With all the flapdoodle about Barack Obama having to reject Louis Farrakhan's endorsement, it will be interesting to see if other candidates are going to be brought under that same spotlight. For example, consider this write-up from Anastasia Pantsios, associate editor of the Cleveland Free Times.
One of the low points of the Democratic presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday was the harping of moderator Tim Russert on the issue of Barack Obama's repudiation of Louis Farrakhan. Although Obama firmly stated his denunciation of Farrakhan's anti-semitic remarks, Russert wouldn't let it go, worrying the issue until it devolved into a parsing of the difference between the words "denounce" and "reject." It will be fascinating to see whether Russert pursues John McCain this doggedly during the general election debates. The very day that the Obama and Clinton campaigns were preparing for the Cleveland debates, McCain was campaigning at the other end of the state in Concinnati. At his side (captured in an AP photo published in the Columbus Dispatch among other places) was the Rev. Rod Parsley of Columbus's World Harvest Church.
Those of you with moderately keen memories will remember the Rev. Parsley, even though he has been off the political radar recently. In 2004, Parsley actively campaigned throughout Ohio with then Secretary of State Ken Blackwell on behalf of Ohio's "Defense of Marriage" amendment. Parsley was at Blackwell's side when Blackwell made his remark comparing gay people to "barnyard animals." When Blackwell ramped up his gubernatorial campaign the following year, Parsley and fellow Columbus-area pastor the Rev. Russell Johnson were two of his most vocal supporters, promising to activate thousands of "patriot pastors" to turn out hundreds of thousands of new "values voters" for Blackwell. Sometime during that year, for unclear reasons, Parsley slipped off the political radar, not even appearing with Blackwell when he announced the formation of his "Pastors for Blackwell" late that summer.
In spring, 2005, Parsley published a book called "Silent No More." Chapter 5 of that book contains some assertions you'd think any presidential candidate would want to "denounce" and "reject". In that chapter, titled "Islam: The Deception of Allah" (and in a sermon of the same name delivered at World Harvest that May), Parsley claimed that "Muhammad received revelations from demons and not from the true god," "Islam is an anti-Christian religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world" and "Islam is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed and more devastation than nearly any other force on earth at this moment." He talks about the "persecution" of Christians by Muslims whom he dismisses as deluded illiterates.
At that time, in an interview I did for my paper, the Cleveland Free Times, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told me, "The man is inciting hatred, there's no plainer way to say it. When you say an entire group of people are demonic and anti-Christian, that's hate speech, yes." And Ahmad Al-Akhras, who was then president of the Council on American Islam Relations-Ohio said to me, "The message of Jesus is the message of peace and the message of embracing other people. Apparently, he [Parsley] does not seem to understand this. I think those politicians who are being courted by him need to be called upon and they should denounce his hatred."
Certainly any aspiring president who expects to have any chance at forging diplomatic relations in the Middle East would have to condemn -- to both "denounce" and "reject" -- such ideas to be effective. And any candidate who even tacitly endorses such beliefs cannot expect to convince leaders of Muslim countries of the trustworthiness and good faith of the US. Unlike Obama, whose campaign never involved Farrakhan, McCain in Cincinnati on February 26 praised Parsley, according to the Columbus Dispatch, as a "spritual guide," while Parsley praised McCain as a "strong, true, consistent conservative." Undoubtedly, campaigning with Parsley was McCain's way of trying to signal his acceptability to the evangelical base that has had issues with him. But if Obama owes repeated apologies for the mere fact that he received unsolicited compliments from a man who has said ugly things about Jews, then McCain would seem to need to atone even more for openly embracing on the campaign trail someone who has said equally ugly things about Muslims.
My guess is that the answer will be "No"... McCain will not be called to task for Parsley, just like he is not being questioned adequately about John Hagee's support. Why? One word: racism. IMHO it is because America is more scared of black bigots (like Farrakhan) than of white bigots (like Hagee and Parsley). And it is still OK to slam Islam because it is mostly those "brown people" over in the Middle East who are Muslim. I mean, what else could it possibly be?