Former IRI President Defends Khalidi
While Rashid Khalidi disappeared as a campaign issue faster than he became one — after it became clear that Sen. John McCain’s ties to the pro-Palestine Columbia University professor are closer than those of Sen. Barack Obama — a former president of the International Republican Institute has come to Khalidi’s defense.
Last week, the McCain campaign pointed to a story in The Los Angeles Times describing a going-away party in Chicago for Khalidi that Obama attended. The campaign insinuated that Obama is somehow connected to Islamic terrorism.
However, with McCain as chairman, IRI gave an organization headed by Khalidi several grants during the 1990s, including one grant in 1998 worth nearly $500,000.
Today, Harper’s magazine reports that R. Bruce McColm, who served as president of IRI from 1993 to 1995, said that McCain was personally involved in the allocation of the grants and never expressed any concern about Khalidi’s reputed radical tendencies.
Rashid Khalidi was well known for his criticism of Yasir Arafat. He never was a spokesman for the PLO and was a professor at the Institute for Palestine Studies and a professor at American University in Beirut. He was the founder of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies. … The Clinton administration wanted the various NED-related institutes to begin working on the West Bank. All our proposals had to be approved at board meetings with John McCain in attendance and in agreement. John did think highly of these grants[...]
Over time, the center conducted over 30 polls for the IRI. My understanding was that grants extended far beyond my tenure to l998. It was always my understanding that Khalidi was directly involved in the research. We were impressed by the initial polls and analysis. So obviously IRI continued to believe in their work after I left. Ironically, it was Khalidi’s academic background and his known coolness to the PLO that attracted our interest. How strange to see the McCain campaign use Khalidi as a “type of terrorist” with whom Obama hangs around.
No word yet from the McCain campaign as to whether it intends to apologize for smearing Khalidi to score cheap political points.
(Via ABC’s Jake Tapper)