Remember when Kanye West said George W. Bush "doesn't care about black people"? Of course you do; it was kind of a big deal. Such a big deal that when then-Senator Barack Obama appeared on ABC's This Week a few days later, he was asked about it. There was an avalanche of media coverage, including predictable outrage from conservative publications. A New York Post headline blared "WHERE DOES KANYE WEST GET OFF," while National Review sneered "'Racism!' They Charged - When don't they?" Jonah Goldberg blasted West's "self-indulgent diatribe" and insisted "He should be ashamed." Goldberg went so far as to argue that even if West was right, he should have kept his mouth shut: "Assume for the sake of argument that West's rant was accurate. Was this really the time to say so?"
Conservatives were certainly not alone in rebuking West; many liberals did so as well. To pick just one example, Richard Cohen -- the ostensibly liberal Washington Post columnist who supports torture and opposes affirmative action -- leapt to Bush's defense.
In short: suggesting the president might be a racist was widely seen as a Big Deal -- and widely condemned.
So I was startled to see how casually ABC's The Note quoted Rush Limbaugh calling Barack Obama a racist this morning:
Rush Limbaugh, not a fan of the efforts to restart the campaign engines: "This is the regime at its racist best," he said, per Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet. "He is asking young people, African-Americans, Latino and women to reconnect, to fight who? Who is this fight against?"
Now, Rush Limbaugh isn't a rap star like Kanye West -- but he is one of the most influential leaders of the conservative movement and the Republican party. And The Note quoted him calling the president a racist as casually as it would have had quoted him saying "I find the president's fiscal policies lamentable."
Maybe journalists have become dulled to statements like Limbaugh's because of the frequency with which they come. Conservatives have been calling Obama, and those around him, racist since he took office. Longer, actually. Today's Washington Examiner reinforces those allegations with a headline taking up much of the front page: "Obama disses white guys."
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the first Richard Cohen column defending President Obama from charges of racism.