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Daily Howler: A man named Ford plays our ugliest card in America's dumbest newspaper
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BY WHATEVER CARD NECESSARY! A man named Ford plays our ugliest card in America’s dumbest newspaper: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2008

INSIDE THE SEWER: Let’s be frank: The Times op-ed page is an intellectual sewer. Yesterday, Dowd was at it again. After some brain-dead Hopi humor, she lodged this hiss-spitting claim against her favorite target: “Hillary says Obama is ‘all hat and no cattle.’” But The Dim One was playing her readers a tad. Here’s what Clinton actually said, last Tuesday night, in Texas. We’ll cite Beth Fouhy’s AP report, since the Times didn’t even report the comment:

FOUHY (2/13/08): She slipped into a "you all" and criticized Bush, the former Texas governor.

"There's a great saying in Texas," she said, "all hat and no cattle. Well after seven years of George W. Bush, we need a lot less hat and a lot more cattle.”

Huh! She had criticized Bush—but Obama worked better. So the Times let their crazy girl type it.

And then, Nicholas Kristof was at it again, with this stale, scripted tripe about Senator Straight Talk. We’ll link you to tristero for his views, but recall what we told you some time ago. In fact, McCain lied his way through the primary states during his run back in Campaign 2000. He lied about Bush; he lied about Gore; his campaign made anonymous “Catholic Voter Alert” phone calls trashing Bush, and he lied to the press about them. He lied about fliers his campaign had sent out. But his various lies were permitted, because he was the press corps’ great Saint McCain. After all, he had let them ride around on his bus, talking part in a POW “fantasy camp”—and he gave them doughnuts, and told them they’re smart. That was, of course, his one biggest lie. But to them, it cinched the deal. It proved that he was a straight-talker.

On Sunday, Kristof regurgitated the Standard Domestic Hooey, as this globe-trotting “Times liberal” typically does. Most wonderfully, Kristof relaunched the press corps’ greatest narrative: Even when Saint John McCain lies, it proves how honest he is:

KRISTOF (2/17/08): His most famous pander came in 2000, when, after earlier denouncing the Confederate flag as a ''symbol of racism,'' he embraced it as ''a symbol of heritage.'' To his credit, Mr. McCain later acknowledged, ''I feared that if I answered honestly I could not win the South Carolina primary, so I chose to compromise my principles.''

When it no longer mattered, he said that he’d lied. This helped show how honest he is! This presentation was often made back in April 2000.

According to Kristof, McCain lied about ethanol this time around. But this also proves how honest he is! If you doubt it, go ahead—just read this latest sad column.

BY WHATEVER CARD NECESSARY: The front-page headline in the Post “Outlook” section said this: “The Dumbing of America.” Specifically, the headline referred to a piece by former Post writer Susan Jacoby. But more strikingly, the headline seemed to refer to the dumb, ugly piece which appeared just below it—a piece in which Richard Thompson Ford played the race card. Hard.

What follows is not a comment on Obama or Clinton. It’s a comment on the practices of the mainstream press.

Let’s be clear: The “mainstream press” is playing the race card this year because it’s the best card available. Eight years ago, against Candidate Gore, they happily played the “liar card”—and they sent George Bush to the White House. But this year, their Clinton/Gore-loathing has been redirected against a new vile target. And because that new target, Hillary Clinton, is running against a brilliant African-American, the race card has proven to be very handy. People like Ford are permitted to play this card—hard. And as they always do with their cards, they’re playing this card very dumbly.

Let’s make sure we understand: Once our “press corps” has selected its card, it’s willing to torture or reinvent facts in order to promote it. In the case of Gore, that meant inventing a long string of “lies;” in the case of Clinton, it has meant finding racial insult in vicious terms like “fairy tale.” Needless to say, the corps is willing to mind-read freely in the course of playing its cards.

On Sunday, Ford was willing to make the most serious charge in our politics on the basis of such tortured “evidence” (to the extent that he offered any evidence at all). Here’s the start of his “Outlook” piece, where he first makes his ugly charge:

FORD (2/17/08): It's conventional wisdom that American racism is an inexhaustible well that cynical politicians can always dip into if they want to sink their opponents in a campaign. That's what Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Hispanic pollster, Sergio Bendixen, seemed to be doing when he told a reporter last month that Latino voters haven't generally "shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates."

But modern racism isn't like the water in a well. It's more like the scum in a pond: It might settle to the bottom if left alone, but it can also be whipped up into a froth. And that's what Bendixen was really doing.

Clinton went on to win a resounding 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in California on Super Tuesday. But her victory didn't prove her pollster's drastically overstated point (many black candidates—Charles Rangel, David Dinkins and others—have enjoyed significant Hispanic support) so much as illustrate how today's race-baiting tactics do more than just tap into preexisting racial animosity: They actually create and inflame it. And this in turn creates a problem that can last long after the election is over.

