The back and forth of racial accusations between the Obama and McCain camps made the front of Friday's New York Times in "McCain Camp Says Obama Plays 'Race Card,'" by Michael Cooper and Michael Powell. The reporters bizarrely suggested that it was the GOP, not Obama, that has injected race into the campaign, and relayed some dubious anecdotes to suggest Obama has been a victim of racist Republican attacks. To continue the fun, a McCain spokesman on Friday compared the Times's editors to your "average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother's basement" playing Dungeons & Dragons. Responding to a McCain ad that likened Obama's celebrity status to lightweight celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Obama suggested three times on Wednesday that the McCain campaign was trying to scare voters with racial appeals. Yesterday the McCain campaign counterattacked, as reported in the Times:
Senator John McCain's campaign accused Senator Barack Obama on Thursday of playing "the race card," citing his remarks that Republicans would try to scare voters by pointing out that he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."
The exchange injected racial politics front and center into the general election campaign for the first time, after it became a subtext in the primary between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It came as the McCain campaign was intensifying its attacks, trying to throw its Democratic opponent off course before the conventions.
"Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck," Mr. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, charged in a statement with which Mr. McCain later said he agreed. "It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong."
The Times had the gall to accuse McCain campaign manager Rick Davis of injecting race into the race.
With his rejoinder about playing "the race card," Mr. Davis effectively assured that race would once again become an unavoidable issue as voters face an election in which, for the first time, one of the major parties' nominees is African-American.
And with its criticism, the McCain campaign was ensuring that Mr. Obama's race -- he is the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas -- would again be a factor in coverage of the presidential race. On Thursday, it took the spotlight from Mr. Obama when he had sought to attack Mr. McCain on energy issues.
Soon came this slanted stroll down campaign memory lane:
The sparring over race thrust an unpredictable element into the campaign. Contests have often been influenced by racial imagery, whether stark, like the Willie Horton advertisements run against Michael S. Dukakis in the 1988 presidential race, or subtle.
In the 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, Republicans ran an advertisement against a black candidate, the Democrat Harold E. Ford Jr., that featured a white woman saying, with a wink, "Harold, call me." Some have drawn parallels between that commercial and the McCain campaign's advertisement juxtaposing Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton with Mr. Obama.
Those "some" include the Times's editorial board, which posted a ridiculous entry on its "The Board" blog, calling the ad a "racially tinged attack" on Barack Obama:
The presumptive Republican nominee has embarked on a bare-knuckled barrage of negative advertising aimed at belittling Mr. Obama. The most recent ad compares the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton -- suggesting to voters that he's nothing more than a bubble-headed, publicity-seeking celebrity.
The ad gave us an uneasy feeling that the McCain campaign was starting up the same sort of racially tinged attack on Mr. Obama that Republican operatives ran against Harold Ford, a black candidate for Senate in Tennessee in 2006. That assault, too, began with videos juxtaposing Mr. Ford with young, white women.
As if the Times would have been OK with the ad if it had featured two young black women, Beyonce and Rihanna, in place of Spears and Hilton. Then the GOP would be accused of calling attention to Obama's race. If the Times could tease a racial issue out of that ad, it's obviously the one with the racial obsession, not John McCain. Cooper and Powell later claimed:
Mr. Obama has been the victim of some racist and racially tinged attacks this year, particularly during the primaries.
Underground e-mail campaigns have spread the false rumor that he is Muslim and questioned his patriotism by falsely charging that he does not put his hand over his heart when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. A button spotted outside the Texas Republican convention asked, "If Obama Is President...Will We Still Call It the White House?"
First off, Islam is a religion, not a race. The Times obviously has a subtle grasp of race issues if it can tease race out of the "hand over his heart" accusation. And apparently black actor-comedian Chris Rock should apologize for the tag line to his 2003 movie "Head of State," a comedy about a D.C. alderman who unexpectedly rises to the presidency -- "The only thing white is the house."It would be helpful if the Times released a set of facts about Obama Republicans are allowed to criticize without being called racists.Michael Goldfarb of the McCain campaign really tore into the Times's editors over its blog post, reports The New York Observer in a Friday afternoon posting:
"If the shareholders of the New York Times ever wonder why the paper's ad revenue is plummeting and its share price tanking, they need look no further than the hysterical reaction of the paper's editors to any slight, real or imagined, against their preferred candidate. This campaign has never engaged in 'racially tinged attacks,' and the Obama campaign conceded as much yesterday in a statement clarifying that "Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue."
That the Times made this allegation in a blog post rather than running it on the editorial page indicates that they either knew the charge was bogus or they didn't have the nerve to make their case in full view of the public. But in their new role as bloggers, the paper's editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother's basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons. They also have about as much care for the facts -- the "board" has already been forced to append a correction."