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A Truth, Crudely Put

Posted on Jan 12, 2010
Barack Obama
White House / Pete Souza

By Eugene Robinson

Skin color among African-Americans is not to be discussed in polite company, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s newly disclosed remark about President Barack Obama—that voters are more comfortable with him because he’s light-skinned—offended decorum. But it was surely true.

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Color bias has always existed in this country. We don’t talk about it because we think of color as subordinate to racial identification. There are African-Americans with skin so fair that only contextual clues speak to the question of race. I remember once looking up some distant cousins on my father’s side. They were so fair of hair and ruddy of cheek that I thought I’d gone to the wrong house, until one of them greeted me in what I guess Reid would call “Negro dialect.”

Forgive me if I am neither shocked nor outraged. A few years ago I wrote a book about color and race called “Coal to Cream,” and the issue no longer has third-rail status for me. What I would find stunning is evidence that Reid’s assessment—made during the 2008 campaign and reported in a new book by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin—was anything but accurate.

Advertising is a reliable window into the American psyche, so look at the images we’re presented on television and in glossy magazines. The black models tend to be caramel-skinned or lighter, with hair that’s not really kinky—which is the way I’d describe mine—but wavy, even flowing. A few models whose skin is chocolate-hued or darker have reached superstar status, such as Alek Wek and Tyson Beckford, but they are rare exceptions.

Skin color could hardly be a more conspicuous attribute, but we don’t talk about it in this country. That’s been a good thing.

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I became interested in perceptions of color and race when I was The Washington Post’s correspondent in South America. On reporting trips to Brazil, a country with a history of slavery much like ours, I kept running across people with skin as dark as mine, or a bit darker, who didn’t consider themselves “black.” I learned that at the time—roughly 20 years ago—fewer than 10 percent of Brazilians self-identified as black. Yet at least half the population, I estimated, would have been considered black in the United States.

This was because American society enforced the “one-drop” rule: If you had any African blood at all, you were black. In Brazil, by contrast, you could be mulatto, you could be light-skinned, you could be “Moorish” brown, all the way to “blue-black”—more than a dozen informal classifications in all. Color superseded racial identification. In Salvador da Bahia, I met a couple who considered themselves black but whose children were lighter-skinned. The children’s birth certificates classified them as branco, or white.

The Brazilian system minimized racial friction on an interpersonal level. The American system fostered such friction, through formal and informal codes that enforced racial segregation. But our “one-drop” paradigm also created great racial solidarity among African-Americans, while maximizing our numbers. We fought, marched, sat in, struggled and eventually made tremendous strides toward equality. The most recent, of course, was Obama’s election, which is difficult to imagine happening in Brazil—or, for that matter, in any other country where there is a large, historically oppressed minority group.

Brazil has now begun addressing long-standing racial disparities through affirmative-action initiatives. But the upper reaches of that society—the financial district in Sao Paulo, say, or the government ministries in Brasilia—are still so exclusively white that they look like bits and pieces of Portugal that somehow ended up on the wrong side of the ocean.

American society’s focus on race instead of color explains why what Harry Reid said was so rude. But I don’t think it can be a coincidence that so many pioneers—Edward Brooke, the first black senator since Reconstruction; Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice; Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state—have been lighter-skinned. Reid’s analysis was probably good sociology, even if it was bad politics.

Much worse, as far as I’m concerned, was the quote the new book, “Game Change,” attributes to Bill Clinton. In an attempt to convince Ted Kennedy not to support Obama, Clinton is supposed to have said that “a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”

I guess the one-drop rule can still trump Harvard Law.
   
Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2010, Washington Post Writers Group


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By Pedro, January 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

johncp and DIEDAILY

Intelligent, eloquent and light-skinned (more than 1 drop) BO was elected with one of the greatest majorities ever by the mostly white voters of America. His mandate to be POTUS is better than the majority of previous presidents - especially the most recent who defied the const and will probably be convicted of war crimes together with his VP should POTUS allow it.

Go to ‘Congressional Quarterly’ and discover that POTUS has the highest rating of any president in getting Congress to vote his way (96%) in his 1st year.

Holder is right that America is a country of cowards when it comes to race. You see it everyday. The evidence is astounding. POTUS’s legislative initiatives and CHANGE ideas, new foreign policy paradigm, Nobel award and international popularity have been branded by racists as something other than the what they exactly are. Elitist, all talk no action, socialist, big spender, racist, extreme left wing, inexperienced, un-American, Hitler,terrorist, Muslim, non citizen, arrogant, pro Wall Street, the list is endless.

Have you no shame when your attacks are directed too unsubtly against this brilliant man and not the content of the facts issues and policies where lies are told with a bold face.

Fortunately the majority of educated white Americans know better.

