Commentary Magazine


Topic: Al Sharpton

De Blasio vs. the NYPD–and Public Safety

If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:

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If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:

“While the Barclays Center is still new and glistening, the great city in which it stands is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety,” Mullins wrote in an open letter running in Tuesday’s editions of the New York Post and The New York Times.

Mullins said de Blasio’s administration has made “dangerous choices” and as a result, the “degradation of our streets is on the rise.”

He added, sourly, “Right now, we don’t have a mayor who supports the police.” Mullins’s point was ostensibly that the NYPD shouldn’t have any additional burden put on it–indeed, that such a request would be chutzpahdik–while they’re being constantly second-guessed by a new administration. But it’s clear that the feeling had been building for some time and needed an outlet.

It’s worth keeping that moment in mind reading the latest news on the de Blasio administration’s ongoing power struggle with the NYPD. The background, briefly: de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, has been so involved with the administration that mayoral counsel Henry Berger is arguing she should legally be considered a consultant in order to shield her correspondence with the administration from reporters. McCray’s chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, thus enjoys a high degree of access.

Noerdlinger, it was revealed by DNAinfo last week, is in a relationship with a man convicted of homicide and drug charges and who refers to police in derogatory language and nearly ran a cop off the road in New Jersey last year. De Blasio is sticking by Noerdlinger, who used to work for Al Sharpton. And now the Washington Free Beacon has unearthed something that New Yorkers probably had forgotten but the police groups might not have:

Rachel Noerdlinger, the controversial chief of staff to New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, once called for boycotts of a local police union and all of its supporters, a position that could cause more headaches for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he seeks to minimize the fallout over Noerdlinger’s relationship with a convicted killer who has made disparaging comments about the police.

Noerdlinger, the longtime top aide to de Blasio’s wife, has been engulfed in controversy after it came to light that she is dating a convicted murderer and drug dealer who has called cops “pigs” and expressed distaste for white people.

The unearthing of these remarks by ex-con Hassaun McFarlan is said to have raised “serious concerns about Noerdlinger having a seat at top-level” New York Police Department (NYPD) meetings, according to the New York Daily News.

Noerdlinger in 2000, while working as Sharpton’s spokeswoman, called for the boycotting of companies that donated to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which had been helping to pay for the defense of New York policemen acquitted on charges of murdering Amadou Diallo. The comments came at a time of high tensions in the city over the Diallo case.

As the New York Post reported at the time, Noerdlinger’s boycott call was made at the same time prominent Harlem Rev. Calvin Butts was stirring up public anger against both the police and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

“There are many who are calling for calm, but I am not one,” he told The Post. “I think that people ought to be agitated, they ought to be active.”

Earlier in the day, Butts told worshippers, “There is an evil that permeates the place called City Hall,” and called on New Yorkers to stand up for their rights.

“There is no chance that your police will not be resisted. They must be resisted, they will be resisted,” he said in a sermon.

The benevolent associations, unions, and other police groups likely remember that controversy quite well. If so, they also remember the support they tended to get from the Giuliani administration, in stark contrast to the atmosphere of distrust building around de Blasio. The revelation that the administration now has someone on board who had been calling for a boycott of the PBA makes it easier to understand why someone like Mullins at the SBA sees a proliferation of red flags around this administration.

De Blasio has not proved successful at maintaining public safety while reining in police procedure. Actions have consequences, and a lot of New Yorkers remember well the consequences the last time distrust of the NYPD was allowed to drive public safety policymaking. And if de Blasio doesn’t remember that, he’s clearly got staffers who can remind him.

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Ferguson Can’t Save Senate for Democrats

In a year in which the odds are heavily stacked against the Democrats it is to be expected that the party will try just about anything in their quest to retain control of the Senate. But the notion that President Obama’s party can somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by attempting to exploit African-American sorrow about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last month may be a new low in the long annals of cynical political stunts.

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In a year in which the odds are heavily stacked against the Democrats it is to be expected that the party will try just about anything in their quest to retain control of the Senate. But the notion that President Obama’s party can somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by attempting to exploit African-American sorrow about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last month may be a new low in the long annals of cynical political stunts.

The effort to cash in on the Ferguson tragedy was the conceit of a front-page New York Times feature yesterday that pointed to efforts to increase black turnout as the key to Democratic victory in November. Given that the Democratic base tends not to show up when the presidency is not at stake, the party knows that it must do something to gin up interest in congressional contests. That Democrats have come to rely heavily on minority turnout to win elections is not exactly a secret. The massive successful effort to get blacks as well as other minorities to the polls in 2008 and 2012 was essential to President Obama’s electoral triumphs. Looked at from that perspective, connecting Republicans to the police officer that shot Brown and Democrats to the effort to get justice for the victim makes sense.

But there are a few big problems with this formula that have nothing to do with objections to a strategy that is based on crass partisanship and shameless exploitation of a tragedy.

The first is, contrary to Democrat expectations, although African-Americans are the most reliable of the party’s key constituencies they were probably paying closer attention to the aftermath of the tragedy than most Americans. That means they realized that the most insensitive and most incompetent responses to the tragedy came from Missouri’s Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, not any Republican. Nor were prominent Republicans slow to express sympathy for the slain teenager or guilty of gaffes that could be exploited by the liberal media to create a narrative in which the GOP could somehow be directly tied to the shooting.

So while Ferguson may have angered blacks and made them more likely to engage in political activism, the incident isn’t the sort of thing that can serve as leverage in congressional and Senate elections that are being largely fought on issues that have nothing to do what happened in Missouri.

Second, the attempt to leverage angst about Ferguson into a wave of African-Americans turning out to vote for Democrats en masse requires the party to do some very careful maneuvering.

Rather than Barack Obama’s name being on the ballot this year, politicians that are doing everything in their power to distance themselves from the president will occupy the Democratic line in many places. While African-Americans may believe Democrats are supporters of their interests, it’s not quite so easy to mobilize them to save the political skins of senators who are simultaneously assuring white voters in red states that they disagree with the president on most issues and won’t be reliable supporters of the White House if they are returned to office. If, in the course of wooing African-Americans, senators like Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, or Mark Prior in Arkansas do get closer to the president that might fatally damage them with swing voters they desperately need to win. Indeed, though blacks are the heart of the Democratic Party in the south, their only hope of victory lies in grabbing the political center, not merely playing to the base.

Thus while Democrats may be cynical enough to try to run a pro-Obama campaign in the black community and an anti-Obama effort among whites, the idea that they can do so without either of these constituencies noticing that they are being two-timed if not outright lied to is slim.

Of course, that doesn’t deter race baiters like Al Sharpton, who both Politico and the New York Times recently anointed as President Obama’s go-to person in the African-American community, from trying to turn Ferguson into a political cause. Nor has it stopped other Democrats like Rep. John Lewis from attempting to use the tragedy to revive their glory days in the civil-rights movement. But resentment about police violence isn’t the moral equivalent of Obama’s candidacy, especially when it is obvious that what the establishment protesters are railing at is as much a function of the Democrats as it is the Republicans. If Democrats are going to hold the Senate they are going to have to do better than this tired, cynical racial act.

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Resisting the Ferguson Temptation

Some news stories are like Rorschach tests in that, irrespective of the facts of the cases, they inspire journalists, pundits, and politicians to ride all of their familiar hobbyhorses to death. That is the reality of the massive media coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by a policeman, and the violent aftermath of that event is so obvious it barely needs to be pointed out. But as cable news stations embrace the story as another, perhaps juicier version of last year’s trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, it might be better if more public figures embrace the stance enunciated by Rep. Paul Ryan.

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Some news stories are like Rorschach tests in that, irrespective of the facts of the cases, they inspire journalists, pundits, and politicians to ride all of their familiar hobbyhorses to death. That is the reality of the massive media coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by a policeman, and the violent aftermath of that event is so obvious it barely needs to be pointed out. But as cable news stations embrace the story as another, perhaps juicier version of last year’s trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, it might be better if more public figures embrace the stance enunciated by Rep. Paul Ryan.

