The Early Show did its best this morning to help Barack Obama climb out of the hole he's dug for himself with his close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In a set-up segment, CBS's Dean Reynolds rhetorically asked: "the question is whether the rhetoric is so remarkable, because in African-American churches pastors often seek to rouse their congregants to self-reliance by speaking harshly about the country's troubled racial past and the need to overcome it."
Nice try, but how does accusing the US government of introducing AIDS and giving black people drugs equate to a call for self-reliance?
Reynolds concluded by stating that the Obama campaign is concerned that its candidate has been "victimized" in the same way the Trinity church claims Rev. Wright has.
Then it was on to a Russ Mitchell interview of the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III of Harlem's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. The thrust of Mitchell's questions and Rev. Butts' responses was that the controversy is being blown out of proportion, that fiery rhetoric is a tradition in black churches with roots in the Bible and even in the words of Jesus. Moreover, it would be wrong to expect congregants to criticize their pastors' words.
One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.
And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.
How much trouble is Barack Obama in over the extremism of Jeremiah Wright? Enough that Dem strategist Donna Brazile has been reduced to arguing that as black preachers go, Wright is relatively moderate. Enough that the normally affable Brazile got a bit short with Time editor Mark Halperin, he of the infamous memo to his subordinates during the 2004 presidential campaign while serving as ABC News political director.
The comments came during the panel discussion on today's This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
I've enjoyed Tucker Carlson's show and can't let it pass into history, as it did last night, without a mention here. MSNBC has said that Tucker will remain at the network as an at-large commentator, and I have a feeling that, liberated from show-host concerns, he might become even more uninhibited in the expression of his quirkily conservative/libertarian views.
So let's usher Tucker out by focusing on one of our favorite nemeses, Rosa Brooks, the liberal LA Times columnist who appeared on the show's final episode. The unreconstructed Obama apologist offered the lamest excuse yet for his failure to have disassociated himself earlier from the ugly rhetoric of Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Barack simply wasn’t paying attention in the pews.
How's this for a balanced Today panel to discuss the impact of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's extremism on Barack Obama: two liberals who agree it shouldn't hurt him, with one suggesting the situation might even help Obama?
The panel discussion was preceded by a segment narrated by Lee Cowan, the NBC correspondent covering the Obama campaign who has admitted "it's almost hard to remain objective" about Barack. Cowan buttressed his case in that regard. After playing the clip of Rev. Wright using the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Obama and Hillary, Cowan claimed the words were "old." True--if Cowan considers December, 2007, when Wright uttered them--ancient history.
Then it was on weekend co-anchor Amy Robach's interview of Michael Dyson and Melinda Hennenberger. Dyson, who as Robach noted is an Obama supporter, is a Georgetown professor and MSNBC political analyst. He has in the past garnered headlines for his fierce criticism of Bill Cosby, claiming among other things that Cosby "battered poor blacks" with his calls for self-reliance.
On today's Morning Joe, Obama fan Mika Brzezinski did her best to defuse the spot of bother Barack is in over the extremist statements made by his personal spiritual advisor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.
Over the course of the three-hour show, Mika variously and repeatedly:
mentioned that Obama has already distanced himself from Wright.
pointed out that the Clinton campaign has its own race-related problems, as with Bill in S.C. and the recent Ferraro flap.
insinuated that the Clinton campaign might be behind the recent emergence of the Wright tapes.
And then there was my favorite. Mika speculated that the sermon in which Wright used the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Hillary and Obama might have been six years old. That's right. Brzezinski imagined that Wright might have taken to his pulpit to excoriate Hillary back in 2001 or 2002, at a time when Barack was a mere Illinois state senator and the presidency not even a gleam in his eye.
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked about race in the Democratic presidential campaign with Republican Ron Christie, author of "Black in the White House," and the Politico's Mike Allen, who declared that: "...there's a certain percentage of what Geraldine Ferraro said that's simply factual, and that is the pioneering nature of Senator Obama's candidacy is clearly part of his appeal. But there's a certain part of it that's very dark, right, the Archie Bunker side."
