Future historians tracing the crackup of the Republican Party may well look to May 8, 2010, as an inflection point.
That was the day, as is now well known, that Sen. Robert Bennett, who took the conservative position 84 percent of the time over his career, was deemed not conservative enough by fellow Utah Republicans and booted out of the primary.
Less well known, but equally ominous, is what happened that same day, 2,500 miles east in Maine. There, the state Republican Party chucked its platform -- a sensible New England mix of free-market economics and conservation -- and adopted a manifesto of insanity: abolishing the Federal Reserve, calling global warming a "myth," sealing the border, and, as a final plank, fighting "efforts to create a one world government."
One world government? Do our friends Down East fear an invasion from the Canadian maritime provinces? A Viking flotilla coming from Iceland under cover of volcanic ash?
I was pondering this mystery while on the elliptical machine this week and watching Glenn Beck (I find he increases my heart rate), when I heard him inform his viewers that "they" -- President Obama and friends -- "are creating a global governance structure."
"Social and ecological justice and all of this bullcrap," Beck told his viewers, "is man's work for a global government." Beck -- who is second in popularity only to Sarah Palin among the type of Tea Party activists who hijacked the Maine GOP -- tossed out phrases such as "global standards" and "global bank tax" -- all part of a conspiracy by the "global government people." He further provided the news that "Jesus doesn't want a cap-and-trade system."
Not once did Beck refer to the big news events of the day, such as Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to the White House or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It was as if he had created a parallel universe for his 2-million-plus viewers. Similarly, on Monday, when Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, Beck omitted that news in favor of a fanciful administration attempt to restore the broadcast Fairness Doctrine. On Tuesday, USA Today had the headline "Tax bills in 2009 at lowest level since 1950" (the nonpartisan Tax Foundation put it at 1959); Beck skipped that, instead saying he doesn't want changes to the Internet "at least until people aren't worshipping Satan, you know, in office." (Beck maintained later that he really wasn't "saying that Obama was a Satan worshipper.")
Beck justifiably credited his viewers for "what happened to Bob Bennett in Utah." He warned: "People in Washington, you should be terrified."
We should be terrified -- particularly the Republicans, whose party is turning into this One-World-Government, Obama-worships-Satan, Jesus-opposes-climate-bill mélange. And Beck is only part of the trouble. Consider these GOP milestones of recent days:
Conservative Michael Gerson:
Has the Republican Party become, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently charged, the "anti-immigrant party"?
The accusation is overbroad ... But it would be absurd to deny that the Republican ideological coalition includes elements that are anti-immigrant -- those who believe that Hispanics, particularly Mexicans, are a threat to American culture and identity. When Arizona Republican Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth calls for a moratorium on legal immigration from Mexico, when then-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) refers to Miami as a "Third World country," when state Rep. Russell Pearce (R), one of the authors of the Arizona immigration law, says Mexicans' and Central Americans' "way of doing business" is different, Latinos can reasonably assume that they are unwelcome in certain Republican circles.
The intensity of these Republican attitudes is evident not just from what activists say but also from what Republican leaders are being forced to say. Sen. John McCain, a long-term supporter of humane, comprehensive immigration reform, has run a commercial feeding fears of "drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder" by illegal immigrants.
Never mind that the level of illegal immigration is down in Arizona or that skyrocketing crime rates along the border are a myth. McCain's tag line -- "Complete the danged fence" -- will rank as one of the most humiliating capitulations in modern political history.
Ethnic politics is symbolic and personal. Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gained African American support by calling Coretta Scott King while her husband was in prison. Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater lost support by voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A generation of African American voters never forgot either gesture.
Republicans have now sent three clear signals to Hispanic voters:
California's Proposition 187, which was passed in 1994 and attempted to deny illegal immigrants health care and public education before being struck down in court; the immigration debate of 2006, dominated by strident Republican opponents of reform; and now the Arizona immigration law. According to a 2008 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, 49 percent of Hispanics said that Democrats had more concern for people of their background; 7 percent believed this was true of Republicans. Since the Arizona controversy, this gap can only have grown. In a matter of months, Hispanic voters in Arizona have gone from being among the most pro-GOP in the nation to being among the most hostile.
