Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson
GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s camp claims that they had nothing to do with the release on the eve of the great presidential debate of the worn, totally dated, and much vetted Hampton University speech in 2007 in which pre President Obama praised his long past ex-minister Jeremiah Wright. We’ll take the Romney crew at their word. But the GOP mischief makers are another matter. The release of the speech is no real October surprise. But it was released for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s to race bait Obama supposedly with his own words. The race baiting has one aim and that’s to stir just enough doubt and hopefully fear in the small percent of white conservative and centrist independents that are still undecided about their vote.
Many Obama loathers don't need Wright to believe that Obama is a closet race baiting, Muslim leaning hater of America’s values. This tired, hackneyed theme has been the bread and butter of right wing bloggers, websites, and shrill talk show hosts from the moment Obama set foot in the White House. There has been no let up in the racially leaden slander, slurs, and digs on that theme during his first term. The hope was that if just enough media outlets play up the ancient Hampton speech, coupled with the timing of it, there’s a small peril that it could make a few have doubts about Obama.
Wright, of course, will always be the perfect foil for the GOP’s insidious attackers. That’s because race is still a minefield that some in the GOP hope can explode on Obama. It didn’t happen in 2008. This was in part due to GOP presidential contender John McCain’s commendable refusal to stoke the racial fires, and that included playing the Wright card. He made almost no reference to the severed Wright and Obama tie on the campaign trail. Race also didn’t play any role in the 2008 campaign in equal part because Obama ran an astoundingly measured, appealing, race neutral campaign that kept the focus squarely on the issues of the Bush administration’s towering failures, the economy, the financial mess, and he sold a majority of Americans that he could bring a much needed directional change in government. In the four years since then nothing has changed in the Obama administration’s approach and policies and its reelection campaign’s emphasis on the issues of the economy, health care, and the GOP’s obstructionism. The polls that consistently give Obama the edge over Romney have pretty much bolstered the soundness of his approach to the campaign.
This is precisely why the Wright hit is even more important in the plotting of some GOP operatives to try and derail Obama’s reelection bid. The mere mention of Wright is enough to conjure up suspicions among ultra-conservative Christian Evangelicals about Obama's White House doings and motives toward the Muslim world and the country. Many are convinced that there are indeed sinister forces at work in his administration. It does little good to repeatedly point out that few of them have or will back Obama at the polls. But with Obama's support of gay marriage, and with Christian Evangelicals very much potentially a potent force in several of the must win battleground states, anything that further inflames them against Obama can have harmful political consequences.
The tag of radical Islamist is further compounded with Obama with race. It's a touchy, volatile, and always polarizing issue that politicians step gingerly around whenever they can. That's especially true for Obama. Though he's done everything humanly possible to sell himself and his administration as the incarnation of inclusiveness, race neutrality, and unity, there are still the whispers and worries that a racial intent lurks just under the surface in his agenda.
The dated speech won’t sway many, including those who don’t support Obama for legitimate political reasons, to regard the president as a race baiter. Obama said nothing that could remotely be considered racially charged and inflammatory. If anything there were strong elements of conservative themes about personal responsibility, self help, and community economic empowerment.
Still, this almost certainly won’t be the last that we’ll hear of Wright and Obama before November 6. Somewhere and at sometime, the GOP hit team will take another out of context snippet of a Wright speech and incessantly loop it on websites and blogs to again plant the notion that that there’s still a closet connection between the two. Again, it’s not likely to do very much. But it won’t stop them from trying and hoping.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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