We started anticipating this story back on the 21st, after the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon started sniffing around an 8-month-old Robert Spencer article that debunked theories that Sen. Barack Obama is a closet Muslim. For the benefit of the slowsky’s at the Post, let me say that again — Spencer’s article debunked theories that Obama is a closet Muslim. It does not promote those theories. It debunks them. But the Post’s Perry Bacon includes that article among others that did float the Muslim rumor, and gets an angle on Rush Limbaugh entirely wrong.

An early rumor about Obama’s faith came from Insight, a conservative online magazine. The Insight article said Obama had “spent at least four years in a so-called madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.” It attributed this detail to background information the Clinton campaign had been collecting.

After Obama denied the rumor, Jeffrey Kuhner, Insight’s editor, said Obama’s “concealment and deception was to be the issue, not so much his Muslim heritage,” and he suggested that the source of the madrassa rumor was the Clinton campaign. The Clinton campaign denied the charge.

Human Events, another conservative magazine, published on its Web site a package of articles called “Barack Obama Exposed.” One of them was titled “The First Muslim President?”

Robert Spencer, a conservative activist, wrote in Human Events that “given Obama’s politics, it will not be hard to present him internationally as someone who understands Islam and Muslims, and thus will be able to smooth over the hostility between the Islamic world and the West — our first Muslim President.”

Conservative talk-show hosts have occasionally repeated the rumor, with Michael Savage noting Obama’s “background” in a “Muslim madrassa in Indonesia” in June, and Rush Limbaugh saying in September that he occasionally got “confused” between Obama and Osama bin Laden. Others repeatedly use the senator’s middle name, Hussein.

How dumb or ill-informed is Perry Bacon? I’m not asking that out of spite; it’s a legitimate question based on how he characterizes Rush in the above paragraph. Rush’s “confusing” Obama and Osama is clearly and obviously a reference to this.

As long-time or even casual listeners know, Rush is spoofing Ted Kennedy, who for some reason doesn’t rate a mention in Bacon’s article even though he actually did confuse Obama and Osama on one videotaped occassion. Likewise, Spencer’s article debunks the Muslim theory/rumor, yet Bacon either dishonestly includes that article or just isn’t swift enough to know the difference. Take your pick.

Howard Kurtz, I know that you read this blog. Can you have a word with your colleague on this? He is making your newspaper look bad.

The real upshot of the story ought to be focused on whether the Clinton camp is spreading the lie that Obama is a Muslim. If they are, that’s dirty and underhanded and the voters ought to know about it. But Perry Bacon doesn’t get us any closer to knowing whether they are or not. His story is a whole lot of nothing with side helpings of smears and stupid.