Immigration issues are emotional and complex. But this must be recognized for what it is: political suicide. Consider that Hispanics make up 40 percent of the K-12 students in Arizona, 44 percent in Texas, 47 percent in California, 54 percent in New Mexico. Whatever temporary gains Republicans might make feeding resentment of this demographic shift, the party identified with that resentment will eventually be voted into singularity. In a matter of decades, the Republican Party could cease to be a national party.
Even describing this reality invites scorn from those who regard immigration as a matter of principle instead of politics. But this represents a deep misunderstanding of politics itself. In America, political ideals are carried by parties. Republicans who are pro-business and pro-life, support a strong national defense and oppose deficit spending depend on one another to achieve influence. Each of these convictions alienates someone -- pro-choice voters, economic liberals, pacifists. But Republican activists who alienate not an issue-group but an influential, growing ethnic group are a threat to every other constituency. The vocal faction of anti-immigrant Republicans is not merely part of a coalition; it will eventually make it impossible for anyone else in that coalition to succeed at the national level.
Acknowledging that Arizona has developed a serious image problem because of its tough , Gov. Jan Brewer and tourism-industry leaders said Thursday that they will launch a new effort to stanch the flow of lost trade and convention business in the state.
The legislation and firestorm of negative publicity that followed brought calls for boycotts, moved groups to back out of local conventions and led several cities to cut business ties with Arizona companies.
The loss of business is critical in a recession-battered state vitally dependent on visitor spending.
"It's up to us to get the truth out there. This is impacting Arizona's face to the nation," said Brewer, who blamed the controversy on misconceptions about the law.
A new task force is charged with rebranding and repositioning the state as a unique destination spot.
That is sure to be a tough task after weeks of talk-show comedians, celebrities, politicians and others making Arizona a punch line, calling the law racist and drawing comparisons to fascism and Nazi Germany ...
One of the task force's first goals will be trying to stop the trend of boycotts, officials said. An early plan for how to do that is due in about a month.
"The end goal is to reassert that we are a safe, inviting, diverse and culturally aware community," said Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Brewer agreed to transfer $250,000 from the Arizona Department of Commerce to the Arizona Office of Tourism to support the effort.
Tactics will likely include not only a marketing campaign but direct contacts with the tourism industry elsewhere in the country.
The backlash against Arizona couldn't come at a worse time, convention and business leaders say.
The state, which took in $18.5 billion in visitor spending in 2008, has seen its tourism industry struggle in the past couple of years as the U.S. economy sagged ...
Just weeks after adopting a controversial immigration law denounced as racist by its opponents, Arizona has adopted a new measure restricting what can be taught in ethnic studies classes in the state’s public schools.
The new law, which suggests that students are “taught to resent or hate other races” in such courses, was promoted by opponents of a Tucson school district program devoted to the study of Mexican-American history and culture.
When the measure was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday, the Arizona Daily Star explained:
State schools chief Tom Horne, a Republican running for attorney general, says the district’s ethnic studies program promotes “ethnic chauvinism” and racial resentment toward whites.
One provision of House Bill 2281, passed last month by the state Legislature, says that Arizona’s government:
Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:
•Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
•Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
•Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
•Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Judy Burns, the president of the Tucson district’s governing board, told the Los Angeles Times the measure was misguided because, “We don’t teach all those ugly things they think we’re teaching.”
Mr. Horne, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted to learn more about the Tucson Unified School District’s courses in African-American studies, Native American studies and Asian studies. But, the Arizona Daily Star reported, “He said he felt he knew enough about Mexican-American studies and intends to go after” the district when the new law comes into force in December.
Mr. Horne also showed reporters a photograph of what he said was “a protest against my bill by students and teachers at Tucson High School and, as you can see, they are dressed up as revolutionaries.”
The same day Mr. Horne told NPR:
One of the functions of the public schools is to take kids of different backgrounds and teach them to treat each other as individuals. And this ethnic studies program does the opposite. It divides kids up by race.
In Mr. Horne’s run for state attorney general he has made his fight against Mexican-American studies a focus. The main page of his campaign Web site is now almost entirely devoted to trumpeting his efforts “to ban ethnic studies.”
According to The Arizona Daily Star, Mr. Horne’s battle against the Tucson district’s Mexican-American studies program “goes back to 2007, when activist Dolores Huerta spoke at Tucson High and told students that Republicans hate Latinos.” When Mr. Horne sought to counter this message by bringing Margaret Garcia Dugan, a Latina Republican who is his deputy, to speak at the school, “students stood up, turned their backs to her and put their fists in the air.”
