An “idiot wind” or a useful idiot?

The Washington Post editorial board attacks John McCain for making an issue of Barack Obama’s association with Rashid Khalidi. The Post is disturbed that the McCain campaign characterizes Khalidi as “a PLO spokesman.” But the Los Angeles Times has reported that “when Khalidi taught at a university in Beirut, he often spoke to reporters on behalf of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization.” And Khalidi’s association with the PLO was evident in an interview in 1981 (at a time when Arafat’s organization was launching terrorist attacks in Israel and creating havoc in Lebanon). In the interview Khalidi referred to the exiled PLO’s growing standing among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, saying “we have built up tremendous links with the Palestinians ‘on the inside’ in different ways. We can render them services … we’ve never been stronger there, and the trend is continuing.”

The Post acknowledges that Khalidi’s views are at odds with the ones that Obama presents in the presidential campaign. But it calls Khalidi’s views “complex” and notes that even though he doesn’t appear to favor a two-state solution, he thinks that the alternatives are suspect too.

In reality, Khalidi’s views are not so much “complex” as hard to discern due to his poor writing. As far as I can tell from the article in the Nation magazine on which the Post relies, Khalidi doesn’t like either a two-state solution or a one-state nation solution in which Jews and Arabs co-exist. Since he plainly hates the status quo, Israeli Jews can reasonably wonder what Khalidi has in mind for them. The Mediterranean Sea comes to mind.

The Post’s main point is that Obama doesn’t agree with Khalidi’s views (whatever their precise nature) but, as “a man of considerable intellectual curiosity,” he probably just wanted “to hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians.”

The Post is correct that there would be nothing wrong with hearing Khalidi out. But Obama did more. Their relationship was longstanding. And when Khalidi moved from Chicago, not only did Obama toast the “militant advocate,” but in doing so praised him for “offer[ing] constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.” In other words, Khalidi affected Obama’s thinking, causing him to believe that his disagreements with Khalidi were the result of “blind spots” and “biases.” This suggests that, in Obama’s view, Khalidi was right and he was wrong on at least some matters.

Until Obama explains how this process played out, McCain has every right to raise the issue and to press for the tape that might well shed additional light on the matter (though if the Los Angeles really promised not to make the tape public, I think it is within its rights to keep that promise).

The Post informs us that when it contacted Khalidi about the matter, he said he was waiting for the “idiot wind [to] blow over.” The Post adopts Khalidi’s phrase as the title for its editorial and notes that the idiot wind “is likely to keep blowing for four more days.” One might say the same about the Post’s election coverage.

UPDATE: According to Fox News, in 1991 Khalidi wrote an obituary for Salah Khalaf, a founding member of the terrorist Black September organization which, among other things, carried out the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Khalaf was known as Israel’s most-wanted terrorist. Fox News reports that in the obituary Khalidi praised Khalaf and said he would be “sorely missed by the Palestinian people to whom he devoted his life.”

But the Post isn’t worried. After all, Khalidi went to Yale.

JOHN adds: This strikes me as a major story. Salah Khalaf, better known as Abu Iyad, masterminded the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. By his own account in his memoirs, he personally selected the terrorists who carried out the attack and delivered weapons to them. So the fact that he was a leading terrorist was anything but a secret. Nevertheless, when Khalaf was murdered in 1991, Obama’s close friend Rashid Khalidi praised him and said that he would be “sorely missed.” He was, no doubt, missed by those who approve of terrorist mass murders. It is fair to say that Khalidi, a representative of the PLO, was among that number.

It was shortly after this that Obama and Khalidi became friends and, as Obama has said, Khalidi “offered constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.” Isn’t this a bit odd, to say the least? A person of normal sensibility would say that someone who praises the founder of Black September and the perpetrator of the Munich horror suffers from “blind spots and biases.” (I, actually, wouldn’t put it that politely.) So what was it, exactly, that Obama learned from Khalidi? Why did he, by his own account, find Khalidi to be not only a congenial friend but a mentor of sorts?

In short, what sort of a person would consider a professor who speaks for Yaser Arafat’s PLO and mourns the death of a proud terrorist, the perpetrator of one of the 20th century’s vilest acts, to be not just a profound thinker but a moral compass? That is to say: what sort of a person is Barack Obama?

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