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By johncp, January 15, 2010 at 6:37 am Link to this comment

INHERIT THE WIND
???  What on earth are you talking about?  Of course you’re right about what you say; who’s arguing with it?  The point I’m making is self-evident, and I seek everyone’s indulgence if I seem to be putting too much of a point on it.  If Obama’s “Black-ness” made his election historic, by virtue of the uniquness of the event, of a Black man winning this high office, isn’t that “uniquness” nullified by the hard reality, that it wasn’t his Black-ness that got him the job, but his “lightness,” i.e. his close resemblence to White people.  Reid’s view, and I believe, Obama himself quickly agreed, with it, that if Obama had not been light-skinned, he’d have never gotten the presidency, makes any rational person wonder where we can find the historical nature of this event?  It looks like we “appeared” to elect the first Black president, but only because he was sufficiently White to permit us the luxury.  The painful truth in Reid’s assinine and blundersome words, is that it makes those truly dark skinned Blacks, feel the bigotry of a nation that would only hire a “light” skinned Black for the presidency, all the more keenly.  Shouldn’t Obama be as keenly aware of this?

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By Inherit The Wind, January 15, 2010 at 4:49 am Link to this comment

johncp, January 15 at 2:13 am #

I find it interesting, and justifiable, that so many people are “agreeing” with, and defending Reid’s comment, and I paraphrase, that Obama “could win the presidency, because he’s a ‘light’ skinned negro.”  But if that’s true, why are so many of the same people characterizing the election as “historical,” and unique in our history?  If Obama had to be light-skinned to win, how can we speak of an historical event, especially for the Blacks in America?
**********************************************

You are kidding, right?  Nobody can be that dense.

Name every President who wasn’t male, Protestant or White from 1791 to 2010:

1) John F. Kennedy: Jan 20, 1961-Nov 22, 1963. Catholic
2) Barack H. Obama: Jan 20, 2009—today (Jan 17, 2010). Black.

So….in the 219 years we’ve had Presidents, only 2 years and 10 months was the guy a Catholic, and for only 1 year has the guy been Black—the most recent year.
No females.

In the rest of that time they were all White, Protestant, male.  And most of THOSE were Anglo-Saxon.

Three were of Dutch ancestry (Van Buren, TR and FDR).  One was of German background (Eisenhower), and one, besides JFK, was of Irish background—Reagan.

Diversity has NOT been the mark of the people we select for President.

Even in first names they aren’t diverse…six guys named “James” alone. 4 named “John”, 4 named “William”.  And 3 named “George”. 2 “Andrew"s, “Franklin"s and “Thomas"s (since Woodrow Wilson’s first name was Thomas).

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By DieDaily, January 15, 2010 at 3:43 am Link to this comment

Pedro really needs to visit Oathkeepers. The Potus, so
called, must abide by the Constitution. All power goes
to the President FROM the people THROUGH the
constitution. The moment he betrayed the Constitution
(and let us count the ways!!!!), he became nothing but
a criminal. Pedro’s argument is the same one that the
German sheople applied to their great fuhrer in the 30s
and 40s. “He’s our leader, join up, shut up, or leave”.

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By johncp, January 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm Link to this comment

I find it interesting, and justifiable, that so many people are “agreeing” with, and defending Reid’s comment, and I paraphrase, that Obama “could win the presidency, because he’s a ‘light’ skinned negro.”  But if that’s true, why are so many of the same people characterizing the election as “historical,” and unique in our history?  If Obama had to be light-skinned to win, how can we speak of an historical event, especially for the Blacks in America?

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By johncp, January 14, 2010 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

Hey Pedro:
ever heard of impeachment?  What you seem incapable of understanding, is that Obama is considered a failure and a fake by huge percentages of the population.  No one needs to give him any respect, except the respect he earns.  Otherwise, he’s just a stooge for the rich and powerful.  Just because he’s “called” the president, doesn’t mean he actually is the president.  If the rich control his every move and decision, it’s the rich and powerful that, collectively, can call themselves the president.

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By Ouroborus, January 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

RAE, January 14 at 11:36 am

I fought my first battle with racism in the 2nd grade.
I’m 64 and have never been able not to continue the
battle. I have no illusion of changing anybody, but I
want it to be clear where I stand; people can then make
their own choice from there. Peace.

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By Pedro, January 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

johncp

I’m right and you’re wrong. Obama is Potus. Live with it. You don’t have any choice in the matter. The majority in this democracy decided for U in 2008. Your only choice is to retrace your family tree and GO BACK or as the Beatles said GET BACK to where you once belonged where great great great ‘grandead’ came from if you do not want to abide by our constitution. Come join the military if you are true American and see who is BOSS; he’s light skinned with extremely intelligent dialect.

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By RAE, January 14, 2010 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

Ouroborus, I don’t know why we’re having difficulty in this discussion.

I don’t believe I have ever denied/ignored or not recognized the “reality” as you put it. But I plead guilty to making the choice to ignore it mostly by avoiding contact with those who embrace it.

I fully understand that my choice is unlikely to do much to change attitudes - a damned difficult human attribute to change at the best of times.

The reason for my choice is that I’ve fought many battles since the ‘50s and I’ve learned a thing or two about combat of this sort: (1) Smart people choose their battles carefully on a cost/benefit basis, and (2) while it may be true that one person can change the world, when it happens it’s an aberration.

You can spend your whole lifetime pissing into the wind and the only thing you’ll accomplish is to get wet.

So I guess you can fault me for not railing against the injustice but at least give me one star for not contributing to it… unless, of course, I’m to be damned for not spending what’s left of myself in what I consider a vain attempt at martyrdom.