Mr. Horne and Ms. Garcia Dugan told the Daily Star on Wednesday “that they had never seen such disrespect from students to a speaker, and they firmly believed that the students didn’t learn to be rude at home, but in the classroom.”
Updated | 8:02 p.m. In a new post, Justin Elliot of Talking Points Memo has more on Tom Horne and the new law.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) might have gotten the exactly the help he didn't need from a friend this morning, as Republican Governors Association chairman Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) defended him for issuing a proclamation in honor of Confederate History Month that did not include reference to slavery.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Barbour said people already know slavery was a bad thing and that the outcry over McDonnell's proclamation amounted to making "a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly."
Barbour's main point was that Mississippi's own Democratic-controlled state legislature has adopted similar resolutions in honor of Confederate soldiers, as have Mississippi governors of both parties. Asked by anchor Candy Crowley if McDonnell's resolution was a mistake, Barbour said, "I don't think so."
"I don't know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing--I think that goes without saying," he said, adding "Maybe they should talk to my Democratic legislature, which has done the exactly same thing in Mississippi for years...I'm unaware of them being criticized for it."
As for the criticism McDonnell faced, including from President Obama, Barbour said: "It's sort of feeling that it's a nit, that it is not significant, it's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly," he also said.
The problem for McDonnell, of course: He's been saying for several days now exactly the opposite, apologizing repeatedly for leaving slavery out of the proclamation and calling it a "major omission."
The comments from the RGA head and major McDonnell supporter could threaten the governor's attempts to put the issue to rest and move on.
The Democratic National Committee has already called on Republicans to condemn Barbour's remarks, with DNC Press Secretary Hari Sevugan saying that failing to do so would "send a strong message to all Americans that Republicans endorse Governor Barbour's sentiments and are content not only to be left behind in another century, but that they deserve to be a small regional party in the permanent minority."
We've reached out to McDonnell's office for a response and will let you know what they have to say.
UPDATE 3:14 p.m.: Tucker Martin, McDonnell spokesman, sent a statement by email that generally praises Barbour without specifically addressing this morning's comments. "Governor Haley Barbour is a tremendous leader for Mississippi. Governing Magazine named him Governor of the year in 2006 for good reason. He has led his state's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, focused on economic development and job creation, reformed the public education system and put Mississippi at the forefront of alternative energy research and development. We thank him for his leadership and service to the state and country," Martin said.
A Wash Post follow-up to yesterday's Imagine If Germany Announced That April Was Going To Be Nazi Month ... That's What Va Just Did:
After a barrage of nationwide criticism for excluding slavery from his Confederate History Month proclamation, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Wednesday conceded that it was "a major omission" and amended the document to acknowledge the state's complicated past.
A day earlier, McDonnell said he left out any reference to slavery in the original seven-paragraph proclamation because he wanted to include issues he thought were most "significant" to Virginia. He also said the document was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.
However, Wednesday afternoon the governor issued a mea culpa for the document's exclusion of slavery. "The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission," McDonnell said in a statement. "The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed."
McDonnell also called the nation's first elected black governor, L. Douglas Wilder (D) of Virginia, and the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), to apologize after they said they were offended by the document. McDonnell told them that he would alter the proclamation to include slavery and acknowledge that it was the cause of the Civil War.
The original declaration called on Virginians to "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War." McDonnell added language to the document that said slavery "was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders."
But his decision to declare April Confederate History Month continued to cause a firestorm Wednesday, with national media descending on Richmond and Democrats and African Americans accusing the new governor of ignoring the state's role in slavery.
Sheila Johnson, one of McDonnell's most prominent black supporters and the wealthy co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, condemned the proclamation, calling it "insensitive" to Virginia's complicated and painful history.
"If Virginians are to celebrate their 'shared history,' as this proclamation suggests, then the whole truth of this history must be recognized and not evaded," said Johnson, who participated in a political ad for McDonnell's gubernatorial bid last fall and headlined several fundraisers during his campaign against Democrat R. Creigh Deeds.
State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), a member of the black caucus, accepted the governor's apology Wednesday but said he was disappointed that the state had to undergo the embarrassment and national scrutiny that followed the proclamation. "It's a black eye," he said.
McDonnell revived a controversy that had been dormant for years. Confederate History Month was started by Gov. George Allen (R) in 1997. Allen's successor, James S. Gilmore III (R), included anti-slavery language in his proclamation.
