Maureen Dowd Plays The Obama Race Card

protest_600Perhaps the most amazing thing about Maureen Dowd’s column this Sunday is it is the first time I have heard someone in the mainstream press suggest that Joe Wilson’s heckling of the President last Wednesday was racially motivated. It is perhaps a measure of how Obama is viewed by the nation, and the press, that despite this summer’s name-calling, town hall circuses, and yesterday’s deranged 9/12 tea party, that eight months in to the nation’s first black presidency the only person to be labeled a racist thus far is the president himself, and by none other than Glenn Beck (nuff said there).

But MoDo isn’t afraid to go there. In Sunday’s column, Dowd takes a larger look at the role South Carolina has played in national racial politics in the past, suggests they are still occupying that role, and moreover fears that all the name-calling directed at the President this summer is motivated by underlying racial fear.

Every once in a while Maureen Dowd aims for the fences with her columns, and whether you agree with her conclusion or not, this is one of those times. And being that she not only has a tendency to press buttons but occupies one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in journalism, I think it’s a fair bet that this will become a talking point for the cablers tomorrow. And no, she does not suggest the President and Joe Wilson sit down for a beer. The whole column is worth a read, but here’s what she had to say, at a glance.

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!
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The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.

I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race…But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.

Photo via.

Obama, J.K. Rowling Among Top-Requested Authors by Gitmo Detainees

obama-potterIt’s surprising to many that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay has a library, but it does — and an extensive one at that. The U.S. military likes to hold up the library as proof that detainees are treated humanely; while that’s open to debate, they sure do have a lot of books to read. According to PRI, the library has thousands of volumes in sixteen languages, “including English, Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu, Urdu and Uzbek,” including poetry, history, fiction, comic books, and religious texts.

When pan-Arab newspaper Dar Al-Hayat asked the librarian at Guantanamo Bay what the most-requested books were, this is what they found:

1. The Harry Potter novels, by J.K. Rowling

2. Don Quixote, by Cervantes

3. Dreams from my Father, by Barack Obama

…followed by Muslim holy texts.

In the article, no explanation is given for why these particular books were so popular, but one of the entries is sure to rile up a lot of conservatives — and it isn’t Don Quixote.

There’s lots more fascinating analysis of this list — including an analogy made by an actual Guantanamo Bay prisoner between Bush and Voldemort — at Times Online’s Comment Central.

(image from fanboy.com)

h/t Comment Central via The Morning News

Did President Obama Call The Media Liars Last Night?

obamacare_175841gm-aOverlooked in much of the post-speech, “You Lie!” chatter last night was the fact that President Obama also used the word “lie” in his address and not just to describe (smackdown!) Sarah Palin and her death-panel assertions. He also, rather boldly, called out the “bogus claims” of “radio and cable talk show hosts.”

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

Had Rep. Joe Wilson not grabbed the “lie” meme so forcefully (he’s now the top trending topic on Twitter) one imagines we’d be hearing a lot more this morning about whether the President of the United States was accusing the media of being liars in front of a joint session of Congress. Or whether his promise (threat?) that “I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than to improve it” was a shot across the bows to a certain Glenn Beck, among others.

After the speech George Stephanopolous noted that, in addition to Wilson’s hecking, “I also can’t ever remember a President using the word ‘lie’ in a Joint Session or State of the Union speech.” It is strong language indeed — it is one thing for the President to complain about the press, it is another indeed for him to accuse them of reporting lies, in such a formal setting, no less. Considering the beating the Obama administration took this summer courtesy of much of the Town Hall coverage, and again this past week with the resignation of Van Jones at the hands of Beck, one wonders whether President Obama was also signaling to the cable newsers that he will no longer take this lying down.

Why Losing The Press Is A Win For Obama

tumblr_kp7iqyifao1qz7908o1_500Andrew Sullivan writes that President Obama has gone from ‘The One’ to “The Doomed.” Politico says Obama appears to be “surrendering” to the right-wing lunatic fringe (also, Fox). And yesterday New York Times columnist David Carr noted that Obama, “the silkiest executive communicator to come along since Ronald Reagan,” is no longer the master of his own message.

Sounds dire doesn’t it. Especially considering this is a key week for Obama: he’s made the unusual move of calling a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, in order to talk one final time about the health care bill (keeping in mind the Van Jones debacle perhaps he should reconsider using a chalkboard). Then again, it also sounds like perfect timing.

More than one person who watched President Obama’s Labor Day speech in Ohio noted that the President sounded like he was back on the campaign trail. Fired up! Ready to Go! And what is the first rule of good campaigning? Lowered expectations. It’s a trick most of the candidates employed before big debates last year (or in the case of Sarah Palin, before most appearances). Make the public believe you are down and out, show up in a blaze of glory (or at least coherent) and voila! The storyline is all about your triumphant return.

The cable and blogosphere meme between now and tomorrow night will be that Obama has lost the message, has lost support, has lost his ability to own his own coverage. Between the Town Halls, Van Jones, and boycotting school children, the seven and a half month old presidency has not had a lot going for it these past two months, which basically means that the stage (and the news cycle) is perfectly set for Obama’s triumphant return from the summer of his discontent. The summer is over, people have less time on their hands, Glenn Beck has just succeeded in ousting a White House official. News cycles don’t like it when there’s one winner for too long. Obama has had his knocking down, get ready for the Obama Returns! Impresses! Surprises! headlines.

