Josh Marshall has more:
With the presidential campaign clock ticking down, Sen. John McCain has suddenly discovered a new boogeyman to link to Sen. Barack Obama: a sometimes controversial but widely respected Middle East scholar named Rashid Khalidi. In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke. Mr. McCain even threw former Weatherman Bill Ayers into the mix, suggesting that the tape might reveal that Mr. Ayers -- a terrorist-turned-professor who also has been an Obama acquaintance -- was at the dinner.
For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis -- or even to Mr. Ayers -- is a vile smear. [emphasis added]
The McCain campaign has been throwing around so much mud and smears in recent weeks that it's easy to miss just how ugly and shameful their character assassination of Rashid Khalidi is. This is an entirely respectable, highly respected scholar. To go further into making a case for him would only be to enable and indulge McCain's sordid appeal to racism. For McCain, personally, to compare Khalidi to a neo-nazi, it's just an offense McCain should never be forgiven for. It's right down in the gutter with Joe McCarthy and the worst of the worst.Ladies and Gentlemen, the formerly honorable John McCain.