RACE WAR! How Frank Rich PIMPS the Race Card for Obama
by Seymour Glass, Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 11:08:06 AM EST
I'm in Baltimore tonight visiting with the incomparable Daily Howler, Charm City's scourge of media lies. He said it would be fine if I put up today's very important howler for discussion.
By the way, if you think I am using the word "pimp" to call Frank Rich a "Media Whore", you are right, I am."
THE BUTCHER'S TALES: The invective in Frank Rich's Sunday column was really quite startling--except from this bloody old hit man. After all, this brilliant "Butcher of Broadway" had spent a decade telling the world that Al Gore was a hopeless phony and fake; amazingly, Rich was still peddling this tale to racial healer Don Imus after Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, began to change the world's understanding. (Too many minorities in the crowd shots! And also: They laughed at Gore's jokes!) And sure enough: On Sunday, the butcher had his newest fine message: The Clintons are the world's biggest racists. Just as the butcher had struggled and strained to tell the world that Gore was a fake, now he turned to startling invective to drive home his newest vast insight.
Wow! The butcher had watched Hillary Clinton's cable town meeting the night before Super Tuesday's voting. And we should all thank God he did! It had been "a Bush-style pseudo-event," the insightful Gore-trasher said as he started. (That's funny! He had said that Gore was just like Bush when he reviewed Gore's film!) But the butcher praised himself for watching. "I'm glad I watched every minute," he said; according to Rich, the Hallmark special "offered a naked preview of how nastily the Clintons will fight, whatever the collateral damage to the Democratic Party, in the [campaign] endgame to come." Just as Gore had been the world's biggest fake, the Clintons were now the world's nastiest people. And their nastiness took a particular form. According to the butcher of Broadway, the Clintons are nasty on race.
"The campaign's other most potent form of currency remains its thick deck of race cards," Don Imus' buddy now said. "This was all too apparent in the Hallmark show." Yes, the program had featured an African-American moderator--but to the butcher's eagle eye, that only heightened the racial offense! That moderator, Carole Simpson, had been cast in a "servile" role, the butcher said, reinventing Simpson as Aunt Jemima. Outraged by the way the Clintons would degrade a woman like Simpson, the butcher went on to churn his view of "the Clintons' own recent misadventures in racial politics."
Rich's invective was remarkably harsh, as it often had been when he demonized Gore. The Clintons had "ghettoized" Barack Obama in a succession of incidents, we were told. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's pursuit of the Latino vote involved "a creepy racial back story;" a Clinton pollster had "pitted the two groups [Latinos and blacks] against each other," Rich explained. (And Hillary Clinton had "seconded the motion." This involved the promulgation of "a bigoted lie"--a bigoted lie that "branded Hispanics, a group as heterogeneous as any other, as monolithic racists.")
Yes, that's pretty startling stuff. By now, the invective was flying around--and the butcher was just getting started. Yep! According to Rich, the Clinton campaign has made an "attempt to drive white voters away from Mr. Obama by playing the race card." Not only that: "The question now is how much more racial friction the Clinton campaign will gin up if its Hispanic support starts to erode in Texas." ("Clearly, it will stop at little," he said.) Rich then cited a warning to Howard Dean from "two eminent African-American historians who have served in government" (Mary Frances Berry and Roger Wilkins), a warning about a credentials fight at the Dem convention--while failing to note that their warning to Dean had no explicit racial content at all. But that credentials fight will surely come, Rich opined. After all: "[D]oes anyone seriously believe that Howard Dean can deter a Clinton combine so ruthless that it risked shredding three decades of mutual affection with black America to win a primary?" As he closed, the butcher lovingly looked ahead to the "race-tinged brawl" to come:
RICH (2/10/08): A race-tinged brawl at the convention, some nine weeks before Election Day, will not be a Hallmark moment. As Mr. Wilkins reiterated to me last week, it will be a flashback to the Democratic civil war of 1968, a suicide for the party no matter which victor ends up holding the rancid spoils.
Let's say there is a credentials fight; why would it be a "race-tinged brawl?" Rich, screaming race/race/race throughout, absent-mindedly forgot to explain.
For a decade, Rich kept insisting that Gore was a fake, even boo-hooing about this in 2006, to well-known racial healer Don Imus. Now, he uses his insight to tell the world that the Clintons are among the nastiest racial players ever seen in their party.
