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.