Just prior to this odd comparison, Allen explained that: "Until now, we had been looking at the historic side of race and gender in this race. But with this episode, these clips we just saw, we're seeing the dark side of it." Allen’s analysis of Ferraro’s "Archie Bunker dark side" followed yesterday’s "Early Show" coverage, which fawned over Obama while interrogating Ferraro.
Allen was not done yet, when asked by Smith, "...is there any safe harbor here?" Allen responded by observing: "One of the most interesting discoveries in exit polls, is among voters for whom race is most important, they're voting for Senator Clinton. That shows you something very ugly is going on out there."
Following the same pattern as ABC’s "Good Morning America" Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show" featured a glowing interview with Barack Obama by co-host Harry Smith, while co-host Russ Mitchell interrogated Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro for recent comments about Obama’s candidacy: "Do you really think that Barack Obama has been so successful in this campaign because he's a black man?"
When Ferraro tried to respond and put her comments in context, Mitchell abruptly interrupted:
FERRARO: Well, let me take -- put this in context. Number one, what they're using this as a political thing to attack Hillary. I am not involved in the Hillary Clinton campaign, I was out on a paid speech which had been booked a year and a half ahead of time --
MITCHELL: I understand that, not a lot of time Congresswoman.
FERRARO: That's it -- okay -- but let me just --
MITCHELL: Why did you make these comments and do you really think that he's ahead because he's black?
Meanwhile, earlier in the broadcast Harry Smith asked Obama about Ferraro’s comments: "Senator, Hillary Clinton's campaign has basically said, 'well, we disagree with what Geraldine Ferraro has said.' Is it time that they, if you excuse my expression, denounce what she said?"
Forget the popcorn: it could take a case of Cognac and a humidor of good cigars to fully savor the warfare that's breaking out in Dem ranks. Who could have predicted that Keith Olbermann would be accusing a prominent Clinton team member and former Dem VP candidate of making a "clearly racist" statement evoking the apartheid era in South Africa? And yet . . .
On this evening's Countdown, Olbermann and Newsweek's Howard Fineman were discussing Geraldine Ferraro's remarks about Obama and the way the Clinton campaign, far from denouncing them, sent out campaign manager Maggie Williams to try to turn the tables, accusing Obama of "false, personal and politically calculated attacks" for having the audacity to complain.
If Hillary Clinton's latest gambit--floating Obama as her VP--were a play not a ploy, and the Today crew the theater critics, they would have left at intermission to begin penning a blistering pan.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Matt Lauer kicked off the kicking around of Hillary's idea.
MATT LAUER: Let's talk about this idea. Is it being floated seriously? Is this light-hearted, and who's behind it?
TIM RUSSERT: Well the Clintons are behind it, and New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin said today that he talked to a Clintonista who said it's an attempt to belittle Barack Obama, that if they can suggest that he can be Vice-President, it's an indication that who should be President?
LAUER: Yeah, but couldn't it backfire? I mean, he's ahead in the delegate count, she needs a miracle. Might it not come off as ignorant, or arrogant, not to be too harsh?
"The opening of a trapdoor and the sudden snap of a hangman's noose at dawn yesterday brought an extraordinary end to a political era in Iraq." -- Opening line from The Guardian's report of the execution of Saddam, Dec. 31, 2006
"Senator Clinton never gave a second thought to opening the trap door beneath her fellow Democrat." -- Bob Herbert of the NYT, Confronting the Kitchen Sink, March 8, 2008 [emphasis added in both citations].
When Bill O'Reilly, in an impromptu response to a phone caller's question, said that he didn't want to "lynch" Michelle Obama, critics on the left from Media Matters to Keith Olbermann were outraged. Star Jones condemned O'Reilly's statement as "racist, unacceptable and inappropriate on every level."
When Christopher Hitchens came on today's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough began by inviting him to comment on "last night's" results. Quipped the famously hard-living Hitchens: "I'm still thinking of it as this morning's result. I hope it doesn't show." Unfortunately for Christopher, it did. See screencap.