His invective is startling, from beginning to end. Surely, when someone makes such startling claims about the most serious part of our politics, he will want to be very careful about the evidence he cites--about his facts and his logic. But as with his eight-year assault on Gore, Rich's "evidence" is that of a butcher. With Gore, every incident was twisted and turned to show us how fake and phony he was. (He owned a rifle when he was a child!) Sadly, this screaming old crone has played the same game in his race war against the vile Clintons.
Let's consider Rich's deeply sensitive claim that the Clintons have "ghettoized" Obama. (We'll talk more about that term tomorrow.) In the following passage, Rich is pimping the conventional "wisdom" of his insider class--but of course, he did the same thing all those years when he demonized Gore. Our question: How careful is this famous old butcher when he makes such a serious charge? He ran you like rubes when he went after Gore. Is he running us rubes once again with his startling racial invective?
"Ghettoized" is quite a term. (As is "servile.") As the butcher unpacks this term, he cites three crucial events. His claims about Gore were vile and unfair--though they pleased his high, inane class. In this passage, he gives three examples of the new ugly conduct he has spotted:
RICH: In October...USA Today found Hillary Clinton leading Mr. Obama among African-American Democrats by a margin of 62 percent to 34 percent. But once black voters met Mr. Obama and started to gravitate toward him, Bill Clinton and the campaign's other surrogates stopped caring about what African-Americans thought. In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), ''the black candidate'' (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself).
There you see the three different ways Obama was "ghettoized" (a remarkable term). Putting that unfortunate term to the side, how does the analysis hold up?
The "black candidate/AP" claim is so weak and inane that we won't waste our time on it (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/28/08). But remember how "narrative whores" like Rich work. They have to give you at least three examples, so they'll scrounge around and take what they get. In similar ways, this fat, stupid butcher kept telling you that Vile Gore was a phony--even after his world-changing film had appeared. According to the butcher, Gore was "fearmongering," just like George Bush, when he said Manhattan might end up under water! (And he owned a rifle when he was ten! And those "Benetton" audiences laughed at his jokes!) In short, narrative whores like this nasty old butcher will tell you anything, no matter how stupid, if they think they can get you to gulp it. That's what Rich did all through his idiot column about Gore's phony "high school movie. And that's what he does in this example. Click that link if you doubt that.
So how about the "ghettoizing" work of chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn? In this matter, Rich dishes the press corps' conventional wisdom--as he endlessly did about Gore. But given the nasty charge he is lodging, just how fair is his assessment? Did Penn somehow "ghettoize" Obama "as a cocaine user?" Your sense of fairness and judgment is now called into play--as it was when Rich kept insisting that Gore was the world's biggest phony.
Rich refers to the December 13 Hardball, when leaders of the three Big Dem campaigns were invited to appear together. Every question by host Chris Matthews concerned the recent suggestion, by Clinton honcho Bill Shaheen, that the press corps should examine Obama's youthful drug use. After several questions on this topic to Obama honcho David Axelrod, Matthews started questioning Penn. Was Penn attempting to "ghettoize" Obama "as a cocaine user?" Here are the first three Q-and-A's of the colloquy which is Rich's sole evidence:
MATTHEWS (12/13/07): Mark, given the fact that this has reached into the spin room today, and there were several questions to David Axelrod about whether his candidate, Senator Obama, has in fact shared or sold drugs, do you expect the Republicans to use this against the Democrats, no matter who wins the election--the nomination fight, I should say?
PENN: Oh, I don't know. I think, though, I'm very disappointed by David's comments. I mean, you know, he's trying to rewrite history here. It is his candidate, Senator Obama, on the front page of the New York Times, that called Senator Clinton "disingenuous."
He started a wave of direct, personal negative attacks. And the senator finally began to reply very substantively that his plan leaves out 15 million people, whereas hers covers every single person. And he kept bringing up an Iran vote that he in fact skipped. So, I'm really disappointed. I think this thing with Billy Shaheen--he has stepped down. He [sic] was never a part of this campaign. It was unacceptable.
MATTHEWS: Did you tell him to step down?
PENN: The senator made that clear. No, he stepped down. And he made clear--
MATTHEWS: Do you tell him to step down? It took 24 hours for him to do it. Do you think he did it in time to stop this from becoming a story?
PENN: No. No. I think this story is over. I think we made it very clear yesterday that we didn't condone it. We weren't--we weren't part of these--of, of the story that he, that he went on with. And we absolutely apologized. And the senator went on the tarmac of the airport as we were all coming down to this debate and apologized personally, because this is not part of her campaign.
