The last few days have brought back discussion of Barack Obama's race and heritage in a way not seen since South Carolina. On Monday, of course, a photo of Obama trying on traditional Somali clothing circulated. Then, in the Cleveland debate two days ago, Tim Russert grilled Obama over the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan and the praise lavished on Farrakhan by Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. Finally, John McCain has been trying to disassociate himself from the fearmongering tactic of dropping Obama’s Muslim-sounding middle name, Hussein, carried out separately by talk-radio host Bill Cunningham and, in a press release yesterday, the Tennessee Republican Party. Into this burgeoning mess wade our pundits.
• Ben Smith examines the cycle of insults against and apologies to Obama in this campaign, concluding that forgiving his opponents for their slurs has actually helped him cement one of his central campaign themes. [Politico]
• Peter A. Brown believes that the “turban” photo is just the start of a long conversation over what is permissible to use against a black candidate. [Politico]
• David Kurtz wonders why it’s seemingly acceptable to associate Obama with Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism but it’s not okay to use his middle name. [Talking Points Memo]
• Amy Alexander, who edited a book on Farrakhan, thinks Obama passed the Farrakhan litmus test with smarts and toughness. [Nation]
• Mark Ambinder relays Hillary Clinton’s own Farrakhan moment, wherein she fails to clearly reject the support of a Latina voter who won’t vote for Obama because he’s black. [Atlantic]
• Glenn Greenwald calls it a grotesque double standard that John McCain isn’t asked to reject the support of Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee, who in the past has argued that Islam is a hateful religion and that God used Hurricane Katrina as punishment for homosexuality. [Salon]
• Sean Wilentz writes that it has actually been Obama, and not Clinton, playing the race card all along, taking innocent comments and spinning them into attacks on his race. [New Republic]
• Jason Zengerle disagrees, showing how Bill Clinton’s suggestion that Obama is just another Jesse Jackson was indeed race-baiting. [Plank/New Republic] —Dan Amira
For a complete guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.