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Conservatives Should Give PC-Pushing Liberals a Taste of Their Own Medicine

It's been frustrating to watch how resistant some conservatives are to even say the word “racist” when criticizing Reid or Clinton.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

January 18, 2010 - 12:02 am

Who came up with the inane rule that only liberals can hurl an accusation of racism, as if the term belonged to the left exclusively? In that case, what are we supposed to do in those instances where the racists are liberals?

Take rlowney856 for example. That’s the screenname of the left-leaning reader named “roger” who — in language that was less than progressive — took exception to a recent column I wrote criticizing both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his condescending racial comments about Barack Obama’s dialect and skin tone during the 2008 presidential election and a slew of his fellow Democrats for bending their morals into pretzels to defend him and declare the subject closed.

Or as rlowney856 put it:

ruben, my son … how petty can you get??? … to dwell on a year old quote by sir harry is so low i find it hard to believe!!! … are you so hard up you can’t find something less petty to write about?? … are all you right wingers as trashy and stupid as you?? … you take the cake you mexican garbage bag … go back to south of the border where you and your right wing idiots belong … what a total farce you are!!! … roger

By the way, for what it’s worth, I thought the mainstream press was much too kind and generous with Reid when it rushed to label his comments “racially insensitive.” I would have used the word “racist.” Yes, that’s right, I said “racist.” I’ve heard all the excuses and explanations — Reid was complimenting Obama, Reid was really insulting white voters, what Reid said was ugly but true, etc. etc. — and I haven’t found any of them especially persuasive.

When — according to the book Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann — Reid said privately that Obama could win the White House because he is “light-skinned” and speaks “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” he seemed to be implying that all Obama has going for him as a presidential candidate is that he’s light-skinned and can flip his “Negro dialect” on and off like a light switch. It’s not that Obama is, in the least, intelligent, charismatic, or skilled in selling himself. Those attributes, we can assume, are more commonly found in 70-year-old white guys from Nevada.

And, as distasteful as Reid’s comments were, the remarks that Halperin and Heilemann attribute to former President Bill Clinton are much worse. Clinton was apparently baffled by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s decision to endorse Obama over Hillary Clinton because, as he told Teddy, “a few years ago, this guy would have been bringing us coffee.”

Talk about trying to put someone in his place — only to wind up looking like an arrogant jerk. That’s our Bill. In fact, it’s a shame that Clinton’s comments haven’t gotten more attention, perhaps because so much attention as been focused on Reid. In any case, it’s hard to not see Clinton’s remarks as another example of racism and condescension from a white liberal who had never before seen the likes of Barack Obama, and didn’t do a very good job of making the adjustment.

And Bill Clinton was just one of the Hillary supporters who behaved badly in trying to stop Obama. Billy Shaheen, co-chairman of Hillary’s New Hampshire campaign, suggested that Obama would founder as the Democratic presidential nominee because Republicans would claim that he sold drugs. Former Democratic vice presidential nominee and Hillary booster Geraldine Ferraro suggested that “the only reason” that Obama had gotten as far as he had in life was because he was black. And let’s not forget New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, another Hillary supporter, who said after Obama’s loss in New Hampshire that the defeat proved that, in a small state that values retail politics, one can’t just “shuck and jive” one’s way to victory.

So, you see, the new revelations about Harry Reid and Bill Clinton aren’t really new at all. Conservatives have plenty of material to work with if they want to give PC-pushing liberals a taste of their own medicine.

They should. And so it’s been frustrating to watch how resistant some conservatives are to even say the word “racist” in criticizing Reid or Clinton. They think they’re taking the high ground and staking out some principled position against political correctness and racial hypersensitivity. They think they’re striking a blow against what they see as the “racial McCarthyism” that the left uses to cast aspersions and ruin reputations. And, in that regard, they think they’re defending truth.

They’re not. They’re just throwing in the towel and neglecting their responsibility to call out self-righteous liberals for who they really are. There’s no truth in that.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer, and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
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