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Wag the Blog: A Conversation On Race Worth Having?



Protesters gathered outside the Capitol.

President Barack Obama and his senior aides have done everything they can to downplay the emerging storyline -- begun by Jmart over at Politico and continued by Maureen Dowd and former President Jimmy Carter -- that the angry protests that have dominated the news over the past six weeks were the result, at least in part, of continued racial tensions toward the nation's first black president.

"The president does not believe that the criticism comes based on the color of his skin," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today.

Gibbs' comments are in keeping with the way in which Obama and his inner circle dealt with the race issue on the campaign trail -- minimize it as a point of discussion when possible and, when not, keep the conversation about it short and sweet.

Take the Jeremiah Wright episode(s) as an example. Obama initially sought to downplay the story about his connections to the controversial pastor and only addressed the touchy subject of race that the Wright raised when it became clear that questions regarding the pastor had the potential to derail Obama's campaign.

Of course, the speech on race that grew out of the Wright controversy is, rightly, regarded as one of the high points, rhetorically, of the campaign, and an example of Obama's potentially transformative powers as a politician.

Given that, for today's Wag the Blog question we want to hear from you on which of the following options you agree with and why:

1. Obama's willingness to downplay the idea that racism factors into the anger toward him is a missed opportunity to open up a broader dialogue on the subject.
2. Obama genuinely doesn't see race playing a part in the protests.
3. Obama is playing smart politics as a high profile public debate over race is not a winner for him.

The most thoughtful/insightful responses will be featured in a post of their own later this week.

Also, a word of caution: we recognize race is a sensitive subject for many Americans. Please be respectful in the comments section.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 16, 2009; 3:52 PM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
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Next: Morning Fix: ACORN -- How Much Danger For Democrats?

Comments

"I myself am not going to hire any more employees knowing that I might be fined or forced to pay huge healthcare premiums."

Certainly, do whatever makes business sense for you. The market decides. For all the hollering about Socialism, etc., the point of health care reform is to make our market economy more efficient and globally competitive. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, lesson learned.

Which is actually how we got here. We're getting creamed in global markets. What we're doing now doesn't work. The market is talking. Lesson learned? Maybe? No?

Well, some students are quicker than others.

Posted by: nodebris | September 18, 2009 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Racism is alive and well in America--and yes, the world. Look around guys, Joe Wilson lives next door, Joe Wilson is standing next to you on the metro, Joe Wilson is the clerk at the store, the mailman or the nurse who gives you your flu shot. These are vulnerable, insecure, frightened persons who easily believe any doomsday or conspiracy theory they hear. All we can do is try to calm them with voices of reason. We will see them come around one by one as those who are dancing at the end of the puppeteer's strings realize they have been duped

Posted by: rawreid | September 17, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Being a "man of brown skin," I think that this is a conversation that this country needs to have. It is the only way we will bring this to the surface, and then begin to heal. We have legislated discrimination, but we have not dealt with prejudice as a nation. Prejudice has still bubbled right below the surface. (Oh please!... no its not my imagination!)If the conversation is had, the next generation will see that the prejudice position is the wrong one. Remember when it was socially acceptable to smoke cigarettes in all public places. As a society we have changed that, and now less people smoke.
I also believe that this is the wrong time for the conversation, however. Healthcare is a pretty big fish to fry....then you have immigration. Maybe this discussion could be the lead in to the immigration discussion in the future.

Posted by: emontan | September 17, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

The last 8 years (and I think you could even dip back into Clinton) have been very business friendly. Bush dismantled the systems for oversight, lowered taxes, kept the minimum wage at a minimum, put the Dept of Justice and the SEC on sleep mode, tightened the grounds for personal bankruptcy while credit cards companies were let loose, environmental concerns were discarded,gov't programs (college loans) meant to help individuals became enrichment programs w/o risk for businesses etc. All this to make business happy and esatablish that free market miracle.

And so we arrive at last year, when the free market took this whole country off the rails. Business wants the benefits of doing business in our peaceful, publicly educated, open-border, profit driven, orderly governed, low tax country -- but they also want to shirk paying for the things that make this country a great place to live and work.

Lily Ledbetter had to happen. The idea that your employer could do you dirty and then get away with it (even compound it month after month, year after year with impunity) as long as they kept it quiet for a few months up front is UN-AMERICAN.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 17, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

ROY. Check your facts. The UAW has made concessions over the past decade. Most of your criticism of Obama reflects that fact that he does not want the worker to bear the burden of the economic crisis alone. If an employer systematically discriminates against a group of employees, then that employer should be accountable. Much of what I hear from critics of Obama sounds like complaints about not being able to continue to have your cake and eat it too.

