Obama Admits Conservative Criticism ‘Doesn’t Have to Do With My Race in Particular’

In remarks that are sure to dismay the race-baiting crew at MSNBC, President Obama admitted in an interview yesterday that he does not think that his conservative critics are racially motivated.

Obama made those remarks in a very flattering discussion with PBS NewsHour hosts Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff after he gave an address commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The interview was very wide-ranging and overwhelmingly soft (see earlier post from Brent Baker which deals with some of its other topics) but at the end, the racially obsessed Ifill decided to ask the president to address a theory that far-left individuals believe: that Obama’s opponents on the political Right are actually motivated by racial hatred. Trying to put a bit of distance between herself and the conspiratorial topic, Ifill phrased her question through the words of someone else, a leftist historian named Taylor Branch whom she had recently interviewed:

“One of the things he [Branch] said was that you suffer — you are a victim of partisan racial gridlock. That’s the way he put it. And you talked a moment ago about that a little bit,” Ifill said. “I wonder whether you think that’s true, and if so, what, if anything, the first African-American president can do to break through that kind of motivated gridlock.”

Obama refused to take Ifill’s racial baiting, however.

“Well, you know, I was on stage with President Clinton. And I remember him having a pretty hard time with the Republicans as well,” Obama said.

He was happy to answer Ifill’s question in purely partisan terms, however, as he disingenuously insisted that only Democratic presidents see their opponents try to undermine their authority and political legitimacy.

“There does be a habit sometimes of just Democratic presidents generally being — efforts being made to delegitimize them in some fashion. And that’s fine, because, you know, politics is — is not — is not bean bag, as they used to say — it’s not a non-contact sport. And — and I don’t worry about it personally.”

Obama proceded to go off into a class warfare rant against “those who resisted any change in the status quo” and insisted that those who oppose him are really only out to protect the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

He came back to the race angle, however, and once again repudiated Ifill’s racial conspiracy theory:

There’s a line that’s drawn between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. And you know, that, I think, has been a fairly explicit politics in this country for some time. And it’s directed at Bill Clinton or Nancy Pelosi just as much as it’s directed at me.

I — I think it — it doesn’t have to do with my race in particular. It has to do with an effort to make sure that people who might otherwise challenge the existing ways that things work are divided.

While it is somewhat of a relief to see Obama declining to embrace the racialist obsessions of his most ardent defenders, it is unfortunate to see him embrace the class consciousness nonsense that neo-Marxists have been spewing for years. We can at least take some solace in the fact that the dunderheads over at MSNBC are too illiterate to have noticed this, however.

For those unfamiliar with Ifill’s record, it is one of liberal Democratic partisanship. In 2009, she wrote a book talking about recent racial advancement and did not feature a single Republican politician while mentioning several Democrats. She also blasted people who believe in the “mythic notion of color blindness.” Her book release party also featured cookies in the shape of Obama.

Hat tip: RealClearPolitics.

Transcript and video of the full segment follows:

GWEN IFILL: Final question, Mr. President. You said in your speech, you talked about the arc of the moral universe, quoting — the moral arc of the universe, quoting Dr. King, and you said it doesn’t bend on its own.

BARACK OBAMA: Yes.

IFILL: I interviewed Taylor Branch, the civil rights historian, for part of our series on the March on Washington yesterday.

And one of the things he said was that you suffer — you are a victim of partisan racial gridlock. That’s the way he put it. And you talked a moment ago about that a little bit. I wonder whether you think that’s true, and if so, what, if anything, the first African-American president can do to break through that kind of motivated gridlock.

OBAMA: Well, you know, I was on stage with President Clinton. And I remember him having a pretty hard time with the Republicans as well.

There does be a habit sometimes of just Democratic presidents generally being — efforts being made to delegitimize them in some fashion. And that’s fine, because, you know, politics is — is not — is not bean bag, as they used to say — it’s not a non-contact sport. And — and I don’t worry about it personally.

I do think what — what you’ve seen — and I — I touched on this theme during the speech — I think it has less to do with my — my race, but there is an argument that was made in 1964-1965 on through the ’80s and ’90s in which those who resisted any change in the status quo, particularly when it came to economic opportunity, made two big arguments.

Argument number one was, any efforts by government to help folks who were locked out of opportunity, whether it was minorities or the poor generally, unions, any effort by government to help those folks is bad for the economy. And that became a major argument. And if, in fact, people start thinking the government’s the problem, instead of the solution, then what that leaves you is whatever the marketplace does on its own.

And what we’ve seen is a marketplace that increasingly produces very unequal results. And it — so it — it disempowers our capacity for common action to do something about poverty, to do something to help middle-class families.

And I think the second element to that argument that has been made, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, is that government has hurt middle-class families or hurt white working-class families because, you know, pointy-headed bureaucrats in Washington are just trying to help out minorities or trying to give them something free.

And, you know, there’s a line that’s drawn between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. And you know, that, I think, has been a fairly explicit politics in this country for some time. And it’s directed at Bill Clinton or Nancy Pelosi just as much as it’s directed at me. I — I think it — it doesn’t have to do with my race in particular. It has to do with an effort to make sure that people who might otherwise challenge the existing ways that things work are divided.

And, so, part of what Dr. King talked about, part of what I think we have to get back to is the recognition that, you know the — the working man in Arkansas who happens to be white and the white woman in Philadelphia who wants to work, but is having a tough time finding a job, that they’ve got things in common, that, in fact, they can work together.

And if they both got kids, we want to make sure both of the — those kids are able to get the training they need and go to college and succeed in this — in this economy. And there are certain things that only government can do together, like rebuilding our roads and our bridges and putting people back to work, you know, creating the kind of energy that will allow our economy to succeed in the future.

And so I’m less concerned about the short-term politics and tactics that you kind of see and get debated a lot on cable television. And I’m much more interested in figuring out how do we create common cause for the overwhelming majority of Americans who are decent, hardworking, I think just want to do right by their kids and their families and their communities.

They’ve lost trust in the capacity of government to help them, even though they’re hurting. Are there things we can do to bring about that kind of coalition of conscience, as I said? And I think there are. I’m an eternal optimist.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s good to have you with us on the NewsHour.

OBAMA: It was wonderful to be here.

IFILL: Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Thank you so much.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013