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By DieDaily, January 14, 2010 at 7:18 am Link to this comment

The US is country that founded on racism by racists,
has been steeped in racism and race-conflict almost
ever since, and still plagued by it but in a
different and new way. It’s less than ever before, if
you look at the youth and under-40 crowd (i.e. the
general population) and worse than ever among the
elites. The real problem with racism now is that it’s
been legitimized by the elite left. The unending
playing out of race card after race card is a big
distraction. If conversation were truly color-blind,
race could come up at will, like hair color, taste in
clothes, and other equally trivial physical things.
It can’t even be taboo, if it is to be beaten.

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By Ouroborus, January 14, 2010 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

RAE, January 14 at 9:52 am #
I’m well aware that many, if not the majority, for
one reason or another cannot help but to view the
world through lenses installed by parents, teachers,
So while I agree that race plays a great part in the
“affairs of men,” - admit even that this may be a
“fact” in the lives of most - I abhor and eschew the
concept.
============================================
Of course you do and so do I; but to deny the reality
is to ignore it. That’s the serious mistake; one
can’t change that which one doesn’t see/understand.
Recognizing racism is the first step in defeating it.
Peace.

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By johncp, January 14, 2010 at 5:56 am Link to this comment

ARDEE
Yes, you’re right, it is the content of his agenda and the quality of his leadership that count here, and in both areas, he’s been an appalling disappointment He “spoke” more or less, of an agenda when he campaigned, then, when elected, he “acted” to reverse the very agenda he promised.  Leadership cannot even be talked about here, since he abandoned the sacrifices faced by true leadership, when he betrayed nearly all his promises.  It was in the fulfillment of those promises, that his leadership would have been tested and confirmed.  There is no leadership in capitulation and quid pro quos, intended to insure one’s reelection.  He won, not by the quality of his leadership, he has none; but by his subservience to the same monied elites that purchased the presidency for him, and it is in their service, that he now seeks reelection.

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By RAE, January 14, 2010 at 5:52 am Link to this comment

Well, Inherit, our ships full of verbiage are passing in the night here.

“You DO misunderstand Ouroborous.  He’s not saying race SHOULD be underlying everything, but rather we are stuck with the fact that it is.”

The point that I’m trying so incompetently to make is that your “fact that it is” exists only when viewed by those who believe and accept it.

I’m well aware that many, if not the majority, for one reason or another cannot help but to view the world through lenses installed by parents, teachers, peers, religions, politicians and racists. To THEM race certainly does “underly everything.”

But the “many”/“majority” do not speak for me. I grew up in the same politically correct cesspool of misinformation that everyone else has. So it follows that I too have some racist DNA in my construction.

But I can tell you that I will not permit any stray racist thought or deed that I harbor or commit to go unchallenged. I take them out behind the woodshed and give them the shellacing they so richly deserve.

So while I agree that race plays a great part in the “affairs of men,” - admit even that this may be a “fact” in the lives of most - I abhor and eschew the concept.

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By johncp, January 14, 2010 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

PEDRO
You’re wrong Pedro.  Obama may be “the” president, but he isn’t “my” president, and I don’t have to “live with it.”  I have the people I consider my leaders, and you have yours.  If you want to bow when Obama comes into a room, go ahead.  But don’t expect me to.

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By James M. Martin, January 13, 2010 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Compare: If a straight person said that a homosexual man was all right to run for public office because at least he did not have a limp wrist and talk with a lisp (unless he wanted to), I wonder, would African-Americans find this offensive?

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By Ouroborus, January 13, 2010 at 10:26 pm Link to this comment

Inherit The Wind, January 14 at 1:23 am

Yes, well said and thanks. I couldn’t have said it
better. wink

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By Inherit The Wind, January 13, 2010 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment

RAE, January 13 at 2:29 pm #

If you’re aiming your comment at me, Ouroborus, then make no mistake… I fully UNDERSTAND racism just as I understand rape and murder and discrimination, etc.

But your belief that “Race is the underlying
reality of everything.” is simply ridiculous. Or, perhaps more accurately, it certainly isn’t to me or anyone that I choose to associate with. Only FOOLS and the TRULY IGNORANT view the world through that lens.

Understanding it and accepting it as your “reality”  are two completely different things.
**************************************

You DO misunderstand Ouroborous.  He’s not saying race SHOULD be underlying everything, but rather we are stuck with the fact that it is.

The main theme of the GOP since 1964 has been to play on WHITE racial fears of BLACKS, and to this end code words were used.  True, there have been some exceptions, like, amazingly, the Bushes, but that’s only helped give the hard-core old Southern racists cover.

Obama’s no fool—and certainly Michelle isn’t.  They knew DAMN well he’d never get elected if he had the inflections of Mr. T or Jesse Jackson?  Why? Because not enough people see beyond the surface…“the medium is the message”.

So you don’t associate with bigots. I try not to myself and try to judge people by what they do and can do.

But not ONE WORD can be said without the Limbaughs and Hannitys jumping on it.  Even Ted Kennedy’s remark about Obama “a few years ago he would have been serving us coffee” has been twisted from Teddy’s admiration of change (change he helped bring about) and NOT, as the Rightwingnuts would have you think, a complaint at all.  Remember: Kennedy broke with the Clintons to support Obama early on.