Posted by: trep1 | September 17, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Just as a reply to a couple of recent posts. No, Mr. Obama is not totally responsible for the 16 million unemployed American workers but he is now responsible for putting them back to work. His agenda of forced unionism will force jobs to go overseas like they have done historically. His attacks and threatened huge tax increases on business and the so-called "rich" have frightened business and stiffled new investment. I myself am not going to hire any more employees knowing that I might be fined or forced to pay huge healthcare premiums. This cap and trade con is out there which will mean much higher taxes if it passes. As long as he keeps up all these idealist programs unemployment will be high. There is a reason why all this was not done before. He forced GM and CHRYSLER into bankruptcy to protect the UAW who wouldn’t cut their pay by one penny. He rescinded four offshore oil drilling leases on his first day in office. He ended the statute of limitations on a employment discrimination case (Lilly Ledbetter) which means a businessman could be liable for something that happened ten or twenty years ago, if a former employee ran into financial difficulties years later and needed a payday.
My only point is that you cannot kill business and keep people employed. He has in effect, made business the fall guy for all of his problems, real or perceived. High continued unemployment is the final result.

Posted by: ROYSTOLL2 | September 17, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

matthewjblack,

If I were the president, I'd have to claim you just acted stupidly.

Posted by: HenryGates | September 17, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

Thanks, Roy, for the mental picture of conservatives as the Borg (from Star Trek, since I'm sure you weren't a fan).

The very idea that the goal of racial equality is assimilation is wrong on so many levels. Like it or not, we are and have always been a multicultural nation. That is one of our strengths, as well as a source of internal strife.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 17, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Bobsewell, It was not an attempt to be weaselly, just brief. MM got at much of what I was thinking. The way I read the post (and I reserve the right to be completely mistaked about the author's intentions), was the African Americans who assimilated were those who copied the dominant white Anglo-Saxon Christian culture. It assumes a homogeneity to American culture that history does not support (even among white Anglo-Saxon Christians themselves). It implies that there is only one way to be an American. If that was not the author's intentions, then I apologize. But that is certainly the way it appeared to me, and apparently a few other readers. Is that a better explanation?

Posted by: trep1 | September 17, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm with trep1. Roy's assimilation line assumes there is one way to be an American -- and we all know what that way is, right? White, Christian, speaking English, here for a few generations, etc, etc. There's a lot of great things that go into being a good American, and very few of them require *assimilation* because most of the things that make a good American also make a good Ghanan or a good Mexican or a good a good Cambodian or a good Indonesian. I think his use of assimilation wasn't intended as a slight, but it is one.

Roystoll says a lot of things that are good to hear, because he does talk about real concerns at the end of his post. I'm shocked that he thinks Obama has caused job loss and deficits and economic instability. All these things were firmly in place when Obama took office 8 months ago.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 17, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Attention Klansmen! The Civil War is over. The good guys won. Slavery was abolished. Now either get a life, or take your Confederate diaper and go back to your trailer park -- you are embarrassing real white people.

Posted by: matthewjblack | September 17, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Attention Klansmen! The Civil War is over. The good guys won. Slavery was abolished. Now either get a life, or take your Confederate diaper and go back to yor trailer park -- you are embarrassing real white people.

Posted by: matthewjblack | September 17, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

trep1 - Well, THAT was a little weaselly! While I'm not certain that I disagree with you, what assumptions by ROYSTALL are you assuming here?

Posted by: bobsewell | September 17, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

1. A broader dialog on race in today's political atmosphere? Remember the flat spin in Top Gun? It wouldn't go nearly that well.

2. Yeah right.

3. We have a winner.

Posted by: caribis | September 17, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to the previous poster, I would suggest the comment that many blacks have "fully assimilated into American society" confirms that there is an issue. Your assumptions about American society and its history are part of the difficulty that many people are having with an Afican American president.

Posted by: trep1 | September 17, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Is it just coincidence that the "Right Wing Extremists" or "Neocons" "Tea Baggers" (what ever is the "name de jour" that you give us) or Republicans NEVER bring up race? Yet the progressive liberals bring up race in every single issue as they use it for a weapon to marginalize the right. Yes Martha, it IS as simple as that. As long as we allow groups to exist in this country that have a race in their name or furtherance of a race as their objective, any controversy, no matter how insignificant, between any two people of different skin colors will become an issue. Until you find meaningful jobs for the thousands of people that derive their very incomes from the actual creation of racial issues, there will never be peaceful coexistence. As long as you discriminate against the majority to give one race preferential treatment on housing, education, employment, taxation, and support, you will foment resentment, from that majority. All of this is basic Psychology 101.
There are millions and millions of fine productive American citizens that just happen to be black that have fully assimilated into American society that are probably just as troubled by this racial disharmony and constant agitation, as we are. It was my fervent hope that when Mr. Obama was elected that would be the end of it but sadly it has only gotten worse. President Obama is a skilled orator and is very charismatic but the fact that he seems to have a problem with the truth is not a racial issue. Dishonesty knows no color or ethnicity. All of us on the right are troubled by the Obama administration’s tax and spend policies that are driving this country toward bankruptcy. We are also very concerned about his continued sacrifice of the jobs of 16 million Americans to appease his general vendetta against business, capitalism in general and his efforts to force unionism down the throats of Americans. We have got to get these people back to work and that should be this administration’s sole focus above all other issues

Posted by: ROYSTOLL2 | September 17, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Is it just coincidence that the "Right Wing Extremists" or "Neocons" "Tea Baggers" (what ever is the "name de jour") or Republicans NEVER bring up race? Yet the progressive liberals bring up race in every single issue as they use it for a weapon to marginalize the right. Yes Martha, it IS as simple as that. As long as we allow groups to exist (and flourish) in this country that have a race in their name or furtherance of a race as their objective, any controversy, no matter how insignificant, between any two people of different skin colors will become an issue. Until you find meaningful jobs for the thousands of people that derive their incomes from the furtherance of racial issues

Posted by: ROYSTOLL2 | September 17, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"If we think a member of a racial minority also must lead the conversation about resentment from the racial majority, then we really do have double standard."

