I would like to extend a "yasher koach" to both Senators Clinton and Obama on an outstanding performance in last night's debate - specifically in the way they approached questions regarding the Jewish community. Both candidates should be commended for their expressions of their stalwart support for Israel and denunciation of anti-Semitism.
Senator Clinton emphasized her rejection of the support of New York's Independence Party - full of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views - during her 2000 Senate run in the state; Senator Obama clearly conveyed his strong support both from and for the Jewish community.
(More specifics after the jump.)
When Tim Russert asked about Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan's backing of Obama's campaign, the senator responded:
You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.
Obama continued by telling the audience that he's consistently denounced Farrakhan's anti-Semitic record and has "consistently distanced" himself from Farrakhan. Russert pressed him further, asking Obama how he will assure Jewish Amerian voters that he will consistently stand with them on issues regarding Israel and anti-Semitism.
Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.
And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.
You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans, who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened.
But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S. Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency -- is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable.
When I was -- just last point I would make -- when I was giving -- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti- Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States.
Senator Clinton jumped in and explained how she rejected the support of the Independence Party when she ran for Senate in 2000 in New York. She said:
And one of the parties at that time, the Independence Party, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti- Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that. But I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people in our country.
And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know, fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.
For the entire transcript of the debate, click here.