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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Race-Baiting and Its Ugly Fallout

posted by on January 15 at 9:43 AM

So, this is really minor, but when I woke up this morning I enjoyed some truly sloppy reporting care of NPR’s Juan Williams. (Here’s the segment in question.) Re: Clinton’s comment about LBJ and Martin Luther King, Jr:

JUAN WILLIAMS: It really did cross the line in terms of the feeling of black people that they’re able to make a difference in their own lives.

RENEE MONTAGNE: Well, you say that, but could one argue that the Obama side is taking needless offense, as in making this something bigger than it is?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah, and I think that they have been trying to fuel the fire, if you will, Renee. Representative Charles Rangel, who’s the longest serving black in Congress, the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, says this has been “overanalyzed.” You know, he’s looking for the white person who insulted him or any black person… John Lewis, the civil rights icon, now Georgia Congressman, added that Obama “is no Martin Luther King or Bobby Kennedy,” people that Obama has been analogizing himself to.

Um, those are great examples of black leaders who didn’t take exception to Clinton’s remarks. But did you bother to check which candidate they’re supporting? Rangel endorsed Clinton way back in March and yesterday called Obama “absolutely stupid” for daring to suggest Clinton’s original remark was “ill-advised.” (Gasp!) John Lewis has also endorsed Clinton.

It’s not too hard to find unaffiliated but prominent black politicos who have questioned the tone of Clinton’s remarks. (Rep. Clyburn and Donna Brazile have both been very vocal on the subject.) But it’s pretty blatantly irresponsible not to identify Rangel and Lewis, in particular, as partisans in this race.

And I have yet to see a quotation in which Obama “analogizes himself” to MLK or Bobby Kennedy. Ugh. This stuff is getting so ridiculous.

Maybe Howard Kurtz will mediate for me?

RSS icon Comments


You mean Juan Williams is a right-wing hack journalist? SHOCKING!

Posted by DOUG. | January 15, 2008 9:51 AM

Speaking of race...

TNR dug up more ghosts from christmas past.

Posted by crk on bellevue ave | January 15, 2008 10:13 AM

Speaking of Race, thou who shalt not be named has some more explaining to do!

Posted by crk on bellevue ave | January 15, 2008 10:15 AM

(sorry for the double post, you can nuke this comment and one of the doubles... oops!!)

Posted by crk on bellevue ave | January 15, 2008 10:16 AM

As these candidates plead their innocence by saying they have no control over what their surrogates say, it tells you a lot about how accountable they would be for their underlings as president.

Posted by elenchos | January 15, 2008 10:18 AM

Racism is much more sneaky and subliminal than this recent Hillary-goons vs Saint-Obama media sideshow.

Ask any neocon / theocon.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | January 15, 2008 10:25 AM

Juan Williams comments were consistently sympathetic to the Hillary campaign and dismissive of the Obama campaign's viewpoint throughout.

Posted by lostboy | January 15, 2008 10:27 AM

Clearly Juan Williams has undergone full Murdochification.

Also, at what point will the trick of using proxies to say all the nasty shit for you cease to work? Will the now-well-established good cop/team of bad cops routine start wearing thin someday?

Posted by tsm | January 15, 2008 10:29 AM
" have yet to see a quotation in which Obama “analogizes himself” to MLK or Bobby Kennedy. "

have you heard his stump speech? his "fierce urgency of now" is lifted directly from MLK. I thought that the Kennedy that he most frequently "analogized" himself with was JFK though.

Posted by josh | January 15, 2008 10:31 AM

So if you quote MLK, that means you think you are MLK?

Who does Hillary quote? I'm curious who she thinks she is.

Posted by elenchos | January 15, 2008 10:35 AM

@9: Yes, I've acknowledged that Obama regularly quotes and invokes MLK (regular stump speech) and JFK (service speech). I don't think this rises to the level of "analogizing himself" to those figures. Other people frequently compare Obama to Bobby Kennedy, but again, I don't think Obama has ever done that on his own.

Posted by annie | January 15, 2008 10:35 AM

And everyone seems to be forgetting that, as with much progressive legislation, a Democratic president was instrumental in gathering votes. Indeed, within days of the Selma-Montgomery march as pictures of beaten children were broadcast around the world, Lyndon Johnson gave a presidential address calling for what would become the Civil Rights Act. Clinton never questioned Dr. King's contribution. She just recognizes that thousands of people, not least of all a president, were involved in the law's final passage. Indeed, the fact that she emphasized the presidency may have something to do with the fact that, you know, she's running for fucking president!

