The Corner


Concerning Obama’s Hampton University speech, just one observation. I don’t care so much about the down-home accent and style. Lots of people slip into different skins, for different purposes. It isn’t necessarily hypocritical or wrong. (That said, I’m not eager to hear Hillary Clinton’s “black voice” again. Will we be treated to it when she runs in 2016?)

What is damnable about Obama’s Hampton speech is this: It perpetrates a racial lie. It furthers racial grievance and alienation. It hardens division in our society. It increases bitterness and mistrust.

The charge that President Bush and Republicans generally were indifferent to black victims of a hurricane is a damn lie. A filthy lie. “Oh, all politicians lie,” you might say, “why are you so hot and bothered about this one?”

To answer the question, I will go to my longtime illustration — which longtime readers will have seen, but which other readers may not have seen. In 1994, Ellen Sauerbrey ran against Parris Glendening for governor of Maryland (as she would again, four years later). At the very end of the campaign, Glendening portrayed her as a racist.

His campaign was run by a man named Bob Shrum, a political operative whose specialty was portraying Republicans as racists. For example, he worked against Ward Connerly’s Civil Rights Initiative in California. This was the initiative, you remember, that copied the language of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Connerly himself is black. He believes in equality of opportunity and equality under the law.

So, Shrum ran an ad against him showing the Klansman David Duke and a burning cross. (My Republican friends who know Shrum say he’s a peach of a guy. Fine. I say he has done a lot of harm in America, by portraying anyone with liberal views, as we used to understand the term “liberal,” as a racist.)

Anyway, this is what Ellen Sauerbrey told me, and I paraphrase: “It’s one thing if you lie about a person’s view of tax policy or agricultural subsidies or something. That’s not very nice, but then the election happens, and everybody goes on. Not much harm done. If you lie about a person’s racial views, there’s a lingering effect. The lie corrodes society. It makes race relations worse. It makes it harder for society to heal, after all these years, all these decades.”

Exactly. Barack Obama, as the first black president, has had the chance to do great good. What a waste.


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