The issue Gov. Palin is bringing up is one of the most desperate moves on the part of the McCain campaign, over the past week or so. Her fabrication of a hateful narrative around this theme is another reason she is totally unfit for higher office, or possibly the one she now occupies.
The McCain campaign has been using Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, and the latter's friendship with Barack Obama, as another divisive issue. Lindsay Beyerstein wrote about aspects of this at majikthise yesterday:
McCain spokesman Micheal Goldfarb embarrassed himself on CNN while attempting to insinuate that Barack Obama's friend Prof. Rashid Khalidi is some kind of antisemitic terrorist.
Goldfarb was asked how McCain can attack Obama when McCain's organization funded Khalidi's NGO. Goldfarb claimed everybody knows about Obama's associations with antisemites, but when pressed, he couldn't think of anyone else to falsely accuse.
Khalidi is, in fact, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He's a eminent mainstream scholar, a beloved teacher, and the author of standard university textbooks on the Middle East.
Before I go any further, I just want to say that I agree with Rashid's friend and colleague Barnett Rubin who finds it "demeaning, insulting, and depresssing" to have to defend Khalidi against such transparently ridiculous charges.
Khalidi is an American citizen born and raised in New York City. He was educated at Yale and Oxford. Khalidi became friends with Barack Obama while the two men were teaching at the University of Chicago.
Scott Horton, a human rights lawyer who teaches law and journalism at Columbia, knows Khalidi personally. In a recent blog post, he defended his colleague from right wing attacks by the McCain campaign and its surrogates.
"Rashid Khalidi is an American academic of extraordinary ability and sharp insights," Horton wrote, "He is also deeply committed to stemming violence in the Middle East, promoting a culture that embraces human rights as a fundamental notion, and building democratic societies."
Under John McCain's leadership, the International Republican Institute gave several research grants to Khalidi's foundation, including one 1998 award worth nearly half a million dollars.
Khalidi is a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs in the mainstream media. He is regular guest on the Charlie Rose Show. He has also appeared on ABC News with Peter Jennings, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CBS News, and NPR. His book, Resurrecting Empire, got a good review in the New York Times from a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
John McCain even did a joint interview with Khalidi with Leslie Stahl of CBS in 1991.
Khalidi's critics claim that he was a spokesman Palestine Liberation Organization in the early eighties, a charge he denies. The main "evidence" to support this contention is a 1982 column by Thomas Friedman that describes Khalidi as a spokesman for a Palestinian press agency. Khalidi says Friedman made a mistake.
While he was a professor in Beirut in the early eighties Khalidi often spoke to the media about the P.L.O., but he was a scholar who studied the group, not an employee.
Here's McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb, who has been helping feed Palin this crap, on CNN this week:
Palin brought Khalidi up again this morning, at a rally in New Port Richey, Florida, where the crowd chanted, "John McCain, NOT Hussein, John McCain, not HUSSEIN!"
The McCain campaign, desperate in Florida, is having Palin try to scare Jewish voters about Obama, any way she is willing. So far, she's accommodated them fully, as have her weird crowds. Does Palin even know she is slandering a highly respected American intellectual? Again and again? In my book, this vilifying of Rashid Khalidi is one of the most disgusting things I've ever witnessed in presidential politics.
What Palin is doing by this is quite vile, bordering on willful evil. Palin, whose career as mayor of Wasilla began with false accusations that John Stein's name "sounds Jewish," will stir hatred any time anywhere, if it suits her whims.