Diana West

Russert tried another tack, this time raising the ties between Farrakhan and Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Chicago's Trinity United Church. Russert noted that Wright, whom Obama has called his "spiritual mentor" and "sounding board," has not only traveled with Farrakhan to visit Moammar Gadhafi in Libya -- some junket. Wright has also said that Farrakhan "epitomized greatness." Just last year, Wright's church, known for a creed aptly described as black separatist, bestowed on Farrakhan the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Lifetime Achievement Trumpeteer award.

Does the Farrakhan-Wright relationship explain the reason Obama appeared unwilling to denounce Farrakhan altogether -- not just his more notorious statements? Alas, such a question remained unasked. Obama launched into a lengthy discussion about Israel's security ("sacrosanct"), the civil rights movement, even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, without mentioning Farrakhan or Wright again.

None of which escaped his opponent's notice. "I just want to add something here," Hillary Clinton said. She explained that under similar circumstances during her first Senate race in New York she had repudiated the support of a political party she described as anti-Semitic. "I rejected it," Clinton said in one of her genuinely better debating points. "I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with ... I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger."

Clearly, Obama had to say something stronger. So he did: "Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. ... But if the word `reject' Sen. Clinton feels is stronger than the word `denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce."

One could ask, Reject what? Denounce what? But the more interesting question is why was it so hard for Senator Post-Racial Unity to reject Minister Racism and Divisiveness?

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).