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By Pedro, January 13, 2010 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama is black, black, black!!! Can’t anyone see that?? Light skinned my ass. He is black. White mother maybe but he’s black. SWTF? He’s POTUS. Get it?? leader of every soul in this here US of A - ahead of every being in the US today, black, yellow or WHITE or all of the above mixed together. LIVE WITH IT. There ain’t no going back or TAKING BACK only going back to where great great great grand-dead came from for Reid and all who would speak like him.

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By RAE, January 13, 2010 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

If you’re aiming your comment at me, Ouroborus, then make no mistake… I fully UNDERSTAND racism just as I understand rape and murder and discrimination, etc.

But your belief that “Race is the underlying
reality of everything.” is simply ridiculous. Or, perhaps more accurately, it certainly isn’t to me or anyone that I choose to associate with. Only FOOLS and the TRULY IGNORANT view the world through that lens.

Understanding it and accepting it as your “reality”  are two completely different things.

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By @CT, January 13, 2010 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

tdbach writes:
” ... upper middle-class? Unh, no he wasn’t. His mother was an academic, I believe. That ain’t UMC. Don’t try to make this guy out to be pampered, the way GW and a host of other white-guy presidents have been.”

Oblabla’s absent mother flitted around on a foundation ticket from Geithner’s dad, his grandmother—who raised him—was a bank officer, and he went to prep school. If that’s not UMC, it might be lower upper class. (And don’t forget those transcripts are still secret :^).

Bush is an uber-Yankee. Clinton was working-class. So what?

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By Manny Locs, January 13, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reid should conduct himself in higher standards when talking to the president. His president. Reid needs to look at himself, change his values, and help this country rather then suppress it.

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By bozh, January 13, 2010 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The base cause for exploitation, wars of aggressions, occupations, serfdom, slavery, disinformation appears division of people into more- and less valued.

The division was probably started by shamans and later ‘perfected’ by priests, sorcerers, magicians, and other perverts.
The usurpation of once idyllic societies [they had to be or wld have not survived]probably occured over millennia.

People did not notice how perilous priestly ‘teachings’ were. Only a few people have realized that.
This phenomenon might be made clearer by citing the case of a frog which had been put in a pan with heat very slowly turned up. The frog not noticing change, eventually fried to death and all the time saying God Bless America, Deutschland Ueber Alles, Sieg Heil, Greatness of America, I was Chosen, I have the right to defend self, they hate me for what i am, etc.  tnx

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By Ouroborus, January 13, 2010 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

Are you truly so ignorant? Race is the underlying
reality of everything. If you don’t understand that;
then you don’t understand anything!

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By RAE, January 13, 2010 at 8:26 am Link to this comment

Rodney wrote, in part: “A black father and a white mother is not accepted in most white households. A black child with a white father is unacceptable to most black households.”

I simply can’t believe ignorance and prejudice of this type still exists in the hearts and minds of so many.

Of all the attributes, skin color is, in my opinion, the least important, unless, of course, one is performing a dangerous, covert military mission behind enemy lines at night. Sure don’t want any honky white skin giving us away!

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By tdbach, January 13, 2010 at 8:24 am Link to this comment

My comment was directed at @CT

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By tdbach, January 13, 2010 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

You childish moniker for the president aside, upper middle-class? Unh, no he wasn’t. His mother was an academic, I believe. That ain’t UMC. Don’t try to make this guy out to be pampered, the way GW and a host of other white-guy presidents have been. You have a hair across your backside about him – we get it. Stop making things up and just stick with reasoned criticism.

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By DieDaily, January 13, 2010 at 7:39 am Link to this comment

Ed Harges, you got it. McCain’s increasingly well-
documented crimes and connections are far too hot and
far too newsworthy, so one cue…roll out the race
card. Yawn.

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By drbhelthi, January 13, 2010 at 12:37 am Link to this comment

BR549, ref. the picture. Still scratching for the view that was
available several years ago, which was unmistakable. The
following is a start.
http://www.tomflocco.com/Docs/63/BushJfkBookDepo.htm

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By DHFabian, January 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm Link to this comment

This entire flap is one of the weirder things to come out of the conservative faction to date. It is not, however, the first time that conservatives have expressed faux-outrage when a simple truth was stated. Reid’s statement is true, and we all know it.

Funny thing about the right-wing criticism of Obama: Ask them what Obama has said or done that got them all upset, and they can’t tell you. The best they can do is recite some of the bizarre conspiracy theories and fears of what (they imagine) might happen with a non-right-wing person in the Oval office.  Instead of discussing anything Obama says, they get into what they think he “really” meant—the hidden message. It’s just nutty, and I suspect they know it.

The previous administration came close to bringing the US to an end, and we have a LOT of work ahead of us to repair all the damage. It is unfortunate that the legacy of the “Reagan Revolution” is the way it has torn the country apart. I would suggest that, instead of throwing tantrums, people start looking for/working toward solutions.