This is very insightful.

Posted by: optimyst | September 17, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

As i read on the Internets yesterday, some people are mad that Obama has taken away their right not to have a black president.

Posted by: drindl | September 17, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Excellent, trep1 and margaretmyers.

CC, let me comment on your 3 choices:

1.) Just wrong.
2.) Too simplistic.
3.) Too cynical.

There was a good discussion about this on The News Hour (PBS) last night. Obama's former pollster indicated that hard-right conservative values and racism "occupy much the same space." So if we imagine
Hillary or John Edwards leading this same administration, the opposition would still be there, but perhaps without meanness.

The consensus is that yes, there is an element of racism in the level of hard-line opposition to Obama, but it is impossible to quantify, and in the end, that gets us nowhere. Calling the opposition raced-based doesn't advance health-care reform, it just gets us off on a tangent and distracts from the debate.

The point is, CC, that bringing race into the debate isn't a political winner or loser for Obama. It's a political loser for health-care reform.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 17, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

"The people who "want their country back," are not going to listen to Obama about race or anything else." Trep1

Nutshell.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 17, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Great posts here. I was very concerned about how this would go because the Blog was so lame on politics and race -- putting it all back on Obama.

Obama is not responsible for race relations or the racial dialog in this country. At *almost* every turn he has brought the temperature of that dialog down. You can only talk when you're calm, Obama knows this. Fix and others are looking for perfection AND then they want to complain about Obama being stiff, professorial, unnatural.

I can see today's column is about ACORN. Obama is responsible for that, too, because well, he's black, they're black.... that makes him responsible. And for Hennessey-stoked rappers and angry tennis players.


Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 17, 2009 6:25 AM
____________
Co-sign, especially the comments about ACORN. Can't believe this space is fronting this Faux News faux controversy after the MSM had decided to ignore it. This Drudge-lite approach is disappointing in a newspaper serving the progressive, diverse Washington D.C. area that overwhelmingly supported BHO last year.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 17, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I think race is one of the underlying issues for some of the protests against Obama. Carter is right, there is still racism in this country - it may not be as overt as it was in the past, but there it is still there. I think it ranges from the more blatant stuff like the people using apes and monkeys as images to mock the President, to more subtle things like the Republicans in Congress having such a lack of respect that they think it's suitable to wave signs during a joint session as if they were in the cheap seats at a football game.

Look at the "birther" movement that doesn't seem to die, no matter what anyone does or says. There was briefly a similar flurry about John McCain not being a legitimate citizen because he was born in the Panama Canal zone. There weren't any Congressmen or Senators saying, "I assume he's a citizen AS FAR AS I KNOW," and the whole thing disappeared pretty quickly once legal experts explained the laws on the subject.

But some people continue to question the President's citizenship, with crazier and crazier conspiracy theories and outright lies - consciously or unconsciously, there's a mindset there that a black man cannot be a legitimate President of the United States, and they are grasping at straws to justify that feeling. And sadly, they are being encouraged and hyped by cynical politicians and bloviators on the right and left because it makes for good filler in the 24/7 media and fund-raising cycle driven by the Internet.

Posted by: KeninBoston | September 17, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm going with Option #3 (smart politics) for one simple reason:

Obama wants to be remembered as a President, not as the Black President. The more race becomes an issue in his presidency the more likely the latter outcome.

Therefore, the most effective way he can address the race issue is by not making race an issue. His strategy seems to be to just act "Presidential" and hope that eventually all but the most hardcore bigots will calm down and get used to the idea that presidents can be something besides old white men in much the same way John F. Kennedy approached those 50 years ago who feared having a Catholic in the White House.

Posted by: Gallenod | September 17, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

I think the biggest problem about racism is how hard it is for some people to recognize it. Just like when Clarence Thomas was being confirmed and the talk was about men "not getting it" that sexual innuendo aimed at co-workers who are women was no longer acceptable behaviour. There are still many white men especially who " don't get it", who haven't been on the receiving end of bigotry and discrimination because of their gender and their skin colour and have no clue what it feels like let alone what it looks like. A perfect example of this is, sorry Chris, how Chris announced in this blog on Jan07/09 that he knows Chip Saltzman of "Barack the Magic Negro"CD infamy, and he's the furthest thing from a racist. I submit that perhaps Chris's hasn't experienced overt or introverted discrimination directed at him, and really doesn't know what it's like, or even what it looks like. If he had, he would have at least acknowledged how offensive and ignorant the CD was to millions of people. Chris, Mrs. Fix probably experienced sexism in her career, on her way to becoming a university coach, and I'm sure you didn't think too highly of any who stood in her way, even though you knew she could take care of herself.
Bigotry has many looks, racism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, etc...all of them based in ignorance and fear.

