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Do We Ignore Rumors about Michelle's "Whitey" Tape at Our Own Risk?

BY RUSS WELLEN
06.09.2008 | POLITICS

I can't believe "Grandmama" would pull something like this. I used to enjoy seeing him play alongside Alonzo Mourning and even thought he played well for the Knicks.
-- Comment by Art-P.O.G. in response to "Everything's Gonna Be All White," a post by David Weigel at Reason magazine.
Not that Larry Johnson, the forward who could be counted on to come up with clutch shots in the playoffs for the New York Knicks. The other Larry Johnson, veteran of the CIA and the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism. He's designated himself the point man in reporting on the existence of a videotape in which Michelle Obama wields the term "whitey."

It's true that, on behalf of Hillary Clinton, he's gone after Obama with a vengeance. Worse, he's basing his reports on hearsay, though that of trusted friends. In turn, Obama supporters are acting as if Johnson's a right-wing ideologue like someone Michelle Malkin or someone.

But, even Michelle Malkin herself is suspicious of Johnson's efforts. She asks:

So, where's the stupid tape? To all of you who keep bugging me about this subject, please stop sending me e-mail. Until and unless anyone actually produces a video, I'm not going to mention it again.
Meanwhile, in response to attacks on him by Obama's supporters, Johnson writes:
Those who want to vilify me for having the audacity to raise this warning can have at it. I ran up against similar attacks and skeptics in May of 2003 when I warned that the Bush Administration had cooked the intelligence on Iraq. . . . I caught more heat in October of 2003 when I defended Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA officer.
Besides Obama's supporters attacking him, the media is treating him as if he's gone off the deep end. But read Johnson's imposing bio (click on his byline at his site), and you'll see how hard it is to write him off.

In "Update on the Michelle Obama Rant," he explains why he thinks the videotape matters. It's not just about Hillary.

The folks who have [the tape] are working to elect John McCain. They are using it now to raise money for a 527 effort that will attack Barack Obama. I am told that they fully intend to keep this "off-the-market" until after the Democratic Convention.
He says that "if I had the tape I would put it out in a heartbeat." Wait, then his love for Hillary truly is undying as his animosity toward Obama. Let him finish his thought.
Getting the tape out now does one of two things -- either it persuades Super Delegates that Barack is not electable or it gives the Obama campaign time to repair the damage.
In other words, "I cannot support John McCain, who is staffing his national security team with many of the bozos who were instrumental in bringing us the debacle in Iraq."

As reproduced at Ben Smith's blog at Politico, Obama responded, in part, "If somebody has evidence that myself or Michelle or anybody has said something inappropriate, let them do [sic] it."

Asked whether he knew for a fact that rumors of the tape's existence were false, Obama replied that he had answered the question.

It's true that if ever there were a matter in which Obama should stand above the fray, it's this. But even a supporter, like this author, can't help but wonder if Obama the lawyer is indulging in the type of faux denial that came to be associated with Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, if we're not shooting the messenger (even if Johnson turns out to be empty-handed), we're clapping our hands over our ears and ululating to drown out the rumor. Perhaps we'd be better served by preparing for the possibility that there might be some truth to it. At least we'd be putting the energy we're currently wasting on denial to constructive ends.

After all, Obama needs our help. As As John at the conservative blog Power Line noted, he can't give his wife the Wright-Rezko treatment. You know: "Michelle Obama is not the woman I've known for nearly 20 years."

But the Obama camp itself has gotten off to a good, if oblique, start. In a New York Times article, "Obama Is Mapping a Nationwide Push in G.O.P. Strongholds," Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny report:

Recognizing the extent to which Republicans view Michelle Obama's strong views and personality as a potential liability for her husband, Mr. Obama's aides said they were preparing to bring aboard senior operatives from previous Democratic presidential campaigns. . . . devoted to responding to attacks and challenges.
Who knows? Perhaps that's in response to this very issue. As for the rest of us, we need to work up answers to two questions. First, just how damning is the use of the term "whitey?"

While worse than "the man," it's clearly not as derogatory as "nigger," a candidate for the worst word in the world. More to the point, we need the expertise of black commentators.

Second, if the wife of a candidate indulges in such behavior, does that disqualify the candidate? However distasteful, maybe it's time to dust off the subject of Cindy McCain's drug theft from her own foundation in the early nineties. Along with its baggage -- possible manipulation of the criminal justice system by her husband and his cohorts, as well as her firing the man who blew the whistle on her to the DEA.

Let's conclude where we began, with the comments section of a post -- in this instance, Johnson's. One "Yo" writes:

The Obama trolls are sure in a frothing frenzy, are they not? . . . You can tell by their high-pitched, whiny, attacks that they are like an ant's nest that has been stepped on. Oh, have to defend my plastic Jesus.
If we fail to get out front on this, Barack Obama could wind up as black Jesus -- not our savior, but the victim of a crucifixion.

About the Author
Russ Wellen is an editor at Freezerbox who specializes in foreign affairs and nuclear deproliferation.
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