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm Link to this comment

No wonder Obama and Reid, and their apologists among the press, are so eager to disappear this “no-Negro-dialect” business, instead of using it as an excuse for yet another “teachable moment”:

‘Game Change’ disputes Reid’s Obama timeline
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31318.html

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By Robert, January 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just to through a spanner in the works. How do people feel about those with a tan versus those whiter than white ‘er’ deathly pale and ghost like. Then of course there is olive skinned (which is a disappearing distinction due to the whole suntan thing) and of course where olive drifts more into yellow or red. Much like other aspects, perhaps there is a subconscious desire to drift to the median, colour, with a slight bias to lighter, you know, poor field worker slaving in the sun versus the intellectual office type.

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

Peetawonkus writes:

“What’s this whole thing about O’Blabla? That’s one of those terms lifted from tea bagger sites. I get it that you don’t really like Obama…and I have my beefs with him, too. But…is that really necessary?”

Wha? “Necessary”? Doesn’t everybody—including, behind His back, the press and the White House staff—call Him some variant of “Oblabla” by now?

Well, if they don’t, maybe they should: it neatly conveys that The CHANGEling (a moniker which was useful while there was still campaign bait to be switched) is all talk, variously the semi-“Negro dialect” attempts of the southern campaign or the neocon warmonger delivering ludicrous phrases in clipped syllables, as audience circumstances suggest.

Oblabla/O’Blabla wasn’t “lifted from tea bagger sites” in my case ... I don’t even know of any tea-bagger sites, stick pretty much to the left and major media.

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment

@CT
What’s this whole thing about O’Blabla? That’s one of those terms lifted from tea bagger sites. I get it that you don’t really like Obama…and I have my beefs with him, too. But…is that really necessary?

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

Sheesh. Sorry ...

“Well ... I expect O’Blabla DOES, especially if His former Democrats actually vote — because Obama’s blaaa, and needs another “win”, any win, to support his “historical” blablabla — for the misbegotten medical-insurance bail-out.”

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Yikes—a slip of the finger brain ...

“Well ... I expect O’Blabla DOES, especially if His former Democrats actually vote—because Obama’s blaaa</i>, and needs another “win”, any win, to support his “historical” blablabla—for the misbegotten medical-insurance bail-out.”

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

Peetawonkus writes:
“I doubt anything could make Mitt Romney look good.”

Well ... I expect O’Blabla DOES, especially if His former Democrats actually vote—because Obama’s blaaa</c>, and needs another “win”, <i>any win, to support his “historical” blablabla—for the misbegotten medical-insurance bail-out.

Conspiracy-minded people might even conclude that Reid tapped Obama, the crypto-Mormon, in ORDER to clear the way for Reid’s Republican co-religionist in 2012 ... and to transfer as many public assets to the corporations as possible, before Obama’s outta there in 2012.

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By gerard, January 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment

Question:  No matter how important the subjects of these chosen columnists, no matter what urgent points they take up, these strings of comments tend to serve mainly as a chance to see ourselves in print and to “have our say.”
  So that’s okay—but—I wonder if we ought to think about doing more with this opportunity.
I have no idea how many people these strings reach, and who or where they are—how widely dispersed geographically (with a few exceptions).  Educational levels are sometimes discernable and show a wide range.  Ages and backgrounds are somewhat less obvious.  So we really don’t know whom we are talking to and what opportunities are being overlooked.
  Does it matter?  Could we accomplish more for and with each other than simply “spouting off”?

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By SusanSunflower, January 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

The Obama “message” seems to be that even if you are swept into office with a decisive election victory with outstanding approval ratings, and democratic control of both houses of congress, somehow (!!??) you can’t get anything done—particularly the things you campaign promised to do—your hands are (it’s a mystery) tied—in fact, somehow we’re all helpless and (it’s a mystery) blameless—and Serious Grownups understand this—anyone who doesn’t understand this is “fringe”

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment

@CT,
“One thing’s for sure: it makes Mitt Romney look pretty darn good ... “

Yeah…I don’t know about that. I doubt anything could make Mitt Romney look good. A brain eating space alien, maybe. Maybe.

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment

truedigger3 writes:
“Another deliberate distraction from a long series of deliberate distractions that is side tracking attention away from the importannt crucial issues like the plundering of the public treasury by Wall St. and the d[e]spicable health care “reform” bill.”

Yes. Buuut ... it’s always the same distraction, which was Harry Reid’s genius in tapping him for puppet: “Obama’s blaaack, so don’t make waves, or you’re a racist.”

It’s the domestic equivalent of the prohibition on questioning the Congress’ obeisance to any ole caper committed by the religious state of Israel—don’t make waves, or you’re anti-Semitic.

It’s ludicrous, especially given that O’Blabla was raised by upper-middle-class white people.

One thing’s for sure: it makes Mitt Romney look pretty darn good ...

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By SusanSunflower, January 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

Actually, what I find a bit disturbing is how—in our celebrity-obsessed, conformist, increasingly “homogenized” culture—the desirability of wealth and the too-often-assumed “class” and oddly “virtue” that wealth bestows is distorting our values.

It’s beyond materialism—it’s a sort of purchased Teflon coating, a gated-community of “people like us”—or like Barbara Bush’s “beautiful mind” that she didn’t want sullied by thinking about unpleasant things. 

Reid’s comment (and Biden before him) speak as much to class as race.

