Obama Supporters Cry Wolf on Race Again

Sean Wilentz has written a piece for TNR on the Orlando Patterson OP/ED in the NYT yesterday that JoAnne posted about saying, “I was stunned by this article.” I was stunned too.

Wilentz responds to Patterson saying, “Hold On–‘3 A.M.’ Wasn’t Racist,” and in his piece he points out the obvious, on the eve of the Mississippi primary, the Obama camp was at it again:

Reading Orlando Patterson’s op-ed in the New York Times, “The Red Phone in Black and White,” is a depressing experience.  Not only does the piece scurrilously accuse Hillary Clinton’s campaign of cutting an ad that borrows from the filmmaker D.W. Griffith’s glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. Not only is this attack based on a Clinton advertisement about national security, not domestic policy (let alone race), that required a singularly tortured and biased “close reading” by Patterson to reach its conclusions. What is truly depressing is that the essay fits what has become a troubling and familiar pattern by the Obama campaign and its fervent supporters to inject racial politics on the eve of yet another Democratic primary in a Southern state, in this case Mississippi, where African-American voters are expected to vote in large numbers.

I described this pattern on February 27, accounting for how the Obama campaign has cleverly played what I called the “race-baiter card”–and yet blamed Hillary Clinton.  These efforts, undertaken both by Obama’s own campaign and its boosters in the press, escalated after Clinton’s surprising win in New Hampshire and in the build-up to the South Carolina primary.  To recount the ugliness: Obama–through his national co-chair, Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.–accused Clinton of studied callousness toward the victims of Hurricane Katrina; his press supporters falsely ascribed her victory to racism among New Hampshire’s Democratic voters; the Obama campaign then went on to seize upon non-controversial and historically accurate statements by Bill and Hillary Clinton (as in the notorious Martin Luther King-Lyndon Johnson episode, fully discredited by Bill Moyers and others) and called them inflammatory race-baiting.

Now, in anticipation of the Mississippi primary, it’s happening again.

Wilentz points to a pattern set up by the Obama camp that trends back to the New Hampshire primary:

In Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island on March 4, as earlier in New Hampshire, the Obama campaign did not achieve the knock-out blow it expected and predicted. Indeed, just before those primaries and since, Obama’s camp started to receive serious criticism and scrutiny for the first time, over the candidate’s connections to indicted Chicago fixer Tony Rezko, and over the amateurish and revealing actions of senior advisers Austan Goolsbee, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. The campaign has turned to double-talk and to stonewalling the press. And once again, it has lashed out by playing racial politics while accusing the Clinton campaign of playing the very same game.

Interpreting the Clinton 3 A.M. phone ad on preparedness and national security as a hidden appeal to white racism takes a remarkable bit of bad faith on the part of Professor Patterson. But the bad faith is not restricted to him alone. Earlier in the campaign, in speeches to black audiences, Obama mouthed lines generally believed to come from Malcolm X about how African Americans were being “bamboozled” and “hoodwinked” by white oppressors and Uncle Toms–except that the lines were not actually Malcolm’s but were scripted for Denzel Washington playing Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s movie. Now, in Mississippi, Obama is talking about blacks being bamboozled and hoodwinked again.

And he points to the fact that Obama himself dredged up the patently false “costumegate” charges against Clinton, although he himself said he knew her campaign was not responsible:

Then, after Obama conceded that Clinton had nothing to do with the ridiculous posting on the disreputable Drudge Report of a picture of Obama in ceremonial Somali dress–supposedly an appeal to racial and religious fears–he now is telling the voters of Mississippi that in fact she was responsible for the photo’s appearance, and that she did it in order to scare people–a charge he well knows to be untrue.  In the televised debate in Ohio on February 26, Obama said that “I take Senator Clinton at her word that she knew nothing about the photo.  So I think that’s something that we can set aside.”

But on March 10 in Jackson, Mississippi, he declared, “When in the midst of a campaign you decide to throw the kitchen sink at your opponent because you’re behind, and your campaign starts leaking photographs of me when I’m traveling overseas wearing the native clothes of those folks to make people afraid … that’s not real change.”