This is something for Clinton to ponder as the race moves into Texas and Ohio, where she is counting on support from large blocs of Hispanic voters. Already, the kinds of tensions and unexpected dilemmas that this subtle race baiting raises are affecting the campaign itself, with Hispanic leaders angered at the replacement of campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, a Mexican American, in favor of African American Maggie Williams.

Truly, that’s a stunning indictment. In paragraphs one and two, Ford says that Clinton’s (highly respected) pollster, Sergio Bendixen, was engaging in “modern racism” when he made a certain remark to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. (More dramatically, Bendixen was said to be “whipping the scum” of modern racism “into a froth.”) In paragraphs three and four, Ford extends his claim, for which he still has offered no argument; in each of these paragraphs, he accuses Bendixen of “race baiting tactics,” and he seems to say that this “subtle race baiting” caused Hispanic leaders to become angry at the replacement of Solis Doyle. (He doesn’t say how he knows this.) And in paragraph 5, he pimps his card especially hard, the way mainstream card-players tend to do; he says that Bendixen, a highly-respected Hispanic pollster, had been “insisting that Hispanics are anti-black bigots and insinuating that black politicians won't serve the interests of Hispanic constituents.”

These are amazingly serious charges, against a highly-respected person. But so far, Ford has made no attempt to argue for his charges at all. How exactly does he know that Bendizen was trying to play a “race card?” Ford has made no attempt to say. But no matter! As he ends his remarkable piece, his exceptionally serious claim is extended to a wide range of players. Now, it is “the Clinton campaign”—and Clinton herself—who have engaged in this nasty racism:

FORD: So far, the Clinton campaign's attempt to scare Hispanic voters away from Obama has met with significant success, and we'll probably see more in the future. Perhaps Clinton believes that the ends justify the means because she'll be more effective in advancing racial justice if she's elected. But whoever wins this election, it will take a lot of extra work come next January to reverse the damage caused by playing the race card now.

Wow! It is now “the Clinton campaign”—and Clinton herself—who have been playing this nasty race card. And not only that: Somehow, Ford knows that the Clinton campaign’s “attempt to scare Hispanic voters” has “met with significant success”—presumably, that this racist conduct explains the fact that such voters have favored Clinton. But how has Ford proven these serious charges—against Bendixen, against Clinton herself? Answer: He never even bothers trying! The bulk of his piece is stale mish-mash about historical racial misconduct—familiar recitations which help us see what a high-minded fellow this Ford really is. What follows is the only place where Ford attempts to offer “evidence” in support of his charges—the most serious types of charges that can be made in American politics:

FORD: Historically, race baiting has mostly played on the latent bigotry or racial anxieties of white voters. But now it's becoming an equal-opportunity tactic, which makes the damage potentially farther reaching than ever before. The black-vs.-Hispanic appeal is the latest twist. But supporters of Sen. Barack Obama also tried to drum up racial outrage over Clinton's reasonable observation that President Lyndon B. Johnson's political savvy was as important to the success of the Civil Rights Act as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s inspiring leadership. And the Clinton campaign has sought to marginalize Obama as a narrow "black" candidate, while also having African American supporters emphasize Bill Clinton's honorary status as the "first black president" and denigrate the Illinois senator as "insufficiently black."

Huh! Fleetingly, we’re told that “supporters of” Obama “tried to drum up racial outrage” about a “reasonable observation” by Clinton. Question: Is there any chance that something similar might have happened in the case of Bendixen? Sorry! Ford never tells us how he knows that Bendixen was trying to play a “race card.” And that highlighted sentence is his sole attempt to support the ugly claim at the end of his piece—the claim that “the Clinton campaign” has been playing the race card. In this passage, Ford simply asserts that the campaign told its “African American supporters” what to say and do. But he never tells us who he means—or how he knows that these supporters didn’t make their remarks on their own.

By any normal intellectual standard, this is a stunning presentation. Throughout his piece, Ford makes the most serious charges you can make in our politics. But he makes no attempt to support his claim that Bendixen’s statement was motivated by racism—and he makes no attempt to support the wider claims he makes against Clinton and her “campaign.” He makes no attempt to support that claim that Clinton’s black supporters only make statements after being told what to say by The Man. (Does he mean Andrew Young when he says this?) And by the way: The phrase “insufficiently black” appears inside quotes—but the Nexis archives provide no instance of any Clinton supporter having said it.

As we’ve noted in the past, the “Outlook” section has been an intellectual garbage dump since editor John Pomfret took it over. In fairness, though, this remarkable piece by the race-pimping Ford has pretty much been par for the course since the mainstream press corps began to play its high-minded “race card” against Clinton. As noted, they played their nasty “liar card” against Candidate Gore in exactly the same manner. Then as now, they invented their “facts” as your “liberal intellectual leaders” looked on.

But then, your “mainstream press” is a broken, upper-class elite. Tomorrow: What Bendixen said.

TOMORROW: A special irony comes into play when Ford pens such dumb, ugly work.