The more President Obamaâ€™s approval ratings have slipped, the more his accomplices in the media have begun muttering about race. With the health care debate becoming full-blown opposition, the accusations are no longer subtle.
While many of us figured this was inevitable should liberals start losing the substantive arguments, the pace at which it degenerated to this, and the ferocity of the attacks, are nonetheless startling. Protest, for the last 8 years lauded as the ultimate expression of patriotism, is now suddenly un-American, impolite, Nazi-like, crazy â€” and above all, racist.
It started in earnest with Chris Matthews and Kathleen Parker on Hardball last week, blaming Southern White Males â€” and Sarah Palin â€” for dragging the Republican Party down a dark road of racism that was turning the rest of the country off.
Matthews invited the â€œconservativeâ€ Parker because of a column she had written saying that racist Southern males were ruining the Republican Party, and that Sarah Palin was their heroine. Another Palin Derangement Syndrome sufferer, left wing moonbat Joan Walsh of Salon.com was also along for the bumpy ride.
PARKER: Right. Look â€” and please let me be really, really clear. I’m not saying Sarah Palin did that. I’m just saying that there’s this subliminal level, subliminal level of communication that goes on. The Southern Strategy has always been â€” well, since they stopped using the N-word and being explicit about what they’re trying to do with race and, you know, creating this “us versus them” dynamic, it became increasingly vague through the years. You started talking about states rights at a certain point. Then you started talking about, you know, these wedge issues like gay marriage and on and on. But ultimately, it’s always about an “us and them” dynamic.
JOAN WALSH: Right.
PARKER: And Sarah Palin’s really very good at that. And she is, you know, when she plays her populist role, there’s no one better at it.
MATTHEWS: Is she connecting the dots, Joan, among Henry Louis Gates [the black Harvard professor who irresponsibly accused a white Cambridge sergeant of racism], the birther movement, the Sotomayor testimony and confirmation questioning [a reference to the race-obsessed Supreme Court Justice nominee], so tribalistic? There’s no doubt about it. All that stuff has become very tribalistic, something we thought we’d begun to crack in this country. Uh, is Sarah the dog whistle that says, “yeah, that’s what it’s about”?
WALSH: I think Sarah Palin’s overall message is one of “us versus them.” â€¦ she had that visceral appearance of enjoying it when she was really saying some pretty hateful and not founded things. Barack Obama is one of us. He’s very much so. The only thing different about him isâ€“he’s black. He’s our first black Presidentâ€¦.
Later in the segment, Matthews would coin a phrase that may haunt him for as long as â€œtingle up my leg,â€ when he referred to â€œcul-de-sacs of whitedom.â€
It continued on Matthewsâ€™ Sunday show, â€œThe Chris Matthews Showâ€ on NBC, where â€œconservativeâ€ Kathleen Parker continued to be his Republican beard for his developingÂ contention that opposition to Obama is largely racist. Parker, who probably took some heat from her current South Carolinian neighbors (this supposed belle is a Florida native) for calling on the GOP to â€œdrive a stake through the heart of old Dixie”) tried to walk back her anti-Southern talk a bit by saying there were racists opposed to Obama â€œeverywhere.â€
Matthews thought it very significant that while Obama’s overall disapproval rating in a Wall Street Journal poll was 40%, it was 48% in the South, and 51% with older men. Left unsaid, and not termed “ethnic poltics,” was the far more significant statistic that his stratospheric approval rating in the 90s among blacks is the only thing keeping the President’s approval rating “around the 50 yard line.”
Fellow panelists Time Magazine editor Richard Stengel and CNBC anchor Trish Regan seemed to confuse Matthews — who isÂ accustomed to having MSNBC guests and anchors agreeing with his fevered rants — by blaming the poor economy for most of Obamaâ€™s popularity slide.
