You know the expression "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight?"
Well that's exactly what happened when Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill entered the ring against conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham on "Larry King Live" Thursday night.
The subjects up for debate included the Obamas, Arizona's illegal immigration law, and racism.
To put it mildly, when the final bell had rung, there wasn't much left of Hill (videos and transcripts follow with limited commentary for what will be very obvious reasons):
LARRY KING, HOST: Back with old friend Laura Ingraham. She is in St. Louis. Joining us now from Philadelphia, Marc Lamont Hill, professor of Columbia University, and contributor to the Loop21.com.
All right, Marc, you've been listening to Laura's remarks. What's your overall response to "The Obama Diaries"?
MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I wish I could say I was disappointed. But I didn't expect anything different from Laura. I like Laura. But I think that the kind of energy and negativity that we see directed towards the Obama administration, and even the first lady, I think is ill-placed, it's misplaced.
We can focus our energy on other things rather than mocking the president.
Do I think it's fair -- do I think the president is fair game? Of course. Do I think that some of it is funny? Absolutely.
But I think some one as talented and smart as Laura could be directing her energy towards things like the Tea Party which has a viciously racist wing, or talking about unemployment, or talking about all sorts of things that I'm sure Laura is going to agree with me about right now?
KING: Laura, you can respond. INGRAHAM: Larry, I love Marc Lamont Hill. He's a great one to duke it out with. Look, the Obamas are people. We are all people. They're not deities. They're not monarchs. When Michelle Obama goes to Congress and basically demands billions for a child nutrition initiative, and acts as a health care and a fitness expert -- She is a beautiful woman. But I didn't elect her to anything.
So when you step into the role, you step into the arena. OK? It's not all what sleeveless wants, sleeveless gets. That's not how it works.
HILL: Laura, I don't think that Michelle Obama is a nutritionist. but I don't think Nancy Reagan was an expert on drugs or law enforcement when she became a critical ally in the Reagan administration's war on drugs.
LAURA INGRAHAM: Totally different. That's an inept analogy. She was not on the campaign trail campaigning. She didn't have three cabinet secretaries trailing around with her.
KING: One at a time. One at a time. Marc, go ahead.
HILL: The point here, Laura, is that every First Lady, every presidential administration has someone who advocates for public issues. Whether or not Michelle Obama is a public health expert isn't the point. The fact is we have nutrition problems. We have food -- in places like Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, where people have to go miles and miles for fresh fruit and vegetables. There are real issues here. Let's deal with that instead of beating up on the president or his wife.
INGRAHAM: It's not beating up on anybody. When you inject yourself into one of the most contentious debates of the last 15 years, which is frankly what this whole fitness/health initiative ends up doing for Michelle Obama, that's fine if that's what you want to do. But when you do that, you better be prepared, Marc, to have your ideas and your viewpoints tested in the public arena.
It's no Teflon. There's no Teflon in front of Michelle Obama. She has to answer the critics just like any other pundit or any other policy advocate. And she is a policy advocate. She is out there pushing policy.
Next up was a discussion concerning Arizona's new illegal immigration law:
KING: Let's get into specifics. Marc, the -- the governor -- Marc, the governor is trying to overturn the judge's decision about portions of the Arizona immigration law. What do you think of that move?
HILL: Well, I think it is a necessary move. And I think ultimately we'll find that many aspects of the law are unconstitutional. I think there are several things we have to think about. I think Laura is right and I think Many people on the right are correct in saying that this is a response to the federal government's failure to enforce immigration policy. What we need is comprehensive, common-sense immigration reform, so that we don't need grand gestures like the one that the governor of Arizona enforced. That said, I think the measure in Arizona is one of the most vicious, ugly and vile pieces of public policy we have seen in the last 15 years.
HILL: Absolutely. It's vicious. It's based on xenophobia.
INGRAHAM: You've got buy a vowel on that one, Marc. Vicious?
HILL: Absolutely. I think any time -- it is a fundamentally mean-spirited public policy that is also likely unconstitutional. Any time you imbue with state authority the power that invested in the federal government, that's another major problem. I think it is ugly. I think it's vile. And I think it's unconstitutional.
KING: Let Laura respond.
INGRAHAM: This is not an argument. Ugly, vile and vicious? You know what is really ugly, is when the federal government and our chief law enforcement officer, which is ultimately what the president is, refuses, really, Larry, to enforce federal laws that are on the books right now that have not been repealed, to -- that you have to carry your ID if you are an alien living in this country, if you are a permanent resident, an alien, on a student visa. Federal law requires you to carry your documents. OK?
You are not supposed to be here in the country illegally. If you are, you need to leave. If you are here illegally -- I understand some people are trying to work. I get that. But you are here illegally. You can sugarcoat it. You can say it is mean. You can say it's vile. But then that means you think the laws are vile. Repeal the laws or enforce the laws. Arizona is doing what the federal government will not do.
HILL: Again, some of what you are arguing, Laura, is just a straw argument. I began from the premise that the federal government needs to enforce the law. What we need --
INGRAHAM: they're not going to enforce them. They're not enforcing them. That's why we're where we are.
