Wednesday, July 29, 2009

'Fair & Balanced' Fox sprinkles a bit of racial hatred

It's a tactic card-carrying members of the white right have long used to good effect.

When a black guy says something reasonable about, but critical of, the white establishment, the white right pounces. Makes him out to be uptight or, better yet, anti-white. Deflects the real issues -- whatever they are -- by taking the offense to marginalize the critic.

Only this time the black guy, the one being called a "foreigner" by some and now a racist by others, happens to be our president. And the name callers aren't run-of-the-mill bigots. They are talk-show hosts sometimes posing as journalists.

I'm not just talking about Mr. Republican, Rush Limbaugh.

For starters, add Mr. Anti-Immigration, CNN's Lou Dobbs, who has now jumped on the bandwagon of barely veiled bigots spreading not-so-subtle vitriol about President Obama's mixed-race background through a well-orchestrated campaign to question whether he's even American. They suggest Obama may actually be a citizen of Kenya, thus disqualifying him to lead our country. There's no evidence, mind you. Just lots of noise. (Obama was born in Hawaii, as state officials felt compelled to announce yet again this week as the suspicions of the so-called "birther"movement continue to spill from the right-wing blogosphere into the mainstream press).

Add Glenn Beck, an anchor on the "Fair & Balanced" network-- Fox -- that bastion of even-handed, anti-Democratic propaganda passed off as news.

Right out of the blocks of a 10-minute segment on "Fox and Friends" Tuesday about the Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s arrest, Beck said of our president, "This I think has exposed him as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seeded hatred for white people and the white culture."

And later, "This guy is, I believe, a racist."

Wow. Our president hates white people? He's a foreigner? Sounds like a terrorist to me. And if any crazy down the line takes a shot at him, the seeds will have started with the likes of commentary such as Beck's.

So did anyone on the show challenge Mr. Beck, ask him, for example, whether he had anything resembling evidence for his off-the-wall assertion? Ask him where they could buy drugs good enough to see what he's seeing? Or other germane questions such as, "Wasn't the president's mother white?" Not really. Beck's assault was just another point in the conversation, it seems. A minute or two later, someone on the show did suggest that Obama had plenty of white people around him. That was it.

And Fox executives? They were outraged, right? They apologized for Beck? Reprimanded him for such seemingly baseless accusations against the president? Questioned the tastefulness of his comments? Nah.

The Associated Press reports that Bill Shine, a Fox News senior vice president of programming, told an interviewer that Beck had "expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions."

It warms my heart that Fox is standing up for the First Amendment. But I wonder if the network would say the same if one of those commentators did something unthinkable, like praise any aspect of the president's program.

By now anyone who has not spent the last week in a cave know the basic facts behind this.
A Cambridge police sergeant arrests and handcuffs eminent Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. for breaking into his own home in Cambridge when he couldn't get the front door open.
Gates in all likelihood is angry, maybe even belligerent, when police come into his house and start asking questions. The officer who responds, James Crowley, likely doesn't like that but clearly over-reacts in cuffing a guy for being angry in his own house. (Can you imagine how you might feel if cops started asking you what you were doing in your own home?) All charges are dropped the next day.

Enter the president. In answering the last question of a press conference on health care, he acknowledges he doesn't know all the facts yet but suggests, in the context of a much longer, sober answer, that the police might have acted "stupidly." The country goes ballistic, debating the issue ad nauseum because it's summer and something as important as the health care of 300 million Americans really shouldn't dominate the news when people can scream at each other about a bunch of facts that aren't really facts anyway but instead two people's different perceptions of an event.

Obama tries to tone things down. He invites professor and cop to the White House for a beer.
He suggests both might have been a little over the top. (Sounds like a racist to me.) It takes two tries. But he gets things right.

In her Sunday column, Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, summed things up nicely.

As the daughter of a police detective, I always prefer to side with the police. But this time, I'm struggling.

