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Ron Radosh

Remnick Takes Up Obama’s Critics: He Calls them Racist

April 12th, 2010 - 12:58 pm

In the current issue of National Review, Jay Nordlinger has a noteworthy article about critics who charged him with being a racist after he wrote that he thought President Obama appeared to be arrogant in his State of the Union address. The word arrogant, he quickly found out, was now held to be “a racist codeword.”

Strangely, when liberals make comments about Obama that actually could be construed as racist code words, no one utters a peep and those guilty of offense are quickly let off the hook. Take Dan Rather, for example. As Nordlinger points out, Rather “described Obama as ‘very articulate’ — there they go again — but said ‘he couldn’t sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.’  Watermelons?  Rather later said, ‘Anyone who knows me personally or knows my professional career would know that race was not on my mind.’ I’m sure that’s true. But would he give such a break to a conservative who committed a similar faux pas?”

Nordlinger hopes a day will come when race fades from the scene. But judging how crying racist is now a favorite form of attacking critics of Obama, it will not be for quite a while. Take again one of the most recent egregious forms of its use — that by New Yorker editor David Remnick in his new biography of Obama, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.

Remnick, as I pointed out in my last blog post, goes on the attack against Obama’s critics during the campaign. His most extensive and nasty comments are reserved for Jack Cashill, the blogger who penned the now famous article raising questions about whether Obama wrote his memoir Dreams from My Father, or if it might have been ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.

Cashill has solid bona fide academic credentials. He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University, and author of a respected book on American intellectuals, Hoodwinked. He also acknowledged from the start that “shy of a confession by those involved, I will not be able to prove conclusively that Obama did not write this book.” What he offered is an argument that readers were free to accept, reject or challenge.  It is certainly valid to do the latter.  I suspect he certainly expected that. At any rate, except for Rush Limbaugh and others on the political right, Cashill convinced very few that he was on to anything.

An exception was writer Christopher Andersen. As I reported earlier, the pop biography Andersen wrote, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, included a tantalizing tidbit.  After Obama got a new contract to write his book, Michelle Obama told Andersen that she suggested to her husband that he get advice “from his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers” who had a reputation for being a good writer.  Andersen claimed that then Obama handed over his oral interviews with relatives, a draft of his manuscript and notes to Ayers.  Andersen  concluded, in much the same way as Cashill, that “in the end, Ayers’s contribution to Barack’s Dreams From My Father would be significant — so much so that the book’s language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers’s own writing.”

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