Unlike virtually everyone else who has commented on the shooting and the subsequent rioting in Ferguson, Ryan simply asked that those who speak about these events refrain from attempts to exploit what has happened. Not succumbing to the temptation to use the social pathologies on display in Missouri as fodder to promote his new book, Ryan said the following:

“Don’t try to capitalize on this tragedy with your own policy initiatives, don’t try to link some prejudged conclusion on what’s happening on the ground right now,” the Wisconsin Republican said on “Fox and Friends.” “We should take a deep breath, let’s have some sympathy for the family and the community … and let’s let the investigation take its course and hope that justice is served appropriately.”

That’s good advice, and the media figures and so-called racial activists like Al Sharpton, who have descended upon Ferguson like a ravenous flock of vultures, would do well to heed it if they actually cared about the citizens of this troubled town or race relations across the country.

The Brown shooting, like the death of Martin, has become more of an opportunity to rehearse the usual litany of liberal ideological rants in which this heretofore-obscure town has become a symbol of racism. Rather than let the facts of the case—whatever they may be—be uncovered and then let the legal process play out, the impulse to prejudge the case has consistently prevailed. Whether that means an assumption that the police officer is guilty of murder or that the victim was somehow responsible for the incident, neither set of arguments has done much to advance the cause of justice of the peace of that community.

As Fred Siegel correctly noted in City Journal yesterday, most of those who have weighed in with commentary about Ferguson are stuck in the 1960s, a perspective from which all violence is viewed through the lens of the civil-rights movement. Those who play this game rarely stop to reflect that a half century later, an African-American president now governs the same country. Nor do they ponder the fact that solutions to the problems of such communities cannot be found in the playbook employed by those who protested against now vanished Jim Crow laws in an America that no longer exists. Sharpton and the pack of so-called civil-rights leaders who have parachuted into this mess have clearly done more harm than any possible good.

To acknowledge this reality does not oblige anyone to be indifferent to the anger of Ferguson residents about what they perceive as misconduct by the police or the ham-handed response to subsequent protests and riots by the authorities. But if we were to avoid merely repeating the same destructive narrative about racism that did so much damage in the Martin case, then it would behoove those commenting on the issue to refuse to rehearse, as Siegel says, “The grotesque pantomime of repression and redemption, riots and never-quite-achieved rewards, [that] plays out time and again.” As Siegel says, using Brown’s death to pivot into discussions about race, white flight, or urban/suburban jurisdiction disputes is a mistake.

Neither Sharpton nor anyone else talking on television really knows what happened when Brown died. Until we get a better handle on that question, they should stop fomenting the sort of anger that leads to riots and more violence as we have seen the last several nights in Ferguson. The cable news commentariat is as determined not to learn from their mistakes in this case, just as they were during Zimmerman’s trial. They will, instead, repeat the same cant about race and suggest more of the same failed policies that have helped perpetuate these problems rather than fix them. Until we learn to resist this temptation, as Siegel writes, that failure ensures “there will be more Fergusons.”

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Back to Full-Time Racial Incitement

One of the remarkable elements of the coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial is the way things have come full circle in the last month. Prior to the televised legal proceedings, there was only one narrative about the case that came through in most of the mainstream media: George Zimmerman, a racist bully, shot down an innocent black teenager in cold blood who came to symbolize every young member of a minority group. But once the country started to watch the trial as ratings-obsessed cable networks prioritized the case above all other news stories, a different story began to impinge on that simple morality tale of good and evil.

Televised trials sensationalize the judicial system and turn lawyers, judges and other assorted courthouse kibitzers into the legal equivalent of sports talk radio. But the one thing that we must acknowledge about the broadcasting of the proceedings is that it made it clear that this was a complicated case that bore little resemblance to the invective and cant about it that was so common among those who spoke about it in the mainstream press prior to the trial. Thus, when the jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges against him, no one who actually watched much of the trial could have been surprised. Though no one other than Zimmerman knows for sure what happened, the evidence seemed to support his claim of self-defense and established clear reasonable doubt about any of the prosecution’s accusations.

Yet now that the trial is over, much of the media seems to have reverted to its previous pattern of treating Zimmerman’s racism and guilt as givens. In much of the mainstream media today, but especially on MSNBC, the verdict has been treated as a green light not only for recriminations about the verdict but an excuse for an all-out, nonstop stream of racial incitement. Where last week it seemed most Americans were rightly trying to assess the virtues of the two sides’ arguments in a hard-fought case, today many liberals among the chattering classes in the media, pop culture and politics have regressed to stereotypes and mindless assumptions that tell us more about their own prejudices than about the supposedly racist state of American justice.

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One of the remarkable elements of the coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial is the way things have come full circle in the last month. Prior to the televised legal proceedings, there was only one narrative about the case that came through in most of the mainstream media: George Zimmerman, a racist bully, shot down an innocent black teenager in cold blood who came to symbolize every young member of a minority group. But once the country started to watch the trial as ratings-obsessed cable networks prioritized the case above all other news stories, a different story began to impinge on that simple morality tale of good and evil.

Televised trials sensationalize the judicial system and turn lawyers, judges and other assorted courthouse kibitzers into the legal equivalent of sports talk radio. But the one thing that we must acknowledge about the broadcasting of the proceedings is that it made it clear that this was a complicated case that bore little resemblance to the invective and cant about it that was so common among those who spoke about it in the mainstream press prior to the trial. Thus, when the jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges against him, no one who actually watched much of the trial could have been surprised. Though no one other than Zimmerman knows for sure what happened, the evidence seemed to support his claim of self-defense and established clear reasonable doubt about any of the prosecution’s accusations.

Yet now that the trial is over, much of the media seems to have reverted to its previous pattern of treating Zimmerman’s racism and guilt as givens. In much of the mainstream media today, but especially on MSNBC, the verdict has been treated as a green light not only for recriminations about the verdict but an excuse for an all-out, nonstop stream of racial incitement. Where last week it seemed most Americans were rightly trying to assess the virtues of the two sides’ arguments in a hard-fought case, today many liberals among the chattering classes in the media, pop culture and politics have regressed to stereotypes and mindless assumptions that tell us more about their own prejudices than about the supposedly racist state of American justice.

It must be re-stated that the death of Martin was a tragedy. Zimmerman is no hero for having killed an unarmed youth, even if the truth about Martin (that was not heard in court) is that he was not a choir boy. Even though the evidence made a not-guilty verdict inevitable, his behavior was at best questionable and at worst irresponsible. But the problem here was always that the facts of what was a confusing case, in which a Hispanic man who had been beat up killed his assailant in what both police and prosecutors saw as a case of self-defense, simply didn’t fit into the narrative about racism that so many on the left insisted must be the only possible way to interpret the incident.

Yet now that they are freed from the necessity of having to react to the defense’s case and the almost comical weakness of the prosecution’s argument, the liberal media has thrown off all constraints and reverted to the narrative about racial profiling and a martyred victim.

Today on MSNBC, numerous commentators have insisted that the prosecution pulled its punches instead of actually doing all in its power to convict Zimmerman even to the point of tricks in which they sought to withhold evidence. The jury is now denounced as an “all-white” southern panel that is no different from those of the Jim Crow past that tilted the justice system against blacks. Worst of all, professional racial hucksters like MSNBC’s Al Sharpton have been unleashed to treat weeks of evidence and argument about the truth of the accusations against Zimmerman as if they never happened and to gin up protests that will do nothing but enhance the profile of “activists” such as himself. Since the only verdict the left would have accepted is a guilty one, the failure of the prosecution, the behavior of the judge and the judgment of the jury are now being treated as an extension of American’s history of racism. The result is a wave of incitement about race that is painting the same country that just reelected an African-American to the presidency as if it were the segregated and intolerant nation of a century ago.

This is slander, but if much of the media (especially MSNBC, a network that faces a lawsuit for editing of the tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call that made him appear a racist and whose in-house token conservative Joe Scarborough called Zimmerman a “murderer”) really thinks the problem with the trial is that there wasn’t enough race baiting, it is a sign we are in for a new wave of hateful and dangerous invective streaming forth from these outlets that could have incalculable costs.

The reaction of most of the public to the case in the past few weeks while the trial was being televised was testimony to a new maturity about the discussion of race. 

