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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Frenzy begins

by digby

Following up on dday's post below, can I just ask if those of you who are older than 35 or so are getting that strange familiar feeling? You know the one, where the media are suddenly hostile to the president, the Democrats are running for the hills and the country is confused and doesn't know what to think? The one where cable news gets obsessed with manufactured wingnut shitstorms designed to distract and diminish the president's stature and sap his political capital just when he needs it the most? We've seen this movie before, haven't we?

It shouldn't be surprising to anyone that we are seeing a rather sudden attention being paid to race. First, our black president nominated a Hispanic woman to the Supreme court. That got the right wing noise machine all hyped up about "reverse discrimination" a concept which began seeping into the mainstream almost immediately. Then we suddenly have a lot of attention being paid to the Birthers, out of the blue. It's not like they haven't been around for a while, but on the heels of the Sotomayor discussion, we are hearing a whole lot about them --- and their claims are being aired over and over and over again on mainstream TV (even as they are being refuted.) Hmmmmm. Now we have the president having the temerity to suggest that the arrest of a black man for disorderly conduct in his own home was handled "stupidly," which has sent the media into a frenzy the likes of which we haven't seen since Jeremiah Wright.

Indeed, I heard a TV commentator suggest this morning that this one comment may be the reason for the death of health care reform because it sucked the air out of the conversation. The fact that it's the media which is doing the sucking doesn't seem to occur to anyone.

This is quintessential village behavior. They are being drawn into a right wing noise machine meme --- and they are more than eager to go there. The health care debate is costing Obama some serious political capital and the mushy Dems are predictably getting restless. The villagers smell blood. When that happens, the wingnuts are always at the ready with some juicy, emotion laden trivia for the kewl kids to latch on to to make the narrative of impending failure really sing. And that brings us to the sexy stuff about "wise latinas" and police behaving "stupidly" and the weird idea that our black president isn't really an American at all.

Race was always going to be the underlying issue in this presidency. This country didn't magically shed its racial baggage in 2008 no matter how much everyone wanted to pretend it did. (The Jeremiah Wright episode should have given us a clue as to what would happen if Obama ever strayed too far into the black identity.) The villagers were all thrilled that we had the first black president. But it was quite clear to me that what they really loved was their own "enlightened" self-image. Cokie and Sally Quinn and their friends down at the beauty parlor were very pleased with themselves for being so post-racial that they didn't even "see" race anymore. As long as Obama didn't start to be too "black" that is.

We saw the first inklings of a change among the Villagers with Matthews and his laughable class identification with the litigious firefighter in New Haven. Since villagers all see themselves as working class white ethnics already (even as they plan their summer vacations in their multi-million dollar vacation homes in Nantucket) this handy narrative really got the ball rolling. Sotomayor and the Birthers and now Gates are all gelling into a narrative about Obama's "race problem" and we are seeing the veil of racial tolerance among the Villagers slipping.

Obama's "problem," as it is for all Democratic presidents, is that he is allegedly "out of step" with the people --- like Matthews and his firefighter brothers, and that cop in Cambridge and Rush and other Real Americans who are upset about how "liberal" he's being with his tax 'n spend health reform and the horrible deficits and his defense of loudmouthed black professors who are no better than they ought to be. You can feel the Big Money, the right wing noise machine and the Village all starting to find their collective voice and take control.

You can blame Obama for walking into the lion's maw, as I'm hearing many of his allies do today --- liberals always blamed Clinton for failing to be perfect too. But believe me, there's no way to avoid this stuff when the frenzy begins. Once they smell blood they always find something.

Update: The press is very excited that the president came before the press corps because he "had to" address the race issue. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that he apologized quite the way they want him to apologize.

Call Orrin Hatch immediately. He's the chief of the Village apology police and will determine if the president has sufficiently apologized.

Plus, there are tapes.

I could be wrong, but I think I heard one of the reporters ask Gibbs, "was he aroused?" I may have misheard.

Update II: By contrast, CNNs Kira Phillips had an on air orgasm over the president's remarks today. I suspect this may be because she has been relentlessly promoting the idea that the pres should get together with Sgt. Crowley to have a "teachable moment" and I think she may believe that the president sees her as an advisor in this matter. I think she might want to be invited to share that beer with Gates, Crowley and Obama.