I’m gonna be as fair about this as I can. This Khalidi thing has been around for a while. This isn’t new: this is the McCain camp’s attempt at some sort of last minute surprise to sway the election. Who can blame them? If I were running their campaign, I’d be looking for something, too. Unfortunately for them, this just isn’t it.
Background: the LA Times is in possession of a videotape of a 2003 farewell dinner for then U of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi. They were given this video by a confidential source on the condition that they not release it to the public. Pay attention: this is why they haven’t released it: it was the condition of their receiving it and they want to protect and continue a relationship with their source, as well as protect their honor. Got it? Moving on …. In April, the Times published an article describing the events on the tape.
Though this issue was addressed when the article was first published, it has lain dormant, except in radical right wing circles, since then. At this critical point in the election, however, the McCain camp is attempting to revive it. While it is true that they may get some traction from the fact that the Obamas and the Khalidis were close friends in Chicago and Obama did emphasize that Khalidi helped him understand a different viewpoint on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, McCain cannot win the argument if he is trying to paint Khalidi as a terrorist or trying to paint Obama as pro-Palestinian.
First, Khalidi is currently a well-respected professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and has always been seen as a moderate on the Palestinian issue. He has decried suicide bombings, for instance. Second, if McCain is seriously concerned about Khalidi’s associations and philosophy, he should have been more careful in giving him money. From the Chicago Tribune:
McCain also has connections to Khalidi.
During the 1990s, while McCain served as chairman of the International Republican Institute, the group distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including a $448,873 grant in 1998 to his Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank.
And, since 1993, when McCain joined IRI as chairman, the group funded several studies run by Khalidi’s group in the Palestinian territories, including more than 30 public opinion polls. Khalidi helped found the center, “an independent academic research and policy analysis institution.”
It’s difficult to paint someone as a terrorist when you, yourself, have financially supported his work.
Finally, it’s nigh impossible to paint Obama as pro-Palestinian. He has been so staunchly pro-Israel that even Fox news recognizes it:
Here’s a little more, from the LA Times article back in April:
Even as he won support in Chicago’s Palestinian community, Obama tried to forge ties with advocates for Israel.
In 2000, he submitted a policy paper to CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, that among other things supported a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a position far out of step from that of his Palestinian friends. The PAC concluded that Obama’s position paper “suggests he is strongly pro-Israel on all of the major issues.”
In 2002, as a rash of suicide bombings struck Israel, Obama sought out a Jewish colleague in the state Senate and asked whether he could sign onto a measure calling on Palestinian leaders to denounce violence. “He came to me and said, ‘I want to have my name next to yours,’ ” said his former state Senate colleague Ira Silverstein, an observant Jew.
As a presidential candidate, Obama has won support from such prominent Chicago Jewish leaders as Penny Pritzker, a member of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, and who is now his campaign finance chair, and from Lee Rosenberg, a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Attempts to paint Obama as anything but pro-Israel should fail miserably.
This Khalidi thing is, clearly, distraction. We are five days away from the election and the McCain camp is grasping for anything, as a losing campaing normally does. I’ll be surprised, shocked even, if they get any traction out of this one.