PENN: And I think it's very important. She has been running a year-long positive campaign, in which she's out there talking about ending the Iraq war and health care for all.
The questions which follow involve fairness and judgment. But: Does it sound like Penn was somehow trying to "ghettoize" Obama "as a cocaine user?" As Media Matters has noted before, Penn seemed to be trying to change the subject; beyond that, he seemed to be trying to criticize Obama as someone who "started a wave of direct, personal negative attacks" on the front page of the New York Times. If Matthews had followed his lead, the conversation might have turned to Iraq, or to health care, or to Obama's criticisms of Clinton. But every question Matthews asked this evening concerned one topic alone--youthful drug use. There's nothing automatically wrong with that, of course. But here's the entire body of evidence supporting Rich's nasty charge against Penn, a charge which he delivered with such remarkably strong invective:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): These comments that are coming out of your campaign from different directions--and I'm not sure how they're coming, and nobody does--but going after his perhaps youthful drug use, which he admitted in his book, and going after comments he made as a student and as a kindergarten student in fifth--at the age of 5, I should say--do you think those appropriate shots at the opponent, or are they below the belt?
PENN: Well, I think we have made clear that the, the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising. And I think that has been made clear. I think this kindergarten thing was a joke after Senator Obama--this kindergarten thing, after what the senator did--
There you see the total evidence for Rich's remarkably aggressive claim--for the claim that Mark Penn "ghettoized" Obama "as a cocaine user." In response to Matthews' fourth question on this topic, Penn used the term "cocaine use" once--and again, attempted to change the subject. At this point, other honchos began to jump up and down, complaining that Penn had "done it again." But let's be clear: There you see the total body of evidence supporting the claim that Penn "ghettoized" Obama "as a cocaine user." By the way: How would such a charge have "ghettoized" Obama? In our view, that's a separate matter, one that might even go to the mental state of great racial healers like Rich. (More tomorrow.)
In fairness, Rich was more careful than some have been with one part of his claim. As usual, Matthews has misstated this all over town, claiming that Penn "raised [the issue of] drugs" on the program that night. It was, of course, Matthews who raised the issue of drugs; throughout the segment, he asked about nothing else. There was nothing wrong with raising that issue, of course--but there was something wrong when he later implied, on several occasions, that Penn was the one who brought drugs up. Now, the question a fair person must ask: Is there something wrong with what Rich said about Penn's conduct that evening?
Tomorrow, we'll take a final look at the butcher's remarkable column. But please remember one key point. Until Gore was handed the Nobel Peace Prize, the butcher had spent the prior decade convincing you that he was a phony; he offered an endless string of inane, tortured pieces of "evidence" to convince you of this stupid claim. Why, Gore had minorities in his audiences--and they even had laughed at his jokes! He even ran to his guru, racial healer Don Imus, to tell him how fake and phony Gore was. In this way, a sick, bloated butcher got Gore's blood all over his apron. The blood of Iraq was already there from his clowning during Campaign 2000--and from the way he slashed Gore up when Gore said, Don't go to Iraq.
That was nothing this butcher wouldn't say and do when he was telling you Gore is a phony. Now, he's saying the Clinton are racists. How fair have his "arguments" been?
TOMORROW: The way butchers work.
WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE: We recommend Krugman's on-line ruminations about these matters. In one post, he correctly says this:
KRUGMAN (2/11/08): Folks, you've been played like a fiddle by people in the media who just plain hate the Clintons. They tried to take Hillary down over her clothes, her voice, her tears. When none of that worked, they invented a race war.
There are some perfectly good arguments against Hillary--Iraq, the presence of people like Mark Penn, the big-money Dems in her circle. But this really is Al-Gore-says-he-invented-the-Internet stuff. And it's deeply depressing to see so many progressives fall for it.
As Krugman notes, this has nothing to do with who you think should win the Democratic nomination. (Our reaction to the last Dem debate: It's a shame that one of these two has to lose.) This isn't about Obama or Clinton--this is about the "butcher of Broadway" and his loathsome media pals. For twenty straight months during Campaign 2000, these people "played" you about Al Gore--and Rich kept it up for years after that. But then, Rich has always been a butcher--and butchers play by bloody rules. Just ask the dead of Iraq! The butcher sent them their current war when he pimped, so hard and so dumbly, against vile Candidate Gore.