Hear no evil

The Washington Times Weekly - - EDITORIALS -

For the three lead­ing can­di­dates to win the Demo­cratic pri­mary, John Ed­wards and Sens. Hil­lary Clin­ton and Barack Obama, crit­i­ciz­ing ra­dio talk-show host Don Imus’ racially charged com­ment about the Rut­gers Univer­sity women’s bas­ket­ball team hardly re­quired a coura­geous stand: Even Don Imus was call­ing the re­mark “stupid.” But when the Rev. Al Sharp­ton two weeks ago im­plied that Mor­mons don’t re­ally be­lieve in God, those same three can­di­dates, in sharp con­trast to the out­cry over Mr. Imus, de­cided not to con­demn his com­ment pub­licly. Dur­ing a de­bate with Christo­pher Hitchens in New York, Mr. Sharp­ton said: “As for the one Mor­mon run­ning for of­fice, those who re­ally be­lieve in God will de­feat him any­ways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion.”

Mr. Obama was per­haps the most force­ful in his crit­i­cism of Mr. Imus; the sen­a­tor from Illi­nois fol­lowed his cen­sure with a call for NBC to fire Mr. Imus. Mr. Obama also said the com­ment af­fected his fam­ily: “He didn’t just cross the line. He fed into some of the worst stereo­types that my two daugh­ters are hav­ing to deal with to­day in Amer­ica.” In a speech in Mil­wau­kee, Mr. Obama linked both the Imus brouhaha — what he called “ver­bal vi­o­lence” — and the Vir­ginia Tech killings to the same prob­lem of vi­o­lence in so­ci­ety.

Mrs. Clin­ton’s re­leased a seething e-mail to sup­port­ers: “Don Imus’ com­ments about them were noth­ing more than small-minded big­otry and coarse sex­ism. They showed a dis­re­gard for ba­sic de­cency and were dis­re­spect­ful and de­grad­ing to African-Amer­i­cans and women ev­ery­where.”

Mr. Ed­wards spoke of how Mr. Imus’ com­ment was in­dica­tive of a larger di­vi­sion in Amer­ica. “Don Imus’ com­ments didn’t just cross the line. They de­fined the line that di­vides this coun­try like the blade of a knife. There can be no de­bate over how much big­otry is too much big­otry. Any big­otry is too much.”

That last com­ment was from a speech Mr. Ed­wards de­liv­ered in New York in April at Mr. Sharp­ton’s Na­tional Ac­tion Net­work con­ven­tion. All three can­di­dates, in fact, ap­peared dur­ing the four days of the con­ven­tion.

Ei­ther be­cause they con­sid­ered the re­mark not of­fen­sive enough to war­rant pub­lic crit­i­cism, or be­cause they didn’t want to an­tag­o­nize Mr. Sharp­ton for elec­toral rea­sons, none of the three pub­licly de­nounced it. Mr. Sharp­ton, to his credit, called top lead­ers of the Mor­mon church to apol­o­gize.

Not ex­pect­ing the three Democrats to put prin­ci­ple over pol­i­tics, we aren’t sur­prised that none took a stand against Mr. Sharp­ton’s dis­parag­ing re­mark. That doesn’t mean vot­ers shouldn’t be dis­ap­pointed.

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