Are Obama's Lefty Foes Racist?
The question turns out to be more than a joke
BEST OF THE WEB TODAY
DECEMBER 13, 2010
By JAMES TARANTO
"Man, oh man, oh man, ladies and gentlemen, the left, what a bunch of racists!" So said Rush Limbaugh last week, commenting on the progressive rebellion against President Obama: "I mean, they're all over MSNBC. They are all over the New York Times, the Washington Post. I have never seen such a collection of racists, all these liberals criticizing Obama on this compromise on the tax bill. I mean, well, every bit of criticism of Obama's always been said to be racist, hasn't it?"
As NewsBusters.org reports, Ed Schultz of MSNBC took Limbaugh's remark personally: "[Limbaugh] is now accusing me of being a racist," the talking horse said on MSNBC's "The Mr. Ed Show."
Ed Schultz denies he's racist.
This leads NB's Noel Sheppard to observe: "Any person with even a room temperature intelligence quotient would know that Limbaugh was claiming racism because any time anyone on the right has criticized Barack Obama since the moment he threw his hat into the presidential candidacy ring in February 2007, said person has been accused of racism by the Left." Sheppard thinks Schultz didn't get the joke, which seems unlikely. After all, Limbaugh explained the joke.
But maybe it's not entirely a joke. That thought is prompted by a pair of opinion pieces that appeared in liberal newspapers over the weekend, both by black writers: columnist Colbert King in the Washington Post on Saturday and novelist Ishmael Reed in the New York Times on Sunday. Neither man goes quite so far as to call Obama's progressive critics racist, but both travel a significant distance in that direction.
Reed, it's fair to say, accuses the progs of racial insensitivity. His central argument is that those who "criticize President Obama for keeping his cool"--who urge him "to 'man up' " and start "slapping people left and right"--do not understand the cultural constraints under which black men operate in America: "If President Obama behaved that way, he'd be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people."
Reed then issues this warning:
- When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama's base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter--and a way to lose the black vote forever.
King sees the same danger for Democrats in a primary challenge. He thinks it "a pretty safe bet" that Obama would win the nomination anyway but argues that the president would emerge weakened in the fall:
- If the left costs Obama his presidency in 2012, the Democratic Party as a whole will lose out. Sabotage the nation's first black president and the Democratic Party might as well bid farewell to its most loyal base of supporters: African Americans.
To be sure, this is all highly speculative. Our guess is that the progs will rally behind Obama as soon as he has a legislative battle with the Republican House, and a year from now the talk of a primary challenge will be long forgotten. Obama may well win re-election, or lose it without rupturing the alliance between the two Democratic core constituencies, progressives and blacks. But the intensity of Reed's and King's pre-emptive defenses of Obama suggests that the bonds between those two very different (albeit overlapping) constituencies are weak.
Which brings us back to Rush Limbaugh's "joke." Let us recast it as a serious question: If harsh criticism of Obama from the right is racist, by what logic can one deny that harsh criticism of Obama from the left is also racist? Only by the logic of progressivism, summed up in an excellent Policy Review essay by Peter Berkowitz: "Progressivism's vision of reform, progressives suppose, is vouched for by reason, by practice, and by the heart. It is equivalent for them to justice itself." If you accept progressives' self-definition as believers in justice, then it is a contradiction in terms to accuse them of racism.
As we have argued, the leftist charge that conservative opposition to Obama is racist is in part a cynical appeal to fear, aimed at persuading blacks to continue voting Democratic. But this could backfire. If Reed and King are right, there is no reason to assume that the progressives' self-definition is widely accepted among blacks. Thus the progs' harsh attacks on Obama are likely to look as racist as the conservatives' attacks do.
In our view, progressives are largely innocent of the racism charge. As we argued Friday, they have turned against Obama because they are infantile, not because he is black. To put it more gently, their quarrel with Obama is over policy, not race--and that much they have in common with conservatives. Which of course was Limbaugh's point.
Racism, however, is not the only form of bigotry. The defining characteristic of today's progressive liberal is oikophobia: fear of and contempt for ordinary Americans, often disguised as a condescending solicitude of their supposed interests. The current black-prog rift reminds us that oikophobia is an equal-opportunity prejudice, directed against ordinary Americans regardless of race.
It's Rabbit Season! It's Duck Season!
