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HBO: Just because you have an excuse to be racist doesn't mean we'll tolerate your racism

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Posted on July 18 2009 6:27 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here

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It’s not hard to tell what leftist comedian Bill Maher has been doing with his three weeks off from “Real Time”: watching the Rachel Maddow Show. His opening monologue for last night’s new episode was ripped straight from Maddow’s show — calling Republicans racists for their questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, obsessing over the Christian group C Street, and lamenting that he’d missed “three Republican scandals.”

The attack began in the monologue:

“It was fun watching these old white men get frustrated with the answers from this Puerto Rican woman. For them it was like the cleaning lady stole something from the club! She was watering the houseplants wrong!… And the tag they kept trying to hang around her neck was ‘reverse racist.’ They said that it’s reverse racists like her that give regular racists like them a bad name! We can’t have that!”

Bill continued his ideological assault when he interviewed his first guest via satellite, former Republican congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough who was promoting his new book The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America’s Promise.

(I’ve been thinking about reading Scarborough’s book and his interview with Maher only served as an additional nudge toward picking it up.)

“Do you think the Republicans in general have a problem with race?” Maher asked. “I mean I would never say that all Republicans are racist — that’s ridiculous  and wrong — but if you’re a racist in America today you’re probably a Republican. Is that a fair comment?”

“No, probably not a fair comment,” Scarborough replied, not taking Maher’s bait and trying to redirect the interview in a more constructive direction:

“At the same time this is a party that did fairly well with Hispanics in 2004, they did poorly in 2008, then you think some of them [Republican critics of Sotomayor] would have tread a bit more lightly given the poor performance at the polls… Why major Republicans were going around calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist is beyond me. That is not how you’re going to win the middle of America in 2012 and it’s certainly not how you’re going to pick up Hispanic votes for the Republican Party.”

It was a good response for Scarborough given his political objectives — drawing more moderates into the GOP and refashioning a more “Big Tent” Conservatism. It fit with the tone of his other answers — staying positive. Later in the interview when Maher listed alleged Republican failures (being on the “wrong side of history” on Social Security and the Civil Rights Movement) Scarborough again avoided Maher’s trap by pointing out that the GOP was on the right side of the debate on the Cold War and Welfare reform.

There was another way Scarborough could have responded to Maher’s “if you’re a racist you’re probably a Republican smear.” It wouldn’t have helped him sell more books but it would have been hilarious, cool, and true: “Well actually Bill, there are plenty of racists who aren’t Republicans and you should know because you have them on your show all the time.”

Examples:

I know the canned response to pointing out West, McGruder, and Jackson as racists: it’s OK to be an anti-white racist if you’re a minority because of the historic oppressions minorities have endured.

You can take that one out and fertilize the lawn with it.

I shouldn’t have to explain this to people. Do I really have to? Are we in kindergarten again? Racism — defined as prejudice against a whole race of people — is wrong and unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if one has an excuse for it. And racist minorities have a better excuse than white racists — they’ve probably actually been victims of racism. (And their ancestors certainly were.) But it’s still not a good enough excuse to be a racist. And we shouldn’t tolerate it the way Maher does.

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