Double standard on Obama’s dissing

May 2, 2010

Two front-page lead headlines appeared in Washington newspapers this week bearing on race and politics. One passed without notice, the other inspired a minor outpouring of the usual overheated commentary that is typically aimed at journalistic critics of political correctness. The unnoticed headline appeared in Express, the commuter tabloid published by the Washington Post. It said civil rights leaders wonder if Arizona’s new law aimed at stopping the flood of illegal immigration into the state is “borderline racist?” The other headline appeared in the Washington Examiner atop a story reporting President Obama’s partisan appeal to the groups that “powered” his 2008 presidential victory, namely “young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women” for their support in the 2010 elections. The Examiner head said “Obama disses white guys.”

The reaction to “Borderline racist?” was silence. The reaction to “Obama disses white guys” was typified by the hyperventilating Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, who called the Examiner “reactionary,” then nodded in agreement as his guest, “political analyst” Richard Wolffe described our headline as “a sad and pathetic attempt to distort, with this toxic mix of malice and ignorance.” Strangely, Olbermann didn’t bother to tell his audience that Wolffe, a former Newsweek reporter, is now Obama’s pet propagandist and is granted exclusive access as he writes adulatory campaign tracts like his recently published “Renegade: The making of a president.”

Which headline was more accurate? Express insinuated racists motives for Arizona officials because they approved a law that directs local police to do something that is already legal, which is to stop somebody on reasonable suspicion that they may have broken a law. Whether the law is racist is a matter of hotly contested debate, yet the Express headline can be read as declaring it so. By contrast, the Examiner headline simply stated a truth made clear by the 2008 election returns. Exit polls show that about 47 percent, or 32 million of Obama’s 69 million votes for president were cast by men, 18 million of whom were white males. Thus, about one fourth of Obama’s total vote came from white males. Yet in seeking to re-energize for the 2010 campaign the voters who “powered” his 2008 victory, Obama ignored this constituency. Does Obama consider white men a drag on his coalition, or has he given up on them because of their declining support for his policies in opinion polls? Either way, “disses” is exactly the right term to describe it. The double standard is clear: Those on the left who routinely describe voters primarily by their racial and ethnic identities have no problem when their favored candidates do so. But they get bent out of shape whenever someone else reports the rest of the story.

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