Posted by: katem1 | September 17, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

There are two points that I think are worth making about this:
1.)The people who "want their country back," are not going to listen to Obama about race or anything else. If Obama tries to engage on this issue, these same people (and others who are critical of the President for political reasons)will immediately claim that he is playing the race card because he cannot win on substance.
2.)I think it speaks volumns about the political opposition to Obama that they have to court the racist element in the country. And make no mistake about it, conservative pundits are doing just that. Claims that Obama is the most partisan president in history are rich coming from people who are trying harder than any to tear this country apart along racial or ideological lines.

Posted by: trep1 | September 17, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Great posts here. I was very concerned about how this would go because the Blog was so lame on politics and race -- putting it all back on Obama.

Obama is not responsible for race relations or the racial dialog in this country. At *almost* every turn he has brought the temperature of that dialog down. You can only talk when you're calm, Obama knows this. Fix and others are looking for perfection AND then they want to complain about Obama being stiff, professorial, unnatural.

I can see today's column is about ACORN. Obama is responsible for that, too, because well, he's black, they're black.... that makes him responsible. And for Hennessey-stoked rappers and angry tennis players.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 17, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

With regard to this whole race thing...

I agree with Russ Feingold.
"I hope my colleagues on the Finance Committee will change the bill to ensure it is not just health-care reform in name only," he said.

The Baucus bill right now is an Xmas tree for insiders and bureaucrats. I gotta stay with the upside, its potential.

Lets follow Obama's lead and keep our eyes on the prize.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 17, 2009 2:44 AM | Report abuse

yes -- getting involved in all this diversion, which is all this race discussion is all about, Obama cannot allow himself to get drawn into it. It is a total waste of valuable time we need to spend focusing on the issues -- the real issues,

Posted by: drindl | September 16, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

@mark_in_austin: I think the danger is not in invoking race but in whining about it. I think Obama could finesse the discussion and look like the adult in the discussion without tossing any gas in the trash-can fire named Al Sharpton that the conservatives would fire up.

I don't think your race-is-a-factor-but-voted anyway group is that big. I honestly don't see a lot of continua in American politics. This is a bimodal distribution, with almost all the racism in the group that voted McCain/Palin and now screams about birth certificates.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 16, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

And what bsimon said, too.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 16, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Corey_ny nailed it:
"After the hoopla of James Crowley/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. remark, President Obama administration isn't going to touch race with a 10-foot poll."


Getting healthcare reform passed is the priority right now. The President doesn't have the time to get into the great race debate right now.

.

Posted by: bsimon1 | September 16, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Let me throw a horseshoe.

There are many people who disagree with Democrats and with the Prez.

There are numerically many, but statistically few, persons who viscerally hate the Prez b/c he is black [we proved that case on election day].

There are many more persons who voted for the Prez despite the apparent fact that he is half black, because his race may have been a factor to them, but not a decisive factor.

This last group, which [I presume the Prez and] I think is three times as large as the haters, may be susceptible to being pulled off course by an ad hominem response by the Prez calling [even the racist] critics racists.

The course of conduct that won the election for BHO - engaging on the issues and not being distracted by the flak - is an appropriate continuing course.

I hope that made some sense. I will bet that shrink agrees and has more professional insight about this.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 16, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Race card comes out = Obama in trouble. Suprise, Suprise.

Posted by: RobT1 | September 16, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, Carter is right, exactly right. Racism dies hard.

Posted by: eaglepeak | September 16, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

GandT @8:09 is saying something true and simple and constant. Jake and snow white always have their surrogates: birth certificates, foreign passports, step-grand mothers in Kenya. That or everyone is misunderstanding what they and their friends are saying: its really about water not being wet or the other side just not being bipartisan enough (when bipartisan enough means capitulating).

Obama is supposed to do everything: run the country, compose pristine legislation fit for everyone, control the national dialog, pull the country out of a RECESSION flawlessly, get us out of the Middle East instantly and with no repurcussions, fix Bush's horrible deficit and please the Greedy Old Party. All this while neither being too Black nor too White, and behaving in a way that heals us all but cannot be complained about by anyone.
The Republcans? They get to do nothing but complain and get in the way.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 16, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Still can't believe BHO left Jimmy Carter hangin' out there on this. Oh well.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

HMG, that could be. I don't buy that. But if it is, it's a flawed strategy: Carter says it's about race then Gibbs undercuts him by saying it isn't--that doesn't work. And if it were a strategy Congressman Clyburn wouldn't still be pushing BHO to personally strike back. For the Joe Wilsons of the world to openly spit on our President, and then to have Gibbs announce it's only rain, insults all of O-Nation.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

heartlandgirl, the "he plays the race card" thing was worn out by the Clintons a long time ago. Palin McSame tried it, zzzzzz.

Do you really think accusing Barak Obama of playing the race card matters, like, you are on to something? This is the internet. Either say something or...have another plate of brownies.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 16, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised The Fix failed to include the most obvious possibility, so I'll add it here.

4. Obama knows playing the race card is distasteful, but he also knows that it will probably at least slow down the momentum of opponents of health care reform, and the White House is bordering on desperation.

