He may have been Bill Clinton’s opponent back in ’92 and not always seen things eye to eye with him, but that didn’t stop Bob Kerrey from jumping in to “enthusiastically and unequivocally” endorse Hillary Clinton on Sunday.
Just one day after the Des Moines Register announced their endorsement of Clinton, Kerrey said that “Mrs. Clinton “inspires my confidence,” a phrase he repeated like a mantra, he said she had the record and experience to enact universal health insurance, confront global warming, modernize the Pentagon, and ensure that trade deals address concerns of labor unions and environmental groups,” and he “hailed her as a fellow warrior.”
“She has been standing up to the extreme wing of the Republican party for 15 years while they tried to tear her down, and you know what? She’s still standing,” Mr. Kerrey said.
Friends of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kerrey say that the two have long been closer than Mr. Clinton and Mr. Kerrey were, and that Mr. Kerry admired some of her qualities –- preparedness, discipline, directness –- that he would criticize in Mr. Clinton. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kerrey have also grown closer since he moved to New York City several years ago to become president of the New School in 2001, after he left the United States Senate. And they worked together when he was a member of the federal 9/11 Commission.
Mrs. Clinton beamed as Mr. Kerrey spoke, and hugged him afterward. “Bob Kerrey is the embodiment of patriotism in action,” she said. “He’s got some experience in tough fights.”
But hold on… It seems that while friends of Clinton were touting the endorsement, friends of Barack Obama found cause to go on the offensive over a remark Kerrey made about Obama:
Some Obama supporters have asked why former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., today, mentioned her opponent Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s middle name in remarks published in The Washington Post. (LINK)
“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,” Kerrey is quoted as saying. “There’s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.”
ABC’s Jake Tapper claims that certain un-named “Obama supporters see this in the same light that they see Clinton strategist Mark Penn’s remarks on MSNBC’s Hardball (LINK) — that, as far as former Clinton campaign co-chair Billy Shaheen’s remarks about Obama’s youthful drug use, “the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising.”” I dunno, this is reaching in my book, but to the un-named Obama supporters, it’s “Too clever by half, they think.” Good gracious…
A clear attempt to raise an issue while pretending not to raise it.
Same thing with the “Hussein” middle name?
Reached on the phone Sunday evening, Kerrey said that’s not at all how he meant it.
“What I said was an answer to a question,” Kerrey said.
He’d been asked by a reporter from the Omaha World-Herald about the fact that the Clinton folks are hammering home the idea that Obama has little experience, while both Obama today and Kerrey in 1992 ran for president in their first Senate term.
“My answer was yes, but I finished third in the primary. Obama’s smarter and more talented than I ever was, and he has two things which are connected to his life experience that give him special capacity,” Kerrey recalled. “First, he is African American and can speak to underperforming Black youth in a way that no other candidate can. He gave a speech in Selma that was incredible (LINK), that no white person could ever give. No government program could ever do what Barack Obama can do.
“Second,” Kerrey continued, “his name is Barack Hussein Obama. I know that middle name is seen as a weakness by Republicans, but I don’t think it is. I think it enables him to speak to a billion Muslims around the world.”
Kerrey said he’s spoken to Obama and his staffers and told them to “lead with it as a strength. There’s this nonsense out there about him being a Muslim Manchurian candidate. He should do a commercial, look the camera straight in the eye, and say, ‘My wife Michelle and I are Christians, but my father was a Muslim and my paternal grandfather was a Muslim, and that fact and my name means I can speak to a billion people around the world” who need to hear from the United States.
I think Kerrey makes a good point and there’s no harm intended what so ever. Mark Klieman agrees (and we actually had this conversation last night). This who’s attacking who stuff is getting old. And honestly, I think those claiming innocence have got some answering to do.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum chimes in on the “what Bob Kerrey said” about Obama controversy:
What Kerrey was getting at was simple: in the long run, the only way to defeat the hardcore jihadists is to dry up their support in the surrounding Muslim world. And on that score, a president with black skin, a Muslim father, and a middle name of Hussein, might very well be pretty helpful.