Troll: "A joke disguised as an outrageously stupid statement or question, intended to trap people into believing it is serious." I'll add, a person who makes such jokes, and a person who, using the strawman technique, attributes opinions to others that they have not expressed and do not possess. Taken in part from the Urban Dictionary.
The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black? (Emphasis added.)
Scott Simon, host of right-wing shill National Public Radio's Weekend Edition program, took Obama to task for this remark on yesterday's program. I'll not transcribe Mr. Simon's remarks but they can be heard here.
Simon's point is that Obama's candidacy is not against the handful of losers who spread scurrilous rumors on the internet. It's against John McCain, and the Republican Party which McCain now functionally controls as Obama controls the Democratic Party. But the remark above can be taken, indeed is meant to be taken while maintaining plausible deniability, as an attribution to McCain and his party of race-based attacks. About attacks we'll never hear coming from McCain, who has already proven that he'd rather lose an election than cross certain lines.
Obama, by casting this particular "and did I mention he's black?" question among the very legitimate questions that can be raised about his lack of experience, questions already raised by every single Democrat against whom he ran, seemingly intends to portray those who ask those questions as racists. They aren't. It's a very legitimate question.
But Obama, by making this remark, is playing the race card first, and he's playing it in a country that has to a great extent moved past the 1960s. We have a long way to go, but he's playing it in a country where being accused of bigotry is more damaging among the general population than being the victim of bigoted comments. Ask Michael Richards or Isaiah Washington, or for that matter Bill and Hillary Clinton, if you don't believe me.
One of the things that attracted me to Obama in the first place is that while the man is black, he has, to this point in his campaign, and while not deemphasizing his race, at least appeared to have the intent of governing as a post-racial politician. A man who, while black, is as concerned with the awful circumstances of coal miners in West Virginia as he is with the awful circumstances of housing project residents in Chicago as he is with the awful circumstances of sub-minimum wage chicken processing plant workers in Texas. A man who would benefit this country by helping us to become truly color-blind or at least to act as if we are (and behavior influences thought, make no mistake about it), by abandoning at least the racial grievance politics that seemed to be sole issue for past black Democratic Party presidential candidates if not the class grievance politics that are the modern party's foundation. A president for everyone.
But he's playing the card. And he's playing it preemptively. And he's playing it against a man who, while deeply scarred and flawed and with whom I disagree about a great many things, has had a long career of rare honor and integrity in a Washington where long careers typically mean dishonor and dishonesty. Here's hoping Obama doesn't do it again.
As Simon points out, in this election we're going to have to watch both sides carefully.