But whatever price Hitchens was paying for indulgences of the night before did nothing to blunt his acerbic wit. The quondam Englishman turned naturalized American offered acid observations about both Dem contenders. Hillary was first in his sights. He described as "slightly sinister" her listing during last night's victory speech of Florida and Michigan among her primary wins, since by DNC rules those contests counted for nothing. By his lights, her inclusion of the two states portends nasty arm-twisting to come.
Then there was this: "Anyone who like me when they think about the Clintons thinks about zombies, thinks about the undead, thinks about stakes through the heart, silver bullets and so on, has just received confirmation. It's as bad as we thought it was going to be."
So, how is a Rush Limbaugh caller's comments news?
Unfortunately, this is the kind of silliness that the net is sometimes prone to as sites try to fill pages with "news." On March 3 during the Rush Limbaugh radio show, one of the callers.... remember, I said a caller here... said that Barack Obama reminded her (the caller's) daughter of the cartoon character Curious George. And, um, this is somehow news? Well, it is according to ABC News at least. Excitedly, ABC's Political Radar blog delivered us a headline that virtually screams "look at the racist" -- Limbaugh Caller Says Obama Reminds Daughter of Cartoon Monkey.
On March 3rd, the Political Radar blog breathlessly reports this momentous "news," this stupendous, stultifying, divisive, pointless, news. Even more shocking, Limbaugh "laughed at the caller's comment." The NERVE!
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," anchor Steve Kroft interviewed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with a small group of Ohio Democratic voters who, as Kroft explained: "told us that both race and gender would be hidden factors in southern Ohio, that many blue collar workers here won't vote for a woman, and others would never vote for a black." Kroft went on to focus on Obama: "And Senator Obama has another problem: a malicious campaign against him that surfaced in a number of our interviews."
This "malicious campaign" as Kroft sees it is the suggestion by some that Obama is a Muslim. Kroft was shocked to find this belief from one of the voters he talked to, Kenny Schoenholtz, who said:
I'm leaning towards Obama. There's a couple issues with him I'm not too clear on...Well, I'm hearing he doesn't even know the national anthem. He wouldn't use the Holy Bible. He's got his own beliefs, with the Muslim beliefs. And couple of issues that bothers me at heart.
Kroft was concerned that this one misinformed voter, who said he would probably vote for Obama anyway, was reflective of broader smear against the Illinois Senator:
The front of the New York Times Week in Review is dominated by business columnist-reporter David Leonhardt's "The Border And The Ballot Box," his slanted essay on anti-immigration crusades then and now. The accompanying drawings give the debate the feel of a prison camp, with Americans as prison guards and potential illegals as prisoners, and the archive illustrations on the jump page include a drawing of a burning church, bearing the caption:
Anti-Catholic -- Burning of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia, 1844. As immigration soared, so did nativist reaction.
Another archive illustration is captioned:
Anti-Chinese -- An illustration of a massacre published in Harper's Weekly, 1885. Chinese laborers were attacked by white coal miners.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell has proven that skin color is deeper than hate in her Sunday column as she scolded Barack Obama for distancing himself from the endorsement of the racist Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Mitchell scoffed at Barack's denouncement of Farrakhan as merely a "game" to placate racist white people and tried to pump up the legitimacy of Farrakhan at the same time. Shockingly Mitchell excused every hateful thing ever said by Farrakhan and said that Barack should have "found a way" to accept Farrakhan's endorsement "without denigrating Farrakhan's legacy."
Mitchell scolded Barack Obama because he tried to make sure that voters don't think that he, Barack, supports the sort of racism evinced in the past by Louis Farrakhan. Saying that, "most black people understand the game," Mitchell seems to feel that the only reason Obama eschewed Farrakhan’s praise is because all those racist whites would pillory Barack for accepting such an endorsement and so, she feels, he had to trash Farrakhan. Sadly for Mitchell, Farrakhan is a worthy representative of the black community and she feels that Obama is somehow being an apostate to that community for dumping on Farrakhan.
Update | 3:50 PM: Obama Campaign Clarification: As predicted, the Obama campaign has clarified Michelle's remark. See text at foot.
I sense there's often more than a bit of theater in the arguments between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Not to say Morning Joe's the WWF of political talk, but a little conflict never hurt the ratings.
