The growing refrain from the Congressional Black Caucus and other quarters — for example, some guests on MSNBC — that much of the opposition to President Obama is racially driven can be logically refuted by at least four considerations:
1) Is the treatment accorded Obama in the popular culture and by the opposition comparable to that accorded to George W. Bush when his approval ratings were likewise about 38 to 40 percent? I think not — because Bush was treated far more harshly (New Yorkâ’published novels and prize-winning docudramas contemplating his assassination; an entire corpus of Nazi/brownshirt slurs, some from major figures like Al Gore and John Glenn; smears like stupid, idiot, liar, chimp, etc.) than Obama, and because Obama himself and his associates have been far more savage in reference to Bush than Bush has been to Obama. Is the fringe Birther movement based on anything more implausible than the fraudulent documents used (on 60 Minutes by Dan Rather. no less) during the 2004 election to suggest that Bush had not fulfilled his National Guard service?
2) Do Obama’s conservative and tea-party critics extend their animus to other public figures on the basis of race, or is their anger at Obama instead predicated on his liberal policies? That is, are tea-party types harder on Herman Cain or Allen West than they are on other white conservatives because of their race? Was there a particular conservative animus shown toward Condoleezza Rice not shown toward other Bush cabinet members? Do conservatives favor Justice Scalia over Justice Thomas on the basis of race? Would the inevitable criticism from the left against, say, a Pres. Condoleezza Rice be considered racially fueled?
3) Are Obama’s growing number of leftist critics, from Cornel West and Tavis Smiley to writers for the Huffington Post and Daily Kos, whose anti-Obama rhetoric has reached a fever pitch, fueled by subtle racism? Or is tough treatment by the Left always principled, while comparable tough treatment by the Right is always unprincipled and race-driven? If so, why?
4) Are questions of race more often invoked by the president and his associates than by his critics? Or, in Colin Powell/Condoleezza Rice fashion, is race incidental, not essential, to his persona, and raised mostly by his opponents? In the 2008 campaign and during the first two and a half years of the Obama administration, we have witnessed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright fiasco, “typical white person,” the “clingers” defamation, the beer summit and “stupidly” acting police, the “wise Latina,” the president’s personal calls for groups based on race and gender to band together in the 2010 elections, Eric Holder’s “my people” and “cowards,” and the inflammatory invective against those who support closed borders, all of which suggest that racial tensions have been raised as often (or more) by the Obama administration and its supporters as by those who oppose it. Has the president, consistent with his calls to temper partisan rhetoric, admonished congressional representatives not to tell opponents to “go to Hell” or claim that they want to reimplement lynching?