The viewers understood that the tragic death of Martin was the product of a complex set of circumstances and not a morality play. Yet what some in the liberal media—and virtually everyone blathering on MSNBC today—are desperate to do is to ignore the evidence and try to transform it into a discussion of white supremacy or their politicized efforts to ban guns or amend laws that enable people to defend themselves against assailants.

Should President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder heed these voices of incitement and plunge the country into more months or even years of racial arguments by pursuing a foolish effort to charge Zimmerman with civil rights violations, the big loser isn’t so much the man who was acquitted on Saturday night as it is the country. America has come a long way since the days of Jim Crow and made too much progress to allow the likes of Sharpton and the rest of the MSNBC crew to emphasize and exploit racial divisions in order to advance their own radical political agenda at the expense of building understanding between groups and individuals.

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Sharpton, Issa and Living Down the Past

The big kerfuffle of the day concerns the attack on Representative Darrell Issa by presidential political advisor David Plouffe. In order to deflect attention away from Issa’s over-the-top, if accurate claim yesterday that White House press spokesman Jay Carney was a “paid liar” for his well-documented diversions from the truth about Benghazi as well as shifting stories on press snooping and the IRS scandal, Plouffe said this about the chair of the House Oversight Committee on Twitter:

Strong words from Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler. And loose ethically today.

The reference is to a series of charges leveled at Issa in his youth, all of which date back to incidents in the 1970s and early 1980s, and none of which were ever successfully prosecuted. A look at the New Yorker profile about Issa where Plouffe got his material makes it seem as if Issa had a rather tumultuous youth even if he is a self-made millionaire who seems to be the model for today’s high-tech entrepreneurs.

But if the several-decades-old skeletons in Issa’s closet are fair game for political commentary, one has to wonder why it is that a discussion of the ethics and probity of one of MSNBC’s current political commentators has been considered a breach of etiquette for most liberals and Democrats.

I refer, of course, to the record of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, who began as a street-smart racial hustler and is now a respected former presidential candidate and commentator. In the world of MSNBC, Sharpton is not merely just another liberal talking head; he’s the voice of the civil rights movement used in the network’s promotional videos as an avatar of the cause of equality.

But give credit to the New York Times for commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tawana Brawley hoax in an online documentary that pays special attention to the role of Sharpton in what was one of the most outrageous instances of public lying in memory.

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The big kerfuffle of the day concerns the attack on Representative Darrell Issa by presidential political advisor David Plouffe. In order to deflect attention away from Issa’s over-the-top, if accurate claim yesterday that White House press spokesman Jay Carney was a “paid liar” for his well-documented diversions from the truth about Benghazi as well as shifting stories on press snooping and the IRS scandal, Plouffe said this about the chair of the House Oversight Committee on Twitter:

Strong words from Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler. And loose ethically today.

The reference is to a series of charges leveled at Issa in his youth, all of which date back to incidents in the 1970s and early 1980s, and none of which were ever successfully prosecuted. A look at the New Yorker profile about Issa where Plouffe got his material makes it seem as if Issa had a rather tumultuous youth even if he is a self-made millionaire who seems to be the model for today’s high-tech entrepreneurs.

But if the several-decades-old skeletons in Issa’s closet are fair game for political commentary, one has to wonder why it is that a discussion of the ethics and probity of one of MSNBC’s current political commentators has been considered a breach of etiquette for most liberals and Democrats.

I refer, of course, to the record of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, who began as a street-smart racial hustler and is now a respected former presidential candidate and commentator. In the world of MSNBC, Sharpton is not merely just another liberal talking head; he’s the voice of the civil rights movement used in the network’s promotional videos as an avatar of the cause of equality.

But give credit to the New York Times for commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tawana Brawley hoax in an online documentary that pays special attention to the role of Sharpton in what was one of the most outrageous instances of public lying in memory.

While the name Tawana Brawley is still virtually synonymous with false charges of rape and racism, Sharpton’s part in that disgraceful episode has somehow been shoved down the memory hole by both the political class and the mainstream media, both of which welcomed Sharpton’s entry into their numbers with open arms in the last decade. Looking at Sharpton today as he preens on MSNBC where he is treated as a distinguished civil rights leader and pundit, it’s as if his voluminous record of race baiting disappeared with all the excess weight he lost in recent years before becoming as slim as his good friend Barack Obama.

Much of that record is rightly re-told in an essay in today’s Daily Beast by Stuart Stevens, who makes clear that the Brawley incident was just one of a series of events in which Sharpton told lies and incited hatred against whites and Jews in the hope of making a name for himself. Sharpton succeeded in that effort despite the fact that, as the Times documentary recounts, he was definitively exposed as a liar, falsely accusing a dead state trooper as well as a local prosecutor of taking part in a racially motivated rape of Brawley.

Sharpton’s tactics before he joined the ranks of distinguished talking heads centered on saying the most absurd lies loudly and as often as he could, confident that no one would or could call him out for his buffoonery. But the Brawley case was a bridge too far even for Sharpton and the two extremist lawyers–Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason–who were his accomplices. Their client’s bizarre story was easily proved to be a fabrication, making their disgusting accusations not merely wrong but malicious and knowingly false as a grand jury investigation as well as a defamation suit against Sharpton proved.

But all these years later, Sharpton is unrepentant about his behavior, merely claiming that he repeated his client’s lies and thought he was telling the truth. Even worse, he still seeks to muddy the waters by claiming “something happened” when he and the rest of the world knows very well that the only thing that happened was that a scared kid told a lie and was exploited by racial hucksters who amplified those lies in order to hype their own reputations.

You can’t entirely blame MSNBC for treating Sharpton as if his past didn’t matter. The national Democratic Party did the same in 2004 when Sharpton ran as a candidate in their presidential primaries. Just as New York politicians feared angering the rabble rouser in his days before the Brawley case damaged his brand, Democrats chose not to raise the question of his past during debates and instead embraced him as part of their party’s big tent. Ever since then, he’s been able to repeat this feat to the point that it is considered bad manners to even mention Brawley, the Crown Heights pogrom where his anti-Semitic comments helped foment a riot or Freddie’s Fashion Mart, where another piece of Sharpton incitement led to a fire that killed seven people.

Let’s remember that whatever you may think about the old stories about Issa, he was never convicted of thing whereas official proceedings in the Brawley case branded Sharpton a reckless and cynical liar. As Stevens writes, MSNBC executives need to watch the Times documentary and then explain to their kids “why everything you’ve tried to teach them about honesty, fair play, and decency is wrong and Al Sharpton is right.”

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Dems Play Race Card on Holder Vote

I wrote about Rep. Nancy Pelosi putting out the feelers on this ludicrous argument last week, and now it sounds like Democrats are actually going ahead with it. True, the idea that the Eric Holder contempt vote is connected to his efforts to fight “minority voter suppression” is deranged, not just because it makes no sense from a timeline perspective but also because it would require you to willfully ignore his repeated attempts to hinder the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.” Unless you want to try to argue that Republicans somehow forced him to be uncooperative with an investigating committee.

This Democratic pushback campaign is being led by none other than MSNBC “News Anchor” Rev. Al Sharpton, reports The Hill:

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton…scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants.

“I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on Tuesday],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.”

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I wrote about Rep. Nancy Pelosi putting out the feelers on this ludicrous argument last week, and now it sounds like Democrats are actually going ahead with it. True, the idea that the Eric Holder contempt vote is connected to his efforts to fight “minority voter suppression” is deranged, not just because it makes no sense from a timeline perspective but also because it would require you to willfully ignore his repeated attempts to hinder the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.” Unless you want to try to argue that Republicans somehow forced him to be uncooperative with an investigating committee.

This Democratic pushback campaign is being led by none other than MSNBC “News Anchor” Rev. Al Sharpton, reports The Hill:

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton…scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants.

“I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on Tuesday],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.”

Do news anchors often hold press conferences to attack members of a political party? Congratulations MSNBC, your news channel is officially a laughing stock.

As for the argument about voter suppression, I highly doubt this will be effective. Democrats can’t defend Holder on the merits so they’re trying to change the subject — and people will see through that quickly.