Posted by Tyler | January 15, 2008 10:42 AM

Stranger posters quote Obama supporters like Andrew Sullivan *allllll* the time without identifying them as such.

Boy, the Obama crowd is turning increasingly shrill and loopy as it becomes clear that he's not going to be anointed by popular acclaim any time soon. If you're arguing that Juan Williams is an agent of the patriarchy, you guys need to break out the Atavan.

Posted by Big Sven | January 15, 2008 11:06 AM

Of course you must be President to sign a bill into law. So, what is Clinton's point? Obama, if elected, could be LBJ and sign a bill into law. Tell me something I don't know.

Obama, however, can both sign the bill and eloquently and persuasively advocate for that bill. He could be like MLK in his advocacy and like LBJ to sign the bill.

Hillary probably cannot. Her last attempt to advocate for a bill (see Hillary-care) was an unmitigated disaster that had a substantial political cost for the Dems in 1994.
You can always hope she learned from that, or you could try someone new.

Posted by Medina | January 15, 2008 11:06 AM

so annie, is it not pandering to blacks for obama to take some anti gay homophobic speakers on tour with him to the anti gay, southern black community, like he did last year?

he is absolutely as reprehensible for that action alone, as you think hillary and her supporters are.

in a way, that was directly playing to the "race card" that he so abhors the clintons for supposedly doing.

and he never even issued anything close to an apology for it.

obama is a homphobe, which is enough reason for any dem with a brain to not vote for him.

civil rights leader my ass!....

Posted by lineout fan | January 15, 2008 11:09 AM

Look, the reality is that the MSM wants this to be the issue, so they can pre-select your candidates and get you another Failure for a President from the Red Bushie camp.

Trust them, it's not like the last SEVEN FRICKIN YEARS has been HELL ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 11:22 AM

The NPR interview with Juan Williams this morning revealed two things: 1) that Williams is almost as retarded as Bush. I mean really, what the fuck does "analogizing himself" mean? I cringed when I heard that. 2) The second is that Williams is either an ass-whore for the Clinton campaign or just another media hack who, in trying to be "objective" and "unbiased" has actually ended up being "fair and balanced" in the Fox News sense of fair and balanced.

The Clinton campaign's repeated references to Obama's past drug use, and please, don't tell me that Robert Johnson meant anything but Obama's drug use when he made his comments, are sickening, especially given that Bill Clinton is no stranger to smoking dope (and if you believed the Republicans in the 1990s bathing in liquid meth while giving himself a heroin enema and sucking the neurotransmitters from Vince Foster's freshly liquified brain {Foster having been killed by being fucked to death by Hilary Clinton and Janet Reno, both of whom were jacked up on PCP and wearing huge black strap-on dildos studded with razor blades})*.

For the Clintons, who complained about the politics of personal destruction to be engaging in this kind of bullshit, (and please don't make the argument that she has no control over her surrogates, if that's the case she's just weak and irresponsible) is truly despicable and contemptible and says volumes about what another Clinton administration would be like.

*I read all about this on WorldNet Daily, where the intrepid, some might say, insane, Joseph Farrah, also documented how Foster's body was decorated with unholy satanic symbols and was dumped in the park by a couple of gay illegal aliens who the Clintons were letting stay in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | January 15, 2008 12:22 PM

Many are taking huge pretended offense and discussing things at length -- without bothering to quote what was actually said that is deemed offensive.
That is utterly irresponsible.

As far as O. comparing himself to LBJ and MLK HRC was clearly NOT referring to his general speeches and clearly was referring to a specific speech Obama made.

TO talk about the subject without getting that speech and quoting it is irresponsible.

I believe, without certainty, Obama was responding to HRC saying talk is different than action; and Obama said something like JFK and MLK gave great speeches, too. The idea HRC is expressing is that this was an implicit comparison of himself to MLK and JFK. (If I'm wrong, fine, but please show this is the case by quoting the actual speech.)

In reaction to that speech, I believe, HRC said JFK had 14 years in Congress before running for president, and without LBJ the civil rights acts would not have been passed.

What is wrong with that? Both statements are true. HRC should be allowed to make her case without people crying race becaues she didn't raise the issue of race.

