. He writes mostly about politics, so he usually is writing about Dems or Repubs. All the closet Repubs are certain that whenever he writes anything negative about a Repub that he is boosting the Dems. They also seem to believe that any time that he mentions Dems, he is shilling for them.
    Crazy, ain’t it?

  12. They also seem to believe that any time that he mentions Dems, he is shilling for them.
    Crazy, ain’t it?

    Well, a lot of the “closet Republicans” don’t seem to believe there is such a thing as shilling when favorable characters are accused of same. That is why it seems so crazy when they accuse opponents of same. it is even crazier when they make the accusation on flimsy grounds, and the grounds in Weigel’s case simply aren’t that compelling as of yet.

    At least the “closet Democrats” at HnR seem to understand that there is such a thing as shilling and that a critical reader needs to make allowances for that kind of possible bias from time to time.

  13. Mr Weigel’s posts are much like a Rorschach test.

    Sarcasm off.

    I completely disagree. David Wiegel’s posts are typically red meat for sanctimonious, Bush-hating “progressives”.

    (This is where highly-nuanced individuals will assume the worst of me — namely, that I am a Bush-worshipping Republican — because I insufficiently hate the pig Bush.)

  14. Loundry,

    I disagree with you that Weigel is the voice of Bush-hating progressives, but I do love your response.
    (Also sarcasm free.)

  15. I disagree with you that Weigel is the voice of Bush-hating progressives

    Thank you for actually being kind. Usually I get raked over the coals here on H&R by highly-nuanced individuals if I express any sort of distaste or boredom with the never-ending chorus of Bush-hate,of which I think Davil Wiegel is a member (but not the captain) of the cheerleading squad.

    That said, why do you have your opinion of David? From what I see, 4 out of 5 of his articles deal with how stupid, evil, and incompetant Republicans, Conservatives, and Bush are. His defense of the vicious self-hating American and fully unrepentant multiculturalist “progressive” Kos is also intolerable. I don’t see Wiegel as necessarily shilling for Democrats, but rather partaking in the abuse, viciousness, and cowardice that defines the “progressive” movement.

    But, then again, perhaps my opinion of Wiegel colored by my intense disdain for those cowardly, weak, and compliant human-vagina hybrids who can do nothing but bitch about how much they hate Bush. I am human, after all. What colors your opinion of Wiegel?

  16. I think of Weigel as a political writer synthesis of a sportswriter and gossip columnist.
    It’s more fun to bash the favorites (Repubs) than it is to knock the underdogs (Dems). I don’t take his writing too seriously most of the time.
    I also think that people often criticize most those that they have higher expectations for.
    That said, I am sure he is on the side of those who believe Bush has made a lot of tragic mistakes. I agree. I think a lot of Americans left, right, and center agree.

  17. I have said more nasty things than anyone about Weigel, but I don’t see how this post was shilling for the Dems. I really don’t. If it is a Rorshac test, I sure failed it.

  18. Referring to criticism of the president as a pathological compulsion in soooooooooo 2002.

    ‘vicious self-hating American and fully unrepentant multiculturalist “progressive” Kos’

    Unrepentant? Oh my goodness!

  19. And yet, here I am to find that David Wiegel also defends the glorious revolutionary Kos!

    So. Was he wrong? What’s your problem with it?

  20. Here we go!

  21. Actually, saying one was educated in a Muslim school is not, I think, the same as saying that it was a Madrassah. I think Madrassahs are very specific Muslim schools that follow Wahhabi teachings and are fairly closely connected with Muslim terrorism. Also, the Insight articles says that Obama was raised a Muslim and still maintains a lot of ties to the Muslim community.

    That being said, neither of these facts is really troubling in and of themselves, but I disagree with the assertion that the statement in Obama’s biography is full disclosure if the allegation is true. If the allegation is true, Obama’s “disclosure” is a lot more like spin.

  22. Isn’t ‘madrassah’ just muslim for parochial school?

  23. “Isn’t ‘madrassah’ just muslim for parochial school?”

    I think so. The question is what kind of school did he go to. Not all madrassah are created the same anymore than every Hebrew school is alike.

  24. Weigel pretty much summed up his leanings on his first post this morning. Anyone who would remotely consider that the next president might disband the matching funds requirements, just because they didn’t use them, is obviously too stupid to be anything but a Democrat.

  25. I think so. The question is what kind of school did he go to. Not all madrassah are created the same anymore than every Hebrew school is alike.

