The Campaign Spot

Knott Many People Like What He Said

South Carolina politics makes the rest of the country look boring. From this Morning’s Jolt:

He Said What? What?!?

CNN: “ A longtime South Carolina state Senator with a reputation for blunt language used the term ‘raghead’ to describe Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley and President Obama during an appearance on a political talk show Thursday. Haley is of Indian-American descent. State Sen. Jake Knotts, who backs Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer in the four-way Republican primary battle, made the remark during an interview on ‘Pub Politics,’ a popular online political talk show in Columbia . . . ’We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion,’ Knotts said, according to multiple people present for the broadcast.”

“Pub politics,” huh? I take it Knotts went straight to the hard stuff?

Robert Stacy McCain: “Well, it’s come to this, has it? Certainly, I’m the last person on the planet to be screaming ’raaaaacist’ at other people, but it’s shocking enough that a Republican would use such language to describe President Obama. For a Republican to use it against a fellow Republican — Nikki Haley is a Christian of Sikh ancestry — is so wrong as to defy comprehension.”

Hey, you know what? When you call two Christians from completely different backgrounds a racial slur – buddy, look at Nikki Haley, she’s not even that tan – I think it’s actually okay to screaming “raaaaacist” because it’s racist. Bring in Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and busloads of protesters. We’ve found actual racism. Kanye West, blurt out anything you want about Jake Knotts.

So how the heck did this topic even come up, anyway? Ben Smith: “The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody posted a story today noting, accurately, that her public persona and campaign website had taken a progressively ‘more Christian’ tone, and raising some of those questions. But in the nasty game of South Carolina politics, in which Haley has already been accused twice publicly  of infidelity, the religion story has a clear political charge. Brody told me in an email that his story was prompted by ‘a tip from an anonymous source,’ and Tim Pearson, Haley’s spokesman, said the story was ‘being shopped’ and that Brody wasn’t the only reporter to call him about it. A source close to the campaign of one rival — Rep. Gresham Barrett, who touts his Christian faith in his ads — said the Barrett campaign has at least discussed playing the religion card. The source said his aides sometimes refer to her by the Indian name with which she was born, ‘Nimrata,’ in the campaign office. ‘They always thought that the relgion thing would be what would save Gresham in the end against Nikki,’ said the source, an outside adviser to Barrett who said he was speaking to a reporter because he disliked the notion of attacking Haley on her faith.”

You know, I don’t care if Brody’s got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, I think if you’re a reporter, and a campaign says, “hey, doesn’t our opponent’s religious faith seem a little sketchy?” you think long and hard before you partake in investigative journalism delving into deeply personal matters like that. If even Mother Teresa had long stretches of doubt, it suggests we can never really know what’s going on in a person’s head when they’re talking to God. So if that’s the case, who’s willing to declare someone to be insufficiently pious to serve as governor of South Carolina?  Who’s certain that candidate X’s expressions of religious faith are genuine and candidate Y’s are just designed to win votes among religious voters? (I seem to remember some good book saying something about the correct order for a stone-throwing contest.)

Brody’s report begins, “The Brody File is NOT questioning her Christian beliefs at all but rather how the emphasis of her religious language seems to have evolved throughout her political career.” Sure, pal. And you really have absolutely no idea how her opponents would use this report in the final weekend before the primary.


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