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Hypocritical Dems In No Position to Blast GOP Over Paul

For years, Democrats have been on the defensive about the not inconsiderable portion of their party that was hostile to the State of Israel. But the attention and support being given Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race is giving them an opportunity to roast members of the GOP for refusing to treat the libertarian extremist as being beyond the pale of American politics. Thus, it was no surprise to read that the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for saying they would vote for Paul if he turned out to be the Republican nominee.

But to say this stance is hypocritical is an understatement. Did Jewish Democrats denounce their mainstream candidates for cozying up to racial hucksters and foes of Israel such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and pretending, as Romney and Santorum now do for Paul, that these persons were preferable to any Republican? Did they denounce their party for treating Jimmy Carter as a respected elder statesman? Of course not. Though it is troubling to see the other GOP candidates treat Paul as if he were a reasonable presidential choice, that is the way the game is played. Democrats are no more righteous in this respect than Republicans.

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For years, Democrats have been on the defensive about the not inconsiderable portion of their party that was hostile to the State of Israel. But the attention and support being given Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race is giving them an opportunity to roast members of the GOP for refusing to treat the libertarian extremist as being beyond the pale of American politics. Thus, it was no surprise to read that the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for saying they would vote for Paul if he turned out to be the Republican nominee.

But to say this stance is hypocritical is an understatement. Did Jewish Democrats denounce their mainstream candidates for cozying up to racial hucksters and foes of Israel such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and pretending, as Romney and Santorum now do for Paul, that these persons were preferable to any Republican? Did they denounce their party for treating Jimmy Carter as a respected elder statesman? Of course not. Though it is troubling to see the other GOP candidates treat Paul as if he were a reasonable presidential choice, that is the way the game is played. Democrats are no more righteous in this respect than Republicans.

In truth, much of the Republican Party has rightly treated Paul as anathema. The Republican Jewish Coalition rightly refused to invite him to their presidential forum. It is also reassuring to see that the other candidates are finally shifting from a strategy of ignoring Paul’s radical approach to foreign policy and instead pointing out just how dangerous he and his ideas are.

But to expect the leading candidates to go out of their way to snub Paul or to declare him unfit for the presidency is unrealistic. Just as Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry held their noses and pretended that Jackson and Sharpton were reasonable alternatives for the presidency because they wanted their supporters’ votes in the fall, so, too, do Republicans pander to Paul.

The emergence of Paul is a worrisome sign not just for Republicans but all Americans. The limited success he has enjoyed so far illustrates that despite the overwhelming support of most Americans across the political spectrum for Israel, there is still a good-sized minority on the margins of both the left and the right that must be confronted. It is to be hoped Paul’s numbers will decline as his connections with racist and extremist forces get more exposure.

It is some consolation to Republicans that Paul does far better in the polls with Democrats and independents than he does with Republicans, a point that should give partisans like the NJDC pause before they speak too loudly about the libertarian’s source of support. Given that polls also show Republicans to be even more devoted to Israel than most Democrats, there is no chance he will be the nominee.

But it takes an extra helping of chutzpah for the NJDC, a group that has relentlessly defended every swipe at Israel on the part of the Obama administration, to start demanding Republicans take loyalty tests to the Jewish state. Though the NJDC claims Republicans who refuse to condemn Paul are putting party above principle, their endless apologias for Obama and other liberal Democrats who have distanced themselves from Israel are no different than the trimming being done by Romney and Santorum about Paul.

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RE: Peter Beinart’s Lamentation

Pete, I was torn about whether to follow up on your very adept post concerning Peter Beinart’s frustration (as well as that of much of the left) with Obama, America, etc. But I think it is important to call out blatant religious bigotry, and so, at the risk of drawing more eyeballs to his noxious discourse, I decided that this portion of Beinart’s rant deserves further comment:

Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place. Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage. In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry. I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.

And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

This is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. Not to belabor the point, but Beinart knows as much about religious conservatives as he does about Israel — i.e., most of what he “knows” is wrong. There is great commonality among people of faith, and it is not based on cartoonish prejudices. Needless to say, what brings together observant Baptists, Catholics, and Jews — as well as a great many others — are quaint notions like the centrality of the Bible in their lives, the objection to hyper-secularism (which seeks to crowd them out of the public square), and, yes, a deep faith that America is a blessed nation with certain responsibilities in the world.

Sarah Palin cares not one wit about Rauf’s views on anything but the issue at hand, because she, unlike Beinart, can stick to the point. That point, in case we’ve lost track, is whether we should cheer a provocateur who will bring (and already has) untold strife to the country, anguish to 9/11 survivors, and cheers from jihadists, who would see the Ground Zero mosque as a triumphant symbol of Islam. As for Romney, I don’t recall his advancing views all that different from a number of Muslims. Or Howard Dean (who seems to realize that the Ground Zero mosque is “not about the rights of Muslims to have a worship center … it is a real affront to people who lost their lives”).

As for Beinart’s second paragraph, it is an unfortunate example of the bile that can be splattered on Jews by Jews, with nary an eyebrow raised by elite opinion makers. Had Pat Buchanan, to whom Beinart lately bears an uncanny resemblance, accused Jews of walking with Father Coughlin, or had Al Sharpton (before becoming part of polite liberal company) referred to Jews as “effortlessly white,” I imagine all sorts of elites would be throwing a fit. But now it is par for the course.

Beinart has either lost control of himself or is out to best the Beagle Blogger in playing to the angry, unreasoned left. There are, after all, lucrative books deals in doing that. Who knows what his motives are, but he might want to stop before Politico runs a forum on whether he, too, has gone around the bend.

Pete, I was torn about whether to follow up on your very adept post concerning Peter Beinart’s frustration (as well as that of much of the left) with Obama, America, etc. But I think it is important to call out blatant religious bigotry, and so, at the risk of drawing more eyeballs to his noxious discourse, I decided that this portion of Beinart’s rant deserves further comment:

Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place. Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage. In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry. I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.

And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

This is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. Not to belabor the point, but Beinart knows as much about religious conservatives as he does about Israel — i.e., most of what he “knows” is wrong. There is great commonality among people of faith, and it is not based on cartoonish prejudices. Needless to say, what brings together observant Baptists, Catholics, and Jews — as well as a great many others — are quaint notions like the centrality of the Bible in their lives, the objection to hyper-secularism (which seeks to crowd them out of the public square), and, yes, a deep faith that America is a blessed nation with certain responsibilities in the world.

Sarah Palin cares not one wit about Rauf’s views on anything but the issue at hand, because she, unlike Beinart, can stick to the point. That point, in case we’ve lost track, is whether we should cheer a provocateur who will bring (and already has) untold strife to the country, anguish to 9/11 survivors, and cheers from jihadists, who would see the Ground Zero mosque as a triumphant symbol of Islam. As for Romney, I don’t recall his advancing views all that different from a number of Muslims. Or Howard Dean (who seems to realize that the Ground Zero mosque is “not about the rights of Muslims to have a worship center … it is a real affront to people who lost their lives”).

As for Beinart’s second paragraph, it is an unfortunate example of the bile that can be splattered on Jews by Jews, with nary an eyebrow raised by elite opinion makers. Had Pat Buchanan, to whom Beinart lately bears an uncanny resemblance, accused Jews of walking with Father Coughlin, or had Al Sharpton (before becoming part of polite liberal company) referred to Jews as “effortlessly white,” I imagine all sorts of elites would be throwing a fit. But now it is par for the course.

Beinart has either lost control of himself or is out to best the Beagle Blogger in playing to the angry, unreasoned left. There are, after all, lucrative books deals in doing that. Who knows what his motives are, but he might want to stop before Politico runs a forum on whether he, too, has gone around the bend.

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Paterson, Spitzer, Sharpton — An Eternal Golden Braid

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

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Colorblind or Just Blind?

As Abe noted earlier, today Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post lacerates Hillary Clinton for her statement in USA Today that Barack Obama’s coalition among “hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton is, according to Robinson, playing the race card again. And he writes this:

How silly of me. I thought the Democratic Party believed in a colorblind America.

