Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Limbaugh Did Not Like The NAACP Speech

You really have to give Rush Limbaugh credit. Some people say consistency is the hobglobin of little minds, but it is just as accurate to suggest that it adds a welcome predictability to public discourse. And Rush consistently attacks Barack Obama and never has a positive word to say about him- unless it is to contrast him with evil villans Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank.

Somehow, Limbaugh was able to condemn President Obama's speech given to the NAACP on July 16, including this virtually unassailable remark:

Our kids can't all aspire to LeBron or Lil Wayne. (applause) I want them to aspiring to be scientists and engineers, actors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. (applause) I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be the president of the United States of America. (wild applause)

Not totally unassailable. Main Street Liberal would not have included "actors" in the same sentence as scientists, engineers, and teachers. The pursuit of the cult of celebrity, in which no one aspires to a bit part or even to be a good actor, but only to attain stardom, is a slightly less noble pursuit; and the social good to come of it is inarguably inferior. (But this country certainly needs more scientists and engineers; and teachers, if only because there has to be a whole occupational class underpaid, unappreciated, and called upon to serve in the front lines of America's divisions of class and race.)

Unsurprisingly, the conflation of acting with that of more essential professions was not Rush's beef. Instead, as his heroine Sarah Palin often does, he played the victim card:

Unless you're Clarence Thomas. Unless you're Condoleezza Rice. Unless you're Walter Williams. Unless you're Dr. Thomas Sowell. Then you can forget about all those aspirations because people like Obama are going to chop you into liver. And finally this is Obama's worldview.

Personally, I don't recall State Senator, Senator, or President Obama leading the charge against Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Walter Williams, or Dr. Thomas Sowell. And neither does Rush. And it's frankly difficult to think of Clarence Thomas, a man of limited qualifications, who very likely perjured himself when speaking of Anita Hill, and who was rewarded with a seat on the United States Supreme Court, as a victim. Is Condoleezza Rice, who set out to scare the American people with visions of a "mushroom cloud" if we did not invade Iraq- and who still receives relatively little criticism for her role in spreading disinformation- a victim? I don't think so. As for Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell- what is Rush even thinking about? But then, playing the race card is an essential tactic in Limbaugh's rhetorical quiver.

Oh, there are phrases or comments laced throughout the President's speech that are objectionable. Obama refers to "Muslim Americans," a misleading construction akin to the growing reference to American Jews as "Jewish Americans," in the same way we refer to "Italian Americans," "Irish Americans," "Polish Americans," "Greek Americans," and so forth. But these are, unlike status as Jews or Muslims, ethnic groups. It would be as if we started to refer to Catholic Americans and Protestant Americans. Which we don't, for good reason.

Obama also naively believes that the presence of Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich in the Oval Office talking education represents agreement about the need and benefit in improving education for all American children. A race hustler, an egomaniac who can't leave office gracefully, and an overrated, washed-up politician on the far, far right. If there is anything they agree on, it can't be good. Similarly, Obama's remark "We're creating incentives for states to promote excellent teachers and replace bad ones," though consistent with earlier remarks he has made regarding education, blithely assumes that it is easily done, and will not do more harm than good.

But Obama does understand, critically

....that our task of reducing these structural inequalities has been made more difficult by the state and structure of our broader economy; an economy that for the last decade has been fueled by a cycle of boom and bust; an economy where the rich got really, really rich, but ordinary folks didn't see their incomes or their wages go up; an economy built on credit cards, shady mortgage loans; an economy built not on a rock, but on sand.

(And he gets an extra point for referring to "the last decade," the incomparably destructive Financial Services Modernization Act having been passed on November 12, 1999.)

But Rush primarily has race on the brain, such as when he claims

Oh, folks! Folks, this is the original litmus test. This is the original list of sins. This guy is out there stoking more hatred among these people. He's not bringing us together. Where's the unity? Here, we have three more of these. Here President Obama lists all of the excuses the left makes for African-American failure.

And what are these excuses? Rush quotes Obama as maintaining

If you're African-American the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are high. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades. (applause) That's not a reason to cut class. That's not a reason to give up on y'education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands, you cannot forget that, that's why we have to teach all of our children! No excuses! No excuses!

Somehow, Rush interprets "no one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands...." as being an excuse for anti-social behavior. (Of course, one's destiny cannot be in one's hands or anyone else's; otherwise, it wouldn't be destiny.) And it's hardly making "excuses" to explain

....I also know what can happen to a child that does. I was raised by a single mom. I didn't come from a lot of wealth. I got into my share of trouble as a child. My life could have easily taken a turn for the worse. When I drive through Harlem or I drive through the South Side of Chicago and I see young men on the corners, I say, there but for the grace of God go I. (Applause.) They're no less gifted than me. They're no less talented than me.

But I had some breaks. That mother of mine, she gave me love; she pushed me, she cared about my education; she took no lip; she taught me right from wrong. Because of her, I had a chance to make the most of my abilities. I had the chance to make the most of my opportunities. I had the chance to make the most of life.


At least Rush Limbaugh is interesting. While most of the rest of America, with fits and starts, two steps forward and one step back, tries to put race hostility behind it, the Republican Party head sticks to script.

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