Are All Anti-Obama Ads Racist?
A concern that I’ve expressed since the days of the primary campaign is that, because Barack Obama looks black, virtually any criticism lodged against him can be seen in racial terms. (The same was true of gender in any attacks against Hillary Clinton.) The latest example is the bold proclamation from TIME’s Karen Tumulty: “McCain Plays the Race Card.” His offense? This ad:
This is hardly subtle: Sinister images of two black men, followed by one of a vulnerable-looking elderly white woman.
Let me stipulate: Obama’s Fannie Mae connections are completely fair game. But this ad doesn’t even mention a far more significant tie–that of Jim Johnson, the former Fannie Mae chairman who had to resign as head of Obama’s vice presidential search team after it was revealed he got a sweetheart deal on a mortgage from Countrywide Financial. Instead, it relies on a fleeting and tenuous reference in a Washington Post Style section story to suggest that Obama’s principal economic adviser is former Fannie Mae Chairman Frank Raines. Why? One reason might be that Johnson is white; Raines is black.
And the image of the victim doesn’t seem accidental either, given the fact that older white women are a key swing constituency in this election.
Gee whiz. There were two black men in the ad. One, Barack Obama, is the target of the ad. He is, for those not keeping up with such things, the Democratic nominee and the current frontrunner in the race for president. The other, Harold Raines, is the chief subject of the ad and the former chairman of an entity that’s been in the news lately. Neither, frankly, look particularly “sinister.” Indeed, Obama is smiling in most of the images. (Isn’t that a racial stereotype, too? -ed.) Were ads in 2004 tying George W. Bush to Enron’s Ken Lay racist because they were both white?
As to the elderly white woman, Tumulty explains it rather nicely in the charge itself. It’s a key constituency McCain needs to influence.
How does one criticize a black politician without letting on that he’s black? Or is any use of the image of a black opponent in an ad presumptively racist? Or is it just any criticism of a black opponent?