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I discussed this in the live debate blog. But I think it's worth going back and watching Russert's run of shame here. I would say it was borderline to bring up the issue of Farrakhan at all. But perhaps since it's getting some media play you bring it up just for the record, for Obama to address.
That's not what Russert did. He launches into it, gets into a parsing issue over word choices, then tries to find reasons to read into the record some of Farrakhan's vilest quotes after Obama has just said he denounces all of them. Then he launches into a bizarre series of logical fallacies that had Obama needing to assure Jews that he didn't believe that Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness".
As a Jew and perhaps more importantly simply as a sentient being I found it disgusting. It was a nationwide, televised, MSM version of one of those noxious Obama smear emails.
Late Update: TPM Reader RMS does some close analysis ...
I think that breaking down Russert's Wright/Farrakhan questioning helps illuminate how truly bizarre it is:
1. The title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a sermon delivered by Jeremiah Wright. Wright is Obama's pastor.
2. Wright is the "head" of United Trinity Church.
3. Wright said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."
4. Wright went with Farrakhan in 1984 to visit Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
5. Farrakhan has said that Judaism is a "gutter religion."
6. Wright said that when Obama's political opponents found out about the Libya visit, Obama's Jewish support would dry up "faster than a snowball in Hell."
Russert's question is then "What do you do to assure Jewish Americans... you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness."
The first question about Farrakhanâand Russert's insistence on mentioning Farrakhan's views regarding Judaism after Obama had already denounced Farrakhan's bigotryâwas all foreplay leading up to this masterstroke in which Russert synthesizes the six discrete facts into a knockout punch of innuendo and guilt by association: perhaps Obama thinks that Louis Farrakhan, the man Obama explicitly denounced not one minute before, is the very epitome of greatness.
All of the stuff about going to Libya, Farrakhan's "gutter religion" comment, and Jewish supporting drying up like a snowball in hellâthat was all totally unnecessary to reach the ultimate question, but wasn't it fun?