Guilt-by-association watch

GUILT-BY-ASSOCIATION WATCH…. Apparently, some years back, as part of his career in academia, Barack Obama attended a going-away party for Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian American.

John McCain and his campaign have joined right-wing bloggers in thinking there’s something sinister about Obama having known Khalidi, who conservatives insist was an aide to Yasser Arafat — a claim that has not stood up well to scrutiny.

As long as McCain wants to go down this road, though it’s probably worth fleshing out his own ties to the same professor.

During the 1990s, while he served as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including one worth half a million dollars.

A 1998 tax filing for the McCain-led group shows a $448,873 grant to Khalidi’s Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank. (See grant number 5180, “West Bank: CPRS” on page 14 of this PDF.)

The relationship extends back as far as 1993, when John McCain joined IRI as chairman in January. Foreign Affairs noted in September of that year that IRI had helped fund several extensive studies in Palestine run by Khalidi’s group, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of “sociopolitical attitudes.”

Now, just to be clear, what’s wrong with McCain having directed thousands of dollars in grants to Khalidi’s research center? Not a thing. As far as I can tell, no one has questioned Khalidi’s scholarship or the work of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies.

McCain and his cohorts, however, believe there’s a lingering scandal about Obama having gone to Khalidi’s going-away party some years back. The hypocrisy is breathtaking, even for them.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.