During a protracted segment tonight devoted to slamming Mitt Romney as a racist because of his campaign ads critical of the Obama administration's recent gutting of welfare reform, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and Al Sharpton took issue with token Republican panelist Steve Schmidt's complaint that both sides of the political aisle use race-baiting and extreme appeals to prejudicial fears of voters. Schmidt, who advised the 2008 McCain campaign, reminded his fellow panelists of a 2000 anti-Bush ad run by the NAACP which suggested that Bush was in some way to blame for James Byrd's dragging death, as well as a 2008 ad that compared John McCain to segregationist George Wallace. "Both sides, when they use these tactics, and both sides have used these tactics, my view is it's wrong. It doesn't have a place in American politics," he argued.
Immediately after Schmidt made his point, however, the liberals on the panel pounced, starting with weekend anchor Melissa Harris-Perry:
I'm sorry, but, that, that, both sides, I think, is, not only ahistorical, but it indicates as though African-American political power and white political power, particularly the political power associated with white supremacy -- and that is not to say that all whites are anywhere close to that -- but that they have some sort of similar history and ugliness --
The language about George W. Bush and those chains had to do with him resisting a hate crimes law that would have made -- so, so, so that was based in policy.
And Mitt Romney's ad about welfare is not? The very complaint from MSNBC is that, policy aside, the optics of the ad are racist and the tone of the ad is a dog whistle to bigoted white voters. If that can be true of ads aimed at white voters, can it not be true of ads run by the NAACP at black voters?
Moments later, Sharpton dutifully defended the NAACP's egregious ads from 2000, saying that it was irrelevant because the NAACP is an independent civil-rights group, not a political candidate:
There's a difference here though, in all due respect here to Steve. Do I agree with his point that we must have the same rules by all sides. but let's be clear. You cannot compare an outside civil rights group, whether it's mine or the NAACP, to the candidate. Romney is running these ads on Mr. Obama, not an outside group, not a welfare group. This is done by the candidate against the candidate.
So let's deal with the fact Jesse Helms was running against Gantt, Romney's running against President Obama. This is not a support group, this is not me, this is not anyone else. Let's not compare apples and oranges. This is Romney's ad, this is Romney's lie, and it's wrong.