Yesterday I was attacked in cyberprint, bizarrely and scurrilously, by liberal professional race-baiter Jonathan Chait. Somehow, apparently, calling Barack Obama “haughty” makes me at least somewhat an “heir” to vicious slave overseers. I responded at NRO today, at length, but not in kind, instead trying to keep the debate on a constructive plane — with this being one of the key passages:
Chait gives far too little credit to conservatives under 50, to so many of us who grew up as admirers of the famously minority-friendly Jack Kemp, for being perfectly well aware of, and greatly saddened by, what he calls the “still-extant residue” of the more virulently racist society that once existed. If he would only look, he would find plenty of examples of conservative thinkers and writers expounding thoughtfully and sympathetically on problems still faced by black Americans and on the Right’s own failures to address them.
It’s hard to make progress in good faith when the other side refuses to assume you possess good faith to start with.
But in trying to stay on the topic of constructive race relations, I deliberately avoided a few other highly legitimate rebuttals or explanations that need saying but that didn’t serve my main points. Let me address them here.
First, consider the source. It is truly bizarre to be told by Fulminator X that it is off limits, supposedly because it is latently and effectively racist, to use somewhat harsh language to criticize a president who happens to be black, even if such language is less harsh than that used by Fulminator X to criticize a white president. How is it a sign of racial equality to treat a black president as a creature too fragile to be subject to mean, hateful words such as … er… “haughty”?
Consider my supposedly off-limits paragraph:
Every time decent people think the scandals and embarrassments circling Barack Obama will sink this presidency, we look up and see Obama still there — chin jutting out, countenance haughty, voice dripping with disdain for conservatives — utterly unembarrassed, utterly undeterred from any assertion of power he thinks he can get away with, tradition and propriety and the Constitution be damned. The man has no shame, no self-doubt, not a shred of humility, no sense that anybody else has legitimate reason to question him or hold any other point of view.
Now compare that to the breathtaking treatment, in Jonathan Chait’s most (in)famous essay ever, that Chait afforded George W. Bush:
I hate President George W. Bush…. I hate the way he walks–shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks–blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudopopulist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing– a way to establish one’s social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more…. … Conservatives believe liberals resent Bush in part because he is a rough-hewn Texan. In fact, they hate him because they believe he is not a rough-hewn Texan but rather a pampered frat boy masquerading as one, with his pickup truck and blue jeans serving as the perfect props to disguise his plutocratic nature…. …Bush is a dullard lacking any moral constraints in his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of the very rich, unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest, and a man who, on those occasions when he actually does make a correct decision, does so almost by accident.
But isn’t it such a shame that I called Obama “haughty?”
MOVING RIGHT ALONG….
The truly outlandish thing Chait writes is that it is “factually bizarre” — not even a strange opinion, but “factually” bizarre — to accuse Obama of being haughty and unembarrassed. (Somebody needs to explain to Chait that a “fact” is something inarguable, provable, not subject to disagreement.) Why? Because in a recent press conference Obama supposedly was (get THIS!) “profusely and even flamboyantly contrite.” Huh? Flamboyantly? I just re-read the press conference transcript, and it is full of mild acknowledgments that the ObamaCare web site isn’t working perfectly while all bracketed in an insistence that everything still is better than it seems and will get better still. While he mouthed several pro forma acceptances of responsibility — “it’s on me” — there were plenty of observers who noted that he didn’t always seem to really mean it.
To quote the ever-left Dana Milbank on the president’s attitude:
Even as he accepted responsibility for the debacle, he couldn’t resist transferring some blame to the assembled press (“the things that go right, you guys aren’t going to write about”) and to Republicans (“repeal, repeal, let’s get rid of this thing”).
But Obama seemed genuinely puzzled by the notion that his leadership may have been the cause.
Yet it is supposedly “factually bizarre” for me to fail to appreciate this president’s supposedly self-evident humility. Right. Look, if I were the only one who finds Obama generally haughty and self-referential, that would be one thing. But a Google search would quickly produce hundreds and hundreds of similar judgments.
I could go on. But the takeout should be this: Just as Obama’s skin color should play no role in any criticism of him, nor should it shield him from criticism, much less to accuse his critics of the ultimate political sin of some version of racism.
Maybe somebody should tell Chait that, to stoop to such unfair insults rather than to engage in legitimate debate, one might be charged with being a “dullard lacking any moral constraint.”