In his enthusiasm for belittling Obama (something of which I can heartily approve), Mark Steyn declares in his characteristically slapdash fashion:

The madrassah stuff was supposedly leaked to Insight Magazine by some oppo-research heavies on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team. Which if true suggests that Hillary’s losing her touch. It’s certainly the case that a foreign education doesn’t always assist in electoral politics: John Kerry didn’t play up the Swiss finishing school angle. But look at it from a Democratic primary voter’s point of view, the kind who drives around with those ‘’CO-EXIST'’ bumper stickers made up of the cross and the Star of David and the Islamic crescent and the peace sign. Your whole world view is based on the belief that deep down we’d all rub along just fine and this neocon fever about Islam is just a lot of banana oil to keep the American people in a state of fear and paranoia. What would more resoundingly confirm that view than if the nicest, most non-bitter, nonpartisan guy in politics turns out to have graduated from the Sword of the Infidel Slayer grade school in Jakarta?

Before Steyn can make this into the usual narrative of stupid liberal/virtuous and wise neocon, let’s not forget that neocons have been rather late to the game of being concerned about Islam, being old hands at Islamic fundamentalist-empowerment in the Balkans, the Caucasus and every other corner of the globe so long as it was deemed useful to advance their idea of U.S. hegemony and superiority over other great powers and their clients.  No one was more shocked–or at least no one expressed greater shock–post-9/11 that Muslims around the world had not been more grateful for all the times America had come to the aid of Muslim causes in different parts of the world than neocon pundits.  The litany was always the same: “Afghanistan! Somalia! Bosnia! Kosovo!  You people owe us.  We are on your side–why have you betrayed us?”  Having cheered on Clinton’s dealmaking with Iranian and Saudi-backed jihadis in Bosnia, they were over the moon when NATO came to the aid of the church-burning, monastery-destroying Islamic terrorists of the KLA. 

Imagine their surprise when an entirely different set of Muslims from other parts of the world were not grateful that the government and, in a supporting role, the neocons had helped to crush a Christian country for the sake of their co-religionists.  The neocon lament, which has since become an insane rage against the more specifically Iraqi ingrates, was profound, as if to cry, “Didn’t you Muslims pay attention?  We helped your guys in virtually every street fight in the ’80s and ’90s, and still you have bad feelings towards us!  How many more Christians do you want us to bomb?  Don’t worry, we’ll be glad to oblige.”  Their militant overreaction to Islamic terror is the overcompensation for years of encouraging and supporting the very same kinds of people against those, mostly Orthodox Christians by heritage, whom they despised even more.  Yet their every policy preference seems designed to perpetuate on the one hand the myth of their “moral clarity” in facing down Islamic fundamentalism (about which they were fairly indifferent in the ’90s) while also maintaining the remarkable fiction–embodied in official administration positions–that there are “moderates” and “reformers” within Islam whom we must support. 

I have written before on neocon Islamophilia, which is a phrase that seems bizarre at first until you recognise how and why neocons oppose jihadis–they do not oppose them because they are jihadis as such, much less because they are Muslims and heirs to nearly a millennium and a half of hostility to our civilisation, but because they are like fascists and totalitarians.  Hence the idiotic “Islamofascist” tag.  If only the Islamic world could know the benefits of Enlightenment universalism and the religious moderation that would supposedly flow from it, they tell us, all would be well.  On the political front, since they have determined jihadis to be adherents of a kind of fascism, how else should we combat that fascism except according to the established script of war, occupation and political “re-education” of entire countries as liberal democracies?  Having completely misunderstood the problem, they endorse remedies that have no chance of working, but which are likely to empower jihadis and the like through the spread of violent conflict and the insane enfranchisement of jihadi voting blocs.  

Back to Steyn.  Steyn’s claim about the prevalence of sappy Democratic multiculti sentiments sounds good.  It reinforces myths that Democrats like to believe about themselves: that they are the party of tolerance, diversity and heroic indifference to the more appalling aspects of foreign cultures.  These are the same myths that Republicans like to perpetuate about them to make all of them appear as foolish and ridiculous as their most looney members.  However, the myths aren’t entirely true. 

If we believe the latest Diageo/Hotline poll, which tallied American attitudes towards four religions, it is true that Republicans (11% fav/58% unfav) and independents (14% fav/41% unfav) tend to have much lower opinions of Islam than do Democrats, but it is still a relative thing.  For every Democrat who views Islam favourably, there is another Democrat who views it unfavourably (27% vs. 27%).  The remainder is made up of all those Democratic voters too ignorant to know what to make of Islam one way or the other.  Add together the people who don’t know any better with those who already have a dim view of Islam, and you have well over a majority of Democrats.  If Clinton can show those with a low opinion of Islam that Obama was raised as a Muslim, and if she can convince the ignorant 47% that he deceived the public or omitted these details from his biography, she might very possibly cripple his campaign before it starts. 

If the leak to Insight was indeed the Clinton team’s work, it was not at all the sloppy or foolish thing Steyn makes it out to be.  It was a great potential momentum-killing revelation with the added advantage that the leak to the Washington Times‘ magazine protects HRC from a left-wing backlash.  If they did indeed use a conservative publication to reveal the information, Clinton’s team has managed to throw the blog left into an uproar at right-wing dirty tricks while making her appear to be a victim of still other right-wing dirty tricks that aim to sully her name with supposed prejudice that would theoretically hurt her with her primary voters. 

The funny thing about this blogger outrage on Clinton’s behalf is that an appeal to what silly people will inevitably call “Islamophobia” will not backfire with that many Democratic primary voters.  It may actually cause other voters to turn away from Obama when they might have otherwise supported him.  As the de facto front-runner with the most money and best organisation as of right now, all Clinton needs to do is prevent Obama from gaining momentum through this year.  Throwing up a hurdle like this–which will do amazingly bad things to Obama’s prospects as an “electable” candidate for the general–creates real problems for Obama.  It may not even harm him that much right now, but it will linger in the background until he comes under real media scrutiny and will then reappear with a vengeance.