Barack Obama became a candidate for president on the wings of his 2004 Dem convention keynote speech in which he famously said "there is not a Black America and a White America a Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America." But as Rush Limbaugh has described in the Wall Street Journal today, Obama is now relying on deceptive ads for the express purpose of stoking racial antagonism. Obama's appeal to our worst instincts finds its echo in the MSM. Time's Swampland blog has an item up today by Karen Tumulty entitled "McCain Plays the Race Card." How has McCain allegedly done this? By running an ad that, according to Tumulty [emphasis added]:
[I]s hardly subtle: Sinister images of two black men, followed by one of a vulnerable-looking elderly white woman . . . [T]he image of the victim doesn't seem accidental either, given the fact that older white women are a key swing constituency in this election.
The supposedly "sinister" looking black men? Barack Obama and Franklin Raines, the former CEO of Fannie Mae. And the "vulnerable-looking elderly white woman"? It's the lady shown in the image here [larger image after the jump]. Now as much as we might find it distasteful to engage in some kind of latter-day racial phrenology, if Time is going to rely on this image to accuse McCain of trying to scare elderly white women, I'm afraid we're going to have to go there. An informal instant-message survey of friends and family to whom I sent the image yielded these responses to my open-ended question as to the woman's race:
- "Hispanic or Italian."
- "I have no idea."
- "Caucasian, maybe Italian."
- "Hispanic or Polynesian."
- "Turkey, Greece, Eastern Europe, maybe Middle East."
- "Very hard to say. Italian? Light-skinned Mexican woman or even from Israel?
There's no consensus. I'd say the McCain campaign went out of its way to choose an Everywoman. Surely they didn't select some prototypical white Aunt Sally from Sioux City.
Having read this far, it's going to be a challenge for readers to give a completely instinctual reaction, but give it a try. What do you think? Better yet, if you have family or friends handy, show or send them the image, without explanation or coaching, and let us know how they respond.
Tumulty builds her race-card case by suggesting that the ad uses the image of Raines because he is black, rather than that of Jim Johnson, the white former Fannie Mae CEO who had to quit as an Obama adviser when it was revealed he had received a sweetheart loan from Countrywide. But while it was presumably wrong of Johnson to take the loan, he hasn't been accused of anything like the wrongdoing in which Raines was involved. As per this NY Times article, Raines paid millions of dollars of fines for his role in the Fannie Mae accounting scandal. According to this article from the Washington Post, Study Finds 'Extensive' Fraud at Fannie Mae, a federal report found Fannie Mae engaged in "extensive financial fraud" under Raines, who kept his weak board of directors "uninformed" about his questionable practices. So Raines was clearly a much stronger symbol of corruption and cronyism than Johnson.
Note also that Tumulty tries to downplay as "a Washington Post Style section story" the WaPo article on which the ad relies to demonstrate that Raines has been an Obama advisor. But the WaPo archive of author Anita Huslin's work reveals she specializes in finance, not fashion.
Finally, have a look at the ad and consider the images of Obama and Raines. Tumulty finds them "sinister." I'd say that says more about Tumulty than anyone else.