I think this A1 Times piece is a smart, important piece of reporting, if its underlying thematics point to a disappointing political reality. One key point of debate:
In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Obama said the rumors were offensive to American Muslims because they played into “fearmongering.” But on a new section of his Web site, he classifies the claim that he is Muslim as a “smear.”
“A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way,” Mr. Ellison said.
I completely agree with Ellison. After all, it's factually accurate that there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim. I don't think the ten percent of the nation that (according to Pew) believes Barack Obama is himself Muslim will increase because he acknowledges this reality. In fact, the invariable freak show of coverage that would follow such a statement could defang the rumor (more light!), and could go a long way, imagistically, in reinforcing the notion of Obama as reformer.
However, I think we're not likely to hear that from Obama soon. This is, again, the result of the punitive politics that a President Obama seeks to transcend, and reinforces how the journey between "hope" and "change" is barely paved. For now, candidate Obama's benign neglect on Islam is as damaging and divisive as the statements themselves, or most of the GOP's cheerful profiteering from voter fears and prejudices.
Ta-Nehisi Coates also thinks Obama "deserved the hit," adding
Apparently Ellison and Obama got into it about the head-scarf fiasco. But here is why I support Obama for president, despite the fact that his campaign was dead wrong:
The conversation got so heated that CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) banged her gavel to try and quiet Ellison. Obama though asked Kilpatrick to let Ellison speak.
After Ellison finished, Obama told the caucus that he regretted the incident, but said that he had not ordered the women to be removed. Following the meeting, Obama called the women to apologize.
Classy. Very classy. That said, I am glad that Ellison called Obama to task. We have to hold him accountable.