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“Self Declared Spokesman For Blacks”: Why Did Bernie Sanders Put An Obama-Hater On The Democratic Platform Committee?

The liberal case against Hillary Clinton rests in large part upon her associations — people she surrounds herself with and whose judgment she relies upon. She has caught an enormous amount of flak, some of it fair, for her ties to figures in the finance industry or advisers with morally questionable worldviews. By the same token, what should we make of Bernie Sanders’s decision to appoint Cornel West as one of his advisers to the Democratic Party’s platform committee?

West, of course, has socialist views largely in line with Sanders’s own. But West also has a particular critique of the sitting Democratic president that goes well beyond Sanders’s expressions of disappointment. West’s position is not merely that Obama has not gone far enough, but that he has made life worse for African-Americans:

On the empirical or lived level of Black experience, Black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality. How do we account for this irony? It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a postracial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America.

This is actually not empirical. African-American infant mortality has declined, not increased, during Obama’s presidency:

The African-American unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2008. The African-American uninsured rate has fallen by more than half, and the administration has undertaken a wide range of liberalizing reforms to the criminal-justice system. The notion that Obama has made life worse for African-Americans rests entirely on affixing the blame for the 2008 economic collapse on him, without giving him any credit for the wide-ranging measures to alleviate it, or the recovery that has ensued. This is, in other words, the Republican Party’s method of measuring Obama’s record, and it’s the sort of grossly unfair cherry-picking that no good faith critic would use.

West does not merely lament the alleged worsening of conditions for African-Americans that he claims Obama has caused. He has a theory for it:

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”

West’s theory is essentially the mirror image of the notion, peddled by Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich, that Obama absorbed a racial ideology from one of his parents. For Obama’s unhinged right-wing critics, that parent is his father. For West, it is his mother. The racial biases he inherited allegedly define his worldview and turn him into a tool of racial bias — for black people, in the right-wing version, and against them, in West’s. Then you have West’s dismay at Obama’s excessive comfort with wealthy Jews, which he portrays as the result more than the cause of Obama’s lack of interest in helping African-Americans.

The Sanders revolution means that, rather than a full-throated celebration of Obama’s record akin to the treatment Ronald Reagan received at the 1988 Republican convention, the party’s message will include the perspective of one of the president’s avowed haters. Of course, Sanders himself has not said these things, and perhaps he is rewarding West for his campaign service. But if you are celebrating the changes Sanders is bringing about to the Democratic Party, you are celebrating the replacement of one cohort of advisers and activists with another. Sanders’s revolution means giving West’s views more legitimacy and influence in Democratic politics.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 24, 2016

May 30, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Financial Crisis | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Secret Freak Flag”: Rubio’s Robotic Message In The New Hampshire Debate Was Code-Talk To Right-Wing Conspiracy Nuts

Until the returns roll in from Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, we probably won’t know whether Marco Rubio’s poor performance in Saturday night’s Republican candidate debate was an illusion of the punditry or a real stumble that could open the door to a comeback by his Establishment rivals. In the interim, it’s worth wondering why Rubio went robotic on the particular argument that Barack Obama knows exactly what he is doing with the terrible policies that Republicans think are wrecking the country at home and abroad.

The most popular theory was well articulated by Michael Grunwald at Politico: Acutely aware that his critics think of him as a “Republican Obama,” it was important for Rubio to argue that someone as green as he is could be a competent chief executive. In other words, it was all about him, not really Obama.

But that take focuses on the “knows what he’s doing” portion of the “robotic” talking point. As veteran conservative-watcher Dave Weigel of the Washington Post noted Sunday (as did I a bit more tentatively Saturday night), the rest of what Rubio kept saying is evocative of seven years of conspiracy theories from hard-core right-wing gabbers:

[T]he idea of Obama as a saboteur, who “knows exactly” how to undermine American greatness, is deeply ingrained on the right. The rest of Rubio’s answer, lost in the torrent of mockery, was this:

“Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world. That’s why he passed Obamacare and the stimulus and Dodd-Frank and the deal with Iran. It is a systematic effort to change America.”

