A reader writes:
I trust your judgment in these things but I have to so completely disagree with you on the Farrakhan thing. I am pretty sensitive to this issue - not Marty Peretz sensitive but pretty much. I lived in Israel, have lived in the South here in the US so I have a sense of how these things are thought of and read. I thought Obama did very well. To my ears Hillary sounded shrill (and I like her!) and opportunistic. He was effective, spoke to the common effort of Jews and blacks etc. Yes Farrakhan is despicable but this is as much as I would want from him. He has been GREAT at keeping these types away.
And you think this was his wost moment. I humbly disagree.
Obama both rejected and denounced Farrakhan. If you'd like, I guess they could have offered Farrkhan's head on a platter to him during the debate for a ritualistic slaying. But other Jewish friends I know have been calling telling me they absolutely loved his response--and these are those who doubted him on the subject.
The emails and other blog responses overwhelmingly disagree with me. K-Lo:
Russert helps Obama by letting him distance himself so clearly from Farrakhan. His own pastor is a tougher hurdle though.
Another chimes in:
You have it totally reversed on the Farrakhan question. It's not Obama's worst moment of the debate cycle. It was Clinton's. As a Jewish-American, I can't tell you how offensive I found her attempt to hijack the question and attempt to score cheap political points. If it wasn't clear before that she views my people as just another ethnic group she can pander to, it's perfectly clear now. I was sick to my stomach. "Hey look at me! I hate anti-Semites more than Obama does!" What an insulting attitude to take. Before tonight I was planning on supporting the Democratic nominee no matter what, even though I voted for Obama in my state's primary. But Hillary crossed a line today, and I can only hope she isn't nominated. Otherwise I may have to make an ugly choice in November.
I guess I am Marty Peretz sensitive on this. Proud to be. I've been to a Farrakhan rally and he is so disgusting I find Obama's calm distancing insufficient. I also think this will be used against him and worry that it will become a distracting issue. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's unwise for Obama to raise the temperature on this issue. We'll see. But he really disappointed me.
[Update: a reader responds:
Don't you think that this is ultimately a question of temperament? You say you are disappointed, but you've also already said that temperamentally you are more like McCain than Obama, that is, more likely to bristle at things you dislike, more likely to become morally indignant about the issues you care about. And yet you say Obama's cool temperament is what is needed in a president. It seems to me that his answer on Farrakhan perfectly encapsulates precisely the traits that you admit you don't possess but that you would like in a president. Obama becoming morally outraged, "raising the temperature" as you put it, would have gone precisely against the character he has continually demonstrated throughout the campaign. In essence, you are disappointed, but when it comes to these things, Obama needs to disappoint you.]