Jennifer Rubin has fun at the expense of Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson, and his “specious” comments on Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m.” TV ad. But this is what we have to look forward to if Obama wins: four years of the most intelligent (or at least, the most tenured) people in the country drawing on all their resources to explain why every critique of him is racially insensitive.
Patterson’s piece is a delightful example of what I call 360-degree criticism, because it can be made from every angle. There is no way to make that ad that would not have drawn Patterson’s ire. If the ad had featured an African-American family, Patterson would have criticized Clinton for attacking Obama while free-riding on his appeal as the bringer of racial harmony. If the family had been Hispanic, he would have argued that Clinton was trying to play Latinos off against African-Americans. And if they’d been of mixed race, he would have looked at who answered the phone and claimed that this somehow revealed the hidden hierarchies of race and privilege within the patriarchal bounds of the family.
This sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” approach is basically valueless, in that all it really tells us is that Patterson likes Obama a lot. The proper criticism of Clinton’s ad is not that it reveals her racism, but that it is silly. Obama has precisely as much experience with answering early-morning phone calls on vital national security issues as does Clinton: none at all.