Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

“He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,” the source said. “His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign.” ~Insight

You had to wonder when something like this was going to come up.  People thought the middle name he received from his Muslim grandfather would be a problem–I’m sure that his supporters now wish that was his only connection to Islam.  On the other hand, when they referred to his upbringing in Indonesia, reporters thought they were doing Obama a favour (it made him wonderfully worldly and multicultural, you see), but until now people hadn’t brought up the logical Muslim connection.  Why were they in Indonesia, after all, and what did he do while he was there?  The point of the Democratic attacks dogs is that he concealed something about himself, but what a thing to conceal in the present environment! 

The concealment will probably hurt him more than the substance of what he concealed, but all of it is probably very bad for him.  This would be bad enough for the average pol, but for the Boy Wonder who will supposedly bring us a new politics filled with integrity and goodness it could be catastrophic.  Obviously, the fact he apparently used to be a Muslim will be a serious blow to any of his efforts to reach across those “traditional political lines” he is supposed to be so good at crossing (at least rhetorically).  He might be able to use it to his advantage because he has since left Islam behind and turned to Christianity, and if he struck the right tone he might be able to convince people that he is a more credible authority on the nature of the Islamic terrorist threat because of his background.  Nonetheless, it will raise serious doubts in the minds of many people that Obama needs as supporters.  More than that, if these claims are confirmed, they will do to Obama what the Mormon issue is doing to Romney by creating a serious problem for voters’ ability to identify with Obama and his biography.  Fair or not, when people hear that he attended a madrassa in Indonesia for several years, even though Indonesia is admittedly a country that would have been at that time still relatively untouched by Wahhabist infiltration, the words “security threat” are more likely to come to mind than “future President.”  

The biggest problem for Obama is that this revelation, if confirmed, will burst his bubble of content-free, feel-good media coverage.  Another problem is that it serves as a huge distraction and a potential source of confusion for anyone paying attention at this early stage.  Obama was supposed to be gearing up for his announcement next month, and now he will have to either deny, dismissively bat down or confront this story.  The news coverage will still be about him, but it will not be the flattering, “He has come to save us!” reporting to which we have been subjected so far.  If the Clinton team was the one that engineered this leak, it shows that they have lost none of their old capacity for dirty tricks and a willingness to take down anyone who gets in their way.