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December 20, 2006
His Record Is Enough

Barack Obama has had a dramatic effect on the blogosphere since dropping his fat hint that he might run for president in 2008. I've written about Obama on more than a few occasions, since I think Obama will be with us for the long run, especially given the political balance in Illinois and his potent speaking skills. The port side of the blogosphere has mostly swooned over his steadfast support for the liberal party line, while the starboard side has started to look unhinged over his potential candidacy in 2008.

The latest round started with Debbie Schlussel, who insists that Obama is a closet Muslim:

I decided to look further into Obama's background. His full name--as by now you have probably heard--is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Hussein is a Muslim name, which comes from the name of Ali's son--Hussein Ibn Ali. And Obama is named after his late Kenyan father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., apparently a Muslim.

And while Obama may not identify as a Muslim, that's not how the Arab and Muslim Streets see it. In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he's a Christian, but they do not. ...

Obama went to a Muslim school for two years in Indonesia. His mother, Anna, married an Indonesian man (likely another Muslim, as Indonesia is Muslim-dominated and has the largest Islamic population in the world). And Obama has a "born-again" affinity for the nation of his Muslim father, Kenya, and his Kenyan sister.

I like Debbie and think she contributes an important voice to the blogosphere, but this is not serious thinking. First, it makes little difference to me who the "Arab and Muslim streets" considers Muslim. The Arab street also thinks that the Holocaust never occurred but that it sounds like a nifty idea. In reading the Qur'an, we get the opinion that Jesus was Muslim, and certainly Muslims today will argue that point; does that make it so? People decide their own religion and are responsible to God for that personal choice. "Muslim streets" do not get to determine the faith of free men. The very statement that Obama "may think he's a Christian" in a sense that minimizes his own choice of faith is, well, unhinged.

Baldilocks takes Debbie to task for this:

Like me, Senator Obama wasn’t even raised by his biological father* and, though he had an Indonesian step-father who was probably a Muslim, he says that he is a Christian. And, like me, Obama has been long interested in knowing more about his heritage--probably since, like me, Obama was born and raised here in our beloved USA with a zero amount of it, outside of our middle and surnames. And, unlike most black Americans, the senator and I are blessed enough to know at least some part of our African heritage--something that is very prized among the mostly slave-descended black American population.

But Debbie Schussel determines such interest as something else. Well, guess what. I was raised as a Muslim also. My mother and (black American) step-father subscribed to the creed of the Nation of Islam back in the day. And like Obama, I went to a Muslim school—for longer than he did. I even have a high school diploma from Clara Muhammad Elementary and Secondary School, obtained when I was fifteen, since the school didn’t take summer breaks.

But things change. Both my mom and my step-dad are now Bible-believing Christians, as am I. Dad is now even a Methodist pastor. However, I wonder whether our conversions will be questioned as Senator Obama’s is being even now by Schlussel, who calls the senator’s middle name “a Muslim name.” Well, no. It’s an Arabic name. And there are many Arabic Christians who, obviously, have Arabic names.

Baldilocks warns conservatives that these kinds of attacks will backfire, and I agree. They will do much more damage to us than Obama simply because they are completely unreasonable. They attack Obama not for what he says or does, but for aspects of his life over which he had no control.

Besides being self-defeating, these arguments detract from the Senator's record, which gives ample basis for criticism. For one thing, Obama has almost none at the federal level, save for the federal spending database that he co-sponsored with Tom Coburn. His record in the Illinois legislature has more substance, but is chock-full of the kind of liberal orthodoxy that puts him closer to Russ Feingold than Hillary Clinton. The Right hasn't even bothered to scratch the surface of that record, a more worthy effort than trying to include Obama's last name in every reference.

Better yet, try reading his The Audacity of Hope, which I received earlier this week on audio CD. I've slogged my way through 40% of the tome, and so far, I'm unimpressed. Obama seems like a nice enough fellow, and fairly genuine, which puts him above average in Washington DC. However, his liberal tropes are so shopworn and so insubstantial as to almost fly out the window of my car as I drive along the highway to and from work. His point appears to mostly be that both sides are (almost) equally guilty of rancid partisanship and that Americans should come together for solutions, and that bipartisanship should take the form of agreeing to the Democratic platform because it's nicer than the Republican. And for all his speaking prowess, which is considerable, his pleasant voice comes across in this reading as oddly clipped, somewhat irritable, and lecturesome.

Perhaps it gets better as it goes along. I'll let you know.

Conservatives looking to head off the Obama Express should start here and work their way back through his public life. There will be plenty of policy points to mine in the debate, believe me. Obama is the kind of doctrinaire liberal that will find less appeal as people get to know him better -- but that will not happen while some of us focus on the ethnicity and religion of his father. That path will only insulate him against proper political criticism and will almost guarantee his election to the Presidency at some point in time.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 20, 2006 5:20 AM

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