But there was evidence that this morning's dust-up between the duo was for real. At one point, Scarborough disclosed that a producer had told him through his earpiece to put on a smile, but Joe wasn't buying.
The subject was Michelle Obama's statement that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
Scarborough opined that whereas the flap over Barack borrowing a line from friend Deval Patrick wouldn't hurt him, the attitude Michelle expressed could. Mika rose to Michelle's defense, and the fight was on.
Let's have some fun deconstructing Frank Rich's NY Times column of today. The gist of The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama is that it will be nearly impossible for McCain to defeat Obama because the Arizona senator reflects the politics of an almost all-white GOP in the age of a changing America.
Rich begins by mocking the the "collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols" who flanked McCain during his victory speech on the night of the Potomac Primaries. Adding insult to injury, Rich replays Letterman's line about the GOP presidential hopefuls looking like “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.”
A couple days ago, speculating that Contessa Brewer might be a closet conservative, I expressed the hope that I wasn't making trouble for her at MSNBC. Maybe I did. For the anchor now has gone out of her way to express PC sentiments that almost make you wonder whether she wasn't trying to prove her liberal bona fides to her MSNBC honchos.
Jesse Jackson would normally be the last person who'd need to be persuaded to take offense at any comment that could possibly be considered to have racial overtones. Usually, it's a case of duck meets junebug.
But for whatever reason, interviewed by Brewer on MSNBC this afternoon at 4:18 PM ET, Jackson was on his way to taking the high road regarding Ed Rendell's recent remark about some whites in Pennsylvania being unwilling to vote for blacks . . . until Contessa cut in to point out the possible racial slight. Jackson took the hint and proceeded to express the criticism Brewer had apparently been hoping for.
Economist and columnist Paul Krugman continues to rile his natural liberal allies by filing anti-Barack Obama screeds. On Monday he delivered the ultimate sanction, comparing Obama supporters to Clinton haters and even (gasp!) Richard Nixon in "Hate Springs Eternal."
In fact, these days even the Democratic Party seems to be turning into Nixonland.
[A] synthetic product leeched of most human qualities. -- Frank Rich, on how Hillary Clinton is being marketed, Feb. 10, 2008.
If Frank Rich is the voice of elite liberal opinion, Hillary Clinton is in deep, deep trouble. How many folks on the Upper West Side and reasonable facsimiles thereof from Boston to Madison to LA will be opening their hearts -- or credit cards -- to Hillary after reading Rich's stunning indictment of Clinton and her campaign this morning?
The jumping-off point for Rich's column is the live prime-time special the night before Super Tuesday that the Clinton campaign conducted. Flashing his theater-critic roots, Rich panned it as a "boring" "pseudo-event," noting that "some in attendance appeared to trance out." But if the staging was bad, the substance was much, much worse in Rich's view. For he claims that it reflected nothing less than Clinton playing from a "thick deck of race cards."
On the New York Times's political blog this morning, Ariel Alexovich reported in a very mild tone on a very shocking speech by National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia -- "A Call to End Hate Speech."
By calling to end "hate speech" (an inflammatory phrase the Times doesn't put in quotation marks), Murguia means that anyone harshly criticizing illegal immigrants -- specifically, mainstream opinion-makers like Sean Hannity on FOX News and Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck of CNN -- should be removed from the air waves.
"The head of the country's largest Latino civil rights organization called on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to stop providing a forum for pundits who consistently disparage the documented and undocumented Hispanic immigrant population.
Leave it to Rush to nail it. Here's how Limbaugh opened today's show, speaking of the way Bill Clinton injected race into the campaign with his comparison [view video of Clinton making his statement here] of Obama's South Carolina primary victory to Jesse Jackson's twin wins in the Palmetto State in the '80s:
Harry Smith won't be up on the platform with Ted Kennedy today endorsing Barack Obama. But he might be there in spirit, after having absolutely unloaded on Bill Clinton's on this morning's Early Show. The CBS anchor made the stunning suggestion that when it comes to matters racial, Bill Clinton may have perpetrated a fraud on African-Americans.
