Mitt Romney's plan of blatantly lying about President Obama's "you didn't build that" speech is clearly drawing blood. But what makes the attack work so well is not so much the lie itself but the broader subtext of it. Watch Obama's delivery in the snippet put together by this Republican ad:
The key thing is that Obama is angry, and he's talking not in his normal voice but in a "black dialect."
Former Reasoner David Weigel goes to the tapes, and gives a respectful WTF?
In totally unrelated news–except for how it involves a liberal commentator accusing the Romney camp of racism based on evidence that falls apart under scrutiny–Salon's intrepid hunter of political racists, Joan Walsh, sees some white-girl ugliness in Ann Romney's statement to a journalist that "We've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life." Here's the author of What's the Matter With White People?, doing what she does worst:
Like everyone else, I immediately thought of the trouble Ross Perot caused for himself when he referred to the NAACP audience as "you people" in 1992. It's so disrespectful. […]
Now, it may be OK, in some circles, to call the media "you people," which is what Romney would probably argue she was doing. But in fact, she's talking to American voters, a majority of whom (including a third of Republicans) want the Romneys share more tax returns, according to a USAToday poll released Thursday. The poll didn't ask whether voters would like more information generally about how the Romneys "live our life," but that seems if anything an even more arrogant and elitist reaction from Romney.
Ann Romney's comment about "you people" is particularly fascinating to me because I can't get over the way the contemporary right has taken insults they once reserved for African-Americans and applied them to a much broader swath of the country, including white folks, who happen to make up 90 percent of their base. […]
Ann Romney is too well-bred to call African-Americans "you people" in public, of course, especially after what happened to Ross Perot. But she obviously has no problem referring to other folks she holds in contempt that way. Of course Romney has displayed contempt for certain African-Americans – like when she and her husband told the Obamas to "start packing," because in Ann's words, "It's Mitt's time. It's our turn now," to live in the White House. As if the Obamas were troublesome tenants who'd overstayed their welcome in the home that rightly belongs to the Romneys.
The main problem with Walsh's "you people" theory is that Ann Romney didn't say "you people." At least according to those racist Romney apologists at, uh, New York magazine. Judge for yourself:
In totally unrelated news–except for how it involves a liberal commentator accusing the Romney camp of racism based on evidence that falls apart under scrutiny–increasingly spittle-flecked Daily Beast commentator Michael Tomasky the other week called Mitt Romney a "race-baiting pyromaniac" for using the word "Obamacare" at an NAACP convention.
That speech wasn't to the NAACP. It was to Rush Limbaugh. It was to Tea Party Nation. It was to Fox News. Oh, he said some nice things. And sure, let's give him one point for going there at all. But listen: You don't go into the NAACP and use the word "Obamacare" and think that you're not going to hear some boos. It's a heavily loaded word, and Romney and his people know very well that liberals and the president's supporters consider it an insult. He and his team had to know those boos were coming, and Romney acknowledged as much a few hours later in an interview with … guess which channel (hint: it's the one whose web site often has to close articles about race to commenters because of the blatant racism). Romney and team obviously concluded that a little shower of boos was perfectly fine because the story "Romney Booed at NAACP" would jazz up their (very white) base.
Liberals and the president's supporters may indeed consider "Obamacare" an insult, but not, um, the president of the United States. Who has an "I Like Obamacare" page on his campaign website, and who has said on numerous occasions (including five days after Tomasky's column), versions of what he said on Aug. 15, 2011: "Let me tell you, I have no problem with folks saying 'Obama cares.' I do care. If the other side wants to be the folks who don't care, that's fine with me."
And yes, Tomasky has used the phrase "Romneycare," in a headline, as recently as January.
As I wrote after Maureen Dowd appended a "boy" onto Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" retort to Obama, "Generally speaking, when key evidence is 'unspoken,' and in fact imagined by the prosecution, it's a good bet that the overall case is weak." Michael C. Moynihan identified this curious non-trend trend back in 2008, in the midst of a thoughtful and perhaps prematurely optimistic essay on race relations in Obama's America:
Lacking clear-cut examples of racist campaigning against Obama, the defenders of this position turned to what we might charitably call nonobvious examples. Those Britney Spears ads accusing Obama of vapidity and "celebrity," we were told, transmitted a racial code, because the juxtaposition of the candidate with young white women subconsciously stoked fears of miscegenation. The phallic monument in Berlin where Obama gave his speech? The ad included that icon to play on old stereotypes of black male supersexuality. "Race will be central to this campaign because McCain needs it to be," former New Republic Editor Peter Beinart wrote in The Washington Post. "He simply doesn't have many other cards to play." The media sophisticates, having long been warned about unconscious and subterranean racism, knew the racial attacks would happen, even if they weren't visible to the naked eye.
It is the way of discourse in this racism-haunted country that few people (especially white liberals) face sanction for flinging around spurious accusations of the R-word. That doesn't make their behavior any less bizarre, or shameful.