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CRACKER JACKS! The Post shows appalling bad judgment today. Then too, there’s that cartoon: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, JULY 18, 2009

Cracker jacks: The Washington Post show appalling bad judgment on this morning’s “Free For All” page.

“Free For All” is a full page of letters to the editor; it appears every Saturday. This morning, the page is dominated by an unfortunate letter—and by a large photo which seems to show Barack Obama ogling a young woman at the recent Group of Eight summit.

Yes, that ridiculous photo is back! This morning, the photo sits atop the fold on the “Free For All” page; it spans three columns (out of five). Beneath it, we get a scolding headline. “How Not to Treat the First Lady—or Any Lady,” the Washington Post coldly scolds.

Beneath that headline, we get this irate letter. It comes from a woman who apparently hasn’t heard that the photo in question was almost surely misleading:

LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (7/18/09): How Not to Treat the First Lady—or Any Lady

As a wife and mother and a huge fan of first lady Michelle Obama—I met her at my daughters' elementary school in February and was so impressed by how warm and inviting she was—I was shocked to see the picture [Style, July 10] of President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy appearing to "check out" some anonymous woman's backside.

Are you kidding me? Did The Post feel it necessary to reiterate that "boys will be boys"?

Women and wives around the world do not need to be reminded of this, and our wonderful first lady certainly does not need to be mocked in such fashion.

Has The Post turned to tabloid journalism to get more readers?

By the way, women check out men all the time—we are just more discreet about it.

M— T—
Kensington

The writer felt Michelle Obama had been mocked by the photo. The Post’s reaction to her complaint? It printed the photo again!

Good God. By now, almost everyone has seen the tape of this pointless incident—tape which suggests that Obama wasn’t checking out this “anonymous woman’s backside.” But the Post has now re-pimped the incident. The photo is back—and it’s large.

(We can find no link to the layout of this morning’s “Free For All” page, or to the photo and caption itself.)

For good measure, the paper includes two other letters in this large chunk of “Free For All.” The second letter complains about the way the Post persistently panders to Michelle Obama. The third letter will re-stir the thought, in many minds, that Michelle Obama condescends to the military (same link). And oh yes: To remedy one identified problem, the Post now names that “anonymous woman.” In the caption below today’s photo, the Post reports that this once-anonymous person is actually “Mayara Tavares, a teenage junior delegate from Brazil to the Group of Eight summit.”

It’s always best to have a name to put with an anonymous backside!

This entire presentation represents woeful, appalling bad judgment. Then too, there’s the cartoon the Post chose to run on today’s op-ed page. (We can find no link.)

The cartoon, by Ed Hall, pictures Sonia Sotomayor at her crowded Senate hearings. “I’m afraid you’ve misconstrued my statement,” she is saying to someone on the Senate panel. But inside bubbles, Hall shows us what she is thinking:

“You stupid cracker,” Sotomayor is secretly thinking, in this morning’s cartoon.

This is unfortunate for several reasons.

First, we know of no reason to think that Sotomayor perceives the world that way. She certainly showed no sign of such attitudes during her hearing; we’d guess that she’s smarter—and “wiser”—than that. “Cracker” isn’t as ugly as certain other group insults, which have done so much harm in the course of our history. But it’s an unhelpful group denigration too.

We’d be amazed if Sotomayor is inclined to throw such insults around. When cartoonists picture her that way, they poke at unhelpful social divisions. Most specifically, they encourage conservatives to picture Sotomayor that way. They drag the world down to their level.

That said, a certain type of pseudo-liberal lives for such denigrations. There’s nothing the modern pseudo-liberal loves more than rising up in High Racial Outrage—and we’re talking about white pseudo-liberals here, not about liberals from minority groups. Anyone who followed liberal reaction to this week’s hearings saw this pleasing old impulse acted out. On our progressive TV shows, “reporting” of the hearings was quite predictable: Our hosts would find the tiny moment in each day’s hearing where we could all flare in High Racial Outrage. They would feed us that moment, punctuating their presentation with a look of Extreme Moral Horror. This would substitute for any attempt to report any real issues being explored by Sotomayor and the “stupid crackers” who were questioning her. In this way, we arrange to be a bunch of “dumb crackers” ourselves.

By the way: We’ve been reviewing transcripts of the hearings, and some of those stupid crackers seemed to do fairly well in various lines of questioning. Is Jon Kyl one of the “stupid crackers?” On Thursday morning, he asked Sotomayor, again and again, to identify the precedents which compelled her decision in the Ricci case, or which would have compelled the full Second Circuit if it had addressed the matter. We’re not legal eagles here, and we’re willing to be corrected or further informed. But we’d have to say that Kyl’s questions struck us as relentless and focused, while Sotomayor’s answers seemed hazy and evasive. But then, a lot of the questioning seemed pretty good, although you’d never know it from watching the helpful hosts who served us on liberal TV this week. Of an evening, they’d help us see that The Others are racists. Beyond that, we were left on our own.

For ourselves, we don’t have a strong view on the Ricci case; we’d love to see better analysis. But what were the precedents which compelled the original three-judge decision? Why did six members of the Second Circuit seem to think they wouldn’t be so compelled? We’ve read the Kyl-Sotomayor colloquy—and we still aren’t sure. Maybe Ed Hall can explain!

Bottom line: Pseudo-liberals simply love to name-call southern whites. It’s one of the joys of pseudo-liberalism, although it tends to work against the goal of spreading progressive views. By the way: This is part of the explanation for the press corps’ treatment of both Clinton and Gore during the last, unfortunate decade. In Fools for Scandal, Gene Lyons reported the national press corps’ instant condescension toward all things Arkansan. In later years, some Gotham pundits plainly built their negative view of Gore out of “southern cracker” frameworks. We think of Jimmy Breslin, who was completely open about this. And of gun-and-God-hatin’ Frank Rich.

We pseudo-libs love to name-call them crackers! In the long run, this works against spreading progressive viewpoints. And in some part, it’s how we got Bush!

The Post’s “Free For All” page is appalling today; it represents astounding bad judgment. But then, that cartoon ain’t a giant heap of sand better. We’d be surprised if Sotomayor thinks of other people that way—even of those who aren’t morally perfect, as we liberals so constantly are.

But then, we love to drag others down to our levels. Some “Free For All” editor worked hard at that task in this morning’s unfortunate Post.