Of Ignorance, Courage and the Lack of It

Mississippi and Alabama Republican voters, half of them — half! — think President Obama is a Muslim.

We liberals find that appalling. Any flavor of human would, I think, find that horrifying.

But a vaunted liberal helped spread this ignorance. When Hillary Clinton, during her long primary contest with Obama, was asked if Obama is a Christian, she said, “As far as I know he’s a Christian.”

What a calculating, pusillanimous, inhuman answer. It was Clinton’s low point, as far as I was concerned. She chose political advantage over being a decent person. And when leaders don’t stand up, the rest of us have few examples.

Many of us liberals were, rightly I think, sickened by Mitt Romney’s and Rick Sanctimonious’s cowardly refusal to excoriate Rush Limbaugh for his wretched comments about Sandra Fluke. But did Hillary Clinton show any more courage than that when asked about Obama’s religion?

Want to see a man of courage, a decent man, dealing with something like this? Colin Powell, on Meet The Press, during that same 2008 campaign. He says he’s troubled by his party allowing it to be said that Obama is a Muslim. And then he says:

“The correct answer is he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no — that’s not America.”

Would that more of our public figures had Powell’s courage and compassion. We might not be such a nation of ignorance.

(BTW, I use this clip — and it’s well worth watching the whole thing — with my clients to show the impact an example provides. Watch Powell tell the story of the Arlington headstone. It illustrates his point so compellingly.)

— Bruce Benidt

7 thoughts on “Of Ignorance, Courage and the Lack of It

  1. Joe Loveland says:

    Yeah, I’m sure Hillary Clinton would like to have that moment back. It’s not consistent with the rest of her life. We all have those moments.

    The Mississippi deal is even worse than you give them credit for, because 88% actually say he is a Muslin or “not sure.” After watching him almost get knocked out of the race because of a highly visible firestorm over his Christian minister, after watching him spark national discussions by inviting an evangelical Christian minister to bless his Inauguration, after watching him give detailed and heartfelt speeches about his Christian faith, after seeing him cite Christian prayers at annual national prayer breakfasts, only 12% say he is a Christian. That’s not just being uninformed. That’s something uglier.

    1. Erik says:

      You’re not able to examine the history of the Clintons’ public life and not see an unflinching and CONSISTENT willingness to slander their Democrat and Republican political opponents when convenient?


      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Sure, Hillary Clinton has made attacks on the level of “their position on Issue X is wrong, uninformed and/or hurts people.” But not on the level of “golly I’m just not sure this obviously Christian man is Christian.” Personal religion-based attacks have not been her MO.

      2. Jeremy Powers says:

        Hilary didn’t give the best answer, but it could be interpreted as honest. “As far as I know,” I don’t know what religion anyone is. Romney says he’s Mormon. How would I possibly know anything different. As far as I know he’s a Mormon. I could say the same thing about the Pope.

        Hell, I barely know what my own religion is – if I even have one. And if anyone is so absolutely sure about his/her own religion, that person either took everything as faith or has had no religious journey at all.

        As for thinking Obama’s a Muslim is just southern speak for saying “He’s black, but if we say that people will get mad.” Apparently no one gets mad if you call him a Muslim.

        I do like Powell’s response. What difference does it make? I have a dream that someday people will not be judged by the label of their faith, but by the content of their character. But considering we haven’t gotten beyond judging people by their skin color, I’m not holding my breath.

        Finally, Hilary’s comment was a .01 on the BS scale compared to what is coming out of the Republican candidates’ mouths every day – saber rattling, race baiting, double-guessing Obama’s faith, the attack on women, the threat to outlaw contraception and on and on. How ANYONE could look at ANY of them and say “That’s my guy” is completely beyond comprehension.

      3. Erik says:

        She ran for office twice. In the one instance where she had an opponent that could be superficially mistaken for a Muslim, she conducted a whisper campaign that trafficked in implied negative attributes of Muslims. She also highlighted a picture of Obama in tribal garb.

        But yea, when she had a white guy opponent she didn’t slime him for being a Christian. Proving religion based attacks are not her MO.

  2. Dennis Lang says:

    Very powerful clip. Yes, just the way Powell lets that anecdote unfold. Sends a shiver as it hits home.

  3. Will Dewey says:

    Apparently half of the Louisiana voters believe that Santorum is an “Evangelical Christian,” rather than an Opus Dei Catholic, also. I’d MUCH rather have a Muslim president.

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