It must be exciting being Mark Halperin. He lives in a world where everything completely changes from one week to the next. Think we're exaggerating? Check out his Time.com column from last week:
- The coalition that got Barack Obama elected President just two years ago has been shattered. . . . A survey of the political landscape shows that many groups who were part of the 2008-09 Obama coalition have turned on him. . . . With unemployment high and promising to stay there, it is nearly impossible in the short term for Obama to shift opinion and be seen as a successful President. . . . Even if the President somehow sloughs off that Spock-like laconic demeanor and dispatches his fired-up-and-ready-to-go persona, he isn't going to be able to change many of the dynamics that have weakened him.
Pretty grim, huh? Things were so bad for Obama, Halperin opined back then that even "should Obama effectively confront these dynamics, he will still need some luck." As examples of "luck," Halperin offered the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attack, though he did offer the disclaimer: "No one wants the country to suffer another catastrophe." That's a relief.
OK, now check out this week's column:
- By closing 2010 with the kind of bipartisan compromise that was supposed to be the hallmark of his Administration, Obama showed that he is capable of change, and that there is hope he can achieve his goals. . . . Over time, this new Obama--the one who, out of necessity, is going to make deals with Republicans to fix the economy and get things done, rather than keep his wagon hitched to the liberal wing of his party--has a chance to have not only a liberated and happy holiday season, but also a 2011 filled with the fruits of a successful midcourse correction that has not yet been a part of his presidential repertoire. That's change the President can believe in.
Does anyone know a good personal-injury lawyer? We'd like to explore the possibility of suing Halperin for giving us whiplash.
News to Haiti: Drop Dead
"Sarah Palin urged Americans on Sunday not to forget Haiti as she wrapped up a weekend visit to an aid group's sites in this country vexed by a cholera epidemic, earthquake reconstruction and political crisis," the Associated Press reports from Port-au-Prince:
- "I do urge Americans not to forget Haiti," she said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.
- Noting that severe problems afflicted Haiti even before last January's devastating quake, she said her fellow citizens should "get out of your comfort zone and volunteer to help."
While Palin is talking about Haiti, New York's Daily News is talking about . . . Palin. Friday's News featured an op-ed piece by Pooja Bhatia, a Haiti-based fellow at the Institute for Current World Affairs, carping about Palin's visit:
- The jokes were obvious as soon as Sarah Palin announced she intended to visit this weekend. Haiti really can't catch a break, can it?
- That's the gist of it, but there are variations. How could things in Haiti get any worse? Oh, I know, Sarah Palin!, an American friend quipped. Another friend, in the U.S., alluded to the flaming roadblocks that have peppered the city this week in the wake of the country's contested elections: Sarah Palin is headed your way. To the barricades! . . .
- Now comes Palin, threatening to grace this beleaguered country with an awesomely ill-timed, insultingly opportunistic visit. At this point, some might prefer a plague of locusts to Palin poverty porn.
The Daily News, it seems, is happy to provide a market for Palin hate porn.
It's the Eponymy, Stupid
- Yesterday's New York Times carried this wedding announcement: Sue H. Yoo, a daughter of Sandra Yoo and Ji Sung Yoo of Queens, was married Saturday evening to Matthew Murakami, the son of Toshiko Murakami and Hidenori Murakami of San Diego. . . .
- The bride, 32, is the in-house counsel for Think Passenger, a technology company in Los Angeles.
That's right, the bride is a lawyer. Watch out, or Sue Yoo will sue you.
"[Football coach] Urban Meyer is walking away from [the University of] Florida because of health concerns, according to a person with knowledge of the situation," the Associated Press reports from Gainesville:
- Meyer has a recurring burning sensation in his chest that doctors told him last week would raise cardiovascular risk factors if he continued to coach, the person told The Associated Press Sunday on condition of anonymity because Meyer's health issues are confidential.
Hey, AP, you can reveal your source now that Meyer's health issues are no longer confidential.
