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Palin keeps up the hits

From NBC/NJ's Matthew Berger

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- At an event where Palin was joined by Joe the Plumber, the Republican vice-presidential candidate took up her running mate's attacks against Obama and the media Wednesday. She suggested, as McCain has, that the Los Angeles Times was withholding a videotape in which Obama attended a 2003 send off for Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia University professor and friend with past ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

It's a story the Times reported on in April, which the McCain campaign is now pushing. The Obama campaign would point to a Huffington Post report that when McCain was the chairman of the International Republican Instutitute, it gave grants to Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies.

"It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking after his best interests like that," Palin said, charging that the newspaper was witholding the tape to aid Obama. "In this case, we have a newspaper willing to throw aside even the public's right to know in order to protect a candidate that its own editorial board has endorsed. And if there's a Pulitzer Prize category for excelling in kow-towing, then the L.A. Times, you're winning."

Palin attacked Obama on what she called his "assortment of friends from Chicago." She described Khalidi as "another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama going back several years." She referred to the Times' reporting about Obama having been at a party for Khalidi in 2003, where Khalidi described Israel as the perpetrator of terrorism.
This is what the Times wrote at the time, though: "At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, 'then you will never see a day of peace.' One speaker likened 'Zionist settlers on the West Bank' to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been 'blinded by ideology.'"

"Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground. But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House."

Of Obama's role, the Times also wrote, "Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking."

The Times has said it will not release the tape, because it was given to the newspaper under the condition that it not be released.

But at Palin's campaign event, it was the surprise appearance by Joe the Plumber that fired up the Bowling Green State University crowd.
 
"He's a fellow Alaskan, and he's a fellow military man who has served our country proudly," she said. "I'd like you to meet him. Please welcome Joe the Plumber!"

Joe Wurzelbacher was introduced as a special guest midway through Palin's speech, to a roaring ovation. A day after he campaigned on his own -- and received criticism for agreeing with comments suggesting Obama's election would mean "death to Israel" --  Wurzelbacher stood silently by Palin's side through the rest of her remarks, dressed in jeans and a checkered work shirt.

"All the pictures I've seen of him, I knew I'd like him, wearing his Carhartts and steel-toed boots," she said.

Wurzelbacher, who was never introduced by his real name, served as a prop to Palin's continued critique of Obama's tax plans. She suggested Obama would raise taxes on small businesses, stifling growth and making it more difficult for small outfits to hire new people and create jobs.

Palin said voters identify with Wurzelbacher, who asked Obama a question at his tax plan at a rally earlier this month. He officially endorsed McCain earlier this week.

"So Joe merely asked our opponent a simple, straightforward question, and he spoke for a lot of Americans," she said. "And the Obama campaign did not appreciate that. And since then, they've been investigating and attacking our friend Joe the Plumber."

*** UPDATE *** Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan emails this response to the Khalidi attack. "This is just another recycled, manufactured controversy from the McCain campaign to distract voters' attention from John McCain's lock-step support for George Bush's economic policies. Barack Obama has been clear and consistent on his support for Israel, and has been clear that Rasheed Khalidi is not an adviser to him or his campaign and that he does not share Khalidi's views. Instead of giving lectures on media bias, John McCain should answer why, under his own chairmanship, the International Republican Institute repeatedly funded an organization Khalidi founded, the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, over the course of many years."