It's rather amazing that Barack Obama has been on the national political stage for more than eight years and the far-right media, committed to hating the president with a peculiar passion, still haven't figured out the race angle. Or specifically, they haven't figured out which race-baiting angle they prefer to play against him.
The jarring dichotomy played out yesterday. That morning, conservative George Will argued in his Washington Post column that Obama's race would shield him from a re-election defeat because Americans will vote for him because he's black.
Then in the late afternoon and evening a media kerfuffle broke out after the habitually untrustworthy Drudge Report hyped a five-year-old video of Obama speaking at Hampton University. The unmistakable message from the overly excited members of GOP Noise machine on Tuesday was that the video "could dramatically impact" the election because it would showcase Obama as an angry man beset by racial grievances (it doesn't). The clear inference being that Americans won't vote for him because he's revealing his true black nature.
Here's how MSNBC's Rachel Maddow decoded the right-wing attack last night: "People didn't actually know [Obama] was this black, and if they had known he was this black they never would've elected him."
So which is it? Will voters excuse Obama's faults and give him a second term based on his race? Or will voters penalize Obama on Election Day based on his race?
The utter confusion and contradictory allegations shouldn't be surprising given that Obama's harshest opponents have been grappling for years, unsuccessfully, with the issue of race and how best to try to deploy it for political gain. They've alternately declared Obama a "racist" and have wallowed in the worst kind of ugly race baiting, while pre-emptively condemning any critics who dare call them out.
The us-versus-them cauldron of bigotry was purposefully reignited last night with the non-news of an Obama speech given in 2007 to an audience of African-American clergy. It was a speech that was open to the press at the time and was widely reported on, including on Fox News.
Yet here was just one of Matt Drudge's predictably race-baiting headline:
"FOXNEWS TONIGHT: OBAMA'S OTHER RACE SPEECH - THE ACCENT... THE ANGER... THE ACCUSATIONS..."
In reality, here's a small sample of Obama's supposedly "anger"-filled "race speech":
<Right here in this room, we believe that God is big enough to overcome the smallness of our politics; that He is big enough to overcome our doubts and our cynicism and our worries; that He is big enough to love children of every color and creed and political label.
Ministers, it's time to unite behind our faith and help all of God's children around the world and here at home realize that we are all surgeons. Our faith, the word and his will are the instruments we need to take the bullets out. >
Scary stuff, indeed.
But Sean Hannity and Fox and Drudge and Daily Caller and a brigade of seething bloggers wanted to push the Obama's-a-scary-black-man meme again (2008 nostalgia?), and so the entire GOP Noise Machine staged a faux freakout over Obama's alleged racist ways. Salon's Joan Walsh accurately described the on-air meltdown that Hannity and Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson suffered last night as "the most rancid racial fear-mongering" she had seen in a very long time.
That fear-mongering was widespread last night. From blogger Doug Ross:
SETTING BACK RACE RELATIONS 40 YEARS: Tape Released by Daily Caller Reveals Obama Channeling Jeremiah Wright
From Jim Hoft:
Barack Obama Plays Race Card Against Whitey - Praises Reve. Wright in 2007 Speech
Meanwhile, Instapundit noted with glee that a screenshot of the lengthy address showed Obama "pounding" the lectern! (He's angry!)
You get the idea.
The convoluted message? Obama's a race-baiting monster who's (still) black!
All of this though, came on the same day conservative George Will complained that Obama's minority status might secure his re-election because, as Rush Limbaugh put it yesterday, Obama was an "affirmative action hire." Appearing on Sean Hannity's radio show last week, conservative columnist Michael Barone made the same point, suggesting people don't want to be seen as rejecting the first African American president. And they don't want to admit that he's a failure, as Will argued.
Aside from the immensely condescending opinion that Will expressed, claiming unserious voters will punt an entire presidential election in order to not "give up on" the first African-American president, the columnist suggested race remains the dominant issue when evaluating Obama.
Will cynically claimed race is a huge asset for Obama, while Hannity and company clearly hope race will be used to drive the president from office next month.
Confirmed: When it comes to the right-wing media and race-based attack politics, they just can't keep their stories straight.