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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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