2008 August 09 Saturday
Can Obama Laugh At Himself?

A commenter on the Ann Althouse blog named Revenant answers a question someone else raised.

Can Obama laugh at himself?

Of course not. That would be racist.

Via Lexington Green of the Chicago Boyz.

The prospect of an Obama presidency has brought us into a season where lots of claims are flying around that this or that statement by McCain supporters is racist. The claims of racism have reached parody level. This reminds me of the feminist hysterics during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. One could not tell it at the time but it marked a peak in feminist influence in deciding what what constitutes unfair sexism. The more doctrinaire feminists so overreached that when they subsequently defended Clinton's behavior toward Monica Lewinsky and other women they seriously undermined their credibility.

We might be headed into a period where the liberal press will get into such a frenzy looking for imagined racial slights that people will become desensitized to claims of racism. Almost all American presidencies in recent decades have ended in great disappointment. When that disappointment gets strong enough in Obama's case the very technique he and his supporters have used to defend him against critics - label much criticism as racism - will undermine and discredit that technique.

Since an Obama presidency won't be able to substantially improve the economic and social standing of blacks versus whites, south Asians, and East Asians the bitterness at the end of the Obama presidency will be felt most severely among the blacks who support him 9 to 1.

As Stanley Kurtz points out race is central to Obama's thinking.

Any rounded treatment of Obama's early political career has got to give prominence to the issue of race. Obama has recently made efforts to preemptively blunt discussion of the race issue, warning that his critics will highlight the fact that he is African American. Yet the question of race plays so large a role in Obama's own thought and action that it is all but impossible to discuss his political trajectory without acknowledging the extent to which it engrosses him. Obama settled in Chicago with the declared intention of "organizing black folks." His first book is subtitled "A Story of Race and Inheritance," and his second book contains an important chapter on race. On his return to Chicago in 1991, Obama practiced civil rights law and for many years taught a seminar on racism and law at the University of Chicago. When he entered the Illinois senate, it was to represent the heavily (although not exclusively) minority 13th district on the South Side of Chicago. Indeed, race functions for Obama as a kind of master-category, pervading and organizing a wide array of issues that many Americans may not think of as racial at all. Understanding Obama's thinking on race, for example, is a prerequisite to grasping his views on spending and taxation. Thus, we have no alternative but to puzzle out the place of race in Obama's broader political outlook as well as in his legislative career.

When it comes to issues like affirmative action and set-asides, Obama is anything but the post-racial politician he's sometimes made out to be. Take set-asides. In 1998, Obama endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Schmidt, stressing to the Defender Schmidt's past support for affirmative action and set-asides. Although Obama was generally pleased by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 acceptance of racial preferences at the University of Michigan, he underscored the danger that Republican-appointed justices might someday overturn the ruling. The day after the Michigan decision, Obama honored the passing of former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson Jr., eulogizing Jackson for creating model affirmative action and set-aside programs that spread across the nation.

In 2004, a U.S. District Court disallowed the ordinance under which Chicago required the use of at least 25 percent minority business enterprises and 5 percent women's business enterprises on city-funded projects. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Obama and Jesse Jackson were among the prominent voices calling for a black leadership summit to plot strategy for a restoration of Chicago's construction quotas. Obama and his allies succeeded in bringing back race-based contracting.

When you make Americans think about a topic a great deal then they will change their minds - and not always in ways that the promoters of the topic intended.

Update: Ross Douthat observes yet more manifestations of Obamamania and insanity in the liberal media.

And speaking of the rapture ... actually, no, I don't think I have much to say about this nonsense, except that the people who think Obama might be the Antichrist and the people who think the McCain campaign is cannily designing its campaign ads to exploit fears that Obama might be the Antichrist deserve each other. (The difference, of course, is that the former group consists of minor-league kooks, obscure bloggers and chain-email peddlers, whereas the latter consists of Democratic strategists and writers for Time Magazine - the same Time, one might note, that has not once but twice put Barack Obama on its cover with a halo around his head.)

A halo! Twice already. This illustrates a double standard of the liberal media. They'll promote Obama to an absurd degree and then overreact when fringe critics with very small platforms use opposing imagery that is also very unrealistic.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 09 10:53 PM  Politics Ethnicity

Lord Vader said at August 10, 2008 8:19 AM:

"When you make Americans think about a topic a great deal then they will change their minds - and not always in ways that the promoters of the topic intended."

My experience with ordinary moderate white Democrats and white independents is that they try to AVOID thinking too deeply about race because, let's admit it, race is not a terribly pleasant subject to talk and think about.

Only white liberals take pleasure in calling other white people racist and talking about white "racism" in depth, but they are the minority of whites.

Ordinary whites may recite the PC dogma if forced to because this is what they are told to do. But they usually don't firmly believe in this rhetoric because they have not thought too hard about the issue of race.