So Obama has flip-flopped and as we all know “the press corps does not always report it” when Obama pulls a fast one. The bottom line Wlientz points out is the fact that “the cynical race politics by Obama and his passionate followers, is toxic, not just for this campaign but for American political life.”

It is toxic. And downright depressing. I say this not as a Clinton supporter, but as a Democrat and an American. I’ll note with irony that Wilentz’s tag line, which I used as the headline here, was a thought that had crossed my mind. The Obama camp has cried wolf on some of the most innocuous statements made by Clinton surrogates and called them racist, that we’re all getting whiplash. As I told some today outside of the blogosphere in this election depending on who you are supporting in the Democratic race, you are either a racist or a sexist. And that readers is a sad statement on the identity politics that have overshadowed the issues in this election cycle.  

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14 Responses to Obama Supporters Cry Wolf on Race Again

  1. gqmartinez says:

    I think this is more than toxic. It is dangerous. Obama/Axelrod are trying to frame this such that if Hillary wins, it will because of racism. The Obama/Axelrod/Kos/Olberman axis is fanning the flames of racial tensions at a time when white supremacist groups are on the rise, racial profiling is up. The shortsightedness of this effort, and the failure of Democratic leaders to put a stop to it has me deeply disturbed.

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  3. gqmartinez

    I agree, it is dangerous too. I missed Olbermann tonight and last night thankfully. I may look for the YouTube later… I dunno, I heard it was ugly.

  4. Jessica says:

    “As I told some today outside of the blogosphere in this election depending on who you are supporting in the Democratic race, you are either a racist or a sexist. And that readers is a sad statement on the identity politics that have overshadowed the issues in this election cycle.”

    Pamela, I agree with you. It’s pretty awful to watch two candidates, both of whom are making history with their serious and popular campaigns, being ripped apart by each other’s supporters. Unfortunately, we are at a point where people see what they want to see to fit the narrative they desire. Obama’s supporters are quick to see racism in benign or vague comments and Hillary’s supporters see a sexist behind every pencil and microphone. None of this helps and what’s more, it makes real cases of sexism and racism harder to define and halt. If everything is offensive, than nothing is offensive.

    An off topic PS: I hope democrats will stop threatening to stay home or vote for McCain if their candidate doesn’t win the nomination. If I don’t get my first choice, you better believe I will support my second choice because I refuse to sulk and hold my vote and watch another Bush term. No freakin’ way.

  5. alrudder says:

    Well folks, watch for yourselves the 9 minutes and 48 second of Olbermann tonight and tell me if he is a race baiter. I don’t think so.

  6. Jessica

    Unfortunately, we are at a point where people see what they want to see to fit the narrative they desire.”

    That in itself is 99% of the problem sadly. And I agree that “makes real cases of sexism and racism harder to define and halt.”

    Whether you apply Wilentz’s “cry wolf” to either side we still have a lot of parsing going on and people are believing what they want to believe and repeating things that have been proven false. It’s nasty, it’s ugly and it’s sad.

    I’ve said here along that I personally will support the nominee, who ever it is. I hope that all my readers will do the same. The most important thing we can do is to put a Dem in the White House.

    The candidates and their supporters need to get back on the issues.

  7. alrudder

    The best I can say is I was not impressed with what Olbermann said. I think at this point we should all be concerned about the hype on both sides, as Jessica said above in so many words.

    I grow more disgusted by the day, not as a Clinton supporter, but as a Democrat and an American, as I said above. Olbermann may see Clinton and her supporters as out of control. Some see it the other way. I find myself because things are so ugly wanting to spend less and less time here discussing politics. It’s a highly toxic atmosphere, as Sean Wilentz pointed out and not at all good for my personal peace of mind.