In 2002, Mark R. Warner, Gilmore's successor, broke with their actions, calling such proclamations a "lightning rod" that did not help bridge divisions between whites and blacks in Virginia. Four years later, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was asked to issue a proclamation but did not.
This is mind boggling to me and shows the Right's true motivations. From the Wash Post:
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, reviving a controversy that had been dormant for eight years, has declared that April will be Confederate History Month in Virginia, a move that angered civil rights leaders Tuesday but that political observers said would strengthen his position with his conservative base.
The two previous Democratic governors had refused to issue the mostly symbolic proclamation honoring the soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War. McDonnell (R) revived a practice started by Republican governor George Allen in 1997. McDonnell left out anti-slavery language that Allen's successor, James S. Gilmore III (R), had included in his proclamation.
McDonnell said Tuesday that the move was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."
The proclamation was condemned by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP. Former governor L. Douglas Wilder called it "mind-boggling to say the least" that McDonnell did not reference slavery or Virginia's struggle with civil rights in his proclamation. Though a Democrat, Wilder has been supportive of McDonnell and boosted his election efforts when he declined to endorse the Republican's opponent, R. Creigh Deeds.
"Confederate history is full of many things that unfortunately are not put forth in a proclamation of this kind nor are they things that anyone wants to celebrate," he said. "It's one thing to sound a cause of rallying a base. But it's quite another to distort history."
The seven-paragraph declaration calls for Virginians to "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War."
McDonnell had quietly made the proclamation Friday by placing it on his Web site, but it did not attract attention in the state capital until Tuesday. April also honors child abuse prevention, organ donations, financial literacy and crime victims.
After a fall campaign spent focusing almost exclusively on jobs and the economy, McDonnell had been seen in recent weeks as largely ceding conservative ground to the state's activist attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II. The proclamation could change that view among Republicans who believe appropriate respect for the state's Confederate past has been erased by an over-allegiance to political correctness, observers said.
"It helps him with his base," said Mark Rozell, a political scientist at George Mason University. "These are people who support state's rights and oppose federal intrusion."
Said Patrick M. McSweeney, a former state GOP chairman: "I applaud McDonnell for doing it. I think it takes a certain amount of courage."
The Virginia NAACP and the state's Legislative Black Caucus called the proclamation an insult to a large segment of the state's population, particularly because it never acknowledges slavery.
"Governor McDonnell's proclamation was offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the Civil War and the brutal era that followed," said Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. "Virginia has worked hard to move beyond the very things for which Governor McDonnell seems nostalgic."...
It is official: Barack Obama is the nation’s first black president.
A White House spokesman confirmed that Mr. Obama, the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, checked African-American on the 2010 census questionnaire.
The president, who was born in Hawaii and raised there and in Indonesia, had more than a dozen options in responding to Question 9, about race. He chose “Black, African Am., or Negro.” (The anachronistic “Negro” was retained on the 2010 form because the Census Bureau believes that some older blacks still refer to themselves that way.)
Mr. Obama could have checked white, checked both black and white, or checked the last category on the form, “some other race,” which he would then have been asked to identify in writing.
Check out Rep Steven King's claim that today's vote is an "affront to God" and Rep Paul Broun as her refers to the Civil War as the "Great War of Yankee Aggression" (apparently it wasn't just extremists within the Tea Party whose racism was on display yesterday):
Assumption was replaced with proof yesterday as it's now indisputably clear where some of the Tea Party anger & vitriol has been coming from. From Prescriptions:
Thousands of opponents of the health care legislation circled the Capitol on Saturday waving signs and chanting slogans.
And while most of the invective was directed at the health care bill itself, several House members said there was an ugly tone to comments made by some demonstrators against three black lawmakers: Representatives André Carson of Indiana, Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and John Lewis of Georgia, all Democrats.
An aide to Mr. Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, said that as he walked to the Capitol, Mr. Lewis was called racial slurs. A spokesman for Mr. Cleaver said that a protester spat on the congressman as he was walking to the Capitol for a vote.
Democratic aides said some demonstrators made anti-gay remarks to Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is gay.The No. 3 Democrat in the House, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, said, “I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus.”
Watch the beginning of this video as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) not only won't denounce the racist & homophobic slurs, he actually eggs them on by using incredible hyperbole (insuring 32 million people is tyranny? Really?):
A November CNN interview:
An interesting article from the Wash Post:
As a mixed-race girl growing up in this most cosmopolitan of mainland Chinese cities, 20-year-old Lou Jing said she never experienced much discrimination -- curiosity and questions, but never hostility.
