Let's play one of our favorite parlor games: "WIARHSI?" You know: "What if a Republican Had Said It?" In today's game, let's imagine what would happen if a Republican presidential candidate had said that Barack Obama was the first "clean" and "articulate" African-American presidential candidate?
- Which paper would be first to call for the Republican's withdrawal from the race: the NY Times, Boston Globe, WaPo, other?
- How soon until Jesse Jackson, Carol Moseley-Braun and Al Sharpton turned up on TV to be asked how they felt about being insulted in this way?
- How many hours of MSM musing over the GOP's "history of racial insensitivity"; how many replays of Trent Lott making his statement about Strom Thurmond, of George Allen's 'macaca' moment, etc., would we be subjected to over the ensuing week?
- How long until the hapless Republican did indeed withdraw from the race?
But when it's a Democrat . . . count on Chris Matthews, for one, to circle the wagons.
Matthews had Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post and Jay Carney of Time magazine in as guests. The trio didn't even broach the Biden comments until a full ten minutes into their gab fest, after batting around a number of other issues. How long would Chris have waited to launch had it been a Republican on the hot seat?
View edited video clip here.
From the get-go, Matthews focused on the "articulate" issue. He suggested to Carney "is this just a tempest in a teapot, or what?" When Carney described Jesse Jackson as articulate, Matthews interjected "I would put him at the top, right there with, in fact I'd give him a notch over Mario Cuomo." Higher praise hath no Democrat!
Carney took his lead from Chris. He suggested that Biden's only fault was in not being clear in saying that "there hasn't been a viable African-American candidate with all those qualities . . ." Chris couldn't stop himself from interrupting to complete Carney's thought: "and who's mainstream!" Carney acquieseced: "and mainstream." Matthews again: "mainstream's the key thing."
Matthews then digressed into a discussion of a Chris Rock riff about white people damning black college graduates with faint praise for being "articulate."
Chris was clearly in a forgiving mood: "I measure people by their heart. I don't think Biden was saying anything different than somebody from his generation would say."
Anne Kornblut wasn't about to crack down either on poor old Joe: "This is classic Joe Biden. He tends toward the hyperbolic and he talks and talks and talks, and that's one of the things that I think voters in Delaware have loved about him for a long time . . . and he just can't help himself." Aside: people from Delaware "love" the fact that Biden's a blowhard?
When Carney observed that Biden "tends toward the impolitic," citing the case from the summer where Biden made a crack about Indian people working in convenience stores, Matthews again butted in to defend Joe:
"He's trying to talk like people. And the minute these people use the talking points, we mock them for the talking points. When they try to talk like people - of their generation . . ."
Defense attorney Matthews offered his closing argument:
"I ask everybody out there to do what I'm trying to do -- look at this reasonably. In my religion I call it a venial sin - I'm not sure it's even that. I'm waiting on this one."
Does anyone really think Matthews would be so forgiving if a Republican had uttered the same words? In any case, notice the enormous straw man Chris set up. The entirety of the discussion focused on the "articulate" word in Biden's statement. Matthews & Co. utterly ignored Biden's depiction of Obama as the first "clean" African-American candidate. How can the MSM gang possibly talk its way around that?
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