This is a very sad headline: “Obama Says Race a Key Component in Tea Party Protests.” The article, in U.S. News, derives from a new book by White House correspondent Kenneth Walsh, titled Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House. Walsh is a liberal who wrote a critical biography of Ronald Reagan, but what is sad about this story is that it is Barack Obama talking, not Walsh:
In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent “Tea Party” movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn’t helping them nearly enough, he said.
A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to “take back” their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a “subterranean agenda” in the anti-Obama movement–a racially biased one–that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.
If Barack Obama really thinks that the Tea Partiers are aggrieved because they want to get their hands into the public till–the federal government was bailing out others but “wasn’t helping them nearly enough”–then he is far more obtuse than I had suspected. More likely, he knows better but can’t resist his hyperpartisan habit of always attributing bad motives to his political opponents.
It strikes me as self-evident that the Tea Party movement has nothing to do with race. It is about out of control government spending and debt. What does that have to do with race? Nothing.
If Walsh is quoting Obama accurately, the President sees something ominous in conservatives’ “take back America” mantra. To me, it is obvious that conservatives want to take back America from liberals; yet Obama apparently sees a “subterranean” racial element. Subterranean indeed–that is a fancy way of saying there is no evidence to support it.
Of course, “take back America” isn’t just a conservative theme. As Robert Stacy McCain points out, President Obama himself spoke twice, in 2006 and 2007, at a conference called “Take Back America.” Apparently that was different–those were liberals. Nothing subterranean there, evidently.
In any event, it is very sad that President Obama is so petty and so hyperpartisan that he thinks nothing of making false accusations of racism against those who disagree with his policies.
UPDATE: One might have thought that this passage from his own book would have created a little cognitive dissonance in Mr. Walsh, but apparently he didn’t notice the contradiction:
There were many effects stemming from Obama’s presidency, both those that were expected and those that were not. One was a surprising [Ed.: Unexpected!] surge in the number of black Republican candidates in the midterm elections of November 2010. At least 32 African-Americans were running for Congress as Republicans . . . the largest number since Reconstruction, according to The New York Times.
FURTHER UPDATE: Comments are open on this post.