So nothing prepared Lou, whose father is a black American, for the furor that erupted in late August when she beat out thousands of other young women on "Go! Oriental Angel," a televised talent show. Angry Internet posters called her a "black chimpanzee" and worse. One called for all blacks in China to be deported.
As the country gets ready to welcome the first African American U.S. president, whose first official visit here starts Sunday, the Chinese are confronting their attitudes toward race, including some deeply held prejudices about black people. Many appeared stunned that Americans had elected a black man, and President Obama's visit has underscored Chinese ambivalence about the growing numbers of blacks living here.
"It's sad," Lou said, her eyes welling up as she recalled her experience. "If I had a face that was half-Chinese and half-white, I wouldn't have gotten that criticism. . . . Before the contest, I didn't realize these kinds of attitudes existed."
As China has expanded its economic ties with Africa -- trade between them reached $107 billion last year -- the number of Africans living here has exploded. Tens of thousands have flocked to the south, where they are putting down roots, establishing communities, marrying Chinese women and having children.
In the process, they are making tiny pockets of urban China more racially diverse -- and forcing the Chinese to deal with issues of racial discrimination. In the southern city of Guangzhou, where residents refer to one downtown neighborhood as Chocolate City, local newspapers have been filled in recent months with stories detailing discrimination and alleging police harassment against the African community ...
In the 1960s, China began befriending African countries, supporting liberation movements in Africa and bringing African students to China in a show of Third World solidarity. Lately, China has further deepened its ties to the continent, with Premier Wen Jiabao pledging $10 billion in new low-cost loans at a China-Africa summit in Egypt last week.
Two things to consider:
From the Wash Post:
President Obama is putting a new emphasis on revitalizing U.S. cities with a coordinated effort that involves stimulus funding and getting multiple agencies to work together to improve schools, housing and neighborhoods.
The approach is winning applause from local officials and urban thinkers, who credit the administration for quietly beginning the most ambitious new policy for the nation's cities since the Great Society programs of the 1960s. But the plan involves fundamental changes in the way federal agencies dole out assistance to urban areas, making its success uncertain ...
Peniel E. Joseph, a historian at Tufts University, said it appears that Obama is trying to reverse a trend in which urban issues slipped down the national agenda. The president's stimulus plan included at least $20 billion for urban programs, outside of education.
"The stimulus certainly put billions into urban areas, but we are still going to have to see over the course of his administration what this adds up to," Joseph said.
Obama has lamented the historic failures of federal efforts to rejuvenate urban areas, noting in July at a White House urban policy roundtable that "federal policy has actually encouraged sprawl and congestion and pollution, rather than quality public transportation and smart, sustainable development."
In the same way that federal highway spending encouraged sprawl, the Obama administration says more concentrated development can lead to more job opportunities for residents and environmentally and economically viable neighborhoods.
To coordinate his initiatives, Obama in March named Adolfo Carrion Jr., a former Bronx borough president, to direct his new White House Office of Urban Affairs."This is not your father's White House," Carrion said in an interview. "This is a new way of looking at the new city-metro reality." ...
In Kansas City, stimulus funding has galvanized a project called the Green Impact Zone, led by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), a former mayor of the city. About $200 million in mostly federal money will be invested in the project, which aims to transform an economically depressed 150-square-block area east of Troost Avenue. About half of its residents live in deep poverty, with numerous vacant houses, high crime levels and unemployment rates approaching 50 percent.
The Fox News target audience:
Rush Limbaugh Fomenting A Race War:
A bit of their conversation, this on race & the town hall meetings:
Top Ten Reasons President Obama Agreed To Appear On The Late Show:
Read Michael Shearer's Top Ten Funny Parts from this show.
I wholeheartedly agree with the President's view below that while some of his opponents are motivated by race, the bigger issue for most is the role of government. I also believe, and suspect the President agrees though he didn't say, that the GOP is nonetheless trying to capitalize on the racist fear--no matter how large or small--that's out there.
From the NY Times:
President Obama said Friday that he did not believe his race was the cause of fierce criticism aimed at his administration in the contentious national debate over health care, but rather that the cause was a sense of suspicion and distrust many Americans have in their government.
“Are there people out there who don’t like me because of race? I’m sure there are,” Mr. Obama told CNN. “That’s not the overriding issue here.”
