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Who is Keith Ellison? (15)

Today Jesse Jackson comes to town to speak on behalf of Keith Ellison, the endorsed Democratic candidate for Minnesota’s Fifth District congressional seat. In connection with the occasion, Minnesota Public Radio has posted Tom Sheck’s report on Ellison’s background: “Keith Ellison dogged by his past.”

Chicago Tribune national correspondent Tim Jones covers the same territory: “Candidate finds past ties a real bind.” Associated Press correspondent Patrick Condon also takes a look at Ellison in an article that hits the Washington Post: “Muslim Keith Ellison seeks House post.”

Like Rochelle Olson and Mark Brunswick in their Star Tribune articles on Ellison’s background, Scheck, Jones and Condon envelolp the subject in a cloud of unknowing. For a sense of what is omitted from these articles, see, for example, “Who is Keith Ellison? (2),” “Who is Keith Ellison? (9)” and “Who is Keith Ellison? (14).” Nevertheless, the story seems to have achieved lift-off.

In these three pieces, the single most pointed comment comes courtesy of state DFL Party chairman Brian Melendez (in the Tribune article):

Brian Melendez, the chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said he does not expect the controversy [regarding Ellison's background] to be an issue in the primary, but he does expect Republicans to “hang it around the necks” of Democrats.

Melendez is also responsible for the single most creative attempt to turn the difficulties raised by his candidate’s indefensible public record to his own uses:

“There are people in this world who hear Muslim and think terrorist. They’re bigots who wouldn’t vote for Ellison anyway,” Melendez said.

This past February in “Shut up, they explained,” John noted Melendez’s imputation of “Swift-boating” to soldiers expressing support for the war in Iraq. Ellison shows himself to be a student of Melendez (again in the Tribune article) in expanding the definition of “Swift-boating” to include those who provide unwelcome information about a candidate’s public record:

[Ellison] characterized the attacks against him as being “swift-boated,” in reference to the Vietnam War veterans who opposed Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

When the press gets around to asking the DFL candidates for governor (Mike Hatch) and Senator (Amy Klobuchar) whether they support Ellison, I anticipate that Melendez will describe the questions as a sign of Swift-boating bigotry.

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