You might think it would be more offensive for Mitt Romney to skip the NAACP convention entirely than to show up and give a respectful speech as he did yesterday — but you’d be wrong. (Well, actually you’d be half-right: the left probably would have accused Romney of racism either way.)
According to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Romney outed himself as a race-baiter just by showing up at the NAACP. As this theory goes, Romney apparently knew that getting booed would send a subtle signal to racists that he was on their side (via Washington Examiner):
Speaking to TheGrio.com’s Goldie Taylor, O’Donnell said, “Tell me, Goldie, if I’m being too cynical, to think that the Romney campaign actually went in that room today with the hope of getting booed, at least three times, because they want the video of their candidate being booed by the NAACP to play in certain racist precincts where that will actually help them.”
Taylor agreed with O’Donnell’s assessment, adding Romney appeared “paternalistic” and criticized him for using a “derisive word” like “ObamaCare” to describe the President’s Affordable Health Care act.
Okay, but why would Romney even need to send some sort of clandestine signal to these “racist precincts” O’Donnell mentions? I assume that many of the people in these “racist precincts” possess eyes, and have already caught on to the fact that Obama is African-American and Romney is white. For racists, that choice would probably be self-explanatory. No need for any secret dog whistle there.
And yet for some reason this absurd MSNBC claim seems to have caught on. At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky also chimed in:
But [Romney] wasn’t a race-baiter until yesterday. That speech wasn’t to the NAACP. It was to Rush Limbaugh. It was to Tea Party Nation. It was to Fox News. Oh, he said some nice things. And sure, let’s give him one point for going there at all. But listen: You don’t go into the NAACP and use the word “ObamaCare” and think that you’re not going to hear some boos. It’s a heavily loaded word, and Romney and his people know very well that liberals and the president’s supporters consider it an insult. He and his team had to know those boos were coming, and Romney acknowledged as much a few hours later in an interview with . . . guess which channel (hint: it’s the one whose web site often has to close articles about race to commenters because of the blatant racism). Romney and team obviously concluded that a little shower of boos was perfectly fine because the story “Romney Booed at NAACP” would jazz up their (very white) base.
Again — why would Romney even need to wink-nudge pander to this large group of mythical white racists Tomasky speaks of? And if Romney really wanted to show his solidarity with racists, why wouldn’t he just skip the NAACP altogether? That’s like going to address a NARAL conference in order to send a message to the pro-life movement that you’re on their side. No matter how chilly the reception, abortion opponents aren’t going to appreciate it.
In the end, Romney did the brave thing. He addressed a group that he knew he had political differences with and little chance of winning over. He put forward his best case without compromising his political message, and he did it respectfully. That’s more than can be said about President Obama, who didn’t even take the time to attend the conference.