Come again? Democrats believe in a “colorblind America”? If that’s the case, then how would Robinson explain why the Democratic Party has been leading the charge for race-based quotas and set-asides over the years? That they promote justices who want to take race into account in their judicial rulings? Just how is it that liberals count by race and reward points by race and reduce as many issues as they can to race–yet insist all the while that they believe in a colorblind society? And while we’re at it: how does Robinson explain the fact that “civil rights” activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who over the years have done so much to create, exploit, and fuel racial tensions in this nation (including Sharpton’s despicable role in the Tawana Brawley case), find a comfortable home in the Democratic Party?

One may agree or disagree with using race as a consideration in, say, college admissions. Reasonable people can debate what role, if any, race should play in such matters. (I side with Professor Alexander Bickel, who in The Morality of Consent wrote, “[A] racial quota derogates the human dignity and individuality of all to whom it is applied; it is invidious in principle as well as in practice… The history of the racial quota is a history of subjugation, not beneficence…. a quota is a divider of society, a creator of castes, and it is all the worse for its racial base, especially in a society desperately striving for an equality that will make race irrelevant.”) But whatever those who advocate such positions are promoting, it is not a colorblind America. It is, in fact, the very opposite. And surely Eugene Robinson must, on some level, know it. How silly of him to claim what is so clearly not true.

As Abe noted earlier, today Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post lacerates Hillary Clinton for her statement in USA Today that Barack Obama’s coalition among “hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton is, according to Robinson, playing the race card again. And he writes this:

How silly of me. I thought the Democratic Party believed in a colorblind America.

Come again? Democrats believe in a “colorblind America”? If that’s the case, then how would Robinson explain why the Democratic Party has been leading the charge for race-based quotas and set-asides over the years? That they promote justices who want to take race into account in their judicial rulings? Just how is it that liberals count by race and reward points by race and reduce as many issues as they can to race–yet insist all the while that they believe in a colorblind society? And while we’re at it: how does Robinson explain the fact that “civil rights” activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who over the years have done so much to create, exploit, and fuel racial tensions in this nation (including Sharpton’s despicable role in the Tawana Brawley case), find a comfortable home in the Democratic Party?

One may agree or disagree with using race as a consideration in, say, college admissions. Reasonable people can debate what role, if any, race should play in such matters. (I side with Professor Alexander Bickel, who in The Morality of Consent wrote, “[A] racial quota derogates the human dignity and individuality of all to whom it is applied; it is invidious in principle as well as in practice… The history of the racial quota is a history of subjugation, not beneficence…. a quota is a divider of society, a creator of castes, and it is all the worse for its racial base, especially in a society desperately striving for an equality that will make race irrelevant.”) But whatever those who advocate such positions are promoting, it is not a colorblind America. It is, in fact, the very opposite. And surely Eugene Robinson must, on some level, know it. How silly of him to claim what is so clearly not true.

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Bigot Bowl

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

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Acquitting Cops

Once again, in New York City, cops charged with serious felony offenses after the shooting death of a black man who later proved to be unarmed have been acquitted.

If you have heard about the case, you probably know only that Sean Bell, the man who was killed, was due to be married the next day and that the three police officers discharged 50 bullets from their guns. What you may not know is that the bullets were fired outside a club known to be a drug den in the midst of a complicated melee late at night involving a violent confrontation on the sidewalk between civilians, a call for police backup, a cop knocked down by a fleeing car, a lot of screaming, and total confusion.

The number of bullets fired has been the mantra in this case — 50 shots, 50 shots. (A rapper named Papoose wrote a ditty with this as the subtitle, which is primarily notable for being the only work of hip-hop in which my name is mentioned.) But as the judge who decided the case indicated, the number of bullets fired is immaterial. The question is, did the police act so recklessly as to rise to a criminal standard? The answer, after two months of testimony, was that the witnesses on the scene were eminently untrustworthy in the claims they made about the misbehavior of the police officers.

It is true that police officers have a special responsibility because they are the only authorities inside the United States legally authorized to use deadly force. At the same time, they must be permitted to defend themselves against violent assault. It was clear, the day after the event, that everything went haywire on that Queens street — that there were scared and violent and drunken people acting up, that a cop was hit by a car, and that chaos ensued. What happened was a tragedy, but it was not a crime.

But there were crimes that followed it — political crimes of a sort, as a preening Mayor Mike Bloomberg all but declared the police officers in the case guilty before there had even been an investigation. So concerned was Bloomberg with the state of his own reputation as a racial healer that he allowed himself to be used as a prop by the most noxious person in New York, Al Sharpton, whose blood-stained hand a far better mayor than Bloomberg refused even to shake.

This is another detail to add to the proper accounting of Bloomberg’s problematic mayoralty.

Once again, in New York City, cops charged with serious felony offenses after the shooting death of a black man who later proved to be unarmed have been acquitted.

If you have heard about the case, you probably know only that Sean Bell, the man who was killed, was due to be married the next day and that the three police officers discharged 50 bullets from their guns. What you may not know is that the bullets were fired outside a club known to be a drug den in the midst of a complicated melee late at night involving a violent confrontation on the sidewalk between civilians, a call for police backup, a cop knocked down by a fleeing car, a lot of screaming, and total confusion.

The number of bullets fired has been the mantra in this case — 50 shots, 50 shots. (A rapper named Papoose wrote a ditty with this as the subtitle, which is primarily notable for being the only work of hip-hop in which my name is mentioned.) But as the judge who decided the case indicated, the number of bullets fired is immaterial. The question is, did the police act so recklessly as to rise to a criminal standard? The answer, after two months of testimony, was that the witnesses on the scene were eminently untrustworthy in the claims they made about the misbehavior of the police officers.

It is true that police officers have a special responsibility because they are the only authorities inside the United States legally authorized to use deadly force. At the same time, they must be permitted to defend themselves against violent assault. It was clear, the day after the event, that everything went haywire on that Queens street — that there were scared and violent and drunken people acting up, that a cop was hit by a car, and that chaos ensued. What happened was a tragedy, but it was not a crime.

But there were crimes that followed it — political crimes of a sort, as a preening Mayor Mike Bloomberg all but declared the police officers in the case guilty before there had even been an investigation. So concerned was Bloomberg with the state of his own reputation as a racial healer that he allowed himself to be used as a prop by the most noxious person in New York, Al Sharpton, whose blood-stained hand a far better mayor than Bloomberg refused even to shake.

This is another detail to add to the proper accounting of Bloomberg’s problematic mayoralty.

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Steeling for Obama’s Loss

Paul Waldman, an employee of David Brock’s Media Matters for America, has written a somewhat overwrought piece for The American Prospect, darkly warning that conservatives are only now beginning to unravel their long-planned “hate-based campaign against Obama.” They will, according to Waldman, “wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds.” Waldman would have us believe that Jeremiah Wright is the creation of Rupert Murdoch, and that any questions about his ties to Barack Obama are de facto evidence of racism.

But Wright is, apparently just the beginning of the conservative assault on Obama:

He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcom X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.

Yes, you read that correctly. Come November, should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, expect to see advertisements scaring white housewives into thinking that Barack Obama will kill their husbands and rape them.

Now, it’s unlikely that even the most craven of right-wing dirty tricksters would employ such low tactics. But some people have tried to smear Obama this way, as Waldman conspicuously neglects to mention. And those people were the Clintons. (I guess they must be really, really deep-cover agents of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Or something.)

In Waldman’s essay you can already see how the left wing of the Democratic party will react should Barack Obama not win the presidency. There won’t be any discussion of his policies or his abilities as a campaigner. There won’t be a crisis of self-questioning on the part of his supporters. There will, however, be thoughtlessly-hurled accusations of racism. And plenty of them.

Paul Waldman, an employee of David Brock’s Media Matters for America, has written a somewhat overwrought piece for The American Prospect, darkly warning that conservatives are only now beginning to unravel their long-planned “hate-based campaign against Obama.” They will, according to Waldman, “wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds.” Waldman would have us believe that Jeremiah Wright is the creation of Rupert Murdoch, and that any questions about his ties to Barack Obama are de facto evidence of racism.

But Wright is, apparently just the beginning of the conservative assault on Obama:

He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcom X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.

