Commentary Magazine


Topic: race card

Colin Powell Plays the Race Card

These days Colin Powell assumes his primary purpose is to lecture Republicans on what it means to be a Republican. In order to pull this off–in order to have his words taken with more seriousness than, say, Rachel Maddow or Howard Dean–General Powell continues to insist that he’s a Republican. He does so despite the fact that he’s twice voted for Barack Obama.

Memo to Mr. Powell: If you’ve twice voted for Barack Obama, a man of deeply liberal/progressive philosophy and policies, you’re no Republican. Of course, there’s an obvious reason Powell continues to claim he’s a Republican. He knows it gives him greater standing to criticize the GOP, which is one of the main things he does these days.

Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” for example, Powell said there’s “a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party.” As evidence for this claim, Powell took issue with former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu calling Obama “lazy” after his poor showing at the first presidential debate last fall.

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These days Colin Powell assumes his primary purpose is to lecture Republicans on what it means to be a Republican. In order to pull this off–in order to have his words taken with more seriousness than, say, Rachel Maddow or Howard Dean–General Powell continues to insist that he’s a Republican. He does so despite the fact that he’s twice voted for Barack Obama.

Memo to Mr. Powell: If you’ve twice voted for Barack Obama, a man of deeply liberal/progressive philosophy and policies, you’re no Republican. Of course, there’s an obvious reason Powell continues to claim he’s a Republican. He knows it gives him greater standing to criticize the GOP, which is one of the main things he does these days.

Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” for example, Powell said there’s “a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party.” As evidence for this claim, Powell took issue with former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu calling Obama “lazy” after his poor showing at the first presidential debate last fall.

“He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well; he said he was ‘lazy,’” Powell said. “Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is ‘shiftless,’ and then there’s a third word that goes along with it.”

Here’s the problem with what Powell said. First, media reports showed that Obama did not study hard for the first debate; and second, Obama has admitted that the quality he most deplores in himself is … laziness. “It’s interesting. Deep down underneath all the work I do, I think there’s a laziness in me,” Obama went on to tell Walters in 2011. “It’s probably from growing up in Hawaii, and it’s sunny outside. Sitting on the beach.”

See how it works? Obama can claim to be lazy and it’s fine. But if a Republican claims he’s lazy, in the aftermath of a debate which evidenced laziness, it indicates “a dark vein of intolerance.” So even Colin Powell has been reduced to playing the race card–and to do so in a particularly transparent and sloppy way. 

Colin Powell was a vocal Republican when it served his political career–and now that it’s fashionable to be hyper-critical of Republicans and ignore the worst elements and most offensive comments of Democrats, he’s taken up that job with relish.

Compounding all of this, I think, is that Powell has never come to terms with his support for the Iraq war and the fact that he went before the U.N. to make the case against Iraq based on his belief that they had weapons of mass destruction. In order to keep this from having been a career-destroying moment, Powell instinctively understood he needed to become much more vocal in his criticisms of Republicans. He’s executed that move–and the press, eager to find a prominent self-proclaimed Republican whose main purpose is to lambast Republicans, has played along with it. It’s a game we’re all supposed to take seriously, but some of us really can’t. 

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Re: Liberals and the Race Card

As a brief follow-up to Pete’s excellent post on liberals and race, the Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers pushed back against the canard that GOP opposition to Susan Rice is racially motivated by calling out one of her fellow liberals, MSNBC talker Touré, on Twitter this morning. Noah Rothman at Mediaite has the full Twitter debate between the two, which ends in a fairly devastating victory for Powers.

Touré bases his case on the fact that John McCain called Susan Rice “incompetent,” which Touré decided was racial code. Powers tweeted back the following, which so far has elicited only silence from Touré:

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As a brief follow-up to Pete’s excellent post on liberals and race, the Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers pushed back against the canard that GOP opposition to Susan Rice is racially motivated by calling out one of her fellow liberals, MSNBC talker Touré, on Twitter this morning. Noah Rothman at Mediaite has the full Twitter debate between the two, which ends in a fairly devastating victory for Powers.

Touré bases his case on the fact that John McCain called Susan Rice “incompetent,” which Touré decided was racial code. Powers tweeted back the following, which so far has elicited only silence from Touré:

(@Katrinanation is the Twitter handle of the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel.) This is the problem with the left’s strategy of accusing opponents of racism for just about anything. Pete mentioned the ridiculous suggestion from Chris Matthews that referring to the Obama campaign as “Chicago” because of its location was racist code. Of course, the Romney campaign certainly didn’t coin this shorthand; the campaign merely followed the press’s habit of referring to each campaign by its headquartered city. But even more, “old white Republicans” aren’t the only people who use the word Chicago, of course.

And, as Touré discovered today, “old white Republicans” aren’t the only ones who use the word “incompetent.” That’s the trouble with the left’s “dog whistles”–when universally applied, they make everyone racist. And that, as Pete wrote earlier, strips the term of all significance. Good for Powers for holding her side to account.

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