Van Jones Goes Quietly Into Slow Labor Day News Weekend

Van Jones OutIs there a better time to bury news than Saturday night of a sleepy holiday weekend? Probably not —by Tuesday, this will be a two-day-old story that will be pushed aside in favor of focusing on Obama’s scary, propagand-tastic speech to America’s children. Even the Sunday shows didn’t get into it too deep. Such is the holiday weekend news cycle.

So: After being at the center of a swirling, awkward controversy, Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality Van Jones resigned last night at virtually the stroke of midnight, in a letter blaming a “vicious smear campaign” for his decision to step down.

Wrote Jones: “”On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.”

But it wasn’t a lie that Jones’ signature appeared on a 2004 petition calling for an investigation into “evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur.” Oy. Thursday evening Jones issued a statement awkwardly saying of the petition: “I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever.” An administration source told Jake Tapper he did not carefully review the language in the petition before agreeing to add his name (Tapper also points out that other signatories protested the use of their names on the petition, claiming misrepresentation).

But no matter: Tapper called that a “tipping point” noting the non-endorsement endorsement of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday.  As Mike Viquiera said this morning on MSNBC, the writing was on the wall: Exit Van Jones.

The big winner in all this: Glenn Beck, who started and stirred the activism against Jones after Jones agitated against Beck through his organization, “Color of Change,” resulting in numerous advertisers dropping out of Beck’s program for his “Obama is a racist” comment. Beck kicked off the scrutiny into Jones’ background as part of the ‘public service’ of examining the “czars” in the Obama Administration…and just happened to start off with Jones. (Cue the sinister music: “Who is Obama’s Green Czar Van Jones? THE KILLER IS HIDING IN THE CLOSET!!!!).

The other big winner: The right-wing smear machine, which went into overdrive on Jones and “raised questions” based on non-shadowy, publicly-available information and took those “questions” to the legit media. Alex Pareene at Gawker is required reading on this front (”This is how a smear becomes a meme“). I watched the Glenn Beck video below and didn’t see much that was so crazy – basically a  young change-seeking radical learning becoming less radicalized as he aged and learned how to work within the establishment – makes perfect sense.  He rose within that establishment and became a real player, with a New Yorker profile just this year about how awesome  he was. Nobel Prize winner & former Vice President Al Gore told the New Yorker: “I love Van Jones. I love his work. I love his heart and his commitment and his intellect. I love his mission. He has wisely picked a part of this set of interwoven challenges that should have been addressed much more forcefully by me and others long ago.” As Pareene says, “the only special interest he’s beholden to is poor people.”

But – he signed that damned petition – and after bashing crazy fringey conspiracy groups, the White House did not love having their already-beleaguered guy suddenly outed as a Truther. Again: Oy. Did he know what he was signing? Howard Dean doesn’t think so, and said so on Fox News Sunday today, but what does it matter? He’s gone, so instead of having to fulminate about how dangerous he was Newt Gingrich could just make some mild comment and leave it at that. David Axelrod claimed on Meet The Press that the decision to step down was Jones’; well, whatever, look at Gibbs from Friday and decide for yourself.

Upshot: Was Jones a dangerous radical or a sacrificial lamb? What do you think? Gawker’s Foster Kamer put it succinctly:

Apparently, all that needs to happen to provoke a White House Administration official’s resignation is: a bunch of blowhards and crazies find something someone once said that was once extreme. Fixate, extrapolate, instigate, bring mainstream. And Van Jones resigned yesterday.

And that is that. There may be some investigation into how it all unfolded, but most likely there won’t be – everyone’s looking forward now, to a news cycle that’s alive again. Who has time to rehash old news? He did sign that petition, after all.  No, the story is pretty much dead…until the next right-wing uproar, and scalp.

Photo via Guardian UK by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Montel Williams Suggests Michelle Bachmann Should Stab Herself

montel_040609bAdd one more personality to the increasingly disturbing game of rhetoric surrounding the current Health Care debate. In response to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s comment of “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing,” radio host Montel Williams upped the ante in a shocking reply during his program on Air America. Listen for yourself after the jump.

Earlier this week U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann railed against the dangers of health care reform and other Democratic initiatives, warning the proposals “have the strength to destroy this country forever.”

“This cannot pass,” the Minnesota Republican told a crowd at a Denver gathering sponsored by the Independence Institute. “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

Williams takes this “colorful comment” and turns it into a shocking call for the congresswoman violently stab herself to death.

Did Glenn Beck Finally Force the White House’s Hand?

Picture 2Glenn Beck’s head may finally explode tonight. From glee. If you’ve been watching Beck at all recently you know that he has spent the better part of the last two weeks tearing apart President Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs Van Jones. Last night Beck added 9-11 Truther (Truthers vs. Birthers should be some sort of reality show) to the chalk board list of things the public should be concerned about regarding Jones (video below), after it was revealed yesterday that Jones signed a petition back in 2004 which called for an investigation into whether the government was involved in 9-11. But it’s the fact that Jones has now responded to that petition going public that will no doubt be enough fuel to keep Beck’s fire going for the next little while. Per ABC’s Jake Tapper:

In a statement issued Thursday evening Jones said of “the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever.”

Is it possible Beck’s relentless attention will force the White House to eventually deal with this officially? Is Beck capable of bringing down a government official? Doubtful, but nevertheless, beware the chalkboard!

Also from Tapper, some background:

With a history of incendiary and provocative remarks, many of them dealing with his view of how whites exploit minorities, Jones has emerged as the subject of much conservative scrutiny in recent days, particularly from Fox News’ Glenn Beck. (Jones defenders point out that most of Beck’s criticism came after a group Jones helped found, Color of Change, began pushing advertisers to boycott Beck after he accused President Obama of being a racist.)