Yes, you read that correctly. Come November, should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, expect to see advertisements scaring white housewives into thinking that Barack Obama will kill their husbands and rape them.

Now, it’s unlikely that even the most craven of right-wing dirty tricksters would employ such low tactics. But some people have tried to smear Obama this way, as Waldman conspicuously neglects to mention. And those people were the Clintons. (I guess they must be really, really deep-cover agents of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Or something.)

In Waldman’s essay you can already see how the left wing of the Democratic party will react should Barack Obama not win the presidency. There won’t be any discussion of his policies or his abilities as a campaigner. There won’t be a crisis of self-questioning on the part of his supporters. There will, however, be thoughtlessly-hurled accusations of racism. And plenty of them.

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It’s About Politics, Not Race

The revelations about Jeremiah Wright are so strange precisely because it’s next to impossible to imagine Barack Obama agreeing at all with this man’s incendiary remarks. I don’t think for a second that Obama’s cool demeanor is a put-on; that he’s masking some sort of pent-up anger and resentment. Yet Obama obviously respects Wright, and has for some time. This leaves me to consider what is it about Wright that so attracts Obama. And that leads me to some troubling conclusions.

Given everything that is known about Barack Obama, and the totality of what he has written and said, there is absolutely no reason to believe that he adheres to the racial grievance theory of America articulated by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, whatever the Clintons might want to imply. Rather, the legitimate concern about Obama ought to be, and has always been, about his politics. Is he sympathetic to the hard left narrative of America, and if so, does this influence his views about the use of American power? The recent remarks of his wife suggest that he might; one hears a distinct echo of Wright in her statements about this country. Instead of worrying about what Obama knew and when he knew it, we should be asking him what he thinks of Harry Truman (strange that this titan of the anti-communist cause and the Democratic Party never appears anywhere in Obama’s rhetoric) and the way he went about ending World War II. That seems like a far more relevant, not to mention fair, question for a commander in chief than, “Do you agree with your Pastor that the government invented HIV to kill black people?”

The revelations about Jeremiah Wright are so strange precisely because it’s next to impossible to imagine Barack Obama agreeing at all with this man’s incendiary remarks. I don’t think for a second that Obama’s cool demeanor is a put-on; that he’s masking some sort of pent-up anger and resentment. Yet Obama obviously respects Wright, and has for some time. This leaves me to consider what is it about Wright that so attracts Obama. And that leads me to some troubling conclusions.

Given everything that is known about Barack Obama, and the totality of what he has written and said, there is absolutely no reason to believe that he adheres to the racial grievance theory of America articulated by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, whatever the Clintons might want to imply. Rather, the legitimate concern about Obama ought to be, and has always been, about his politics. Is he sympathetic to the hard left narrative of America, and if so, does this influence his views about the use of American power? The recent remarks of his wife suggest that he might; one hears a distinct echo of Wright in her statements about this country. Instead of worrying about what Obama knew and when he knew it, we should be asking him what he thinks of Harry Truman (strange that this titan of the anti-communist cause and the Democratic Party never appears anywhere in Obama’s rhetoric) and the way he went about ending World War II. That seems like a far more relevant, not to mention fair, question for a commander in chief than, “Do you agree with your Pastor that the government invented HIV to kill black people?”

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Carter, Annan to Head Peace Mission to Mideast

No, really: that’s the headline of the story. Here are the details:

The council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to help ease tensions in the troubled Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Irish president Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia from April 13th to April 21st.

In other news, Rudy Giuliani and Benjamin Netanyahu will head a mission to Tehran seeking to ease international tensions over the Iranian nuclear program, Lou Dobbs is leading a delegation to Mexico City that hopes to assuage controversy about illegal immigration, and Al Sharpton will be appearing at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center to speak about his leadership in promoting social harmony between blacks and Jews.

No, really: that’s the headline of the story. Here are the details:

The council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to help ease tensions in the troubled Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Irish president Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia from April 13th to April 21st.

In other news, Rudy Giuliani and Benjamin Netanyahu will head a mission to Tehran seeking to ease international tensions over the Iranian nuclear program, Lou Dobbs is leading a delegation to Mexico City that hopes to assuage controversy about illegal immigration, and Al Sharpton will be appearing at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center to speak about his leadership in promoting social harmony between blacks and Jews.

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Mr. Sharpton’s Neighborhood

New York magazine recently reported on the continuing political influence of Al Sharpton, a man whose last foray into politics was the 2004 Democratic presidential primary in which he received negligible support. For some inexplicable reason, Sharpton plays the role of kingmaker in Democratic circles, with candidates falsely assuming that he holds sway with black voters. Sitting with him at the swank Grand Havana Room on Fifth Avenue, Geoffrey Gray listens to voicemails left on Sharpton’s phone from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seeking Sharpton’s advice. “In the end they may all hate my guts,” Sharpton says. “But it’s the reality of the landscape . . . how much they need me and how bad. I’m sure right now they know they need me.”

One would hope that the F.B.I.’s subpoenaing several of Sharpton’s closest associates as part of an investigation to determine whether he swindled the government out of federal campaign-matching funds four years ago would dissuade the leading Democratic contenders from so shamelessly paying obeisance to this man. But if instigating race riots and defaming public servants were not enough to get Sharpton booted out of respectable circles, what’s a little embezzlement of taxpayer money?

Sharpton’s lawyer told the New York Daily News “I can’t think of a time when the Rev. Sharpton wasn’t under investigation,” which is probably accurate. His latest travails conjure up memory of this December 2000 New York Times article–perhaps the most hilarious item ever to appear in the paper–detailing a deposition Sharpton gave to the lawyers of the prosecutor he defamed in the Tawana Brawley case:

The company, he says, pays part of his rent and all of his utilities for the family home on Ditmas Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn. It bought some of his furniture and a couple of his business suits. It pays for most of his telephone calls. He says it now pays the $15,000 tuition for each of his two young daughters who attend the prestigious Brooklyn private school Poly Prep Country Day School. . . .
Mr. Bolnick wanted to know if Rev. Als Productions maintained an office in Mr. Sharpton’s home. Mr. Sharpton said it did.

”A separate entrance?” Mr. Bolnick asked.

”We use the front entrance for Rev. Als,” Mr. Sharpton said. ”The back entrance is what we use for the family and guests.”

Mr. Bolnick seemed a bit confused. ”But when I walk in the front door to visit, to make a business meeting with Rev. Als, I walk through your personal residence?”

Not exactly, Mr. Sharpton said. ”We consider it our personal residence, one part of the house, one that you would not walk through.”

The answer was still not getting through to Mr. Bolnick. He asked again, ”So I can go through the front door to Rev. Als without going through your personal residence?”

Mr. Sharpton then explained how his entertainment business related to his floor plan: ”We consider the living room and dining room part of Rev. Als. We entertain people for speaking engagements — hopefully the artist will sign with us. That’s all part of doing the business.”

”If I have Artist A at 1902 Ditmas and they eat in the dining room,” he said, ”that is a Rev. Als.”

The exchange ended with Mr. Bolnick noting that while he himself met clients in his living room, that did not make it an office.

”There is an office there,” Mr. Sharpton said of his house. ”But when you walk in the door, you are not walking into the office. But nor are you walking into my living quarters, either.”

On second thought, any politician worth his salt ought to be consulting Sharpton, whose parsing and inability to answer a simple question prove him to be a valuable political consultant.

New York magazine recently reported on the continuing political influence of Al Sharpton, a man whose last foray into politics was the 2004 Democratic presidential primary in which he received negligible support. For some inexplicable reason, Sharpton plays the role of kingmaker in Democratic circles, with candidates falsely assuming that he holds sway with black voters. Sitting with him at the swank Grand Havana Room on Fifth Avenue, Geoffrey Gray listens to voicemails left on Sharpton’s phone from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seeking Sharpton’s advice. “In the end they may all hate my guts,” Sharpton says. “But it’s the reality of the landscape . . . how much they need me and how bad. I’m sure right now they know they need me.”

