Obama: "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decisions with which I agree."
The Senator assumes wrong. As I noted previously, Trumpet Magazine, published by his church, explicitly explained [in the video it prepared for the banquet at which Farrakhan was honored] that it was honoring Farrakhan for his purported dedication "truth, education, and leadership." Obama's spiritual mentor, Rev. Wright, [quoted in The Trumpet last Fall] praised Farrakhan for his "astounding and eyeopening" analysis of the "racial ills of this nation," a "perspective" that is "helpful and honest."
If the magazine and reverend had merely honored or praised Farrakhan for "his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders," it might have raised an eyebrow or two, but I don't think anyone would have found the story of much interest. So, give Obama some credit for forthrightly rejecting Farrakhan's anti-Semitism (though Farrakhan's bile goes beyond Jews to gays, whites in general, and others), and subtract some credit for his failure to address the true underlying concern, which is that the magazine and reverend say that they are honoring and praising Farrakhan precisely because of his stated political and racial views, which they claim are "honest" and reflect "truth."
By the way, last week I criticized Prof. DiLorenzo of LewRockwell.com for invoking a conspiracy theory centered around the Cato Institute to explain the controversy over the Ron Paul newsletters. Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall similarly blames the messenger by referring to Richard Cohen as an "odious slime peddler" and wondering, "Who do you figure pitched Richard Cohen on the Obama/Farrakhan column?" [And here's a rather bizarre defense of Obama by M.J. Rosenberg. Rosenberg points out that he stopped attending his synagogue on the High Holidays when it started inviting what he describes as a hate-filled rabbi to services. This somehow means that Obama is off the hook for not taking such a stance regarding his church.]
UPDATE: A reader, quite fairly, asks what I would have Obama say. How about something along these lines: "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. Trumpet Magazine erred in honoring Farrakhan, who has made blatantly false statements about Jews and others, for his purported commitment to truth. The Rev. Wright similarly erred in his praise of Farrakhan, which could be read as endorsing Farrakhan's noxious ideas. I am of course not responsible for every action undertaken by my church or my minister, but as a member of the congregation and a religious follower and friend of Dr. Wright's I have made my displeasure known to the relevant parties, in private correspondence that I think would be inappropriate to share." There, that wouldn't satisfy everyone, but I think it would be enough to end the controversy.
FURTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan goes ballistic on Richard Cohen for raising the issue of Obama's church and pastor honoring Farrakhan. Yet here's what Sullivan wrote with regard to Mitt Romney in 2006:
Romney was part of a church that barred blacks from the priesthood for his first 31 years. ... The only sect I can think of as equivalent is the Nation of Islam - in reverse. I don't know if Romney has addressed the question of Mormon racism in its historical practices, or whether he has a record of opposing it in his twenties, when he was a missionary for a racist church. But it strikes me as a matter that will require addressing.
Admittedly, Sullivan's accusation is that Romney belonged to a racist church, while Cohen's complaint is that Obama belongs to a church that honors racists. On the other hand, Cohen's complaint is about current church and ministerial behavior, Sullivan's about decades-old practices. I don't see how Sullivan can logically question Romney as he did, and then be so outraged regarding Cohen.