So, he's delegating it to surrogates to say the distasteful things for him. That way he looks like he's above the fray, but he gets the benefit out of playing the race card all the same.

Carter, as a white southerner, might seem to the White House to be a particularly helpful surrogate because his participation can make it look like the White House isn't really beating up on the south itself (just anyone in the south who happens to disagree with Obama).

It's the sort of tactic that George W. Bush used all the time (with great effect against John McCain, in the 2004 primaries). It's nothing but politics-as-usual-Washington-Hardball.

Why is The Fix so naive as to suppose that Obama won't fight dirty when he has to?

Posted by: HeartlandModerateGal | September 16, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

A high profile race discussion is happening, it can not be stopped and yes, it is good for him.

He is not driving it (he was born that way), not exploiting it, neither is he ignoring nor "downplaying" it.

This is rope a dope. Just admire him.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 16, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I've met plenty of racists, after all I did five years of elementary school in Virginia and South Carolina, and I've never met one who ever admitted openly that he was a racist. They all have proxy concerns and they all have evidence they trot out to show that they're not really racists.

They just don't want their kids spending more time on the bus, see. They don't believe that The Good Lord intended for the races to mix.

They're just concerned that the rule of law is followed. It's about the Constitution, it's about policy differences, it's not about race.

Sometimes one gets the feeling they actually believe their own swill.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 16, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

"Mainstream media figures like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Chris C's venerated Matt Drudge use racial discord as a meal ticket (kind of puts JakeD's continued presence in perspective, doesn't it?)."

__________

HuffPo's take today on Drudge (the model for this space according to the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review) and what seems to be a bigoted agenda:

Excerpt:

"Except that ever since President Obama's largely successful speech to Congress last week, the message from Drudge and from the conservative echo-chorus that is conducted daily by Rush Limbaugh has become increasingly less subliminal and more shrill, and their toxic tone is one that should alarm all Americans. It can be summed up: "Black people are running amok in Obama's America - emboldened by an African-American in the White House, they are now here to beat up white folks, cheat them out of their hard-earned money, and impose 'black nationalism'! White people need to be very afraid."

I don't believe that allegations of racism should be tossed out lightly, and I've cautiously watched this narrative unwind over the past couple of weeks. Today, there can be no doubt. The lead story on the Drudge Report for the entire day until about 2:30 p.m. - on a day in which two tabloid evergreen stories, the murder of a beautiful young Ivy League college student and a round-up of terrorists in New York City just after the 9/11 anniversary, were in the news - is about a fight on a school bus. A non-fatal (thankfully) fight on a bus, that happened to involve black kids beating up a white kid, and was captured of course on video.

Drudge's typically sedate headline: "White Student Beaten On School Bus: Crowd Cheers." "

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-bunch/drudge-limbaugh-and-the-s_b_287939.html

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

There are other possibilities.

Here is one example:

(4) Obama is playing smart politics as a high profile public debate over race has been and will continue to be a winner for him.

Want more?

Posted by: shrink2 | September 16, 2009 4:35 PM
______
What? The summer was totally lost thanks to the birthers, teabaggers, tenthers, deathers and the hate broadcasters have already teed up about four or five more racial proxy issues. BHO is losing on this, big time.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Fine, BHO is Jackie Robinson reincarnated. What's next, he's going to write a letter (more likely read from a teleprompter) in a Birmingham Jail? Die on the Cross for all of mankind's sins?

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

" I hope I live to see that day."

me too, mike.

scrivener, your post at 5:40 was great. totally agree.

'For better and for worse, 1947 is not all that different from 2009. That speaks to how far we've come and how far we've yet to go.'

Posted by: drindl | September 16, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

We knew the right was going to be hopping mad at having a black man as President and a lot of us were looking forward to enjoying their discomfiture. Have enjoyed it. Immensely. Enjoyed hear their rapid short gasps as their lives flash before their eyes. Serves you right, all you racist pigs out there. Suffffer.

But I never expected them to cave in and go completely ape-feces. I thought they were made of stronger stuff than that. Guess I was thinking of someone else.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 16, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Washington Post columnist Courtland Malloy today publicly called on BHO to fight back against the bigots:

Excerpt:

"On several occasions this year, President Obama has expressed with certain bravado a threat to "call out" anyone who would undermine his reform efforts. The problem is that the Ivy League gentleman from Hawaii appears not to have mastered this coarsened art of the streetwise rebuke and, as a result, he tends to come off as bluffing.

"If you misrepresent what's in this [health care] plan, we will call you out," Obama told a joint session of Congress last week. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) apparently knew better. He not only misrepresented the plan but also interrupted Obama's speech to call the president a liar.

Sure enough, Obama did not call him out.

Let's face it: Our articulate and mild-mannered president doesn't have the stomach for the kind of merciless ridicule that one uses to expose and embarrass political hypocrites and scoundrels. But if Obama is going to keep threatening to call people out -- as if he were from the streets and not just someone who used to work in the streets -- the least he can do is learn the fundamentals.

Otherwise, he's just selling wolf tickets -- writing macho bad checks with his mouth and leaving others to cover the racial overdraft."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091503392.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, we have substantial numbers who believe Obama was born in Africa, we have calls for assassination from the pulpit and on hate radio, we have fat white guys packing heat at political rallies, and only now do we have the news media wondering if race might be an issue.