She raised the issue of talk versus getting things done.

Posted by unPC | January 15, 2008 2:00 PM

It's also hard to find politicos who played significant parts in the civil rights movement we're talking about, who also favor Obama over Clinton.

Hard? Maybe impossible.

I'm confident either Clinton would clean Obama's clock in a civil rights history trivia contest, and equally so in a closed book long form essay competition (though Obama's wordcrafting skills would make that a better contest).

At the root of this uproar, Obama and his followers simply don't know their history, and have installed a cartoonish narrative in its place. A sad commentary, especially on this 79th anniversary of Dr. King's birth, and especially as Obama has framed his bid for th presidency around a derivative "theory of change".

Posted by RonK, Seattle | January 15, 2008 2:05 PM

Gee, I must have heard an entirely different NPR segment. What I heard was that Clinton started the whole thing and opened herself up to attacks of racism by saying that master political player Lyndon Johnson, not inspiring and important figures Kennedy or MLK, rammed the Civil Rights Act through Congress. This was how it was framed. Then it was all about "How did people in South Carolina respond to Clinton's gaffe?" And yet it seems to me that Clinton was herself responding to Obama, and trying in a perfectly reasonable way to distinguish herself as the hard-working, down in the muck dirty-work doing politician, from the inspiring, but perhaps less able to get in and fight Obama. You may disagree with her, but it seems to me that NPR, and some commenters here, accused her of race-baiting, and this is not apparent from what she actually said.

Posted by bobbo | January 15, 2008 2:14 PM

@18: Here's the speech Obama started giving after HRC started with the "hoping for change" critique. The single MLK reference is as follows:

I did not run for the presidency to fulfill some long-held ambition or because I believed it was somehow owed to me. I chose to run in this election - at this moment - because of what Dr. King called "the fierce urgency of now." Because we are at a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war. Our planet is in peril. Our health care system is broken, our economy is out of balance, our education system fails too many of our children, and our retirement system is in tatters.

I think there's a better case to be made that he's "analogizing himself" to Bill Clinton:

The truth is, you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Mine is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. I believe deeply in those words. But they are not mine. They were Bill Clinton's in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead.

There are no references to JFK here, though he does invoke him in an earlier speech on national service.

You may be referring to another speech, but please quote it to me, don't speculate.

@19: Speaking of speculation! Neither of us has any clue what HRC or Obama knows about the civil rights movement. Obviously, HRC has better contacts in the movement, especially with those who have gone on to hold major government office. It's hardly shocking she has won those endorsements.

Posted by annie | January 15, 2008 2:23 PM

@21: If you have no clue as to these matters, you may speak for yourself.

The old school heavy lifters who have served in elected office side with Hillary (unanimously, as far as I can tell) solely because she has better contacts??? Interesting.

As to the genesis of the war of analogies, try this (long) recap may help:

Have The Stranger's culture vultures suddenly lost their abilities to discern the most obvious subtexts, while Obama poses himself as the Giver of Change via inspirational wordage (and in particular the "D" word), in juxtaposition with explicit mention of Dr. King, and shameless adoption of King's anachronistic cadences)?

Or am I just making this up?

Posted by RonK, Seattle | January 15, 2008 3:17 PM

Yes, yes--but my question is, when did Bill Clinton turn into the crabby old man next door who dumps his garbage on your lawn?

Posted by boomer in NYC | January 15, 2008 3:29 PM

@22: That's a great recap, thanks. OK, so here's the actual Obama quote that led to the claim he's comparing himself to MLK or JFK:

"Imagine that -- false hopes. Imagine John F. Kennedy looking up at the moon, and saying, 'Darn, that's far,'" he said to laughter and applause. " 'We can't do that. Reality check. Can't be done. Imagine -- imagine Dr. King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking out at those crowds -- a quarter million people around the reflecting pool -- and saying, 'Ya'll go home.' The dream has died. It can't be done. It's too hard.' Lost hopes? You know, this is what this campaign is all about."

A rather lightweight point, but legit as far as it goes.

Posted by annie | January 15, 2008 3:30 PM

Thanks for finally quoting the speech. After concluding various times that somehow HRC is in the wrong here without giving us the basic facts.

BTW, I didn't accuse anyone of anything; you basically said HRC was race baiting. So it was your job to lay out the facts.

