The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Are Hillary’s People Saying That Obama Attended a Wahhabi Madrassa?


I think if Team Obama is smart, they will get out ahead of this story as soon as possible.

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

“He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,” the source said. “His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign.”

When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama’s press secretary said he would consult with “his boss” and call back. He did not.

Sources said the background check, conducted by researchers connected to Senator Clinton, disclosed details of Mr. Obama’s Muslim past. The sources said the Clinton camp concluded the Illinois Democrat concealed his prior Muslim faith and education.

“The background investigation will provide major ammunition to his opponents,” the source said. “The idea is to show Obama as deceptive.”

Jonah wonders if Hillary’s people would really leak this to Insight magazine (no offense to the folks over there, but one wonders how eager Democrats are to give hot material to the conservative press). On the other hand, maybe this is a warning shot from Camp Hillary.


The word “madrassa” is an explosive one in our politics. Okay, bad word choice there. It is a word that evokes strong visual images, few of them good. A lot of Americans are having strong feelings about Islam these days, and for many it is a suspicion of the faith itself, after the violent reactions to the Danish cartoons, the Pope’s speech, the Dubai Ports World deal, the threatened death penalty for Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who converted to Christianity… If the madrassa in question is tied to the Wahhabi sect, as the story suggests, this story will be huge, and it will shift Obama from the “likeable” category to “untrustworthy” category for a sizeable number of Americans.


I just bet a Muslim friend that if this story gets legs, the words “Manchurian Candidate” will be used in discussions about Obama, unfair as it might be.


This story may be more smoke than fire – but it’s the sort of thing that a candidate can’t let fester for long.


UPDATE: Two thoughts from (ah, I nearly said “TKS”!) Hillary Spot readers that I should have addressed.


Hillary Spot reader Steve writes, “The most probable path I see this taking, is one that strengthens Obama. In your post you mention the Afghani convert sentenced to death. If Obama admits that he was Muslim but converted to Christianity, he instantly becomes an apostate and moves up on the list of people Islamists hate. It is not hard to imagine the charismatic Obama giving a heartfelt narration about his coming to Jesus and rejection of his former faith. This whole story could work to ingratiate him with Christian conservatives and right-wing anti-Islamists if he becomes the target of a Sharia fatwa.”


While Gregory asks, “This is a pretty [gutsy] gamble on Hillary’s part, don’t you think?  The chance she sees, I’d wager, is it could end Obama.  But with Hillary’s prints all over the hot potato, the risk is also that it might blow up in her face.  After all, the Democratic base considers itself politically correct, and the whiff of race/religion-baiting in this story will make Democrats feel uncomfortable.  I have to wonder, if this story has legs, how long will it be before Hillary, already percieved as, well, a [rhymes with witch], comes to be seen as…a bigot?  Lots of sins are forgivable among Democrats, but intolerance is not forgivable.”


Boy, this race didn’t take long to get interesting, did it?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


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