What the hell do you think this has been about?!?

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 16, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I totally buy into S50's BHO's-doing-a-Jackie Robinson analysis to a point. S50 has just half of the Robinson story.

Yes, Jackie Robinson endured, at the direction of Branch Rickey, racial slurs, spit, spikings, death threats, and the rest, and, as instructed, didn't fight back...in the beginning. But later on Rickey gave him the greenlight to "let 'em have it." From that point on, he gave as good as he got and earned respect. Unless BHO wants to be talking about death panels and birth certificates, instead of health care and economy, for the next three years, he needs to pushback and call these bigots out openly, including the hate broadcasters.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Agree with the Jackie Robinson analogy. Obama didn't just make history once by being elected, but he is making history every single day by BEING a black President. He will be judged on that axis as well. At such a high profile job, kids will grow up and think that perhaps black people aren't such bad people. Why do you think so many conservatives had an issue with their children seeing Obama. Really? Because they were scared of a socialist message? Of course not. It was an indoctrination of bigotry they were trying to protect.

And agreed that Obama has to do better to get the same acceptance that his white counterparts would get. You think it's any coincidence that the first black President is one of the most eloquent and inspiring figures ever. That he is brilliant and an incredible speaker? Of course not. A black version of Bush never gets elected. A black person with no intellectual curiosity and who speaks in ebonics? Those characteristics are charming in Bush, but unacceptable in a black man.

There is a rule in the NFL that teams hiring new head coaches must interview at least one minority candidate. This allows blacks to at least get their feet through the door. And of course, standards are tougher for them than for their white counterparts. But the results show on the field. Black head coaches average a win per season better than their white counterparts. Pretty impressive, no?

So like Robinson, Obama must prove himself daily. And there are those who are bent on preserving the status quo of bigotry who are invested in seeing a black President fail. But they see that those days are slipping away and they act more and more unhinged as you see with these outward displays of racism at the tea parties. Time and history continues to march and it will trample over these people just like it has trampled over these people so many times in the past.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 16, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

President James Earl Carter is right. BHO cannot afford to ignore this endless series of ugly racial proxy events and issues, e.g., teabaggers, birthers, tenthers, secessionists, Town Hall "protesters," etc., the media has been obsessing over.

As numerous mainstream commenters have said, most of the red-faced participants in these events oppose BHO, NOT on substantive policy grounds, but on race. They cannot accept a black president. It's clearly his race that motivated 20,000 angry teabaggers (under the faux banner of a "tax protest") to come to Washington D.C. with racist chants and signs including one that openly threatened, "We are unarmed--this time."

Many view this is a kind of Jeremiah Wright II moment. As with Wright I, you can't get around this racist nonsense; it is blocking your policy agenda, so turn it into a "teaching moment" to use 44's words. BHO should personally call out these lunatics as bigots, and call out these foolish "controversies" as proxies for direct racial attacks--Congressman Clyburn and President Carter can't fight his fight for him--this is BHO's job. Once BHO does that, he can then toss any future faux issues into the racial proxy trash can and be dismissive of them.

Obama knows full well that these antics are all about race (no legitimate journalist thinks otherwise) but sadly he is being advised by his aides to ignore them just as they advised him to ignore the Wright controversy. Fortunately, BHO disregarded their advice and went on to give his famous "race" speech. Had he not given that speech, he would not be our President today. BHO again needs to forget the advisers and give Race Speech II. Time to fight back.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 16, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama is our first Black president, and given our country's complicated history of race relations and conflict, the pertinent question regarding the current criticism of Obama is not whether race is a factor, but to what degree. In our patriarchal construction of family, mirrored in our politics, there are of course white voters who chafe under the idea of a "Black father". Particularly one like Obama, whose grandiloquent rhetoric projects a beneficent paternalism. The idea that we are to look up to and trust Obama as a protector and surrogate father figure can be uncomfortable if not impossible for many White Americans. The particularly vociferous nature of the recent attacks on the push to reform health care and the way that they've zoomed in on the singular figure of Obama seem like a catharsis, an outpouring of distrust of the President which may have roots in racial resentment. Resentment which decent people are often loathe to recognize or admit in themselves.

That, however, is all speculation. Certainly, our collective memory is not so short that we forget caricatures of George W. Bush by the left as a fascist, or even as a primate. Given our past record of excoriating our political figures, it's hard to imagine that the current attacks on Obama would be any more reasoned if he was White. Does his position as a Black authority figure fuel some of the outrage? Definitely. Is his race the main factor? Not by a long shot. A contributor to the NYT recently wrote that conservatives are vulnerableby Obama's campaigned a a change agent, someone intent on shaking up the status quo, is a much more likely reason to hate him for conservatives.

There is too much at stake for the criticisms about Obama to be just about race, or even mostly about race. The accusations of socialism are more of a cultural reactionary backlash against the change which Obama represents than Obama himself. Some of the issues that have surfaced during the debate: guns, abortion, illegal immigrants, often have a racial tinge, but are mostly cultural conservative issues. The conservative base has been energized because they feel their way of life is being threatened, not because their president is Black. However, when people become inflamed, their grievances and resentments tend to become less focused, and for some, their baser instincts surface. Obama already made the mistake of wading into unclear racial waters with the Henry Louis Gates affair. Although it makes sense for the partisan left to stoke the "racism fires" for political points, a consensus-bringer like Obama is wise to stay out of such a debate.

