Sen. John McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis complained that Sen. Barack Obama was playing the â€œrace cardâ€ when he predicted that the Republican attack machines would try to scare voters by pointing to Obama’s â€œfunny nameâ€ and the fact that â€œhe doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills and the five-dollar bills,â€ reports The Washington Post:Â Â
McCain aides said they were driven to raise the race issue after three Obama appearances Wednesday in Missouri. In them, the Democrat took on McCain’s recent aggressiveness and alluded to remarks about his name and looks that McCain campaign officials said have never been uttered.Â
â€œBarack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,â€ McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said in a statement. â€œIt’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.â€ â€¦Â
Obama aides said the candidate’s remarks were no different from applause lines he has used for months. At a mid-June fundraiser in Jacksonville, Fla., for instance, Obama said: â€œThey’re going to try to make you afraid of me. â€˜He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?â€™â€Â
But Obama did appear to expand upon the theme by linking the attacks to McCain by name. Asked what specifically Obama was referring to, campaign manager David Plouffe avoided the question, saying, â€œthat we’re seeing out of the McCain campaign, the Republican Party and some of their allies have been some very aggressive charges.â€Â
ABC News’ Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper took umbrage at the Obama campaignâ€™s audacious accusation:
There’s a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he’s condemned it. â€¦
While I have no doubt there will be a bunch more racist, xenophobic, and other ignorant drek coming our way courtesy of the Internet and perhaps the occasional cable news network, it’s important to determine where it’s coming from. Is it from a specific campaign or party? A third-party group? A third-party group with direct ties to establishment figures? This all matters.
I’ve seen racism in campaigns before – I’ve seen it against Obama in this campaign (more from Democrats than Republicans, at this point, I might add) and I’ve seen it against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, when his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was alleged, by the charming friends and allies of then-Gov. George W. Bush, to have been a McCain love-child with an African-American woman.
What I have not seen is it come from McCain or his campaign in such a way to merit the language Obama used.
By claiming McCain is using race to make him radioactive to Hillaryâ€™s base, Obama is using racism to make McCain radioactive to moderates and swing voters. This staggeringly cynical and grossly unfair tactic is bound to boomerang back on Obama and turn off the very voters he needs to win.Â
Each time Obama plays the race card when confronted by a forceful campaign speech Â or a hard-hitting ad, he himself accentuates how different he is from anyone else who has ever sought the presidency.
Ducking tough questions about shady associations, sweetheart real estate deals, lack of significant legislative accomplishments and inconsistencies between policy proposals and past speeches or votes by imputing racist motives to those who raise these issues is a demand to be held to a lower standard of accountability than other candidates. And going after John McCain aggressively while crying foul when the Republican doesnâ€™t pull his punches is a tacit admission by Obama that he canâ€™t compete on a level playing field. His whole life, Obama has not been held to the same standards as his competitors and itâ€™s worked for him, so heâ€™s not about to start now.
In a scathing summation of Obamaâ€™s life and career columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote:
[H]as there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?
Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted “present” nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.
A New York Times article examining Obamaâ€™s (lack of) legal scholarship while a â€œyoung law professorâ€ notes that he â€œstood apart in too many ways to countâ€:
At a school where economic analysis was all the rage, he taught rights, race and gender. Other faculty members dreamed of tenured positions; he turned them down. While most colleagues published by the pound, he never completed a single work of legal scholarship.
At a formal institution, Barack Obama was a loose presence, joking with students about their romantic prospects, using first names, referring to case law one moment and â€œThe Godfatherâ€ the next. He was also an enigmatic one, often leaving fellow faculty members guessing about his precise views. â€¦
[He] was well liked at the law school, yet he was always slightly apart from it, leaving some colleagues feeling a little cheated that he did not fully engage. The Chicago faculty is more rightward-leaning than that of other top law schools, but if teaching alongside some of the most formidable conservative minds in the country had any impact on Mr. Obama, no one can quite point to it.
â€œI donâ€™t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,â€ said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. â€œHis entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which heâ€™s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but heâ€™s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.â€
By â€œstood apart,â€ then, The Times must mean that because of affirmative action considerations the University of Chicago Law School applied a different, less rigorous standard of scholarship to Obama than to others offered tenure â€“ but youâ€™d never know it reading the article, which equates superficiality and substance.
A couple of days later, The Washington Post published an examination of John McCainâ€™s â€œcomplex intellectâ€ that makes him out to be a simpleton who doesnâ€™t understand economics and or the Internet (though one who is highly principled):
â€œThings go on inside McCain’s head that rarely or never come out,â€ [longtime aide Mark] Salter explained.
[M]uch of what goes on inside McCain’s head is neither mysterious nor hidden. There is an elaborate record of the principles and beliefs that govern McCain’s thinking about politics and policy in the five books he and Salter have written, scores of speeches they have collaborated on over nearly two decades, and countless interviews, including one last week for this article. â€¦
That record reveals a complicated man whose approach to the world cannot be summed up in an aphorism or two. He is a striver and a combatant, often at war with himself, who has conducted a lifelong struggle â€œto prove to myself that I was the man I had always wanted to be,â€ as he has written. Multiple influences have shaped his thinking, from his famous grandfather and father, both four-star Navy admirals, to his travels and his extensive reading of history and literature. â€¦
McCain can be impatient with complicated answers to questions he considers straightforward, with gray when he sees black and white. â€¦ â€œIn war,â€ he has said, â€œthere is no such thing as compromise; you either win or you lose.â€ But he has not defined victory in Iraq, and many wars have ended ambiguously. â€¦.
McCain is a restless seeker of stimulation and information. â€¦ McCain jokes about his lousy academic record (he finished fifth from the bottom of his class at Annapolis) but is clearly proud of what he has learned from reading and travel. And he uses Senate hearings as seminars.
For his part, in a piece titled â€œObama The Unknownâ€ Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen challenges a â€œprominent Democratâ€ to name just one thing Obama has done â€œthat you admireâ€:
He paused and then said that he admired Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention in 2004. I agreed. It was a hell of a speech, but it was just a speech. â€¦
I could cite four or five actions – not speeches – that John McCain has taken that elicit my admiration, even my awe. First, of course, is his decision as a Vietnam prisoner of war to refuse freedom out of concern that he would be exploited for propaganda purposes. â€¦
I would include campaign finance reform, which infuriated so many in his own party; opposition to earmarks, which won him no friends; his politically imprudent opposition to the Medicare prescription drug bill; and â€¦ his very early call for additional troops in Iraq. â€¦ In all these cases, McCain stuck to his guns. â€¦
[T]he record – scant as it is – suggests otherwise. Obama is not noted for sticking to a position or a person once that position or person becomes a political liability. â€¦
I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I’m still not sure, though, what’s in it.
Once you rip away the dazzling wrapping paper, youâ€™ll find itâ€™s just an empty box.
Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).