Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama's preemptive racism smear

Jake Tapper calls Obama out for his regular refrain that his opponents are xenophobic racists. A standard refrain in Obama's speeches is that those trying to defeat him are playing to racism.
Obama continued: "And so the only way they figure they’re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. So what they’re saying is, ‘Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he’s... doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he’s got a, he’s got a funny name.'
Tapper writes,
Correct me if I'm wrong, but does it not seem as if Obama just said McCain and his campaign -- presumably the "they" in this construct -- are saying that Obama shouldn't be elected because he's a risk because he's black and has a foreign-sounding name?
The Obama campaign says that he's just talking about his opponents in general particularly radio talk show hosts and other "smear artists." Which radio talk show hosts have been singling out Obama's race and name? There are a lot out there, so perhaps there are talk show hosts who are doing that, but have the biggest conservative hosts done so? I don't know, but I have my doubts - mostly they're focusing on what Obama says and has done, not his race or name.

And Tapper then notes another occasion when Obama specifically called out the McCain campaign and GOP as peddling these sorts of attacks.
Obama said that "John McCain and the Republicans, they don’t have any new ideas, that’s why they’re spending all their time talking about me. I mean, you haven’t heard a positive thing out of that campaign in ... in a month. All they do is try to run me down and you know, you know this in your own life. If somebody doesn’t have anything nice to say about anybody, that means they’ve got some problems of their own. So they know they’ve got no new ideas, they know they’re dredging up all the stale old stuff they’ve been peddling for the last eight, 10 years.

"But, since they don’t have any new ideas the only strategy they’ve got in this election is to try to scare you about me. They’re going to try to say that I’m a risky guy, they’re going to try to say, 'Well, you know, he’s got a funny name and he doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five dollar bills and, and they’re going to send out nasty emails.
That isn't why the GOP thinks he's risky.

This is such an unfair accusation against McCain. As Tapper writes,
There's a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he's condemned it.

Back in February, McCain apologized for some questionable comments made by a local radio host. In April, he condemned the North Carolina Republican Party's ad featuring images of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

With one possible exception, I've never seen McCain or those under his control playing the race card or making fun of Obama's name -- or even mentioning Obama's full name, for that matter!

(The one exception was in March when McCain suspended a low-level campaign staffer for sending out to a small group of friends a link to a video that attempts to tie Obama not only to Wright but to the black power movement, rappers Public Enemy and Malcolm X.)

While I have no doubt there will be a bunch more racist, xenophobic, and other ignorant drek coming our way courtesy of the Internet and perhaps the occasional cable news network, it's important to determine where it's coming from. Is it from a specific campaign or party? A third-party group? A third-party group with direct ties to establishment figures? This all matters.

I've seen racism in campaigns before -- I've seen it against Obama in this campaign (more from Democrats than Republicans, at this point, I might add) and I've seen it against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, when his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was alleged, by the charming friends and allies of then-Gov. George W. Bush, to have been a McCain love-child with an African-American woman.

What I have not seen is it come from McCain or his campaign in such a way to merit the language Obama used today. Pretty inflammatory.
In fact, if there has been any official candidate's campaign mentioning Obama's race, it would have been Hillary Clinton's efforts. But Obama doesn't want to say that Democrats might have been evoking his race in a campaign so he projects onto McCain.

Obama clearly wants to preempt any criticism by implying that racism lies at its foundation. Perhaps he believes that, if he makes this accusation often enough, it will soon become conventional wisdom. And if, horror of horrors, McCain wins the election, Obama's supporters will be all primed to blame the loss on racism. Tapper is exactly right to call Obama out on this inflammatory smear.