I love navel-gazing on the part of the media, where they decide collectively that they were right to create a meme which takes over the media. On this weekend's The Chris Matthews Show, pundits Howard Fineman, Michael Duffy and Ceci Connolly agree that it was appropriate for them to ask President Obama about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., because "it's an important issue."
MATTHEWS: It’s all about identity politics again, and at the same time these people on the far, far right are talking about whether he’s a citizen or not, this comes up.
DUFFY: And when the White House Press Secretary calls it a ‘distraction’, you know it was a mistake. And his mistake was pretty simple, which was that he didn’t really have all the facts, and was not in a position to talk about it. He was right to take it up, because it is an issue that is important, and it’s one in which he is completely versed, and you can see from the rest of his statement, that he knows exactly what to say. But I also think it came at the end of that press conference, which was about a completely different subject, and I think he was a little punchy by then. He was talking about you know what would happen to him in the White House, and it was a joke and he kind of lost the seriousness of the moment and I think got off track…
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I agree with that, the moment was important. I think he was a little angry, a little fatigued. These guys get up at five in the morning and this was eight at night. Is this going to be around a while?
Get the meme? Obama the angry black man being asked to speak on behalf of the entire African American community--and you know he is versed in this. Howard Fineman sort of treads along the edges of why even asking Obama his opinion of Gates' arrest was racist (because, honestly, can you imagine the media doing this to President McCain, had he won? I don't think so), without fully realizing it:
FINEMAN: ...(T)he progress that he made—the Sotomayor nomination—she did convince people, by her bearing, by her knowledge, by her experience, that she was eminently qualified and in that sense, was beyond this. Both of her race, but beyond it. This is not what Barack Obama’s political advisors wanted him to be doing up there. Because it turns it into a racial conversation, per se, at a time when he’s being president of all the country. And trying to be president of all the country and this feeds into the narrative of what I call the RNC—the Rush Newt Cheney RNC—which is all about fear, accusation and division. Barack Obama as president has to be about national unity.
Apparently to Howard, Barack Obama has been doing a good job up until this point of not making white Americans realize that he's African American and making them feel comfortable with other people of color. But now, Howard's worried that Obama has lost his white constituency:
FINEMAN: He went to great lengths as a candidate, to say that he could be president of all America. He understood all the different cultures and wanted to learn about all the different cultures of America. This kind of thing sets him back with working class whites.
Sigh. Can I remind you bobbleheads that it was YOU collectively that raised this subject? This was a local issue, albeit with a semi-famous person involved. This is not a federal issue, nor did it need to be addressed by the President of the United States, especially since the only justification for it is that Obama and Gates outwardly share a skin color (although both are of mixed-race heritage). Isn't it reasonable to assume that the President of the United States has enough on his plate without being thrust the mantle of spokesman for the entire African American community and trying to make white people more comfortable with the age-old issue of racial profiling?
As far as Gates is concerned, there was no clear cut right or wrong on his arrest; both sides escalated the situation beyond where it should have gone. But in terms of pulling Barack Obama into the debate and letting it take over the news cycles for days and days when very real issues (um Afghanistan, any one? Health care reform? The economy? Any of those ring a bell?) are left undiscussed is simply giving red meat to the right wingers eager to derail any actual progress in this country. And the responsibility for that falls on bobbleheads like these clowns, not Obama.
Transcripts below the fold
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