  8. alrudder says:

    A couple of points…
    1. As for a toxic atmosphere, I can say now in mid-March that the Democratic Party is still in positive territory. We are debating how to cover everyone, and how to get out of Iraq. The American people are hearing our side of the story. McCain is not getting much oxygen. I hope Obama and Hillary (and their camps) continue to make the case for being better, but not disqualifying the other.
    2. With bigotry, there is a lot of crying wolf on both sides. And there are legitimate claims from both sides. I see electoral politics as the process to get power so that it can be wielded into policy. I don;t like having to talk about bigotry.
    But for those who say “stick to the issues” I regret to say that racial & gender disparity in the economy and in public policy IS AN ISSUE. Thus, the characters of the candidates and and their inner circle needs to be examined.

  9. alrudder

    “But for those who say “stick to the issues” I regret to say that racial & gender disparity in the economy and in public policy IS AN ISSUE.”

    Yes it is an issue. It’s a big issue, but we’re talking about it in the context of the issue because everyone is too busy calling each other racist and sexist.

    I’ve had more than my share of gender disparity in my lifetime as an only parent and small business owner. I’d far rather we be talking about what we can do to fix these things than complaining about “he said, she said” every day. It’s not at all productive. That’s what I am saying here about getting back to the issues.

  10. Peace Out For Unity says:

    Today we are all the colors of a rainbow and racism is a place in our hearts to resolve.Ferrano is quoted saying, “any time anybody does anything that pulls the campaign down and says let’s address reality and the problems we’re facing in the world, you’re accused of being a racist,so you have to shut up.” Per the Daily Breeze of Torrance,California Ferrano says,”racism works in two different directions.” “I really think they are attacking me cause I’m white.” “How’s that?” CLINTON DOES NOT AGREE WITH FERRARO’S COMMENTS MADE IN REFERENCE TO RACIAL INFERENCES OR THE CONFUSION THE MATTER HAS CAUSED! Did you listen to the debate? They asked Clinton what her favorite bible verse was and she said,”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How’s that? Let’s spin it a half a million different ways before it goes to print ! Rewind for intellectual experienced direction you can depend on! Stay tuned for specific clarification with Clinton after this needed station of the nation identification. To much goose quacking, let’s get to the issues of An Innovation Agenda and try something new. Resolve in your heart the issue of racial concerns and wake up tomorrow and tell yourself, today we are all the colors of a rainbow. Respectfully in reguard and thank-you! Young voices of Ameica are listening and watching engaged in this election !

  11. mamameow says:

    i am sorry obama but are where you are largely because you are black. your camp has played to that since you started the primaries. the race card has played very well for you no matter where or who the comments have come from. if you are the nominee, the mc cainers will use race the same way you have. if women in this country would stop and see how they are bring shafted again by men, even black men hopefully they will stand up for thyemselves. or have women just silently acdepted second class status behind white men, black men, and now black women. you all are disgusting spineless females.

  12. Fallon says:

    Obama’s campaign decided early on that the only way he could win against Hillary was to portray Hillary and Bill Clinton as racists. This would alienate black voters and turn them to Obama for redemption. The despicable and vile ranting by his supporters has achieved it’s goal as now we see Bill Clinton’s negatives higher than his positives among the Obama supporters. Candidate Obama has infected this party with a deady toxin of racism, imho. I dare say that Gerry Feraro is right. Her delivery sucked, but I too believe that no white man, no woman of any color, would be in Obama’s position as a candidate for President with the short, emply resume he brings forth. Any other woman, or white man would have been laughed out of the early primaries. So yes, Sen. Obama’s difference, his being black, has certainly helped in his rise to stardom. But leave it to the ranting Obama supporters, the Olberman hatchet men, and MSNBC to feed the beast of racism.

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  14. Jessica says:

    One of Howard Zinn’s points in his book, A People’s History of the United States, is that in order to keep power, the powerful will pit the powerless against each other. An example he cites is how poor whites have been set against poor blacks on the race issue. They did not unite together on their common cause, poverty, and demand better because the powerful sowed the seeds of discontent to keep them apart. As a result, they never harnessed their collective power to fight the powerful and they remained in poverty. Let’s be sure we are not repeating this mistake. However faint Republican power is, they don’t want to give it up and they’re going to do their damnedest to pull Democrats apart. Resist it by refusing to be divided.