Political reporter Michael Shear uses a half-baked Times "expose" to accuse the GOP of using racial attacks by bringing up the legitimate issue of the anti-white, anti-American, paranoid ravings of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for decades in Chicago, in Saturday's "Race and Religion Rear Their Heads."
Perhaps the uglier side of politics is always close to the surface.
President Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, have said for months that the 2012 election will be about the economy. But on Thursday, it became -- at least for a brief moment -- about the always touchy issues of race and religion.
Shear's "political memo" was keyed on a Times front-page expose that allegedly "exposed a secret plan by Republican strategists and financiers to rekindle questions about the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Mr. Obama’s onetime pastor, and his angry black-power sermons." Subsequent reports indicate the Times seriously overplayed how far the proposal had gone.
Nevertheless, Shear advanced a racial argument against the GOP, while leaving out details of another scoop, from Joel Pollak of Breitbart, who dug up a 1991 booklet from a literary agent claiming that Obama was "Born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii." He also likened the Drudge Report and Breitbart.com to "some extreme quarters of the American electorate" for the crime of reporting news the liberal media overlooked.
But the issues of race and religion never go completely away, at least in some extreme quarters of the American electorate.
On Thursday, the Drudge Report posted a link on its Web site to a report that sought to revive the long-discredited assertion that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. And as election season heats up, so does publication of books promoting various conspiracies and theories, including a new one seeking to focus new attention on Mr. Obama’s dealings with Mr. Wright.
Shear didn't bother to give details about the Drudge link, which presumably was this Breitbart scoop from last week, about a 1991 booklet from a literary agency listing Obama's birthplace as Kenya.
Shear ignored conservatives who aren't in fact questioning Obama's birthplace, but instead are asking why such details like the booklet were overlooked by the media during the race of 2008. They are also questioning whether Obama submitted his own biography, as was customary at that agency, or if not, why he failed to correct the erroneous bio (which remained uncorrected until 2007).
Even when Shear stuck up for Romney he left out a lot, suggesting only "conservatives" get ugly about Romney's Mormon faith.
And Mr. Romney has his own experience with the staying power of personal attacks. During the Republican primary campaign, ugly questions about his Mormon faith were revived by a few conservative pastors who called it a “cult.”
Actually, Democrats in this election cycle have been quite active in mocking the Mormon faith, and the Times itself has contributed with its own juvenile humor. Columnist Charles Blow reacted angrily to comments on the breakdown of minority families during a debate: “Let me just tell you this Mitt ‘Muddle Mouth’: I'm a single parent and my kids are *amazing*! Stick that in your magic underwear.”
In the paper's online Room for Debate January 30, "What Is It About Mormons?" contributor Ian Williams was flippant: "While it's easy to be seduced by a church known for its practicality, its financial acumen and its commitment to both self-betterment and worldly outreach, I wouldn't buy the underwear just yet."