In five separate television interviews at the White House, Mr. Obama said he did not agree with former President Jimmy Carter’s assertion that racism was fueling the opposition to his administration. He described himself as just the latest in a line of presidents whose motives had been questioned because they were trying to enact major change.
Mr. Obama will appear on five Sunday talk shows — an unprecedented step for a president — to promote his health care plan. The television networks broadcast brief parts of their interviews on Friday evening, all of which focused on a question the White House has sought to avoid all week: Has race played a role in the debate?
Mr. Obama, the nation’s first black president, said “race is such a volatile issue in this society” that he conceded it had become difficult for people to tell whether it was simply a backdrop of the current political discussion or “a predominant factor.”
“Now there are some who are, setting aside the issue of race, actually I think are more passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right,” he told ABC News. “And I think that that’s probably the biggest driver of some of the vitriol.” ...
He conceded that many people were skeptical of the health care legislation making its way through Congress ... But even as the White House sought to push it aside, the issue of race persisted through the week, with some critics saying it was the reason a Republican lawmaker was disrespectful to the president last week, calling him a liar as Mr. Obama addressed a joint session of Congress. The television interviews on Friday were the first time Mr. Obama had weighed in.
“Look, I said during the campaign there’s some people who still think through a prism of race when it comes to evaluating me and my candidacy. Absolutely,” Mr. Obama told NBC News. “Sometimes they vote for me for that reason; sometimes they vote against me for that reason.”
But he said that the matter was really “an argument that’s gone on for the history of this republic. And that is, what’s the right role of government?”
The president said the contentious health care debate, which came on the heels of extraordinary government involvement in bailing out banks and automobile companies, had led to a broader discussion about the role of government in society.
“I think that what’s driving passions right now is that health care has become a proxy for a broader set of issues about how much government should be involved in our economy,” Mr. Obama told CBS News. “Even though we’re having a passionate disagreement here, we can be civil to each other, and we can try to express ourselves acknowledging that we’re all patriots, we’re all Americans and not assume the absolute worst in people’s motives.”
The president used the media blitz to add his own commentary about the news media.
He said he blamed cable television and blogs, which he said “focus on the most extreme element on both sides,” for much of the inflamed rhetoric.
“The easiest way to get 15 minutes of fame,” Mr. Obama said, “is to be rude to someone.”
From the Daily Dish:
Limbaugh will enjoy the scorn. But he's a disgusting opportunist and racist. And his acceptability - indeed total dominance - on the right is one reason decent people will steer clear of the GOP for the foreseeable future. There is no nuance or doubt here. This is a man who wants a race war. Until the GOP throws him out, they deserve oblivion. He's a racist through and through, and if no one on the right stands up to this, they are complicit:
A cartoonist reacts:
This guy does a great job discrediting himself and his "movement" as he spews hate out of both sides of his mouth at once. And David Gergen's face while he speaks is priceless ...
The Wash Post's report:
Former president Jimmy Carter told NBC's Brian Williams in an interview Tuesday that he believes race is at the core of much of the opposition to President Obama.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American," Carter said. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans"
Continued Carter, who is famously from Georgia: "And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply." ...
The 39th president also predicted that Obama will be able to "triumph over the racist attitude that is the basis for the negative environment that we see so vividly demonstrated in public affairs in recent days."
From the Wash Post:
Facing a near-daily barrage of attacks from conservative opponents, White House officials are engaged in an internal debate over how hard to hit back, even as they have grown increasingly aggressive in countering allegations they deem to be absurd.
After brushing aside criticism during the presidential campaign that they tried to keep candidate Barack Obama too far above the fray -- and with memories of the abundance of media coverage during the Clinton years -- administration officials are accelerating their efforts to anticipate and respond to the most sharp-edged charges.
The White House officials are eager to avoid the perception that the president is directly engaging critics who appear to speak only for a vocal minority, and part of their strategy involves pushing material to liberal and progressive media outlets to steer the coverage in their direction, senior advisers said.
When critics lashed out at President Obama for scheduling a speech to public school students this month, accusing him of wanting to indoctrinate children to his politics, his advisers quickly scrubbed his planned comments for potentially problematic wording. They then reached out to progressive Web sites such as the Huffington Post, liberal bloggers and Democratic pundits to make their case to a friendly audience.