Smith's guest was "diversity expert" Joe Watson and you might have expected Watson [who FWIW impressed me favorably] to carry the anti-Bill ball. But ultimately it was Smith who offered the single most damning suggestion. The CBS host began by playing the clip of Bill's by-now infamous words from the weekend, writing off the Obama victory in South Carolina by pointing out that Jesse Jackson had won there twice in the 80s.
Count Craig Crawford as a dissenting voice in the media storm blaming the Clintons for the injection of race into the Dem primaries. The Congressional Quarterly columnist and MSNBC political analyst offered his unconventional wisdom on a special Saturday edition of Morning Joe today.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: I never understood exactly what Bill Clinton said that was supposed to interject race, actually. I know he was arguing at arm's length with Obama about the war and some other issues. It wasn't clear to me -- I mean the most direct reference to race I saw in this campaign was interjected by the media after New Hampshire trying to say that for some reason Obama lost New Hampshire because of racism. I never followed that one either.
When The Washington Post puts a business closing on the front page, the reader might assume it’s a long-running D.C. chain. But on the front page Thursday, black reporters Hamil Harris and Lonnae O’Neal Parker lamented the demise of the small black bookstore chain Karibu Books, founded in Maryland with a pushcart...in 1993. (The story was headlined "Black Readers Are Jolted By A Chain's Demise.") But the Post reporters didn’t go beyond the black reader reaction. Apparently, the first store to close was in Pentagon City right after Christmas. I wandered into that store out of curiosity during Christmas shopping – and was a little bit shocked. Karibu was stocking anti-white hate.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to two liberal politicians, the black Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, and black mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty, about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and asked Fenty:
You know, if we look at this statistically, it's not a particularly bright picture. I want to just put up a couple of statistics very quickly here. The frequency blacks feel discrimination in America. So high. Applying for jobs, renting or buying a house, dining out or shopping. This is a pretty bleak picture. Mayor Fenty, is this -- is this the America we live in?
This is not the first time Smith has seen America as a racist country, as he did in the wake of the Jena 6 controversy. One wonders where prominent conservative black leaders were for this segment, like former Maryland Lieutenant Governor, Michael Steele. Also, not even Smith’s liberal guests were willing to go as far as Smith. Fenty replied to Smith in a way beyond any particular race:
Following a segment on Monday wondering if America was "finally color-blind" in the wake of Barack Obama’s Iowa caucus win, on Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith seemed to say no as he previewed a segment on recent comments made about Tiger Woods: "Also coming up in this half hour words that wound, Tiger Woods reacts to a racial slur from a Golf Channel anchor."
During the segment, Smith talked to the liberal Reverend Al Sharpton and liberal former New York radio host Ron Kuby about the comments. Smith began by observing: "...for years we've been navigating a changing world when it comes to racially insensitive remarks, but with the Don Imus incident, the national dialogue has changed a lot." Smith then played the clip of Golf Channel Anchor Kelly Tilghman who suggested that the only way for other golfers to beat Tiger Woods was to "lynch him in a back alley." However, Smith also mentioned that, "Tiger Woods said not to worry, that he and Tilghman are long time friends."
Smith asked Sharpton, "You think this is a big deal?" to which Sharpton responded:
I think that it is. Either you're going to have standards or you're not. I think if you give Tilghman a pass, then who then stops the next person from saying something insensitive and saying Tilghman is an example of how come I can say this. And I think the problem with Tilghman's statement, regardless to the reaction of Tiger Woods, is it was very offensive, if I had said about a Jewish person, let's throw them in a gas chamber, I don't think there would have been a question I'd have been off the radio and I have a radio show. So I think you've got to either have standards or you don't have standards.
To know what's on a morning-show anchor's mind, it's often easy to read between the lines. Katie Couric famously employed the "some say" technique to put her own views in the mouths of unidentified others.
But it's relatively uncommon to hear an anchor flatly express an opinion in the way Matt Lauer did this morning. The topic was whether there were racial overtones to Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" tirade directed at Barack Obama in the closing days of the New Hampshire campaign. Matt's guests were radio talk show host Michael Smerconish and former Clinton advisor Paul Begala.