Celebrity culture is also conformist—just with bigger budgets, better production values—with a narrowness of acceptable behavior and thought (and I don’t mean some religious or moral constraint rather careerist concern about vague “consequences”) presented in the highly publicized “role-modeling” afforded by our celebrity culture. Being wildly successful does not particularly seem to bring innovation, daring experimentation.

Perfect partners, perfect parents Barack and Michelle Obama as a “brand” as their own people have called them.

There is a narrowly defined range of emotional responses being dictated and the self-censoring and self-conciousness of externally derived values…

Will the next generation of politicians even more closely resemble the plastic news anchor aesthetic?

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment

@CT,
That’s a swell and dandy answer, and I agree with you.

But my question wasn’t a general one, directed toward whoever cared to enlighten me. It was directed toward John Ellis, who made the comment about “sham election.” It was a…rhetorical question.

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By truedigger3, January 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment

Another deliberate distraction from a long series of deliberate distractions that is side tracking attention away from the importannt crucial issues like the plundering of the public treasury by Wall St. and the dispicable health care “reform” bill.

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By Rodney, January 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Even as I’am, a light skinned African American how you came about your skin color makes a difference. Both of my parents were fair skinned. But children of mixed race have it more difficult in American society. A black father and a white mother is not accepted in most white households. A black child with a white father is unacceptable to most black households. Light skin blacks tend to be most acceptable to America when both parents are Black or one of them is Native American or Hispanic.

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

Hammond Eggs writes:
“‘Change You Can Believe In’

Is that “Negro dialect”, or just the words of a lying, thieving, warmongering yuppie?”

——-
Everybody’ll do well to remember that after the election, O’Blabla pompously intoned, “Change has come to America”.

Change has come, okay: thanks to Harry Reid’s birthday-suit gambit, O’Blabla’s presided over a bait-and-switch bonanza which, but for the birthday suit, would have Obama hanging in effigy on every street corner, and even the cosseted corporate media crying “Foul!”, “Off with his head!”, and the like.

Interesting that Robinson aims this namby-pamby noodling on negritude at Bill Clinton—who was EXACTLY right that Obama was—is—a “fairy tale”.

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By Jon, January 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment
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Many are probably shy about criticizing President Obama for fear of being accused of racial bias.  But if you look at what he’s done, vs. what he said during the campaign, it’s color and race neutral.  He’s sided with the banks against the American people.  He’s sided with Big Health Care against the American people (and he got 20 million dollars from Big Health Care in his campaign).  He’s sided with corporate power against the American people.  To research his actual ‘doing’ vs. his ‘teleprompter talk’ is not racial. The facts are clear that Obama misled his base, and did so cynically.

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

Peetawonkus writes:

“One would be tempted to ask, why was [2008] a sham election ... “

Because the former “Republicans” ran joke candidates, and the former “Democrats” ran a closet Republican?

Just a guess.

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By Hammond Eggs, January 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

“Hope”

“Change You Can Believe In”

Is that “Negro dialect”, or just the words of a lying, thieving, warmongering yuppie?

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By @CT, January 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

Weirdly enough, the most interesting sentence of “Game Change” seems to be the one none of the tiresome talking heads, from Roland Martin to Chris Matthews, to the ever-tiresome Eugene Robinson, is discussing:

“Quietly, the Establishment began a quest to find a different alternative, eventually settling on the unlikely horse that was Obama—with Harry Reid personally, and secretly, urging the Illinois senator to run against Clinton.”

That Reid et al. chose Obama—the crypto-Mormon corporate mobster with nothing to recommend him to voters but his too-“black”-to-criticize birthday suit and stilted speech—to accomplish the final ruin of the formerly-Democratic Party is the real story.

That everybody’s blabbing about “no Negro dialect”, instead of noting that that the presidential placeholder has no DEMOCRATIC dialect, is kind of strange.

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By bozh, January 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I do lot of commenting on several sites. The reason for that is because i had finished last in one of my four classes.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me even tho i thought at that time i was the stupidest-most worthhless person that ever lived.

And once one is the dumbest one cannnot but succeed in getting smarter. The bad news is i am now 78 and getting more stupid by the month or even day.
So, this no political or priestly promise, i’ll be more stupid tomorrow than today.

So death and losing those precious cells r the only democratic things in the world. I am not of middle class; i cldn’t sell a spoon let alone nonhealthcare, disinfo, wars, lies, half lies, soul, jesus, allah, congress, my wife, etc.
tnx

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

John Ellis-
So…half of society refused to vote in the “sham election of 2008?” One would be tempted to ask, why was it a sham election? As say, compared to the truly shamwow elections of 2000 and 2004? And second, where do you get the 50% figure?

As a darkness-monger and slinger of statistics myself, you are aware that 62% of all statistics are just made up, right?

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By gerard, January 12, 2010 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

John Ellis again:  “Half of society is of the laboring class, those with less then 12 years of education, the 50% who refused to vote in the sham election of 2008. So why are all the posters on this WEB page of the stuck-up intelligent middleclass?”
  It’s the stuck-up intelligent middle class that buys and reads the books, magazines, commentaries, signs the petitions. The gap between them and “the laboring class” widens as information about the world and its problems becomes more complex.
  One answer would seem to be “improve education everywhere, as rapidly as possible.  Keep contacts between the two “classes” open and honest. Get together as much as possible as quickly as possible.”
  Work to do, work to do!  There’s no way intelligence is going to be shoved aside in favor of ignorance.  And there’s no way justice and freedom can continue without labor gaining stronger, more complicated knowledge of the world.