    Right. I think Madrasah is just Arabic for school, but in American, it means “Muslim religious school where they teach kids to be terrorists.” I’d imagine that folks on the “give Obama the benefit of the doubt” side will refer to it as a Muslim school, while your John Gibson types will refer to it as a Madrasah, with all of the evil sound effects and connotations that go with it.

  26. …David Wiegel’s posts are typically red meat for sanctimonious, Bush-hating “progressives”.

    According to the latest polls that would mean about 66% of Americans. Why even John Warner is now a sanctimonious Bush-hater. Who cracks first, Laura or Barney?

    Dr. Krauthammer needs to find a cure. Bush Derangement Syndrome is a pandemic and is rapidly spreading into the Republican Party. Even the good doctor has been feeling faint lately.

  27. Good to know. I should have checked the definition of Madrassah rather than accept what I hear in the media.

    In any event, there is no evidence that Obama is anything other than a garden-variety democrat in American politics. Where he went to school before puberty is seemingly of zero importance in determining whether he could be President.

  28. Two comments, one on the article, one on some responses.
    First, this is classicly how the right wing works. One nutso hack publication (Insight) publishes a bullcrap story obviously intended to hurt political opponents. Then the other nut job hack papers cite this first source (in this case the NY Post and Fox News). Classic. Is there a left leaning bias in media? I think so, but I honestly think most trained journalists, who lean left, think of themselves and try to be striving towards objectivity. Right wing publications are consciously political with no professional responsibility whatsoever. Dan Rather has let his left leaning hurt his journalistic integrity, but he simply cannot be compared to Tony Snow who is now slightly more obviously a GOP shill.
    Second it is hilarious to see rightwingers here on H&R froth when Weigel indicts obvious GOP shills. And then they call Dave a shill! Classic! Highnumber, ya slay me….

  29. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

  30. CNN Reports. Decide for yourself.

  31. I want to know if it is true and if it is true just what the hell did learn there and how did he effect him.

    I’d like to know the same about the poster of the quote above. Surely, the school that taught him to write and spell as poorly as he does must have had other – probably dangerous to the republic – effects on him.

    Full disclosure. I spent one year at a midrasha.

  32. Well, Mr. Weigel, the answer seems clear. Why don’t you just stop writing about this sort of crap under the aegis of journalistic watchdoggery. Posts like this are kindling for the fire that clearly consumed you when you were writing it, or do you honestly believe differently?

  33. I’d be interested to know how he was treated in Indonesia in the 70s. While travelling there with my dark-skinned wife in the 80s(with me playing light-skinned hubby), the racism was unbelievable. We were pretty much followed everywhere by hecklers!! They didn’t seem violent though, it was sort of a teasing thing… “hey black-black” in a kind of ‘teasy’ voice is a particular phrase I remember… always behind your back and then looking funny at you when you turned around… anyway, reading this thread reminded me of it and I wondered if BO has such memories of a racist Indonesia…

  34. highnumber,

    I’m coming around to Mr. Weigel’s style. Personally, I don’t think it’s proper for a libertarian website to have a writer blatantly campaigning for one party (that’s to be read as “Republicans OR Democrats), but the election is over, and done is done.

    I’m hoping that Mr. Weigel can uncover one of these so-called “libertarian Democrats” though, because I’d be right in front of the crowd rooting for them like I root for guys like Ron Paul and Jeff Flake.

  35. David, your decision to report on a story that was widely reported in the conservative press is plain evidence of your liberal bias.

    Didn’t the fact that they tried to pawn the story off on the Clinton campaign show you they were embarrassed about it?

    The accurate reporting for facts that reflect badly on Republicans is only one of the tricks used by coastal media elites like yourself to help the Democrats.

    Also, you are a racist, and probably an anti-Semite.

  36. Isn’t ‘madrassah’ just muslim for parochial school?

    Not really. Madrassah is Arabic for school. So, in Arabic-speaking countries, madrassah refers to schools, any school not just relegious ones. In non-Arabic-speaking Muslim countries, madrassah typically refers to schools that teach islamic studies and the Arabic language.

  37. As mentioned above, the word “madrassah” is simply Arabic for “school”. Also, “modariss” means teacher. Heck, I teach economics in an engineering school, and I’m sometimes referred to as “modarris” whenever I’m not called “Doctor” or “Professor”. That hardly means that I’m over here instructing in Jiahdism.

    Every school, no matter how secular or how religious, in any Arab country, is called a madrassah.

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