Oprah, Obama, and the racism dodge
Disapproval of the president and his policies can't be explained by bigotry alone. Just look at the numbers.

Reuters

Then Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, greets entertainer and talk show host Oprah Winfrey at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, December 8, 2007.

  • Title:

    The Tyranny of Clichés
  • Hardcover Price:

    27.95
  • Hardcover ISBN:

    9781595230867
  • Buy the Book

Article Highlights

  • A lack of evidence hasn't stopped countless liberals from saying Obama's problems boil down to racism.

    Tweet This

  • Looking for examples of this relentless smear is like hunting for sand at the beach.

    Tweet This

  • 58% of US have a negative view of Obamacare, 54% disapprove of Obama, 50% think he isn't honest or trustworthy.

    Tweet This

  • More than half of the young people who voted for Obama view him negatively. Do they need to die too?

    Tweet This

In Britain to promote her film "The Butler," Oprah Winfrey gave an interview to the BBC last week. Not surprisingly, she promoted her movie about race relations in the White House with comments about race relations and the White House.

The BBC's Will Gompertz asked: "Has it ever crossed your mind that some of the treatment of Obama and the challenges he's faced and some of the reporting he's received is because he's an African American?"

Now there's a fresh take.

Either Gompertz has been handcuffed to a radiator in someone's windowless basement for the last five years or, more likely, he was riffing off the suggested questions Winfrey's PR team handed out to interviewers. Neither explanation would lift the stench of staleness from the question — or the answer.

Winfrey responded: "Has it ever crossed my mind? … Probably it's crossed my mind more times than it's crossed your mind. Just the level of disrespect. When the senator yelled out, 'You're a liar' — remember that? Yeah, I think that there is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs, and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he's African American."

Now it's true that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) should not have shouted "You lie!" (whether or not it was a lie) at the president during his health care address to Congress. But the evidence that Wilson was motivated by racism is simply nonexistent.

However, a lack of evidence hasn't stopped countless liberals, editorial boards, pundits and stand-up comics, not to mention administration officials, from propagating the idea that Obama's problems boil down to the irrational bigotry of his opponents.

Looking for examples of this relentless smear is like hunting for sand at the beach. In July, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the NAACP that the same people who opposed the Civil Rights Act and anti-lynching laws were opposing Obamacare. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) made similar arguments. And from what I can tell, so has virtually every host on MSNBC (except for Joe Scarborough). In one way or another they subscribe to Chris Matthews' view that opposition to Obama and Obamacare is driven by faith in white supremacy.

It's all very stupid and lazy. When President Clinton tried to transform health care in the 1990s, conservatives opposed the effort hammer and tongs. But when they mount the same battle with an even more liberal president who happens to be black, the only logical conclusion is that racism is afoot. George W. Bush is pretty white, and he was shown ample disrespect. You can look it up.

This is not to say there aren't racists — even in the GOP — who don't like the president and his agenda. It's just that you don't need to leap to racism to understand the criticisms of Obama and his agenda. If the man were white, the argument about Obamacare wouldn't change one iota, at least not for conservatives.

For liberals, it's not so clear. Since Democrats steamrolled the Affordable Care Act into law, its defenders have acted as if any opposition to the law is irrational, extremist, absurd and, of course, racist. They gave themselves license to dismiss all inconvenient facts simply by impugning the motives of those who point them out.

Just days before HealthCare.gov crashed on takeoff, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has often suggested that the president's opponents are bigots, railed on the Senate floor: "Obamacare has been the law for four years. Why don't they get a life and talk about something else?"

"We are going to accept nothing that relates to Obamacare," he added. "Let them find something else to be weird about."

In recent polls, 58% of Americans have a negative view of the healthcare law, 54% disapprove of Obama and 50% think he isn't honest or trustworthy. Are they all racists and weirdos?

Winfrey, a billionaire twice over thanks in no small part to her popularity among whites, told the BBC that the older generation of bigots may "just have to die" before America can get past racism. In 2012, 60% of voters under 30 voted for Obama. Now more than half view him negatively. I hope Winfrey doesn't think they need to die too now.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

  •  


    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-7165
    Email: jonah.goldberg@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The money in banking: Comparing salaries of bank and bank regulatory employees
image What Obama should say about China in Japan
image A key to college success: Involved dads
image China takes the fight to space
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.