An insidious tactic for backing Barack Obama’s candidacy is afoot at the New York Times: position Obama as the victim of bigotry to win voters’ sympathies.
In this vein, Nicholas Kristof (as Jennifer noted) dedicated his Sunday column to discrediting the long-ago-discredited Internet rumor that Obama is a Muslim, doing his damnedest to implicate the McCain campaign in the alleged “otherizing” of the Democratic presidential nominee. In turn, Kristof pointed to a McCain commercial that, in his estimation, “mimicked the words and imagery of the best-selling Christian ‘Left Behind’ book series in ways that would have set off alarm bells among evangelicals nervous about the Antichrist.” Despite failing to provide any evidence to support this outrageous accusation, Kristof boldly called on his fellow journalists to similarly “blow the whistle on such egregious fouls”–in other words, employ as many logical leaps as are necessary to read racism into the activities of the McCain campaign.
Yesterday, editorial observer Brent Staples heeded Kristof’s call. In a piece that represents a true achievement in journalistic dishonesty, Staples accused the McCain campaign of Jim Crow-like racism:
In the Old South, black men and women who were competent, confident speakers on matters of importance were termed “disrespectful,” the implication being that all good Negroes bowed, scraped, grinned and deferred to their white betters.
In what is probably a harbinger of things to come, the McCain campaign has already run a commercial that carries a similar intimation, accusing Mr. Obama of being “disrespectful” to Sarah Palin. The argument is muted, but its racial antecedents are very clear.
Of course, the accusation that Obama is disrespecting Palin– and he is–has nothing to do with his race, but with her gender. As Obama should have learned during his primary battle with Hillary Clinton, conventional political wisdom shows that male candidates provide their female opponents with ample fodder when they address them in patronizing tones. Indeed, the McCain campaign has raised similar objections to Joe Biden’s comment that Sarah Palin is good-looking, while Geraldine Ferraro once employed this line of attack against George H.W. Bush.
As the deeply flawed reasoning in Kristof’s and Staples’s op-eds suggests, the Times‘ race-baiting will not provide a sustainable argument against McCain. If anything, it merely demonstrates the ugly depths to which the Grey Lady will sink in support of Obama. Ultimately, this should hurt the Times more than it affects either of the two presidential contenders: as Americans increasingly distrust the liberal MSM, false cries of racism will only erode its standing further.