Moderate white voters can vote for a racial liberal politician because people don't spend much time thinking about what politicians do on a day to day basis. The race liberal politician can get away with a lot of bad legislation because people don't focus much attention on Congressmen and Senators and local legislators.

However the office of presidency of the United States is completely different from any other elected office in the free world. A president Obama will be on TV every day with his every move shown on TV. When Obama starts pushing things like affirmative action and reparations, ordinary whites will get a good glimpse at what our glorious minorities - especially blacks - really think of white people, and ordinary whites will not like what they will see.

Ned said at August 10, 2008 7:05 PM:

Randall, you make an interesting point about most recent American presidencies ending in disappointment. Here's my take on it, all the way back to Harry Truman:

Presidency Ended in Disappointment (Yes/No)

Truman - Yes
Eisenhower - No
Johnson - Yes
Nixon - Yes
Ford - Yes
Carter - Yes
Reagan - No
Bush I - Yes
Clinton - Yes
Bush II - Yes

Please note that I did not include Kennedy because he died in office. That means that eight out of ten ended in disappointment. The evaluation is admittedly subjective, but , even of the four presidents who were reelected, only two could really be considered popular as they left office (Eisenhower and Reagan). I wonder if any other period in American history had a similarly bad run? Maybe this is a good argument for a single six year presidential term.

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2008 7:41 PM:


I've been thinking about this disappointment in Presidents because of a C-SPAN show that has been getting rebroadcast lately where David Broder interviews George Will about American politics and Will comments that we build up Presidential candidates (and they build up themselves) to a point where disappointment and bitterness is inevitable. Well, Democrats get built up more than Republicans because the Democrats have a large cheering section in the liberal press. But even from the standpoint of reasonable expectations (or at least reasonable hopes) recent Presidents have been a disappointment.

George Will thinks Obama is bound to be a big disappointment because of the halo that the press is putting around him and that he is putting around himself. That sounds about right to me.

Mercer said at August 10, 2008 9:14 PM:

There is a book out - The Cult of the Presidency - that discusses the inflated value people give the office these days. I have not read it but saw the author on C-Span.

I don't think blacks will be bitter if they don't gain much in an Obama presidency. I think they mainly back him out of tribal loyalty. They want to see one of there own win. Do you think most sports fans expect their personal life will improve if their team wins. Blacks are certainly not alone in approaching politics this way. Why do you thinks Mormans backed Romney and evangelicals Huckabee?

I detest Obama's views on affirmative action and diversity but I don't see how they are different from the Republican party leaders.

Where Obama is different is in opposing the Iraq invasion and having any permanent bases there. This is not an isolated example either. Compare his statements about Russia and Iran to McCain. Obama is less likely to start any more stupid wars then McCain.

purenoiz said at August 10, 2008 10:02 PM:

has anybody hear noticed that Obama's main strategists and think tankers are all Kato institute people. Obama will say what he needs to to get elected, and then push for the greatest cronyism in our nations history. Look at his record in chicagoland.

Ned said at August 11, 2008 5:08 AM:

Randall, I think you are correct. Expectations for new presidents are so high that failure to meet them is almost guaranteed. Viewed in this light, an Obama presidency seems virtually certain to crash and burn. He is arrogant, egotistical, narcissistic, the center of a messianic cult but with almost no economic, foreign policy or executive experience. How can he possibly fulfill the outlandish expectations that his starry-eyed supporters believe in? In this regard, McCain may be the better choice, if only because nobody, including his supporters, seems to like him very much or expect much of him if he gets in.

I have carried my presidential survey back to the beginning of the 20th century, excluding presidents who died in office (FDR, Harding and McKinley).

Presidency Ended in Disappointment (Yes/No)

Hoover - Yes
Coolidge - No
Wilson - Yes
Taft - Yes
T. Roosevelt - No

Therefore, of the fifteen presidents since the beginning of the 20th century who did not die in office, eleven ended their terms in disappointment. Interestingly, the four whose terms did not end in disappointment were all republicans. Not very good odds, especially for a Democrat....

Stephen said at August 11, 2008 7:03 AM:

The US concept of Presidency is fundamentally flawed. In the post-modern age, all forms of royalty and quasi-royalty should be entirely ceremonial.

anon said at August 11, 2008 1:46 PM:

George Will thinks Obama is bound to be a big disappointment because of the halo that the press is putting around him and that he is putting around himself. That sounds about right to me.

This doesn't make any sense. Consider Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity Church and the associations with far leftists like Bill Ayers. Obama isn't taken to task at all for stuff like that.

If he does something wrong, no one will call him on it, or it will be blamed on the right.

Randall Parker said at August 11, 2008 6:13 PM:


Which Obama advisors are from the Cato Institute?


Obama hasn't had to govern yet. Even if the press continues to go easy on him he still won't be able to meet the expectations people have for him. Throw in Peak Oil and the disappointment is inescapable.


I do not see a way out of the exalted presidency.


We need accidental presidents. Not sure how to get there from here.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright