In a heated 2007 confrontation on a tarmac at Reagan National Airport in Washington, ex-Obama aide Reggie Love witnessed an irate Senator Barack Obama personally accuse Hillary Clinton of spreading a rumor that he was a Muslim.
It was December 2007, and the Democratic race for the presidential nomination had taken a bit of a nasty turn. Billy Shaheen, then co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign, had speculated to The Washington Post that Republicans would attack Sen. Barack Obama on the drug use the candidate had admitted to on the trail and in “Dreams From My Father,” his 1995 memoir. As Shaheen put it: “It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’ There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks.”
The next day, Obama and Clinton were both at Reagan National Airport on their way to Iowa for a debate, and the candidates met on the tarmac for what became a brief but heated conversation. Then-Obama personal aide Reggie Love witnessed the event and describes it in his new memoir:
“I want to apologize for the whole Shaheen thing,” Clinton said. “I want you to know I had nothing to do with it.”
The candidate very respectfully told her the apology was kind, but largely meaningless, given the emails it was rumored her camp had been sending out labeling him as a Muslim. Before he could finish his sentence, she exploded on Obama. In a matter of seconds, she went from composed to furious. It had not been Obama’s intention to upset her, but he wasn’t going to play the fool either. To all of us watching the spat unfold, it was an obvious turning point in our campaign, and we knew it. Clinton was no less competitive or committed to a cause than Obama, and the electric tension running through both candidates and their respective staffs reflected the understanding that she was no longer the de facto Democratic candidate. Her inevitability had been questioned.…
I remember Obama telling me later that day that he knew he was going to win the nomination after that moment on the tarmac, because Clinton had unraveled, and he was still standing and keeping his cool. It was just the confidence boost he needed.
— from “Power Forward,” by Reggie Love
Note: At no time does Love record that Hillary denied the allegation that her campaign was smearing Obama as a Muslim.
But now there she sits on Face the Nation this past Sunday, and the exchange with host John Dickerson goes like this (bold print for emphasis supplied):
DICKERSON: We’re back now with Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton, Donald Trump had a supporter at one of his rallies suggest the president was Muslim and not an American. Donald Trump stayed mute and continues to say nothing about that.
Are politicians on the hook for every crazy thing one of their supporters stands up and says?
CLINTON: Well, of course not, because we all have supporters who may say things that we don’t agree with.
But when you are at an event and someone stands up and says something like that in front of you, then I do think you have a responsibility to respond.
John McCain did back in the ’08 campaign when somebody in one of his events said something similarly untrue and insulting about the president. And McCain stopped that person. That’s what Donald Trump should have done.
And I said the other day he is fueling a level of paranoia and prejudice against all kinds of people. And when you light those fires, you better recognize that they can get out of control. And he should start dampening them down and putting them out.
He wants to talk about what he would do as president. That’s obviously fair game. But to play into some of the worst impulses that people have these days that are really being lit up by the Internet and other conspiracy-minded theories is just irresponsible. It’s appalling.”
Got all that? Donald Trump didn’t say a word in a campaign appearance in New Hampshire to a supporter who asserted President Obama was a Muslim — and is therefore, according to Clinton, “fueling a level of paranoia and prejudice against all kinds of people” and is playing into “some of the worst impulses that people have these days.” And there is not a word — not a single word — that Obama personally accused Clinton of “labeling him as a Muslim.”
The only thing appalling here beyond the silence of John Dickerson is the absolute depth of Hillary Clinton’s utter hypocrisy. Where in the world did so many Americans get the idea that Barack Obama was a Muslim in the first place? In the view of Barack Obama himself, as Reggie Love notes in his book, it was from Hillary Clinton herself. And he personally and directly accused Clinton to her face in that showdown on the tarmac. Note well: she never denied it.
And far from apologizing, the Clinton campaign kept up the smear. Two months after the Reagan Airport showdown between the two, Politico (hardly a conservative publication) reported this story on February 25, 2008:
Obama slams smear photo
Among other things, the story by reporter Mike Allen says this:
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused the Clinton campaign Monday of “shameful offensive fear-mongering” by circulating a photo as an attempted smear.
Plouffe was reacting to a banner headline on the Drudge Report saying that aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) had e-mailed a photo calling attention to the African roots of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
… Plouffe said in a statement: “On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election. This is part of a disturbing pattern that led her county chairs to resign in Iowa, her campaign chairman to resign in New Hampshire, and it’s exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world,” said Plouffe.”
And what did Mike Allen report about the response from Hillary’s campaign? This:
The Clinton campaign issued an official response to the growing tempest —but the statement from campaign manager Maggie Williams did not respond to the central question of whether staffers circulated the photo.
“Enough,” Williams said in the statement. “If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.
“This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry. We will not be distracted.”
Just yesterday morning, reporter and MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann, co-author of Game Change, the story of the 2008 campaign, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. When host Scarborough stated that in fact it was Hillary Clinton who introduced the “Obama is a Muslim” meme into the national dialogues, and his co-host Mika Brzezinski agreed with him, they looked to Heilemann to verify this. Replied Heilemann:
“It was the case…. I’m offering my, I’m affirming, I’m affirming, I’m affirming the Scarborough/Brzezinski (point).”
So. What do we have here?
What we have is a media firestorm because some guy in New Hampshire stated that Obama was a Muslim — and that Donald Trump did not respond.
But when Obama personally accuses Hillary Clinton, as witnessed and described by then-Obama aide Reggie Love, of “labeling him as a Muslim” — hey, just one big no big deal. Move along folks, nothing to see. And when Hillary Clinton sits down across from John Dickerson — and she tries to lay the whole “Obama is a Muslim” business at Donald Trump’s feet? Dickerson sits there mute.
Is it any wonder the American people are so furious about the way in which the public’s business is conducted?
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