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By Misfiteye, January 12, 2010 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

Only a closet racist or a grasping-for-straws Republican would be offended by Reid’s remark.

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By felicity, January 12, 2010 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

Al Gore when asked why he was getting out of politics said, “What politics has become requires a level of triviality and artifice and nonsense that I find I have in short supply.” Seems to me that this latest Republican brouhaha, added to an already overflowing dumpster of Republican brouhaha, makes Gore’s assessment of today’s politics a truism.

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By SusanSunflower, January 12, 2010 at 10:42 am Link to this comment

Of course, what this is REALLY about is selling books, TV rating and web clicks .... lucky we have nothing more important to fill our airwaves, web pages, newpapers, stimulus-deprived brains…. oh wait.

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

John Ellis,
“So why are all the posters on this WEB page of the stuck-up intelligent middleclass?”

Your keen and penetrating mind knows no barriers.
You have exposed us, and our “darkness.”

We’ll try harder to be less intelligent for you. Would shorter words help?

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By SusanSunflower, January 12, 2010 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Well, there’s this

States lower diploma test standards
NYT: On the way to creating a statewide exit test for graduation, many states have softened standards or added alternative paths to a high school diploma.

I wonder what this “education president” has to say ... wasn’t “education” one of the things he pledged champion?  how’s that working out for america? Can’t wait to see how many federally financed education jobs are part of the jobs stimulus package as opposed to rescuing all those “finance sector” jobs. Given all the states nearly bankrupt from declining sales/property tax income, if “education sector” jobs even manage break even, I guess that would be a relative “Obama Victory”

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By Samson, January 12, 2010 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Wow ... snit fights between one group of right-wing, pro-war, pro-wall street, pro-health insurance company Democrats with another group of right-wing, pro-war, pro-wall-street, pro-health insurance company Democrats.

If this is what the Democrat propaganda machine is writing about this week, then what don’t they want us to pay attention to.

Maybe its their new war in Yemen?  Or, maybe its that the Congress will strip out the very last remaining decent bits that remain in their pro-corporate health care plan before passing it?  Or maybe its their using the ‘crotch bomber’ to make this even more of a police state?

Either way, I couldn’t care less about these internal snit-fights between various groups of right-wing Democrats.

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 9:34 am Link to this comment

John K,
Nonsense.
You’re not “really on board the “Racist America” theme.”? Missed the first few hundred years of America’s history?
I know how I’ll respond to racism in America. I’ll just claim it’s a “theme” and not get on board. There. Problem solved.

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By SusanSunflower, January 12, 2010 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Writ rather clearly in this story, as folks rush to declare Reid’s statements “no big deal” is what looks like a double standard and/or naked political expediency.

Today, Reid is more than just an “ally;” then, he was an Obama booster. Today he is an vital and visible member of the legistlative team.

I’m afraid I’m doubtful an Obama rival or foe would be let off so easily—ah, but the campaign is over and Obama won. But it’s okay, Clinton said something that Teddy dutifully reported in ways to place HIM in the worst possible light ... the carnival moves on.

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By John K, January 12, 2010 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

Not really on board the “Racist America” theme. All this “I’m offended” stuff is just a way to point the finger at the other guy and feel superior, more moral. This type of article certainly doesn’t change anyone’s behavior or make people more “aware.” If anything, it makes things worse.

As for Bill Clinton’s remark, its not racist at all.  Clinton’s statement is true of anyone with very little experience looking to break in to a competitive field - like politics or showbiz where there is a clear dues paying period often doing low paid grunt work. His point was pointing to Obama’s experience, not race.  I am surprised you don’t know this.

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By Roger, January 12, 2010 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Interestingly enough Obama actually does speak a third word dialect:  Indonesian

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By bozhidar balkas, vancouver, January 12, 2010 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems to me that racism emerged from discrimination-merit. Or from division of people into more important and less important people.

Eg, only nobility cld rule; only today’s ‘nobility’ rules today in all lands; except in socialist lands where one can be one of us looking from outiside in.

A lower class white or black is much devalued by nearly all people. Possibly, this is so, because conditioning over 10 or 15 k yrs has by now gone genetic.

So, to recondition us, a massive educational effort shld be undertaken to decondition us from racism-grading behavior.
It won’t happen. Ruling class rules solely because of what we may be on genetic level. Children will learn to be racist and lovers-respecters of merit as long as schooling keeps grading the meat A,B,C,D.

It cld even be asserted that if schooling was not much valauble to ruling class, it wld have never been okayed in the first place.

In this category we cld include flag, free speech, constitution, cia, etc.
All of these aspects of one reality serve much or solely the ruling class consisting perhaps of only 001 to 2% of US pop.

Of course, to have cia, fbi, judiciary, generals and wldbe gens onside, u have to grease those greaseless wheels and also bestow much praise on them. And the rest is easy! tnx

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By Mo Rage, January 12, 2010 at 8:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Really, Reid’s comments were/are such a non-issue, it almost makes me laugh.  Besides the fact that it was neither insulting nor meant to be, he actually has no competition for his seat back in Nevada, anyway.

