I could not have written what I’m about to say here one month ago, not even two weeks ago. As a colleague who is acquainted with some of the details I’m about to discuss told me at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer, this revelation could have amounted to be a “deal-breaker” in this year’s Presidential election outcome.
Imagine that. Realizing that the only impact you can have on the election of the President of the United States might be to ruin a candidate’s chances, not because of a wrong-headed policy or a fiendish act, but because of an innocent observation.
You see, that’s just what the xenophobes, and Islamophobes, and Neo Cons who’ve been dominating the politico-intellectual discussion in this country for the last zillion years, wanted to get their hands on this election cycle–an Obama-Farrakhan link.
I searched on-line this week. Hundreds of purported “Obama-Farrakhan” connections came up. One was a magazine cover from Trinity United Church of Christ. It had mug shots of a dozen or so people, including Sen. Obama and Min. Farrakhan, placed randomly. Another showed a photo of the two men’s wives in a group. In that shot, Mother Khadijah Farrakhan and First Lady-elect Michelle Obama weren’t even standing on the same row, let alone next to one another.
The Obama-Farrakhan-haters have got zilch!
But I kept my counsel. No, just as I wrote months ago, that as far as this election cycle was concerned, Muslims in America were persona non grata–unwelcome, unacceptable–I understood that the only constructive thing I could do would be to keep my mouth shut. Until now that is.
When I first laid eyes on him at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, I knew Barack Obama was a “rock star.” Of course he had won the nomination for the U.S. Senate, and his Republican opponent had dropped out of the race, so even Ray Charles could see he was destined for greatness. But I followed him around Boston like I was a groupie, attending the public events at which he was scheduled to appear–environmental press conferences, rallies where he was supporting the causes of others.
Then, four years ago, November 2004, after his victory but before he actually took office, he made a courtesy visit to Capitol Hill, not unlike his recent courtesy call at the White House. I stalked him that day. I got a report: “An Obama Sighting. He’s in the Senate Dining Room.” I rushed down from the Press Gallery and saw him, having lunch with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senior Senator from his state I believe it was.
I waited outside for an hour. I was the only reporter still there. But I had my tape recorder. And I was ready. When they came out together I asked him for just a word, anything he might say about his victory, about how he felt, about what his priorities might be when he took office. His voice on tape would have made me royalty that day.
He brushed me off. Even though they had to wait nearly a minute for the elevator–plenty of time for a sound-bite–he had nothing to say to me, except that he would give me an interview when he came back to Washington. When he returned of course, he had an office full of brash young whipper-snappers (aka Senate staff) who knew nothing about any promise he might have made to me, and could care less about me because I was not representing a major corporate-owned news outlet, so I never got my promised one-on-one interview. “Call the Chicago office,” I was even told once.
But I did get another “private” moment with Sen. Obama, this time, at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting. It was mid-2005. I had seen a portion of a photo, I don’t remember now if it was Sen. Obama’s eyes and forehead (the rest of the face was covered), or if it was the eyes and forehead of Min. Louis Farrakhan. Whoever it was, and despite their age difference, I thought the photo was of the other man.
At the CBC meeting, and as it turned out, I was able to stand briefly next to Sen. Obama with no whipper-snapper aides there to run interference, or shoo me away before I got to ask him the one simple question that had been on my mind.
“Has anyone ever told you that you resemble Min. Farrakhan?” I asked.
“Oh no,” he replied. “He’s much better looking than I am.”
That’s when I knew he was headed for even greater things. He always seems to give the correct answers, to even the most difficult questions.