As Corner readers know, I’ve cited plenty of evidence that large parts of the Obama administration are already using, or have promised to use, a variety of race-based policies (see, for example, here and here and here). On the other hand, it is heartening that the president himself, at least, continues to eschew playing the race card in the administration’s recovery programs (however problematic those programs may otherwise be).
Thus, the Washington Post and the New York Times yesterday both ran articles about a meeting this week between the president and several black civil-rights leaders, and both articles made clear that the president and, what is perhaps more remarkable, even the black leaders themselves were not calling for race-based programs. The Times reported that none of the participants “focus[ed] on programs for African-Americans or limit[ed] their talks to issues of concern primarily to blacks.” NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said, “In these times, it didn’t make sense to talk about race-based initiatives.” Al Sharpton said, “I think [the president] was very clear that he was not going to engage in any race-based programs.” Politico even quoted Sharpton himself — Al Sharpton! — as saying, “We’re not looking for a race-based program. We’re looking to make sure everyone is involved.” The Post said, “Obama has refused to separate the economic challenges faced by black and other minorities from the nation’s broader fiscal struggles” and that earlier “Obama said he should not tailor policies just to African Americans.” “I’m the president of the entire United States,” he said.
Now, to be sure, this is good politics for the president, and it would be suicidal for him to do otherwise. And, as noted, much of the rest of the administration does not seem to be following this approach, and one must presume that this is just fine with the president himself. Still, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, and it’s gratifying that the president and even the civil-rights establishment recognize what is virtue and what is vice, or at least what as a political matter must be treated as virtue and what must be treated as vice.