The controversy escalated, but by the time it was over, White House advisers thought they had emerged with the upper hand. The speech, they said, was the most-viewed live video on any government Web site in history, and they were pleased with the media coverage of the event.
In private, Obama has developed what his advisers say is becoming a familiar response to new allegations, rolling his eyes in disbelief and asking how his staff plans to counter them. Several senior advisers said in interviews that they are more focused on getting legislation passed than trying to manage the "right-wing noise machine," convinced that voters will react most positively to measurable improvements in their lives.
But at a tactical level, administration officials are taking seriously the potential for damage and are attempting to respond forcefully.
From the Wash Post:
House Democrats plan to formally reprimand Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) on Tuesday for his outburst last week in which he accused President Obama of lying about proposed health-care legislation.
The vote on punishment will resolve the issue in the House, but behind the incident some see a broader question: Is racism a factor in the way the president is being judged?
With two simple words -- "You lie!" -- shouted during Obama's speech to Congress, Wilson helped escalate an issue that has been on a slow burn for weeks, especially among African Americans. Many watched the rancor at last month's town hall meetings with suspicion that the intense anger among some participants -- including signs calling for Obama's death and a movement questioning his citizenship -- was fueled by the fact that a black man sits in the Oval Office.
A vote would reverse the initial sentiment voiced by the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that it was time to "move on" to the debate on health-care. But the White House and Pelosi yielded to senior black Democrats, led by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), and other members of the leadership team, who argued that Wilson's remark was a breach of conduct that must not be tolerated.
Clyburn has said behind closed doors that many black voters saw Wilson's actions as part of the heated rhetoric from conservative activists whose protests, including one on the Capitol grounds Saturday, have included depictions of Obama as Adolf Hitler and the comic-book villain the Joker, according to those attending the meetings. It was one thing to have such remarks at town hall meetings during the summer recess but completely different during a presidential address to a joint session of Congress, Clyburn and other black Democrats argued, and Democrats needed to stand up for the nation's first black president.
Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), who received hate mail from constituents during Congress's August break, said Wilson had just returned from the rowdy town hall forums at which the most heated accusations were leveled at Obama.
"I think he was caught up in a moment. The issue is: Would he have done that if the president were white?" Scott said, adding that few Republicans opposed the "level of rhetoric" against Obama in August. "We've got to realize racism is playing a role here. I'm hopeful that this will be a wake-up call for us to get it off the table."
Democrats emphasized that it was not just members of the Congressional Black Caucus seeking to reprimand Wilson, and that a broad cross section of Democrats supported the measure, including Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). Hoyer had argued publicly that Wilson had to make a formal apology from the well of the House chamber or face some sanction.
But Wilson has refused to offer any apology beyond the private phone call he made Wednesday night to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In a show of defiance Monday, the lawmaker was the first Republican to speak when the chamber opened for a round of brief speeches. Rather than apologizing, Wilson hailed the "patriots" who attended his August town hall forums and opposed a "government takeover" of the health-care system.
A very astute observation from a Daily Dish reader:
It's really much less complicated, and the answer is tucked neatly in the phrase, "I want my country back." What that means is, the country that recognizes me and people like me as the cultural core of the nation, deserving of disproportionate influence and income. Race is the dominant theme -- but running through the same current are appeals to religion and cultural values, including education, or lack of it. While it might seem radical, even crazy, that a certain segment of the population strongly devalues education and educated people, it's part of the American experience. That's why many hyper well-educated elected officials, including presidents, try to pretend that they are "just folks."
From Maureen Dowd:
The normally nonchalant Barack Obama looked nonplussed, as Nancy Pelosi glowered behind.
Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.
But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!
The outburst was unexpected from a milquetoast Republican backbencher from South Carolina who had attracted little media attention. Now it has made him an overnight right-wing hero, inspiring “You lie!” bumper stickers and T-shirts.
The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.
I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.
I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.
But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
“A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president,” said Congressman Jim Clyburn, a senior member of the South Carolina delegation. Clyburn, the man who called out Bill Clinton on his racially tinged attacks on Obama in the primary, pushed Pelosi to pursue a formal resolution chastising Wilson.
“In South Carolina politics, I learned that the olive branch works very seldom,” he said. “You have to come at these things from a position of strength. My father used to say, ‘Son, always remember that silence gives consent.’ ”
Barry Obama of the post-’60s Hawaiian ’hood did not live through the major racial struggles in American history. Maybe he had a problem relating to his white basketball coach or catching a cab in New York, but he never got beaten up for being black.
