Keeping the Obama-Muslim Smear Going: What on Earth is Bob Kerrey Doing?

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bob-kerrey-head.jpg When former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey endorsed Hillary Clinton yesterday at a campaign stop in Iowa and added these lines 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”—I was willing to give him a pass. Sure, it seemed like a sneaky way to work the Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim falsehood back into the media and into the consciousnesses of Iowa voters (Obama is a regular Christian churchgoer), but Kerrey has been a loose cannon throughout his career. And following so closely after the Obama-is-a-drug-dealer fiasco from a different Clinton campaign surrogate… it would just be bad, bad politics for the Clinton campaign to coordinate something like this in Iowa’s friendly confines.

But then Kerrey went and did it again. He went on CNN today and tried to backtrack on the first comment—”He is a Christian. Both he and his family are Christians. They’ve chosen Christianity.”—but couldn’t help stirring the pot some more. “I’ve watched the blogs try to say that you can’t trust [Obama] because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa,” he said. “I feel quite opposite. I think it’s a tremendous strength whether he’s in the United States Senate or whether he’s in the White House.”

Jee-bus. A “secular madrassa” is not an oxymoron, by the way: the word Arabic word madrassa indicates a school of any kind. But as Bob Kerrey darn well knows, the American conception of a madrassa is as an extreme Islamic indoctrination camp in which children are taught how to kill Americans by old men with long, white beards.

As should be well-established by now, for the four years he lived in Indonesia as a child, Obama attended a public school that incorporated the mores of the largely Islamic Indonesian society but did not focus on religion. The teachers wore western clothes. The students were of mixed faiths.

So Kerrey didn’t say anything factually inaccurate, but it still stinks. If this is what Obama is getting now, can you imagine what he’ll endure in the general, when he’s facing off against Republicans? And by the way, this whole episode, intentional or not, will almost certainly hurt the Clinton campaign, as all of Senator Clinton’s recent attempts to go negative have.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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