Thursday, January 22, 2009

Which is it, Rush, forward or backward?

Rush Limbaugh is trafficking a straw-man argument against Barack Obama that is so ridiculous it almost defies analysis. One is tempted to simply dismiss it as the paranoid ranting of a recovering drug addict who has gone back to the hard stuff.

But if the last eight years have taught us anything, nothing gains traction in the mainstream media quite like a brain-dead conservative talking point.

So in doing my part to stop this right-wing attack meme before it spreads too far, I give you Rush Limbaugh, interviewed by Sean Hannity.

They were gonna cover up the Jeremia Wright, all these things, that, that give indication of radicalism in Obama. Cover that up, portray him as he wants to be portrayed – somebody who’s not to be questioned, somebody who’s not to be doubted. We’re just supposed to accept and trust because most of these guys came alive and came of age in the civil rights battles of the 60s. It defines who they are. They’ve trained the young drive-bys to look at events through the same prism.


Racism in this country is the exclusive province of the left. We’re witnessing racism all this week, uh, that led up to the inauguration. We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles – bend over forward, backward, whichever - because his father was black. This is the first black president. We, we’ve just, we’ve got to accept this.
First things first: Jeremiah Wright.

Who in the news media made any effort to "cover up" the Jeremiah Wright story? Does Limbaugh even watch the news? Was he in solitary confinement last summer when Jeremiah Wright was all the cable networks wanted to talk about? If the Jeremiah Wright story suffered from anything, it was by no means a lack of exposure. This is a point so painfully obvious, I feel foolish even making it.

Next, the straw-man argument to which I alluded at the top of this post.

Limbaugh says: "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles – bend over forward, backward, whichever - because his father was black."

Really? And who is telling you this, Rush? Name one Democratic politician or prominent figure in the so-called liberal media who has said that Obama deserves our support because he is black. Name one. Go all the way back to February 10, 2007, and identify one supporter of Barack Obama, one politico or pundit, who has even suggested such a thing.

Yes, we celebrate the fact that Obama is the first black President of the United States. That is because he is the first black President of the United States. His inauguration was the most historic one since that of George Washington. When Obama took the oath of office on Tuesday, he broke a barrier that most Americans did not think would be broken in their lifetimes. That is entirely noteworthy (and, if I may be so bold, the likely source of your angst).

But neither Barack Obama nor anyone who supports him has ever cited his skin color as a reason that he should be president. We supported him and believed in his candidacy because he is smart, he is accomplished, and he promised a change from the destructive excesses of the Bush presidency. And he has already begun delivering on that promise.

In his first two days in the Oval Office, Obama has:

  • Formally committed to closing the Guantanamo torture chamber within one year;
  • Ordered a suspension of Military Commission show trials for the detainess being held there;
  • Ordered the CIA to follow Army Field Manual rules on interrogations;
  • Repealed the global abortion gag rule for family planning organizations receiving federal funding;
  • Loosened Bush's restrictions on access to presidential records;
  • Met with military commanders on an exit strategy from Iraq;
  • Prohibited former lobbyists on his staff from working on issues related to their fields
That is quite a record for our new president's first 48 hours on the job.

The strongest argument in support of Barack Obama's candidacy, and the only one that anyone has ever made, is about his intelligence, his competence, and his determination to do the right thing.

This blather about race is nothing but projection. People like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck accuse Obama and his supporters of obsessing about race because they are obsessed about it. They cannot see past their prejudices. They refuse to look forward because if they do, they will see that history has left them behind.

This racial straw-man argument reminds me of the Clinton campaign's insistence after Super Tuesday that Obama-loving media figures were trying to make Hillary drop out of the race. This, despite the fact that aside from a couple of liberal blogs, no one in the media ever told Hillary to drop out of the race.

Like the Clinton campaign back then, Rush Limbaugh is fighting back against an argument that no one is making.

But, the right-wing remnant that comprises his audience is all too eager to wallow in Limbaugh's paranoid racist fantasy. It comforts them. It allows them to huddle more deeply into their narrow world view. It simply cannot be that America has elected a black president based on nothing more or less than the content of his character. It has to be something else, something that allows them to see Obama's victory as something illegitimate and unacceptable.

Remember what else Limbaugh said: "This is the first black president. We, we’ve just, we’ve got to accept this."

Well, yes, you do. You have to accept it. For the next four years, the President of the United States is a black Democrat named Barack Hussein Obama. You have to accept it, not because liberals in the media tell you to, but because it really happened.

It's not a dream. It's not a trick. It's not a crime.

Oh, and it's not affirmative action. That is, after all, the real meaning behind Limbaugh's straw-man construction. He only got it because he is black.

Just like your cousin who lost out on that promotion that one time, not because he shows up late for work three days a week, but because of affirmative action.

Those blacks, they never work for anything. They just get it because of affirmative action. You don't have to accept the Obama presidency. It's not real. He only got it because he's black.

Conservatism is reduced to this: plain, unadorned race-baiting. If Limbaugh can be seen as a leading indicator of conservative conventional wisdom, the right wing will spend the next four years stoking the flames of white racial resentment against the Obama presidency.

Don't be surprised to see Republican campaign signs in the next election that read simply: The White One, '12.

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