HILL: Laura, that means we agree on the point. We don't have to pretend to disagree on the point. My disagreement with you is on the response to that reality. The response to that reality --
INGRAHAM: States are supposed to do nothing, just sit there and hope.
KING: Laura, don't interrupt. One at a time.
HILL: The point here is that we need comprehensive immigration reform. That means a humane guest worker policy. That means we need a path to citizenship. That means we need to repeal NAFTA, which create the push into the United States. All we talk about is what happens when immigrants get here. We need to talk about what pushes them there, what kind of economic policies have drawn Mexican farmers by stripping away their economic vitality in Mexico.
This is the type of stuff we need to be talking about, instead of engaging in reactionary policies, which is what the right has been doing. And the left has been sitting on its hands while this has happened.
KING: We are going to take a break.
INGRAHAM: When I get back, can I -- one quick, Larry, what --
KING: Go ahead, Laura, quick response.
INGRAHAM: What we have, in effect, basically in -- in land Obama with immigration, is a don't ask/don't tell policy. Don't ask about your immigration status. And frankly, if you are here illegally, you don't have to tell. They don't want it for the military, but they want it for immigration policy.
HILL: That's not true.
KING: We're going to move to other things, talk about the Charlie Rangel situation when we come back. Don't go away.
In reality, there wasn't much to the Rangel discussion. So, let's fast-forward to the segment concerning Obama's appearance on "The View."
After playing a clip of the President explaining why he calls himself African-American and not biracial, King marvelously asked:
KING: Laura, I know this must puzzle -- why is racism still a question in this country?
INGRAHAM: Well, Larry, I think what happened -- remember a year ago -- remember the Cambridge Police incident with Professor Gates. The president kind of weighed in on that and said that was a dumb thing the police officer did. That set off this conversation. I think, sadly, a lot of people are disappointed that -- they thought they had a post-racial president in President Obama, and because of that, and maybe some of the things that have happened with the immigration debate, they think he might be the most racial president, whether or not he wanted to be.
And so on "The View," that was very interesting. And Barbara Walters was on her game in asking that question. Why don't you call yourself biracial. Obviously, you are half white. It's just a fact. You're half white, half black. So it's biracial. He didn't -- he really stumbled on that question, I thought. I'm not a body language expert. I'll leave that to O'Reilly. But it really seemed to me that he was struggling. He was struggling with that.
He didn't really answer the question. That is a fact. He is black and he is white. And celebrate it. He didn't answer it.
HILL: He actually did answer the question. He made a point to say that the world sees me as African-American. He understands the unique racial legacy of the United States, which at one point had a one drop rule. I mean, literally, if you had one drop of African blood, you were considered black. The reality is President Obama is considered black because he is considered black to the police.
If he were in Cambridge with that police officer, he wouldn't be seen as biracial. If I'm in New York and a cab passes me by, they don't care what percentage of me is white. They see a black person. So the legacy of white supremacy is so permanent and lingering in the United --
INGRAHAM: White supremacy?
HILL: Yes, there is white supremacy in the United States. I know you don't want to acknowledge that. INGRAHAM: We have a biracial or black, whatever we want to call him -- we happen to have a man who is the first black president of the United States. And we had -- we had millions of people who came to Washington, celebrating that. I mean that was amazing for our country. That was -- was that not amazing? Was that not a hurdle we cleared?
HILL: That is a hurdle. That's also a nonsequitur. The point here is that if Joe Lieberman had become president --
INGRAHAM: It's not a nonsequitur. It is a fact.
HILL: If Joe Lieberman were to become president, we wouldn't say that there is no longer anti-Semitism. If Hillary Clinton were president, we would not say that the world is no longer sexist.
INGRAHAM: I don't think anyone is saying that, that there is no racism. Who is saying that?
KING: One at a time. Marc? One at a time.
HILL: Laura, you pointed -- Laura pointed to the election of a black president as evidence that white supremacy no longer lingers.
INGRAHAM: I never said that.
HILL: Even if you want to focus just on public policy, any measure of social prosperity, black people are at the bottom of it. Any measure of social misery, black people are at the top of it.
HILL: Including the unemployment numbers that you just registered. So there are racial numbers.
HILL: President Obama is not the first president to link race to public policy. When President Bush ushered in that awful No Child Left Behind policy, part of what he talked about was the achievement gap between blacks and whites. Talking about race isn't the issue here. Nobody wants to be post-racial. They want to be post-racist. That's what we're fighting for.
INGRAHAM: OK, well, one, you said a lot of things there. The number one thing, I think, as Americans is we really want to get beyond the hyphenated America. I do. I'm half Polish, and then Irish, English. We want to get beyond that. I think the country is yearning, Larry and Marc, for authenticity. And they want someone to come forward and offer real solutions for the black community, the Latino community, the white community, the American community. Forget the color of your skin. We need prosperity and jobs in this country.
Brava, Laura. Brava!