Former Sen. Kerrey Endorses Hillary, Then Repeats Lies About Obama's Childhood

Election '08

Over the weekend, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) raised a few eyebrows after an event in Iowa in which he endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Kerrey, who's always had a reputation for pushing the rhetorical envelope with freewheeling and provocative remarks, offered some provocative comments about Barack Obama.

"It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims and I think that experience is a big deal."
Ostensibly, Kerrey was complimenting Obama, but at the same time, he was subtly hitting right-wing points, emphasizing Obama's middle name and family lineage. Whether one perceives this as a cheap, underhanded shot depends entirely on whether one is willing to give Kerrey the benefit of the doubt. (I couldn't help but find it a little odd, thought, that Kerrey knew, off the top of his head, that the senator's "paternal grandmother" was Muslim.) Was Kerrey trying to raise an issue while pretending not to raise it?

As I said yesterday, I don't want to get to a point in which every innocent comment is scrutinized for some kind of hidden agenda-driven meaning, but Kerrey decided to respond to the questions yesterday by making matters worse. He told CNN:
"I've watched the blogs try to say that you can't trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa. I feel quite the opposite -- I think it's a tremendous strength. Whether he's in the United States Senate or whether he's in the White House, I think it's a tremendous asset for him."
Oh my. First, it's not "the blogs," it's the broader right-wing smear machine. Second, Obama didn't spend any time in a "madrassa" -- that's been thoroughly debunked.

And third, by highlighting Obama's middle name, his Muslim relatives, and the "madrassa" nonsense, all after endorsing Clinton, it's getting harder and harder to give Kerrey the benefit of the doubt here.

Mark Kleiman's take seemed to strike the right note.
I was willing to give Bob Kerrey the benefit of the doubt about his "Barack Hussein Obama" comment. But if his "secular madrassa" comment wasn't a deliberate smear, then Kerrey must really and truly be as dimwitted as his detractors insist.
There are some people so nasty that they can't see a belt without wanting to hit below it. And there are others so verbally clumsy that they never open their mouths except for the purpose of inserting a foot. I'm not sure which one Kerrey is, but I'm sure glad he didn't get to be President.

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