Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Sununu

The Rationale for the Racism Canard

Last week, John Sununu lost his perch as one of the Mitt Romney campaign’s leading cable news talking head surrogates when he surmised that the reason former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed President Obama again this year is because both men are African-American. While, as I wrote, there were other, perhaps more compelling reasons for Powell to back the president, liberals seized on Sununu’s statement as evidence of Republican racism. The race theme resurfaced again yesterday when liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan said on ABC’s “This Week” that the potential return of Virginia and Florida to the Republican column this year (along with likely GOP pickup North Carolina that he failed to mention) would mean the revival of “the Confederacy.”

Sullivan’s rather simplistic thesis was quickly shot down by George Will who pointed out that it was more likely that the whites who voted for Obama in 2008 but who won’t this year are judging the president on his performance in office rather than having become racist in the last four years. That’s obvious, but the willingness to jump on Sununu and to start talking about the Confederacy is no accident. In an election in which the president seems to be losing independents, Democrats desperately need voters to think more about Barack Obama’s historic status as the first African-American president and less about the record that he can’t run on. The president’s difficult electoral predicament is not a function of prejudice but the fact that more Americans are looking beyond race rather than obsessing about it.

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Last week, John Sununu lost his perch as one of the Mitt Romney campaign’s leading cable news talking head surrogates when he surmised that the reason former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed President Obama again this year is because both men are African-American. While, as I wrote, there were other, perhaps more compelling reasons for Powell to back the president, liberals seized on Sununu’s statement as evidence of Republican racism. The race theme resurfaced again yesterday when liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan said on ABC’s “This Week” that the potential return of Virginia and Florida to the Republican column this year (along with likely GOP pickup North Carolina that he failed to mention) would mean the revival of “the Confederacy.”

Sullivan’s rather simplistic thesis was quickly shot down by George Will who pointed out that it was more likely that the whites who voted for Obama in 2008 but who won’t this year are judging the president on his performance in office rather than having become racist in the last four years. That’s obvious, but the willingness to jump on Sununu and to start talking about the Confederacy is no accident. In an election in which the president seems to be losing independents, Democrats desperately need voters to think more about Barack Obama’s historic status as the first African-American president and less about the record that he can’t run on. The president’s difficult electoral predicament is not a function of prejudice but the fact that more Americans are looking beyond race rather than obsessing about it.

Race is the original sin of American history, and anyone who attempted to argue that it no longer plays a role in our society is being disingenuous. But while the 2008 election did not mean it disappeared, it did remove it as an explanation for the voting behavior of the majority of Americans. While it is possible that some people will not vote for the president because of prejudice against his race, it is hardly a sign of bias to notice that there are many Americans — both white and black — who believe the symbolism of his ascendancy to the presidency is an act of historic justice that is an argument in itself for voting for Obama. Indeed, the president has very little to recommend his re-election other than party loyalty on the part of Democrats and lingering good feelings about what happened in 2008.

By contrast, Sununu is not a particularly sympathetic figure, and there are those of us who still bitterly recall that when he was the governor of New Hampshire he was the only U.S. governor who refused to repudiate the United Nations’ infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution. But rehashing his past, including the ethical problems that led the first President Bush to fire him from his post as White House chief of staff, as the New York Times’ Charles Blow did this past weekend during the course of a column that attempted to first brand Sununu a racist and then to smear Romney as one by association, tells us more about the Obama campaign than it does about the GOP. That canard is a disreputable political tactic and nothing more.

The remarkable thing about both the 2008 and the 2012 elections is how unremarkable we have come to see the idea of an African-American running for and then serving as president. The decline in the president’s fortune has nothing to do with the revival of prejudice but is, instead, a result of the sober judgment of a significant portion of white Americans that the man they voted for in 2008 has not merited re-election. Republicans are asking the American people to assess the president on his record, not his race. It is, unfortunately, the Democrats who are the ones who are attempting inject race into the campaign.

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Dems Out Andrea Mitchell as Partisan

We’ve often noted in this space the enormous advantage President Obama derives from having the mainstream media firmly in his pocket. But it appears the geniuses running his campaign don’t understand that the best way to exploit this edge is not to make it so obvious as to remove any doubt that the press has gone in the tank. That was exactly what they did when they used a clip of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell spouting Obama talking points on the air in a new web ad.

NBC has reacted to this breach of the informal rules of engagement between liberal journos and the Obami with high dudgeon and has asked the Democrats to take the ad down. Much as they did when the president’s re-election campaign used a clip of Tom Brokaw, the network says that since they haven’t granted permission for the use of the material it ought not to be aired in the context of a partisan ad. But this complaint merely highlights the fact that people like Mitchell often carry the water for the president in segments that are labeled straight news when they are nothing more than partisan spin.

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We’ve often noted in this space the enormous advantage President Obama derives from having the mainstream media firmly in his pocket. But it appears the geniuses running his campaign don’t understand that the best way to exploit this edge is not to make it so obvious as to remove any doubt that the press has gone in the tank. That was exactly what they did when they used a clip of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell spouting Obama talking points on the air in a new web ad.

NBC has reacted to this breach of the informal rules of engagement between liberal journos and the Obami with high dudgeon and has asked the Democrats to take the ad down. Much as they did when the president’s re-election campaign used a clip of Tom Brokaw, the network says that since they haven’t granted permission for the use of the material it ought not to be aired in the context of a partisan ad. But this complaint merely highlights the fact that people like Mitchell often carry the water for the president in segments that are labeled straight news when they are nothing more than partisan spin.

Mitchell has come under increasing fire from media critics for conducting a series of hit and run attacks on Mitt Romney, exposed in a series of encounters on MSNBC with GOP surrogate John Sununu in which her partisanship is not debatable. In the clip used by the Obama campaign, Mitchell quotes a liberal group’s claim that Romney’s tax plan will cost $4.8 trillion and will therefore raise taxes on the middle class, a charge that other, more credible analysts, have debunked. This is a point on which even liberal fact checkers have concluded that the Democrats’ pants are on fire, but Mitchell loyally spouted the allegation on the air as if it were objective fact.

The scandal here is not, as NBC seems to be saying, that the Democrats are stealing their material without permission, but that the Democrats were not charged for the air time taken up by Mitchell’s flacking for Obama in the first place.

Mitchell is hardly the only partisan hack masquerading as a fair-minded journalist on one of the networks and perhaps isn’t even the worst (CNN’s Soledad O’Brien certainly gives her a run for her money in this category). But the Obama ad removes even the flimsy veil of false objectivity from her conduct.

But what is interesting is how obtuse the Obama campaign is about using Mitchell. Making her the star of an Obama ad just reinforces the point Sununu and others have made over and over again about her bias. But while the ad is paid for by the Democrats, the in-kind contributions they have been receiving from Mitchell and other liberal media spinners continues to be free of charge.

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