Roger Cohen's column for the New York Times's international edition, "Beyond America's Original Sin," is the 1# read Times story at nytimes.com as of Friday morning, and it's no wonder -- Cohen basically endorses Barack Obama (not in so many words, as that would be a violation of finicky Times's regulations against columnists endorsing candidates).
The column itself is, frankly, embarrassing -- part Cohen apology for being born in apartheid South Africa, mostly Obama hagiography over his recent race speech that even appropriates the "Yes We Can" call-and-response slogan beloved of his more fervent supporters.
It takes bravery, and perhaps an unusual black-white vantage point, to navigate these places where hurt is profound, incomprehension the rule, just as it takes courage to say, as Obama did, that black "anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."
It wasn't quite a "thrill up up my leg" moment, but Chris Matthews clearly hasn't gotten over his love affair with the candidacy of Barack Obama. It was a discussion of NM Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama on today's Morning Joe that inspired an outpouring of emotion in which among other things Matthews acknowledged Obama "gets to me."
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think [Richardson's] a gutsy guy, his own man, and I think it's a powerful endorsement. It certainly would have been powerful if it had gone the other way to Senator Clinton. I think it'll be a prized endorsement for Senator Obama, especially coming from a, he also comes from an interesting background. He always says, he says, you know, I've got a, what does he say? I've got an English name, I've got a Mexican mother, and I look like an Indian. I mean, he's, he's always had an interesting --
Time editor Rick Stengel made his regular Thursday Morning Joe appearance today, revealing the magazine's cover to be published tomorrow. But while we learned that the Dalai Lama's photo will appear there, the bigger story is the "cover" Time is trying to provide for Barack Obama's Rev. Wright problem.
Here's the gist of Time's defense of Obama, a distillation of Stengel's statements and Time articles by Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein:
An important aspect of the problem is that white Americans are incredibly ignorant about black churches in America.
In fact, Rev. Wright's church isn't that radical as black churches go.
It was understandable for Obama to have joined Wright's church. At the time he was a 27-year old bi-racial man trying to figure out his identity as the son of an atheist father and skeptic mother and needed a church "he could learn from."
It's understandable that Obama didn't leave the church: it's like reading a book--you don't necessarily agree with the author.
Obama's speech was a "triumph," and Americans will be thinking "small" if they make the Wright thing a big issue in the campaign.
Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show" devoted four segments to Obama’s speech on race and the Jeremiah Wright controversy and that coverage began with a proclamation by co-host Maggie Rodriguez that: "It's being called a defining cultural moment in America. Barack Obama speaks about America's racial stalemate, a moving moment, a political risk." Rodriguez went on to tease upcoming coverage of the speech by again emphasizing its "historic" nature: "It was without question a defining moment in American political history. But for an African-American presidential candidate who'd played down race in his campaign, this was a huge gamble politically."
The first of the show’s four segments featured a report by correspondent Byron Pitts, who observed: "If critics hoped Senator Barack Obama would disown his controversial pastor, they were disappointed." After speaking of Obama’s "disappointed critics," Pitts went on to praise Obama’s unifying message and give some political advice:
But beyond condemning his minister's words, Obama tried bridging the racial divide, acknowledging years of bitterness and anger amongst blacks and whites...While Obama invoked the tone of a preacher, it was a politician speaking. With a slip in the polls, the Illinois Senator needs to take the nation's attention off race and back on jobs, health care, and the war in Iraq.
Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech Tuesday was a transparent attempt to quell the controversy over his ties to fiery anti-American minister Jeremiah Wright. But the New York Times, along with the rest of the media, portrayed the speech just the way the Obama camp would have wanted -- as a transcendent address on race in America, past, present and future, with Obama's long connection to Wright a secondary matter.
It was an extraordinary moment -- the first black candidate with a good chance at becoming a presidential nominee, in a country in which racial distrust runs deep and often unspoken, embarking at a critical juncture in his campaign upon what may be the most significant public discussion of race in decades.
There's a new entry next to Mika Brzezinski's name in the annals of MSM elitism. The Morning Joe panelist today lamented blue-collar whites who "can't hear" the message Barack Obama propounded. Poor benighted souls. Joe Scarborough called Mika on it.
Brzezinski's comment came in response to Scarborough's exposition of why he didn't think Obama's speech would work with many blue-collar whites.
Playing the moral equivalence card in his speech this morning, Barack Obama said this:
I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Which sent me scurrying to Google for the quote I was sure I remembered. And sure enough:
There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. -- the Reverend Jesse Jackson, as quoted in US News, 3/10/96
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. -- Barack Obama, Huffington Post, March 14, 2008
The key question before Barack Obama today was the one going to his integrity: was he was telling the truth when he claimed in his HuffPo piece of March 14th that he never heard Wright make, in public or private, the remarks "that are the cause of this controversy"?
During the roundtable segment on Monday's The Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty compared the racist and anti-American words of Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, to Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's condemnation of the many abortions in America. Cafferty, who in January suggested that abortion is a "crap" issue, asserted: "How is this different than John McCain chasing after Pat Robertson or the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, who talk about how we have a culture of murdering unborn children in this country and that we've turned into Sodom because we coddled the gay community in this country? I mean, to me, that stuff is considerably more offensive than decrying racial violence and intolerance in this country, which members of the black community have some firsthand knowledge of." (Transcript follows)
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."