One would hope that the F.B.I.’s subpoenaing several of Sharpton’s closest associates as part of an investigation to determine whether he swindled the government out of federal campaign-matching funds four years ago would dissuade the leading Democratic contenders from so shamelessly paying obeisance to this man. But if instigating race riots and defaming public servants were not enough to get Sharpton booted out of respectable circles, what’s a little embezzlement of taxpayer money?

Sharpton’s lawyer told the New York Daily News “I can’t think of a time when the Rev. Sharpton wasn’t under investigation,” which is probably accurate. His latest travails conjure up memory of this December 2000 New York Times article–perhaps the most hilarious item ever to appear in the paper–detailing a deposition Sharpton gave to the lawyers of the prosecutor he defamed in the Tawana Brawley case:

The company, he says, pays part of his rent and all of his utilities for the family home on Ditmas Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn. It bought some of his furniture and a couple of his business suits. It pays for most of his telephone calls. He says it now pays the $15,000 tuition for each of his two young daughters who attend the prestigious Brooklyn private school Poly Prep Country Day School. . . .
Mr. Bolnick wanted to know if Rev. Als Productions maintained an office in Mr. Sharpton’s home. Mr. Sharpton said it did.

”A separate entrance?” Mr. Bolnick asked.

”We use the front entrance for Rev. Als,” Mr. Sharpton said. ”The back entrance is what we use for the family and guests.”

Mr. Bolnick seemed a bit confused. ”But when I walk in the front door to visit, to make a business meeting with Rev. Als, I walk through your personal residence?”

Not exactly, Mr. Sharpton said. ”We consider it our personal residence, one part of the house, one that you would not walk through.”

The answer was still not getting through to Mr. Bolnick. He asked again, ”So I can go through the front door to Rev. Als without going through your personal residence?”

Mr. Sharpton then explained how his entertainment business related to his floor plan: ”We consider the living room and dining room part of Rev. Als. We entertain people for speaking engagements — hopefully the artist will sign with us. That’s all part of doing the business.”

”If I have Artist A at 1902 Ditmas and they eat in the dining room,” he said, ”that is a Rev. Als.”

The exchange ended with Mr. Bolnick noting that while he himself met clients in his living room, that did not make it an office.

”There is an office there,” Mr. Sharpton said of his house. ”But when you walk in the door, you are not walking into the office. But nor are you walking into my living quarters, either.”

On second thought, any politician worth his salt ought to be consulting Sharpton, whose parsing and inability to answer a simple question prove him to be a valuable political consultant.

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The Hack’s Back

Don Imus pretended to be outrageous, then Al Sharpton pretended to be outraged, forcing Imus to pretend to be contrite and the radio industry to pretend to banish him.

Now, the Tom Wolfery continues. The pseudo-political talk-show host returned to the air today with two new black sidekicks (an after-the-fact bit of racial pandering that actually is outrageous), and sold out New York City’s Town Hall for the event. Ticket sales are going to—need I even tell you—the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids With Cancer.

This morning Imus referred to his comments about Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team. According to the New York Times, Imus said:

“I will never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these young women at Rutgers regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology and forgave me . . . and no one else will say anything on my program that will make anyone think I did not deserve a second chance.”

I’ve always maintained this whole bonfire of the inanities wouldn’t have ignited if Imus were actually funny. The original spark, “They look like a bunch of nappy-headed hos,” simply isn’t a joke. It’s barely an attempt at one, and is purely and simply offensive in a number of ways. According to several accounts, Imus actually does have a bit of a race issue. I was happy to see him go, even if I was unhappy to celebrate in the company of hypocritical provocateurs like Sharpton.

Imus started out his radio career as a bona fide shock jock. When he began reading the op-ed page people called him smart; when he showed his true colors they condemned him. His return is an unsurprising acknowledgment of our ever-plunging standards. What’s worse is it’s demonstration that concepts like prejudice and enlightenment are now nothing more than phases in clashing PR campaigns. Which it to say they mean precisely nothing.

Update: Sharpton pretends to be encouraged.

Don Imus pretended to be outrageous, then Al Sharpton pretended to be outraged, forcing Imus to pretend to be contrite and the radio industry to pretend to banish him.

Now, the Tom Wolfery continues. The pseudo-political talk-show host returned to the air today with two new black sidekicks (an after-the-fact bit of racial pandering that actually is outrageous), and sold out New York City’s Town Hall for the event. Ticket sales are going to—need I even tell you—the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids With Cancer.

This morning Imus referred to his comments about Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team. According to the New York Times, Imus said:

“I will never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these young women at Rutgers regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology and forgave me . . . and no one else will say anything on my program that will make anyone think I did not deserve a second chance.”

I’ve always maintained this whole bonfire of the inanities wouldn’t have ignited if Imus were actually funny. The original spark, “They look like a bunch of nappy-headed hos,” simply isn’t a joke. It’s barely an attempt at one, and is purely and simply offensive in a number of ways. According to several accounts, Imus actually does have a bit of a race issue. I was happy to see him go, even if I was unhappy to celebrate in the company of hypocritical provocateurs like Sharpton.

Imus started out his radio career as a bona fide shock jock. When he began reading the op-ed page people called him smart; when he showed his true colors they condemned him. His return is an unsurprising acknowledgment of our ever-plunging standards. What’s worse is it’s demonstration that concepts like prejudice and enlightenment are now nothing more than phases in clashing PR campaigns. Which it to say they mean precisely nothing.

Update: Sharpton pretends to be encouraged.

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The Decline of Racial Politics

If the findings of a new Pew poll are any indication, race—or more specifically, the declining prospects of African-Americans—ought to be at the very center of the presidential campaign. Today, notes Juan Williams, summarizing the grim numbers,

only 20 percent of black Americans think life is generally better for black people than it was five years ago, the lowest positive response to that question in polls going back 24 years. Only 44 percent of black people expect life to get better; that’s well below the 57 percent who predicted a better life for black people when the same question was asked in 1986.

And yet, race is playing the smallest role in any election since 1964. Part of the reason for this is the absence of a black Democrat using the presidential primaries to campaign indirectly for the leadership of black America. There is no Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton in the contest. Barack Obama’s appeal, though it has a racial element, is primarily to the same sorts of upper-middle-class Americans who once thought Adlai Stevenson a model of gentlemanly intellect. But more importantly there has been a shift in attitudes that make it harder to use race as a political issue. The Pew Poll found that

71 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics feel that personal behavior—values, education, hard work—is what holds back those black Americans still trapped in poverty. But what is most striking is that a small majority, 53 percent, of black Americans agree that “blacks who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition.”

Read More

If the findings of a new Pew poll are any indication, race—or more specifically, the declining prospects of African-Americans—ought to be at the very center of the presidential campaign. Today, notes Juan Williams, summarizing the grim numbers,

only 20 percent of black Americans think life is generally better for black people than it was five years ago, the lowest positive response to that question in polls going back 24 years. Only 44 percent of black people expect life to get better; that’s well below the 57 percent who predicted a better life for black people when the same question was asked in 1986.

And yet, race is playing the smallest role in any election since 1964. Part of the reason for this is the absence of a black Democrat using the presidential primaries to campaign indirectly for the leadership of black America. There is no Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton in the contest. Barack Obama’s appeal, though it has a racial element, is primarily to the same sorts of upper-middle-class Americans who once thought Adlai Stevenson a model of gentlemanly intellect. But more importantly there has been a shift in attitudes that make it harder to use race as a political issue. The Pew Poll found that

71 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics feel that personal behavior—values, education, hard work—is what holds back those black Americans still trapped in poverty. But what is most striking is that a small majority, 53 percent, of black Americans agree that “blacks who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition.”

Confirmation of the shift described by the Pew Poll can be found in the controversy surrounding a new survey by Congressional Quarterly, which found that Detroit was the most crime ridden city: “More people were murdered in Detroit than in San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose combined—and each one of those cities has a bigger population than Detroit.” The findings were contested by the American Society of Criminology, which denounced it as an “irresponsible misuse” of crime data. Not surprisingly, Detroit’s African-American police chief concurred. “Every year,” said Ella Bully-Cummings, “this organization sends out a press release with big, bold lettering that labels a certain city as Most Dangerous, USA…. It really makes you wonder if the organization is truly concerned with evaluating crime or increasing its profit.”