Out on a Limb
"The Fed? Ron Paul's Not a Fan."--headline, New York Times, Dec. 12
"The George Clooney Effect--High-Earning Women 'Want Older, More Attractive Partners,' Research Finds"--headline, University of Abertay Dundee press release, Dec. 10
'I Wish I Knew How to Quit You'
"Did Obama Just Quit?"--headline, DailyCaller.com, Dec. 10
As Foretold by Freud
"Parker: Weiner Shows Envy Is More Important Than Prosperity"--headline, Scripps Howard News Service, Dec. 10
So Much for the War on Drugs
"Community Health Higher on THC Bid"--headline, Forbes.com, Dec. 10
Somebody Alert Al Gore
"Emergency Lockboxes Available"--headline, Detroit Free Press, Dec. 12
No, You're Another Man's Poison
"Are We the Meat in a Goofy Sandwich?"--headline, Reuters.com, Dec. 13
Guess We'll Get a Toyota
"New 2012 Ford Focus Crashed More Than 12,000 Times in Virtual and Real World Tests"--headline, Ford Motor Co. press release, Dec. 13
Such Language, From a Family Newspaper!
"New York Governor Vetoes Fracking Bill"--headline, New York Times website, Dec. 11
Danger, Will Robinson!
"Robot Ends Tense Standoff on I-94 in Milwaukee"--headline, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 10
Questions Nobody Is Asking
"Why Do We Let This Creepy Company Called Google Spy on Our Emails?"--headline, Mail on Sunday (London), Dec. 12
"What Did Jairam Ramesh Say at Cancun?"--headline, WSJ.com, Dec. 10
"Ever Heard a Caterpillar Whistle? This One Can"--headline, FoxNews.com, Dec. 13
"Saturn's Rings: Leftovers From a Cosmic Murder?"--headline, Associated Press, Dec. 12
"Which Mayoral Hopeful Is Jennifer Hudson Backing?"--headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 12
Answers to Questions Nobody Is Asking
"Senator Enzi: 'Yes, I Do' Believe Jesus Had a Right to Life From Moment of Conception"--headline, CNSNews.com, Dec. 9
"Rep. Mike Pence: 'Of Course' Jesus Had a Right to Life From Moment of Conception"--headline, CNSNews.com, Dec. 9
"Rep. Hall: 'Yes,' Jesus Had a Right to Life From Moment of Conception"--headline, CNSNews.com, Dec. 10
Look Out Below!
"Women Fall at Longwood"--headline, Wright State Raiders website (Dayton, Ohio), Dec. 11
It's Always in the Last Place You Look
"Syracuse-Area Soldier Killed in Civil War Believed to Be in Collection Donated to Library of Congress"--headline, Post-Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.), Dec. 12
"Putin Finds His Thrill"--headline, Yahoo! News, Dec. 12
Someone Set Up Us the Bomb
"Man Set Up Bomb Making Factory After the Film '2012' Convinced Him the World Was About to End"--headline, Daily Mail (London), Dec. 13
News of the Tautological
"Delays of EPA Rules Anger Environmentalists"--headline, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 11
"Blizzard Blankets Midwest in White"--video title, WISN-TV website (Milwaukee), Dec. 12
Breaking News From 1922
"An Italian Fringe Firebrand Gains Votes, Power in Crisis"--headline, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 13
News You Can Use
"Unlike Alcohol, Broccoli Doesn't Fry the Brain"--headline, Durango (Colo.) Herald, Dec. 12
Bottom Stories of the Day
"Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd Starstruck Meeting Obama"--headline, UInterview.com, Dec. 13
"Auburn's Cam Newton Left off List"--headline, Associated Press, Dec. 11
"WikiLeaks Cables Paint Bleak Picture of Tajikistan, Central Asia's Poorest State"--headline, Guardian website (London), Dec. 12
It started off as a normal Friday afternoon. We filed our column and went off to the gym. We tuned the TV on the exercise machine to CNN (the communist YMCA doesn't get Fox News), and there was Bill Clinton, delivering a White House news conference!
We could've sworn Barack Obama was president. Was this an elliptical machine or a time machine?
Then we took a careful look and saw the white hair. This was the 21st-century Bill Clinton, not the 1990s one. So what was going on? Had the former president and the secretary of state staged a coup?
Finally we figured it must be time travel. "So, look," Bill Clinton told reporters, "I'm a Depression-era kid." Obviously what happened was that Clinton went back in time and arranged it so that he was born in 1936 rather than 1946. That explained how it could still be the 1990s and yet he had white hair.
There's only one thing we need to prove our theory. Mr. President, we demand to see your birth certificate!