Here after Obama made this speech HRC apparently said Obama was comparing himself to JFK and MLK. What is unfair about that? It's a typical comment in a campaign. It's sort of true isn't it?
Obama was saying hope is great -- and let's all agree it is OK? -- and he was implicitly saying that just like JFK and MLK used hope, so does he.
He was responding to the argument HRC makes that hope isn't enough, or talking is different than producing change, whatever.

OK. Fair enough so far.

So, then HRC responds that JFK had 14 years exp. in Congress before he ran for President and without LBJ the civil rights acts would not have passed.

And for this response folks accuse her of race baiting or being insensitive to minorities?????


HRC did not say LBJ gets all credit or diss MLK or Andy Young or freakin James Farmer in any way. She did not say "the civil rights movement would not have happened without big powerful whitey to really get things done." She didn't say anything like that and she dind't say anything wrong or offensive or untrue or racial in any way.

But in response to what she said, other people are accusing her of race baiting or injecting race into the campaign.

What a dirty and shameful thing to say. It's just not true.

In fact, suggesting she played the race card in this context is not only disgusting but stupid.

If folks are going to go crazy and make a racial incident just because Hillary OR Obama takes fairly fair and fairly true shots at each other, and points out their relative flaws and strengths, we ARE GOING TO LOSE IN NOVEMBER.

Peace out.

Posted by unPC | January 15, 2008 4:00 PM

I should clarify. I don't think HRC was race-baiting. Her supporters--especially Andrew Cuomo ("shuck and jive") and Bob Johnson ("Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner")--absolutely were.

Posted by annie | January 15, 2008 4:47 PM

Re the unanimity question: I have found suggestions that Marion Barry (the former DC mayor and lunchcounter original, not the Arkansas congressman) may have endorsed Obama, but have been unable to find confirmation.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | January 15, 2008 5:17 PM

Re the unanimity question: I have found suggestions that Marion Barry (the former DC mayor and lunchcounter original, not the Arkansas congressman) may have endorsed Obama, but have been unable to find confirmation.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | January 15, 2008 5:58 PM

The realization is some black people feel 'dissed at the drop of a hat. Why weren't they indignant when Obama mixed with virulent homophobes? Why weren't they angry when his campaign manager made sexist comments about Hillary's tears while place the not enough weeping for Katrina card? And when this same campaign manager compared Obama's problems to OJ's!!!! He compared Obama to someone who murdered two people and got away with it by a combination of wealth and the race card!! I was going to vote for Obama but since he surrounds himself with advisors who still think in the OJ was the victim I can't do it! Imagine how this could play out if the same people were given powerful positions in goverment.....

Posted by jane doe | January 15, 2008 8:43 PM

I remember when they replaced Ray Suarez - sharp and funny as they come - with Juan Williams - hey he has a Spanish name too! The first time I heard the guy speak it was a sobering, horrifying moment. Like when I looked in the crib and saw the changeling.

Posted by Phoebe | January 16, 2008 2:03 AM

Greetings, you all!
May I get a word or two "in" on "subliminal racism," a term that I coined from my (1972-79) UCSD dissertation, "The Manichean Leitmotif"? Oh, goodie! Then please go to my "humble" website for "atavan' and "overanalyzed" insights into the HRC--BO race card game and meet Sir Jive Turkey:

Some controversial hints in our "Shop Talk" ... "Magic" is about to be cast as "Lothar" in Lee Falk's "Man-Clinton," eh, opps---Drake, dammit! Or is it "Manduck"? Anyway, Juan Williams stands to be exposed as a dunce and plagiarist along with "ciphers" Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and "Gappy Tooth" C. West. Charles Rangel thinks HRC is Phillis Wheatley, the "first" whatever, etc. Bill Clinton is Cotton Mather born again from the grave with marker tombstone: "No more nooky in the White House"; and is the author of "New Rules for the Society of Obamans" (meaning, society of "N"--words).
Confusing? You bet! But what DIFFERENCE A CRITICAL DECISION MAKES when documented facts are known concerning the real "brains," cultural sources, and political analogues behind the term SUBLIMINAL RACISM you all have been running your mouths about but don't know from whence "it" came? [Habakkuk 2:2] [KKK 322]

Arthur J. Graham, Ph.D.

Posted by Arthur | January 18, 2008 8:48 AM

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