12/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I Am Professor Khalidi (Why John McCain Doesn't Get to Pick My Halloween Costume)

Happy Halloween. Nice costume, buddy.

Now take the damn thing off. You don't get to pick your own costume.

Nobody does. Except John McCain. He gets to pick for all of us.

Ask Rashid Khalidi.

Khalidi is a big-time professor. Which is to say that, until quite recently, he was someone most of us had never heard of. But then John McCain picked Professor Khalidi's new Halloween costume. Here's how a Washington Post editorial detailed the ensuing "vile smear":

"In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him 'a PLO spokesman'; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke."

If someone other than the GOP nominee were picking the costumes, McCain himself would have to trick-or-treat as a Giant Hypocrite because of his own links to Khalidi -- nearly half-a-million bucks worth of links. Or if someone other than the GOP nominee were picking the costumes, McCain might have to trick-or-treat as Fidel Castro because he defended higher taxes for the wealthy back in 2000.

But like I said, McCain picks the costumes.

Sometimes they're grotesque, as in the case of Professor Khalidi.

Sometimes, as with Sarah Palin, the costumes are so flattering as to be lies.

Palin's Maverick costume takes a power-abusing governor who used state money to bankroll her kids' travel and transforms her into a reformer who's going to clean up D.C. and crack down on wasteful spending.

For his improbable campaign sidekick Joe The Plumber, McCain picked an Economist costume with a big patch on the butt, which covers up the spot where Joe shot himself right in the wallet. Joe would do better under Barack Obama's tax plan. As a special treat from McCain, Joe The Plumber gets an extra costume: Foreign Policy Expert, which he wears to make such outrageously ignorant claims about Obama's stance on Israel that an actual Fox News anchorman stepped in to defend Obama. The McCain campaign, in turn, lauded Joe's "penetrating and clear analysis."

Which brings us to McCain's costumes for Jewish Americans. He considered dressing them as Old Testament slaves, dressing himself as a pharaoh, flogging them with fear-mongering claims about Israel, and putting them to work building him a grand, glittering road to the White House. But he decided they might catch sight of themselves in a mirror and understand that they're being used, that their justifiable concern for Israel is being enslaved for partisan advantage. So he's going more subtle and inviting Jewish Americans to a geometry-themed Halloween party, where everyone will come dressed as a one-dimensional object.

Someday historians will be flabbergasted by the lunatic contradictions of the McCain electoral strategy: that a campaign built on exploiting xenophobic skittishness about the foreign-ness and other-ness of American-born Barack Hussein Obama also banked so heavily on the dubious notion that Jewish Americans care so much less about their own country than they care about Israel that they'll be swayed by his baseless scare tactics. Why do I say "baseless"? Because, as Shepard Smith of Fox News admirably told Joe The Plumber, "I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear -- Barack Obama has said repeatedly and demonstrated repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend of the United States, no matter what happens once he becomes president of the United States."

Let's do a quick tally. How many of the Jewish people I've known, worked with, played with, studied with, befriended, and loved during my life are big enough chumps to buy what McCain is selling? None. Exactly none.

But these are the desperate cards McCain is holding. So he's playing them.

And so Professor Khalidi gets forced to wear this radical, anti-Semitic, PLO spokesman costume McCain picked for him. Here's a quote from our supposed PLO spokesman, commenting in 2007 on the fighting between the two major Palestinian factions: "It's the same kind of blind, shortsighted, irresponsible action that Hamas took in the Gaza Strip. It shows that neither of these groups, I think, really represents the deepest aspirations of the Palestinians. They've become sort of vehicles for personal and group ambitions, rather than what one could honestly call a leadership of the Palestinian National Movement. I think the Palestinian National Movement is in grave, grave crisis, frankly."

What a spokesman!

Now, I don't pretend to be able to sum up Khalidi in one quote. As Andrew Sullivan wrote:

"I have received countless emails from many students of Khalidi's who find the demonization of him as absurd as it is abhorrent. Somewhere in all this is the truth. But the complexities of a scholar's thought and record are not best explored in the heat of a campaign's final days."

Professor Khalidi's forced costuming at the hands of McCain would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous. Guarded by the best professionals in the world, McCain may not appreciate what it means to paint a giant target on the back of someone who doesn't enjoy the protection of the Secret Service. He is damn lucky nobody is dead because of the brainless hate he and Palin have incited.

McCain gets to slap these costumes on people, in part, because we let him do it. It's time to stand up, to stand alongside people like Professor Khalidi, whether we agree with all of his views or not. Because McCain would paint this same target on any one of us if he thought it would help him win. You. Me. Anyone. Absolutely anyone.

Happy Halloween, Senator McCain. My name is David Quigg. Like Professor Khalidi, I was born in the state of New York. Like Professor Khalidi, I was born in the United States of America.

I am an American, you vicious, desperate, careless, doddering bully. And I get to pick my own damn costume.

And I've picked it.

Today, senator, I am Professor Rashid Khalidi. And you, sir, are a disgrace.