Four years ago today, our first black president accepted his party’s nomination in Denver, Colo. Forty-nine years ago today, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., labor leader A. Philip Randolph, and a mostly African-American but multiracial planning group convened the famous 1963 March on Washington, at which King delivered his legendary “I have a dream” speech.
That’s the historic backdrop tonight, as the GOP kicks off the convention it hopes will lead to the defeat of our first black president in November. That Mitt Romney’s campaign is resorting to racial appeals on welfare, Medicare and birtherism is undeniable; the question tonight is how hard will they hit Barack Obama on this historic anniversary. It’s also a moment when, with Hurricane Isaac menacing New Orleans, there’s some danger in savaging the president the way some Republicans enjoy.
We know that Rick Santorum is going to hit Obama hard on welfare, repeating the lie that the waivers the president granted “gutted” the work requirement that’s tied to welfare. No matter how many fact-checkers say that claim isn’t true, Romney and Co. keep making it. Santorum has already told us he doesn’t mean for his welfare bashing to have a racial tinge because he’s concerned about rising “dependency” among all Americans. We’ll see.
Then there’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the convention’s keynote speaker. I’ve called him a “pit bull without lipstick” given his love for blunt talk that can verge on insults and abuse. He’d be a great pick to tear into the president, now that the ridiculous Donald Trump isn’t showing up with his farcical video where he “fires” the president. But Christie is promising to take the high road and talk about what he’s accomplished in New Jersey (where unemployment is still higher than the national average). He may have to. Republicans are divided over how hard to hit Obama, whose most important political advantage may be that people like him, and believe he cares about people like them (unlike Romney).
Also, with Hurricane Isaac on its way to New Orleans, the president is busy doing his job. It’s a real challenge for Christie to figure out how mean is too mean when it comes to bashing the president.
The president was doing his job today? Yes, campaigning in Iowa. We might as well call him Barack Hussein Churchill from now on with this type of leadership.