Now he’s at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension. Even if he and the coterie of white male advisers around him don’t choose to openly acknowledge it, this president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.
For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.
From the NY Times:
Seven months after taking office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is reshaping the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by pushing it back into some of the most important areas of American political life, including voting rights, housing, employment, bank lending practices and redistricting after the 2010 census.
As part of this shift, the Obama administration is planning a major revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement against policies, in areas ranging from housing to hiring, where statistics show that minorities fare disproportionately poorly. President George W. Bush’s appointees had discouraged such tactics, preferring to focus on individual cases in which there is evidence of intentional discrimination.
To bolster a unit that has been battered by heavy turnover and a scandal over politically tinged hiring under the Bush administration, the Obama White House has also proposed a hiring spree that would swell the ranks of several hundred civil rights lawyers with more than 50 additional lawyers, a significant increase for a relatively small but powerful division of the government.
The division is “getting back to doing what it has traditionally done,” Mr. Holder said in an interview. “But it’s really only a start. I think the wounds that were inflicted on this division were deep, and it will take some time for them to fully heal.”
Few agencies are more engaged in the nation’s social and cultural debates than the Civil Rights Division, which was founded in 1957 to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
The division has been at the center of a number of controversies over the decades, serving as a proxy for disputes between liberals and conservatives in matters like school busing and affirmative action. When the Nixon administration took office, it sought to delay school desegregation plans reached under former President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Reagan administration dropped the division’s policy of opposing tax-exempt status for racially discriminatory private schools. And former President Bill Clinton withdrew his first nominee to lead the division, Lani Guinier, after her writings about racial quotas were criticized.
But such dust-ups were minor when compared with sweeping changes at the division under the Bush administration, longtime career civil rights lawyers say.
From Scott Lamb:
Everyone's searching for Barack Obama's health care logo online right now after Rush Limbaugh mentioned how a right-wing blog thinks it looks like something from Nazi Germany. Wings over a circle! It's vaguely reminiscent of other famous logos, too.
The health care logo on Whitehouse.gov
Obama's health care logo close up
Some Nazi logo
Another Nazi logo
Marine Corps logo
Department of Defense logo
Bacardi Rum logo
From Paul Krugman:
I haven’t seen any evidence that the people disrupting those town halls are Florida-style rent-a-mobs. For the most part, the protesters appear to be genuinely angry. The question is, what are they angry about?
There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands [watch the video].
Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.
That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.
And cynical political operators are exploiting that anxiety to further the economic interests of their backers.
Does this sound familiar? It should: it’s a strategy that has played a central role in American politics ever since Richard Nixon realized that he could advance Republican fortunes by appealing to the racial fears of working-class whites.
Many people hoped that last year’s election would mark the end of the “angry white voter” era in America. Indeed, voters who can be swayed by appeals to cultural and racial fear are a declining share of the electorate.
But right now Mr. Obama’s backers seem to lack all conviction, perhaps because the prosaic reality of his administration isn’t living up to their dreams of transformation. Meanwhile, the angry right is filled with a passionate intensity.
And if Mr. Obama can’t recapture some of the passion of 2008, can’t inspire his supporters to stand up and be heard, health care reform may well fail.
On The Media discussing Glen Obama's-a-racist Beck:
From the Huff Post:
Less than half of Republicans believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America, a new public opinion poll finds.
Only 42 percent of Republican respondents in a Research 2000 survey, conducted for the liberal website Daily Kos, said they thought Obama was a natural born citizen; 28 percent said they did not believe Obama was born in the United States; 30 percent said they were not sure.
The responses, which were gathered after several prominent conservative media personalities fed suspicion that Obama was unconstitutionally holding office, show the extent to which the conspiracy has taken hold in the GOP.
That only a plurality of Republicans were willing to acknowledge the president was born in America is nothing short of astounding, considering the preponderance of evidence that confirms his Hawaiian birth.
The conspiracy has a regional flavor. Overall, even including Democrats and independents, only 47 percent of respondents in the South said they believed Obama was born in America, with 23 percent saying he was not and 30 percent saying they were unsure. In the Northeast and Midwest, the percentage of respondents who believe Obama was born in the U.S. was over 90 percent.
Ninety-three percent of Democrats say the president was born in the United States, as do 83 percent of independents.