Posted by: yiweiwang | September 16, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

For the rest of you, flying the flag upside down is an internationally recognized distress signal.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

mnteng:

Please post a link where anyone spit at Obama.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I'm happy to see such a high proportion of thoughtful posts. Even zouk seems a bit muted.

The posts that resonate with me are scrivener's and johnwykoff's. We are still in an age where BHO's skin color/ancestry make his Presidency notable, regardless of anything that he may or may not do. As all pioneers for minority groups (gender, race, etc.), it isn't enough to be as good as the rest -- you have to excel. BHO gains nothing by pointing out the racism against him by white people; it just makes him sound like a complainer. Scrivener's Jackie Robinson analogy is apt.

Race will be an issue for a long time yet, partly because identifying with like members of a group is hardwired into our biology as social creatures. But it is the ability to think past our prejudices and logically process information that separates us from other species. At some point, our politicians will stop using fear as a primary motivator and instead focus on more constructive debate of the issues. I hope I live to see that day.

Posted by: mnteng | September 16, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

You may think that falsely claiming we are not all that different than 1947 "advances" your agenda somehow, but I was around in 1947 -- I was also for racial desegregation of the Army and schools -- so, I can tell you that you are mistaken.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

scrivener50:

Please post a link where anyone called Obama the "n" word in public.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree with scrivener50 and johnwykoff (and of course) what I said.

A high profile race discussion is happening, it can not be stopped and it is good for him; he is not driving it, neither is he ignoring nor "downplaying" it.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 16, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

scrivener50:

Please post a link where anyone showered Obama with cat-calls and trash thrown from the stands.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

alisonserene:

You are simply mistaken about him being the first and only president to be heckled during a joint-session of Congress -- GWB was BOOed loudly by many Dems during the State of the Union -- look, I don't doubt that some racists are involved in the criticism, but certainly it is not "racist" for AFRICAN-AMERICAN Alan Keyes to point out that Barack Obama has not proven he was born in Hawaii.

scrivener50:

Please post a link where anyone spit at Obama.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I find myself so concerned and preoccupied by this issue. For several months now I've felt that some of the attacks on the President have carried racial undertones. Certainly the questions about his birthplace and the willingness of many media outlets to cover that story as though it were actually in question. Then, the signs displayed at the Tea Party rallies and this past weekend, at the 9-12 protests, not to mention a few offhand comments I've heard in my day to day life. And I don't take lightly the fact that this is the first and only president to be heckled during a joint-session, and that the man who heckled him has racism in his past. That said, as an Obama supporter, I was somewhat prepared for all of this--just because we elected a black man doesn't mean we're absolved of our past, and those that were racist before the election are still racists after. What I was not prepared for was the refusal, on the part of members of the media, to believe that racism is a factor here. I hate to bring up certain people for fear that I'll sound like I'm attacking someone, but this morning's discussion on Morning Joe about race issues was absolutely infuriating and inappropriate. The shows hosts (along with guest Maria Bartiromo), who claim to be experts on the issues and the ways of the world in terms of how politics, foreign policy, etc. work in this country, spent nearly three hours laughing at Jimmy Carter's words. They defended those who so overtly stoke these fires (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh) and at times seemed exasperated that anyone would even bring this up. Yes, I understand that this may distract from health care, but holy cow people, it's not just racism itself that's caused so many problems in this country, it's our inability and our refusal to talk about it! If we are ever going to overcome our dark past, we MUST discuss it.

Posted by: alisonserene | September 16, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

BARACK PLAYS IT JUST LIKE JACKIE DID.

President Obama knows his history, and he's playing it just like Jackie Robinson.

Sixty-two years ago, the first black man to break the major league baseball color barrier experienced the most vile displays of racism imaginable. He was called the "n" word by fans, grown-ups and kids, and even by the bigoted manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Fans spat upon him and showered him with cat-calls and trash thrown from the stands. Yet Jackie followed the advice of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey and just took it, turning the other cheek, infuriating militant blacks who urged him to defy and not defer.

Robinson didn't listen to them. He just kept his eyes on the prize and showed them his stuff -- and his dignity as a man. Not just his playing skills, but his character. He let the jeers and the venom roll off his back. Game after game, hit after hit, one stolen base after another.

A white teammate, a Georgia native named Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, befriended Robinson. Other white players shunned Reese, at first. But by the end of his rookie season,Robinson's great playing skills, and his humility, won over his teammates along with most Brooklyn fans. Even the racists had to admit, this guy's got brass.

President Obama has spoken eloquently on the subject of race. Nothing more need be said. Like Robinson before him, Mr. Obama must now show them his stuff. And that he's got the inner courage and the spine to endure the affronts until his performance makes considerations of race speciously, fatuously irrelevant.

For better and for worse, 1947 is not all that different from 2009. That speaks to how far we've come and how far we've yet to go.

