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Obama's Skin

Everyone knows that Barack Obama has a skin issue. Liberals pretend that it’s skin color. The real issue, though, concerns thickness,  not color.

James Taranto, in a characteristically splendid article in the Wall Street Journal today, underscores this point. “The question of race,” he notes,

is central to the leftist media's protectiveness toward Obama, who has both benefited and suffered from a racial double standard. As the late Geraldine Ferraro pointed out in 2008 — and was attacked for pointing out — Obama would not have risen so quickly had he been white. No sane person believed that stuff about casting down the oceans and mending "the planet," but a lot of Americans thought electing a black president would be a salve for racial wounds.

Indeed. But for the salve to work, the blinkers concealing the mess Obama has made of his presidency must stay firmly in place. Is there skyrocketing federal debt? Can’t be his fault. Did he fail utterly in his promise to half the annual deficit by this point in his first term? Must be someone else’s fault.  Are 23 million people un- or under-employed?  And did Obama not say, “Give me the stimulus, and we’ll have unemployment down to 5.6 percent by July 2012”? Is it still 8.3 percent?  That can't be Obama’s fault.  It’s George Bush’s fault. Or Congress’s fault. Or Europe’s fault. It cannot be because Obama’s spread-the-wealth-around economic policies are themselves a failure because, why, because then The Narrative would have to be rewritten.

That horrible grinding noise you hear in the middle distance is that anguished skirling of liberal contradictions coming home to roost.  It is one of the great ironies of our current political reality that the Left remains obsessed by race while  conservatives long ago shrugged and moved on. (Just how long ago might be indicated by reviewing the respective histories of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party on the issue of race. Start with Abraham Lincoln.)

Taranto is right: “The left has not moved beyond seeing Obama as a racial symbol.” Why? He adduces two reasons: “First, his record as president doesn't have much else to recommend it, so that crying racism is about the best they can do as an argument for re-election. Second, it is of great psychological importance to American left-liberals to believe that their opponents are racist and they themselves are not. Their self-image as a moral elite revolves around the imputation of invidious racial attitudes to others.”

To my liberal friends: if you happen to be reading this, don’t you feel a little nudge of self-recognition here? Can you seriously dispute Taranto’s diagnosis? (To yourself, I mean: I don’t expect you publicly to admit it.)

So here’s the thing: while the Left is stuck in a racialist melodrama, Republicans have quietly been electing blacks and other minorities for decades.  At the Republican National Convention, Condi Rice, Artur Davis, Mia Love, and Marco Rubio delivered some of the most memorable speeches.  You wouldn’t know it from the oubliette into which the legacy media deposited their contributions.

And here’s where we come to the real skin issue.  Commentators on the Right have long recognized, and delighted in, the Left’s deficient sense of humor. It’s not that the Left cannot be funny. It can. It’s just that it cannot laugh at itself.  The reason, I suspect, is twofold.