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