Posted by: scrivener50 | September 16, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

What a lot of beautiful posts (not you snow white); but johnwykoff is a very wise man.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 16, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

OR 4. Obama sees that this conversation never moves forward so why have it again when it only creates anger, suspicion and resentment.

Life and living is what edges us forward in race relations, not shouting. Each generation, the % of people who use race as a tool for rejection and denegration grows smaller. This progress is slow but it is steady. I would like to see less talk and more walk.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 16, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama continues to take the high road, as he should. He knows a lot of this is about race. Any intelligent person does. But there is no good reason for him to directly address it --it's a distraction from the work he wants to get done. Talking about it isn't going to change anyone's mind. Those that feel that way, it's deeply ingrained and their hate is part of who they are, what defines them.

Obama knows that things are changing, the young don't feel this way, and those that do are a dying breed. There will always be racism, but there is far less today than there once was, and we can hope that there will be even less tomorrow.

Of course, there are the monsters like Beck and Limbaugh who want to incite hatred, but they have a relatively small audience, and most people see them for the thugs they are.

Posted by: drindl | September 16, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

When a discussion is centered around race-nobody wins. It's more important to not inject race into issues when it is not warranted. Unfortunately, race-baiting can be profitable for the people who know how to manipulate. When you have to fall back to accusing someone of being racist, you cheapen the discussion and any possibility of finding common ground is lost.

Posted by: TexasProud1 | September 16, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I think it's a very different thing for Obama to talk about resentment within the black community, which he did around Jeremiah Wright. It would be a very different thing for the first black President to lead a conversation about real or perceived resentment directed at him from whites. If some of the resentment against Obama from whites is motivated in racism, and I believe SOME of it is, I'm not sure it can be solved until white Americans can have an honest a similarly introspective conversation about our own resentment. Obama showed how a community can have that discussion about itself and do it in public as part of the national conversation. It's difficult and it takes brave introspection but it can be done and can be done constructively. If we think a member of a racial minority also must lead the conversation about resentment from the racial majority, then we really do have double standard.

Posted by: johnwykoff | September 16, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

4. Obama is playing smart politics as [White House participation in] a high profile public debate over [cynical political use of] race is not a winner for [anyone, and proxies can sufficiently address the issue].

Posted by: nodebris | September 16, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

When you are desperate enough to fall back on Jimmy carter and Mo Do, you have officially arrived at the last bastion of the terminally inept.

If anything deserves a review by a "death panel" it is anyone who places any substance on these retreads.

could you next check on what Paris Hilton thinks, it is in the same category, yet interesting and probably thought out better.

Posted by: snowbama | September 16, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Most Republicans lawmakers would be criticizing the president no matter the color of his skin. But it is silly for anyone to deny that most of the grass roots anger is racially motivated.

It is one thing for conservatives to oppose the president's policies, entirely another to have the unprecedented conservative rage against Obama when he elected not even one year ago.

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | September 16, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

There are other possibilities.

Here is one example:

(4) Obama is playing smart politics as a high profile public debate over race has been and will continue to be a winner for him.

Want more?

Posted by: shrink2 | September 16, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Obama knows that a debate about race will only cause a distraction to his policy mission. I believe he dose in fact find much of his opposition to be racist. Consider his gut check reaction to the arrest of Professor Gates. I think he sees America as having a racism problem but knows that he has the potential to transform our image on race by being a great president. So for now he is trying to play the game and get stuff done. It will be interesting to see how he acts once his 4-8 years are up.

Posted by: iketheyeti | September 16, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

After the hoopla of James Crowley/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. remark, President Obama administration isn't going to touch race with a 10-foot poll.

Posted by: Corey_NY | September 16, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: mjwilstein | September 16, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

This is quite a bit different than the Jeremiah Wright story. With the pastor, you were talking about something that Obama was embroiled in. This was Obama being asked to reconcile how he could get spiritual guidance from someone who harbored these views. That served as the jumping off point for his Philadelphia speech.

I'm not sure Obama has a jumping off point here. Yeah, a lot of these protesters are racially motivated, but Obama isn't really in the middle of this controversy. I think you really need something concrete in order to start such a discussion. Take the Professor Gates incident or something like Jena 6 pops into mind. In a broad sense, this is kind of a stretch to make the protesters a racial issue. You don't want to have a confluence of the health care issue and the race issue. Each of them is sticky enough as it is.

This is something that could be best left to the country to try and work out itself. I'm not saying Obama shouldn't ever come back to this issue, but I don't see the protesters as a rationale for starting such a discussion. It's just too ambiguous.

I know this post is about Obama, but we aren't going to have racial harmony without some maturity from ourselves and from the press. This is true no matter what Obama does. Now obviously we aren't going to see the press take leadership. Mainstream media figures like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Chris C's venerated Matt Drudge use racial discord as a meal ticket (kind of puts JakeD's continued presence in perspective, doesn't it?). Obama has set out a path in his speech a year and a half ago, but he can't drag us through the woods.

We sort of know what needs to be done. until cooler heads prevail, Obama can't do a damn thing.

I'm not sure what category this fits into. Maybe #3?

Posted by: DDAWD | September 16, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

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