No matter how odd or confrontational Henry Louis Gates Jr. was that afternoon, he should not have been arrested once Sergeant Crowley ascertained that the Harvard professor was in his own home.

President Obama was right the first time, that the encounter had a stupid ending, and the second time, that both Gates and Crowley overreacted. His soothing assessment that two good people got snared in a bad moment seems on target.

I don't know Maureen. Perhaps we should impeach Obama instead of praising him. Or send him back to Kenya.

No, on second thought, let's send Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck to a desert island and let them star in their own reality series. It could be titled "Conspiracy Windbags." The first one to inflate a hot-air balloon with the flatulence emitted from his daily bull dung could get an all-expenses-paid vacation to Whacko, Texas.

No, I believe it's Waco. And the show could throw in a special guide, a surviving member of the Branch Davidians.

Now that would be justice.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's time, Mr. President, to talk often and talk tough

Things are starting to look shaky for Obama-maniacs.

Today's Washington Post poll reports his support down 8 points from April's 67 percent.
Fewer than 50 percent of Americans support his health care initiatives, The Post reports. (A USA Today poll found that by a margin of 50-44, Americans disapprove of his handling of health care..) And substantially more Americans are intent on "holding the deficit in check" than spending to stimulate the economy.

What is a president who inherited horrendous deficits and a collapsing health care system to do?

To me the answer seems clear: He needs to take off his gloves.

Ironically, Barack Obama's natural bent to be reasonable and conciliatory, to seek out common interest and common ground, serves him much better in an international arena than it ever will in the United States Congress. In Washington, he is dealing with an opposition party that continues to cater more and more to the fringe right. It never has had an iota of interest in bi-partisanship. Nor does it give a hoot about solving the huge and largely intractable problems the country is facing such as health care. No. It wants to keep the wealthy, wealthy; the powerful, powerful, and the public deluded (which, more often than not, a lot of wealth spun through lobbyists and ad men can succeed in doing).

Listen to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., on health care reform: "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo," he told Politico. "It will break him." Doesn't much sound as though he's looking for common ground.

Look at this wild scene, a forum at which Republican Rep. Mike Castle found himself before a flag-waving woman who first openly challenged the president's citizenry and then forced Castle to lead the overwhelmingly white audience in a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

To those folks, I suspect, you're either on "our" side or "their" side -- and if you're the president (read not white), you're automatically on their side. Either these extremists -- and they are just that -- will succeed in kidnapping this country through the venom of their minority views or a majority, led by the president, will manage to marginalize them enough to address some of the vast array of problems Americans face.

Like another president, John F. Kennedy, who in his time also was considered "different," Barack Obama holds the gift of language. He can move millions with his use of it. And as president, he can command a stage whenever he wants it.

It's time for him to remember this, every day if need be. He needs to speak to the American people -- in weekly press conferences, through formal speeches, in town meeting venues around the country. He needs to pummel the frightened conservatives and moderates of his own party by moving the moderates and independents outside Washington to dial their numbers. And he needs to marginalize the know-nothing, do-nothing, tear-down remains of the Republican Party. That, I believe, will be his best chance -- if not only chance -- of moving an agenda -- on health care, on cap and trade regulations for pollution, on a new consumer finance agency and more.

Barack Obama will not succeed as a leader within the Beltway. He has the wrong pedigree.
He was never allowed to join the right clubs. His race remains an obstacle, whether Americans want to make believe they are color blind or not.

Just ask Sonia Sotomayor. Last week, she had to sit through a week of insults in front of the good ole white boys' gallery called the U.S. Senate. Her challenge was to keep quiet, to do no harm, and she succeeded admirably.

Barack Obama's challenge is to lead. And he'll never succeed until he understands the Jim DeMint's of the world for what they are, banner carriers for a United States of America that no longer holds the majority of power outside the Beltway but is still loud and strong enough to dump truck load after truck load of garbage into the middle of the highway.

Sometimes salvation can be found on roads less traveled.