How do you react when you turn on a Sunday morning news show and find the highly respected, retired four-star general, Colin Powell, irresponsibly throwing out claims of racism at the Republican party that sound as if they’re being read directly from an MSNBC teleprompter?
If you’re a liberal, you probably feel a thrill up your leg. If you’re a conservative like me, however, you slap your hand to your forehead and finally accept the reality that the man you once deeply admired has not only retired from public service, but also from his own personal reputability.
For those who missed it, Powell made the following provocative comments to NBC’s David Gregory on Meet the Press:
“There’s also a dark– a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the Party. What I do mean by that? I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities. How can I evidence that? When I see a former governor say that the president is shuckin’ and jivin’, that’s a racial era slave term. When I see another former governor after the president’s first debate where he didn’t do very well, says that the president was lazy. He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well, he said he was lazy. Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans but to those of us who are African-Americans, the second word is shiftless and then there’s a third word that goes along with it.”
A couple of things have been apparent regarding Powell over the last few years. It’s clear he feels animosity toward the Bush administration (and by extension the Republican party) for what he has referred to as a blot on his record over faulty intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It’s also apparent that he feels a sense of pride in having Barack Obama as our president, and has become a vocal defender of him.
What wasn’t apparent until Sunday was Powell’s willingness to sink down into the depths of a typical left-wing bomb-thrower by playing the race card. It was an incredibly disappointing thing to watch, even for those of us who had already questioned Powell’s political judgement when he endorsed Barack Obama’s presidency… twice. No matter how you paint it, race-baiting isn’t any less despicable coming from a man of Powell’s stature than it is coming from Chris Matthews and the rest of the MSNBC looney-bin. In reducing himself to their level, he has, in my eyes, sacrificed the strong reputation he’s long had of being a thoughtful, independent voice in our political discourse. My sense is that I’m far from alone in that sentiment. I hope, for Powell, that the rhetoric was worth it.
In a general sense, it absolutely boggles my mind that after four years of routine accusations of racism levied at Republicans by Obama supporters, the accusers still can’t seem to offer up any coherent evidence to support their claims. Instead of any rational case, all we keep hearing about is this obsessive concept of racist dog-whistles, the modern-day definition of which seems to be: Mundane words or phrases that magically transform into subliminal racism when uttered by someone with an “R” next to their name.
During last year’s presidential campaign we learned from the mainstream media that the official racist dog-whistle list includes, but is certainly not limited to: “Chicago”, “food stamps”, “monkeying”, “golf”, and as Colin Powell reminded us on Sunday, “shuck and jive”, and “lazy.”
How anyone can take such nonsense seriously is beyond me, but if it’s the basis for Powell’s argument, how about using a single standard? If “shuck and jive” and “lazy” are enough evidence to proclaim that Republicans are intolerant and “look down on minorities”, where does that leave someone like Vice President Joe Biden who has become well known for his racially insensitive remarks?
In case some have forgotten, Biden’s the guy who talked about black people being put “back in chains” just a few months ago. He’s the guy who, in 2007 before joining the presidential ticket, marveled at how Obama was the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” He’s the guy who, in 2006, told a supporter, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.” He’s the guy who, in a speech in 2012, dawned an Indian accent and said, “How many times you get the call, ‘I like to talk to you about your … credit card?”
Is that behavior not concerning to Powell? Is there no “dark vein” of “looking down on minorities” in “some parts” of the Democratic Party? By Powell’s own criteria, the evidence seems to be there.
How about a high-ranking Democrat who sat in his proclaimed spiritual adviser’s church for 20 years, listening to him routinely preach hate, racism, an anti-Americanism? Granted it’s no highly deplorable example of intolerance like saying “shuck and jive” or “lazy” (yes, that’s sarcasm), but it sure seems like the kind of thing that would concern Powell, given his comments on Sunday. Oddly, however, it doesn’t.
The mainstream media will, of course, continue to examine Powell’s comments aggressively. After all, there are few stories they like more than a Republican attacking his own party (even though I’m not sure exactly what makes Powell a Republican anymore). However, it will be difficult for any rational thinker to find logic in such a selective proclamation of racism, especially when the rhetoric was nothing more than the same, tired, nonsensical charges that conservatives have had to endure for the past four years.
Then again, logic matters little in today’s politics, and the only insight we can derive from Powell’s Sunday performance is that conservatives can look forward to another four years of routinely being called racists in the promised post-racial era of Obama.