But strikingly, the Detroit Free Press refused to be assuaged by Bully-Cummings’s attempts at displacement. The Free Press took mocking aim at the chief’s

bizarre defense that the report didn’t account for all the crime victims who are druggies and felons. That, of course, is supposed to show that crime isn’t “random” in Detroit, so the city is not that dangerous…. Applying the chief’s logic, why even bother to count undesirables as whole people? When a drug addict gets gunned down by a drug dealer, or an ex-con is shot in a robbery, those should be half-murders. A victim with two priors maybe counts as only a third.

(The phrase “whole people” refers, of course, to the Three-Fifths Compromise, the amendment to the Constitution that defined slaves as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of allocating seats in the House of Representatives.)

Philadelphia’s soaring black-on-black murder rate similarly has made it harder to play racial politics. In 2003, corrupt mayor John “If you want to play you have to pay” Street won re-election by campaigning against an alleged white racist plot against him. But the new mayor Michael Nutter (also an African-American) won by making honest administration and cleaning up the violent crime that’s shaken the city—and not institutional racism—the central campaign issues. “The sad truth,” argues Henry Louis Gates Jr., “is that the civil rights movement cannot be reborn until we identify the causes of black suffering, some of them self-inflicted.” There’s no political hay to be made out of that conclusion—which may be why it’s had such a hard time gaining traction.

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Barron Backs Barack

Yesterday, Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron. Tellingly, the first words to come from an Obama spokesperson were these:

Sen. Obama disagrees with Councilman Barron’s statements on several issues, but this campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences.

It’s understandable that the Obama campaign would seek to distance itself publicly from Barron, a former black panther. Barron’s history is littered with disgraceful behavior, the latest incident being his defense of a staffer, Viola Plummer, who threatened to kill a City Councilman (a particularly serious outburst considering the murder of Councilman James Davis, gunned down on the floor of the City Council chamber in the summer of 2003). Barron’s support for Plummer’s assassination threat was altogether unremarkable considering the fact that Barron is a long-time supporter of Robert Mugabe—a man who actually does kill his political opponents.

Endorsements are somewhat over-hyped occurrences in presidential campaigns, and there’s no reason to think that Obama shares the more controversial viewpoints, or approves of the outrageous tactics, of Charles Barron. Indeed, Obama has distinguished himself, in his rhetoric, from racial hucksters like Barron, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson (who in September complained that Obama was “acting like he’s white”). But this is the second controversial endorsement Obama has had to endure in just the past few weeks. His campaign recently invited the “ex-gay” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin (who has claimed that gays are “trying to kill our children”) to perform at a gospel concert in South Carolina. Obama stated that he does not agree with McClurkin’s views, but nevertheless has not disowned the performer’s endorsement.

Though Obama has tried to put some distance between himself and these disreputable figures, he must know how useful they might be in attracting black Democratic voters (who are, at the moment, overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton). Obama’s acceptance of these endorsements doesn’t mean he’s a racist or homophobe. But endorsements are nonetheless useful in making educated assumptions about the policies a candidate might pursue, and values he will reflect, if elected. These two recent ones suggest that for all of Obama’s talk about his purported wish to “unite” people and his supporters’ claims that his “campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences,” he can (or wants to) play partisan identity politics with the best of them. If Republicans constantly are vilified for the endorsements they garner, there’s no reason Democrats shouldn’t face the same scrutiny.

Yesterday, Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron. Tellingly, the first words to come from an Obama spokesperson were these:

Sen. Obama disagrees with Councilman Barron’s statements on several issues, but this campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences.

It’s understandable that the Obama campaign would seek to distance itself publicly from Barron, a former black panther. Barron’s history is littered with disgraceful behavior, the latest incident being his defense of a staffer, Viola Plummer, who threatened to kill a City Councilman (a particularly serious outburst considering the murder of Councilman James Davis, gunned down on the floor of the City Council chamber in the summer of 2003). Barron’s support for Plummer’s assassination threat was altogether unremarkable considering the fact that Barron is a long-time supporter of Robert Mugabe—a man who actually does kill his political opponents.

Endorsements are somewhat over-hyped occurrences in presidential campaigns, and there’s no reason to think that Obama shares the more controversial viewpoints, or approves of the outrageous tactics, of Charles Barron. Indeed, Obama has distinguished himself, in his rhetoric, from racial hucksters like Barron, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson (who in September complained that Obama was “acting like he’s white”). But this is the second controversial endorsement Obama has had to endure in just the past few weeks. His campaign recently invited the “ex-gay” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin (who has claimed that gays are “trying to kill our children”) to perform at a gospel concert in South Carolina. Obama stated that he does not agree with McClurkin’s views, but nevertheless has not disowned the performer’s endorsement.

Though Obama has tried to put some distance between himself and these disreputable figures, he must know how useful they might be in attracting black Democratic voters (who are, at the moment, overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton). Obama’s acceptance of these endorsements doesn’t mean he’s a racist or homophobe. But endorsements are nonetheless useful in making educated assumptions about the policies a candidate might pursue, and values he will reflect, if elected. These two recent ones suggest that for all of Obama’s talk about his purported wish to “unite” people and his supporters’ claims that his “campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences,” he can (or wants to) play partisan identity politics with the best of them. If Republicans constantly are vilified for the endorsements they garner, there’s no reason Democrats shouldn’t face the same scrutiny.

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The Politics of the Playground

Last month, in response to the overwhelming passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson had this to say:

Calling them names, labeling them terrorists, drawing up military options is just making the situation worse and inflaming the Muslim world.

That this utterance received so little attention might be due to the fact that it is only the latest in a string of Richardson gaffes, from a professed belief that homosexuality is a “choice” to calling Al Sharpton “governor” (woe betide the day Sharpton earns that title). Or perhaps the press largely ignored this statement because Richardson is a second-tier candidate. Either way, that a former Democratic Congressman, governor, potential Senator, and, most importantly, United Nations ambassador thinks that “calling [terrorists] names” is “making the situation [with Iran] worse” indicates that playground politics hold sway over an influential portion of the Democratic Party.

Read More

Last month, in response to the overwhelming passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson had this to say:

Calling them names, labeling them terrorists, drawing up military options is just making the situation worse and inflaming the Muslim world.

That this utterance received so little attention might be due to the fact that it is only the latest in a string of Richardson gaffes, from a professed belief that homosexuality is a “choice” to calling Al Sharpton “governor” (woe betide the day Sharpton earns that title). Or perhaps the press largely ignored this statement because Richardson is a second-tier candidate. Either way, that a former Democratic Congressman, governor, potential Senator, and, most importantly, United Nations ambassador thinks that “calling [terrorists] names” is “making the situation [with Iran] worse” indicates that playground politics hold sway over an influential portion of the Democratic Party.

It wasn’t always like this for the Democrats. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democratic Senator and, like Richardson, a United Nations ambassador, had no trouble calling authoritarians “names.” He famously called Idi Amin a “racist murderer” (which was actually letting the Ugandan strongman off lightly). Richardson’s mode of thinking represents a deep-seated and long-held belief on the Left: that America’s enemies have legitimate grievances and that every problem in the world ultimately can be laid at our feet. According to Richardson, it is not the Iranian regime’s killing of American soldiers, construction of a nuclear program, or decades-long international terrorism that is the root problem in our relationship with Tehran, but the United States’s “name calling.” We’re antagonizing “racist murderers” and “terrorists” by “calling them names,” and if we just cut it out Osama bin Laden would call off the jihad.

This is what many believed during the cold war: that the United States was “antagonizing” the Soviet Union with our calls for democracy and the funding of anti-Communist elements abroad. In this light, worldwide Soviet expansionism (violent and non-consensual) was an understandable reaction against the West’s “bellicosity.” It was on this basis that the muscular foreign policies of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, Democrats both, were denounced by fringes on both the Right and Left.

While once a minority viewpoint, this aversion to the mere act of calling our enemies what they in fact are—terrorists or Islamic fascists—is a form of self-hatred that now reigns in the Democratic Party. Those Democrats who are serious about the threats America faces would do well to ensure that such self-hatred stays out of the White House.

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