There are many fronts in the dismal daily death-struggle that is American politics. A particularly boggy one is race. Rightbloggers are keenly aware that the President whom they like to accuse of socialism and fascism is black, and also that picking on black people is not considered cool these days. What to do?
Usually, not much. To counter imputations that they’re making these ludicrous accusations to appeal to racists, they have adopted a few pre-emptive measures — for example, finding the few black folks who have appeared at Tea Party protests and publicizing the hell out of them.
For the most part, though, they’ve been well advised to leave the subject alone. To do otherwise can’t help, except in some backwoods jurisdictions. But as the struggle to denigrate Obama persists and heats up, rightbloggers are finding themselves less able to avoid it — and tempted to get into it up to the armpits.
You probably heard about the rambunctious behavior allegedly exhibited by some Tea Party protesters toward some black Democratic Representatives in Washington last month, including racial slurs and even spitting on Emanuel Cleaver.
The latter incident was captured on video, but like the “Second Spitter” footage shown by Jerry Seinfeld years ago, it leaves room for doubt. A reasonable viewer might take Cleaver’s reaction to the guy with his hands cupped around his mouth to indicate that something like that happened, though the spitting may have been accidental.
There was no sane reason for rightbloggers to get defensive about this; the smart play was to call such behavior wrong, if it occurred, and move on — as did National Review‘s Kathryn J. Lopez, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and others.
But rightbloggers are heavily invested in two things upon which this incident touches: Tea Parties, and conservative victim status. They are thoroughly committed both to the promotion of the protests, and to the notion that — as Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit likes to put it — the left and its cats-paws in the “state-run media” (meaning not only PBS, but every news outlet which does not report the news as they would prefer) are out to destroy the Tea Parties, conservatives, and America.
So when Cleaver told the press that he himself never “reported” the spitting incident (“People assume I went somewhere, never done press conference, never done an interview on it and I’m not going to do it”), Weasel Zippers leapt on the fact that Cleaver had mentioned the spitting in a press conference and even reported that a perp had been arrested (a suspect had merely been detained).
There’s an obvious conflict between the two accounts, which may be taken as suggesting that Cleaver was less than forthright about his role in promoting coverage of the incident. Weasel Zippers, however, took it as “proving [the incident] NEVER happened.”
As more careful readers at the Kansas City Star noticed, it proves nothing of the sort, unless some common English words have suddenly changed their meanings. Nonetheless rightbloggers insisted that Cleaver had debunked the story, either intentionally or unintentionally, and proven liberal media malfeasance.
Left Coast Rebel just declared outright that “Rep. Emanuel Cleaver Admits he Was Never Spit on.” RedState was a little more circumspect, claiming only that “Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D, MO) disavows any role in spitting smear” (“Can’t say that I’m surprised that he doesn’t want to lay any blame at the feet of the DNC’s would-be race-hate demagogues, either…”). Hot Air’s Allahpundit said, “Emanuel Cleaver: I haven’t done anything to hype that spitting incident,” adding, “so transparent a lie is this that I don’t know how to read it except as a tacit admission that he wasn’t, in fact, deliberately spat on.”
Others avoided such stark, unsupported declarations, but went to some effort to lead readers to similar conclusions. The Daily Caller, for example, began its report thus: “Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat, was one of a few central figures key to the narrative that Democrats used in the days after the health care vote to argue that many of the people who opposed the massive new law are racist or deranged.” Thus motive was established up front, so readers could properly interpret events.
Cleaver’s portrayal of his own response may have fluctuated, but that of Representative John Lewis has been consistent: He maintains Tea Party protesters yelled racial slurs at him.
Lewis is a genuine hero of the 60s civil rights movement, which means that when rightbloggers accused him of lying, some of them had to pretend to feel bad about it.
While Lewis’ stature would by itself be no reason to take him at his word if he were asserting something absurd, in a situation like this (a gantlet of white conservatives enraged by the passage of the health care bill — or, as such people like to think of it, an assault on America and Jesus) normal people might either accept his testimony or simply note that his charge has not been independently corroborated, and let it go at that.
But rightbloggers went another, harsher way. RedState got out front early, calling both Cleaver and Lewis “lying bastards” and “political crooks” right after the reported incidents, and leaning for evidence on what became a rightblogger talking point: the absence of audio recordings of the slurs.
“I don’t know if these two idiots are just unaware that protesters and activists tend to carry video cameras everywhere they go now in order to catch news as it happens,” said RedState’s Leon H. Wolf, “or if (more likely) they just figured that their completely fabricated story fit a pre-existing narrative the media would be happy to credulously pass on.”
American Thinker’s Jack Cashill created a video of the day’s events that did not include racial slurs, which he offered as proof that no such slurs were uttered. The video is only four minutes long, and much of the audio is given over to a voiceover track telling viewers what to think about it (“the agitprop was working!”), but Cashill portrayed it as dispositive. “The fact that [reporter William] Douglas is himself black and that the McClatchy chain has a liberal bent should not matter,” added Cashill, “but in this case they both do.” (Presumably, in Cashill’s reading, Douglas and Lewis met ahead of time at the Mau-Mau Club to collaborate on the falsehood before handing it off to their collabo-traitors at McClatchy.)
“Liars! Where is the Proof” wrote Conservative American News. “Videos Prove Deception of Democrat Party,” said Frugal Cafe. “By the way, I called bullshit on the story as soon as it was reported,” said Ann Althouse.
Eventually this POV was so well-circulated among rightbloggers that Legal Insurrection could write, “an attack based on the now discredited claims that health care protesters at the Capitol shouted racial epithets and spit at black Congressmen,” without having to explain it — that is, to the extent it was ever explained.
As is typical in such circumstances, the overt haters were not as obnoxious as those who affected reluctance to declare the honorable Lewis a fraud.
“I disagree with John Lewis (Democrat, Georgia) politically but I have always respected him as a genuine civil rights warrior,” claimed Mark Steyn at National Review. “And I feel slightly queasy at the thought that he would dishonor both the movement and his own part in it for the cheapest of partisan points — in the same way I would be disgusted by a Holocaust survivor painting a swastika on his own door and blaming it on his next-door neighbor over a boundary dispute.”
Regular readers will have already guessed that Steyn’s alleged respect for Lewis, not to mention his queasiness, did not prevent him from (or even delay him in) suggesting that Lewis had made it all up and was in fact out of his mind: “But that’s what the Democratic Party has been reduced to,” said Steyn, “faking hate crimes as pathetically as any lonely, mentally ill college student.”
Now the story seems to be waning, and you might expect rightbloggers to want to put it all behind them, and get back to the usual and less controversial accusations of treason. But you may be seeing more of this kind of thing. There are plenty of rightbloggers who are so tired of having to watch their step when black people are involved that they can’t even acknowledge indisputable racism when presented with it. Such people may see here an opportunity to clear the decks and prove once and for all who’s the real racist.
“Note to all Republican and Conservative spokesmen,” instructed RedState’s Martin Knight. “If you’re on TV or Radio and anyone brings this up, this is the only response; Lewis is lying. Simple, straight and to the point. If anyone even begins to hint that opposition to Obamacare is based on the color of Barack Obama’s skin, loudly and clearly denounce them and call them out-and-out liars without hesitation or apology.”
If that doesn’t work, there’ll be plenty of other race-based opportunities — like the one Obama just offered by declaring himself black on his Census form. “And what do we think of the opinion of the President who, some of us thought, would move us into a new era of race?” asked Ann Althouse. “My first thought was that he disrespected his mother and maternal grandparents, who contributed so much more to his upbringing than his father ever did.” Keep hope alive, guys!