Saturday, August 2, 2008

Obama Missteps in Race Allegations

This morning's New York Times suggests Barack Obama has hit the wrong tone in his allegations of racism against presumptive GOP nominee John McCain:


Senator Barack Obama is a man of few rhetorical stumbles, but this week a few of his words opened a racial door his campaign would prefer not to step through. When Senator John McCain’s camp replied by accusing him of playing the race card from the bottom of the deck, the Obama campaign seemed at least momentarily off balance.

The instinctive urge to punch back was tempered by the fact that race is a fire that could singe both candidates. So on Friday the Obama campaign, a carefully controlled lot on the best of days, reacted most cautiously as it sought to tamp down any sense that it was at war with Mr. McCain over who was the first to inject race into the contest. Mr. Obama made no mention of the issue, except for a brief reference in an interview with a local newspaper in Florida.

“I was in Union, Mo., which is 98 percent white, a rural conservative, and what I said was what I think everyone knows, which is that I don’t look like I came out of central casting when it comes to presidential candidates,” he told The St. Petersburg Times. “There was nobody there who thought at all that I was trying to inject race in this.”

The furor started on Thursday when Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, said, “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck.” Mr. Davis was alluding to Mr. Obama’s remarks on Wednesday that Republicans would try to scare voters by pointing out that he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

As Mr. Obama carefully addressed the issue on Friday, his campaign’s formidable network of grass-roots activists, and the Web sites crafted to give them “talking points” to carry into battle against Republicans, remained uncharacteristically quiet on the matter, even though the issue dominated political blogs for a second straight day.

David Plouffe, the campaign manager, talked briefly, and not too eagerly, about it. And the campaign’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, blamed the Republicans for misconstruing Mr. Obama’s words as an attack, and quickly moved on.
The mainstream press is finally getting it.

It's the Democrats who have been obsessed with race this campaign, and now Obama's own allegations of racism have forced a system-wide backlash against the attacks.

The big question now is how long will the racial pull-back last?

Obama wants to use race to has advantage, just like the activist racial-recrimination base of the party. It's assumed that the guilt-mongering victim's mentality is gold for Democrats, as they can mine the presumed racial shame of white Americans for electoral and policy gain.

But the backlash is too risky, and whatever gains might be had in crass racial appeals aren't enough to justify turning this campaign into a referendum on racial tolerance.

The radical activists would love it, of course. See, "
Obama Heckled on African American Policies."

Photo Credit: "Barack Obama addressed hecklers after he finished a speech in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Friday," New York Times.