Let’s move on, folks.  There’s nothing to see here.

Mo Rage
The blog

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By Peetawonkus, January 12, 2010 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

America was born with a birth defect: racism. We’ve been denying it, turning it into ideology, or performing surgery on it, ever since. Most white people are convinced that enormous progress has been made. Most black people aren’t so sure. In any case, what took hundreds of years to put into place will probably take hundreds of years to undo. Having said that, the election of Obama was a definite step in the right direction. Real racial progress would be to forget all about his race and concentrate on whether he’s kept his campaign promises and whether he’s an effective leader. There’s plenty of room for debate there.

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By Super Lou, January 12, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Robinson is absolutely correct.  I would extend his critique to who and what America deems “Hispanic.” How many “Hispanics” on t.v. look like the “Mexicans” from Mexico?  For every George Lopez there are 100 J-Lo’s or Augileras.  The 1 drop rule has “anglicized” beauty standards and thus the images coming into our lives and living rooms that in turn shape our worldview of acceptability.  And let’s not forget that the 1 drop rule also fuels INTRA-racial conflict amongst African Americans, notwithstanding the solidarity Mr. Robinson speaks too.

I appreciate Mr. Reid’s comments because it punches huge holes in this figment of our imagination called “Color-Blind” or “Post-Racial” America. It stands as proof of why “political correctness” is a grave danger.  Political correctness obscures a persons genuine thoughts and rather than “protects” actually inhibits honest analysis and perceptions.  This is why the KKK will always get my support to march and speak their mind in public, and why I’m damn near absolutist when it comes to the 1st Amendment.

America will become “Post-Racial” when it no longer exists in its current form.  Until then, the old adage still holds true:  “If your Black get back, if your Brown stick around, if your White your alright.”  Senator Reid was simply remarking that Obama could “stick around,” the same shit that Biden said during the campaign about the “articulate Negro.”  Shock?!  Disappointed?!  Are you f****king kidding me?  Most Whites ignore their privileged status and their ingrained bigotries in dissecting race in America.


Does this infer that all criticism of Obama is racial?  Of course not, as an African American no one is on Barry Bush’s ass more than me.  In fact I believe he’s more dangerous to Blacks of the liberal/progressive strain than any other group.  Criticize till your lungs burst, just don’t fool yourselves that the “Post-Racial Era” is alive and well or because you voted for Barry Bush the 3rd you harbor absolutely no bigoted thoughts.


Post-Racial my ass, America refuses to have an honest discussion on race.  The conservative and liberal and Black apologists were all to happy to gloss over it during the Rev. Wright story, choosing instead to fall back on their tired “American Exceptionalism” bullshit.  Speaking of “Hispanics”—Soledad O’Brien?, what the f***k does she know about the “State of Black America?”

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By kerryrose, January 12, 2010 at 7:42 am Link to this comment

This is the second blog for Robinson in which he just literally repeats/agrees with a previous blog by Ruth Marcus.

Maybe because they both write for the Washington Post.

I think they both belong THERE not HERE.

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By Ouroborus, January 12, 2010 at 6:24 am Link to this comment

ardee, January 12 at 7:23 am

Gotta disagree; here in America, racism underlies
everything. Sad but true.

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By Ed Harges, January 12, 2010 at 6:19 am Link to this comment

I agree, on the whole.

But I think there’s another issue here: why, considering that the book contains
truly damning insights into the workings of the McCain/Palin campaign, are TV
newscasters focusing almost exclusively on Reid’s comments?

The book gives new evidence that McCain and his fellow Republicans considered
Palin shockingly ignorant and grossly unqualified to do what a Vice President
must do: be able to step in as president should the president die or become
incapacitated - a fairly likely scenario given McCain’s age and health.

Why, oh why is the Reid gaffe the big story, and not the reckless, willful
irresponsibility of the Republicans who cynically promoted Palin while knowing
and believing that if elected, she would be a direct threat to our national
security?

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By ardee, January 12, 2010 at 5:37 am Link to this comment

ITW

I certainly understand that some of those opposing President Obama do so for racial reasons. I will never accept that a majority of my fellow Americans do so, nor even a majority of those whose policies and programs I oppose. Its just the easy way out to make such an assumption and negates any obligation to enter into reasoned debate.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 12, 2010 at 4:39 am Link to this comment

Ardee:

Don’t believe THAT for one instant!  Underlying ALL the Right Wing’s criticisms is fundamental racism, not any substantive critique of his policies.  All they do is call it “Socialism”, “Welfare” and “Soft of Terrorism”. What do you think the finally-dead “birther” movement grew out of if not racism?  There was never any question of McCain being eligible despite his being born in the Canal Zone, a territory that is no longer part of the United States.

On the Left, of course, you are totally correct.  Obama’s race is not a consideration (mainly).  Nor should it be. Criticism of his policies is how he SHOULD be judged.

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By ardee, January 12, 2010 at 3:23 am Link to this comment

The issue is certainly not the melanin content of President Obama’s skin but the content of his agenda and the quality of his leadership.

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