It was left to John Heileman of New York Magazine to carry the ball handed to him by Matthews and Parker:
â€œThey want to have a race-freighted conversation, and between Sotomayor and the Skip Gates controversy, Obama gave them a permission slip to say that he introduced the question first and now they can go crazy and make all these wild charges because they claim that he put race on the table and they are just following his lead.â€
After Richard Stengel proposed the idea that the real problem might be that 85% of the people like their health care, Heileman brought it back to Matthews’ favorite bugaboo:
“It’s two things, it’s the bad economy… mixed in with a lot of racial and ethnic unease among those people. This is a huge transformation that Barack Obama represents. It’s not just about him being the first African American President, it’s an increasing diverse minority-majority nation that a lot of those people feel is passing them by, and they’re angry about it.
On Hardball Tuesday night, Matthews hosted Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal. Matthews and Rendell engaged in a ferocious, wide-ranging attack on the town hall attendees that at times had Moore visibly stunned.
STEPHEN MOORE: â€¦But I think that you all are kind of missing the point of what’s going on here. There are hundreds of millions-I mean, hundreds of thousands of Americans who are so enraged about what’s going on.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
MOORE: This is still a pretty conservative country, and people are upset about the policies in Washington!
MATTHEWS: OK, I…
MOORE: They don’t think the politicians are listening
MATTHEWS: I think some of the people are upset because we have a black president. Let’s look at Senator Specter’s town meeting. Some of these statements people are making…
MOORE: Chris, come on!
MATTHEWS: Listen to what they’re saying.
MOORE: It has nothing to do with race!
MATTHEWS: Oh, no.
MOORE: That’s an absurd comment!
Later, after some video, and after Rendell had accused large numbers of the protesters of being â€œbirthersâ€ and other kinds of crazy, pitbull Matthews would drop his favorite bone of contention — racism:
MOORE: You look at a couple people like this nut who brings a gun to this rally and say, these people are just crazy. Why don’t they just shut up and go home? And, you know, we-and, Chris…
MOORE: … I have to say, it is so outrageous for him to say that these people…
ED RENDELL: The birthers are a substantial…
MOORE: … are angry because we have a black president.
MOORE: I mean, it makes me think that you’re totally out of touch with what…
MATTHEWS: No, the reason-the reason…
MOORE: A lot of people voted for Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: The reason I say it is because I look at the map of the United States and I see where people question his birth, and I see the pattern — the pattern of race here. And its historic in our nature, and I see it, and I don’t like it. And you’re telling me these people just have-just have idle thoughts: Well, he may not be born here. Could it not be his ethnicity? And you deny that, Stephen? you deny that’s the issue here?
MOORE: Could it be — I’m sorry. Could it be what?
MATTHEWS: His ethnicity. That’s not the issue here?
MOORE: I don’t believe it is. I believe — I believe that…
MATTHEWS: You really don’t believe that?
MOORE: I really don’t.
MATTHEWS: And you look at the people that — the kind of people that have been jumping…
MATTHEWS: … up and down on this issue.
MOORE: Chris, I think most conservatives that I know — and I go to a lot of these meetings — they’re proud of the fact that we have a black president today. They genuinely are proud of our country for electing a black — a black president. They don’t agree with his policies, but the fact that-that we have grown beyond racism, I think, is a great thing for this country. I think most conservatives agree.
MATTHEWS: You think these people voted for Obama?
MOORE: Some of them did.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on! (LAUGHTER)
MOORE: I know some of them did. I went to these tea parties. A lot of them are independents. A lot of the people were angry — as angry at George Bush as they are with Barack Obama. They just think our country is out of control. You don’t, you can’t borrow $10 trillion over the next decade.
But the “Opposition to Obama is Racism” thesis may have reached its nadir when MSNBC anchor Carlos Watson, in what he optimistically calls his daily â€œBig Thought,â€ in a segment named â€œThe C Note,â€ offered this mind-boggling notion:
â€œBut what concerns me is when in some of those town hall meetings including the one that we saw in Missouri recently where there were jokes made about lynching, etc., you start to wonder whether in fact the word socialist is becoming a code word, whether or not socialist is becoming the new N-word.â€
Remember, Watson is not the host of one of MSNBC’s opinion shows. Â He’s supposedly a news anchor!
So much for the post-racial Presidency.