This should be familiar to anyone in the tea party movement, and especially familiar to anyone who’s read the Obama-era work of Dinesh D’Souza. Starting with a 2009 cover story in Forbes, D’Souza posited that the president was “the last anticolonial,” a man inculcated with anti-Western values, whose decisions were best understood if one asked how they weakened America.

“Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America,” D’Souza wrote. “In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America’s power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe’s resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.”

Over the next few years, D’Souza adapted that thesis into a book and movie. He found common cause with Glenn Beck, who in his Fox News heyday portrayed every Obama decision as part of a long-term left-wing strategy to destroy wealth and empower the Third World. Beck obsessed over a stock phrase from Obama’s 2008 stump speech — that he would help “fundamentally transform America” — and insisted that he had given the game away.

This is precisely the 2008 stump speech that a host of Twitter critics confronted me with Saturday night when I suggested Rubio was blowing a dog whistle to conspiracy theorists.

If Weigel and I (and the folks at Media Matters, and probably other commentators) are onto something, then why would Rubio choose to get in touch with his inner Glenn Beck in “moderate” New Hampshire? Well, for one thing, there is a vein of tea-party sentiment in the Granite State, even if Christian-right types are a bit thin on the ground. And for another thing, Rubio is undoubtedly looking ahead to a long string of contests in much more conservative states that begin on February 20 in Nevada and South Carolina. And finally, the whole essence of a “dog whistle” is to say something that the initiated understand at a lizard-brain level as a profound message without other people being offended — a particularly useful device to a candidate like Rubio who is trying to straddle ideological lines in the GOP. To “moderates” and to media observers innocent of the Beck/D’Souza meme (which Dr. Ben Carson has also alluded to), the question of whether Obama is incompetent or just wrong may seem like a less-filling/tastes-great distinction. So there’s nothing to lose by waving a secret freak flag to the citizens of Wingnuttia — unless you wave it one time too many and Chris Christie points and laughs.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 8, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio, New Hampshire Primaries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Racial Animus, Unconcealed And Unapologetic”: Rudy Giuliani Dives Into Dinesh D’Souza’s Anti-Obama Dumpster

Through a particularly nasty tweet sent Wednesday morning, Dinesh D’Souza once again proved that he excels at being a race-baiting political provocateur who hates President Obama. By Wednesday evening, Rudy Giuliani once again proved that D’Souza’s long-held and wrong-headed suspicions of the president are firmly rooted among right-wing Republicans.

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in attendance at a dinner at the 21 Club in Manhattan, the former New York mayor baldly questioned Obama’s patriotism. “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said, according to a story in Politico. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” This folderol is courtesy of D’Souza.

In a 2010 Forbes piece headlined “How Obama thinks,” the rumored philanderer currently serving five years of probation for campaign finance violations wrote that the president’s worldview was inherited from his father. “[T]o his son, the elder Obama represented a great and noble cause, the cause of anticolonialism,” D’Souza scribbled. “From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America’s military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation,” he later added. “Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America….For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West.”

So noxious was D’Souza’s argument that David Frum, the neoconservative commentator and senior editor at the Atlantic who served as a speechwriter to President George W. Bush, criticized the author and the magazine that published the screed when he ran his own blog.

Nothing more offends conservatives than liberal accusations of racial animus. Yet here is racial animus, unconcealed and unapologetic, and it is seized by savvy editors and an ambitious politician as just the material to please a conservative audience. That’s an insult to every conservative in America.

The ambitious politician Frum refers to is Newt Gingrich, who also parroted D’Souza’s nonsense in a September 2010 interview with the National Journal that can no longer be found online. That Giuliani is spouting the same nonsense unchallenged nearly five years later says as much about him as it does about the Republican Party. Don’t dismiss Giuliani’s questioning the president’s patriotism because he is an unaccountable private citizen. Have a listen to what Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said about Obama’s request for authorization to use military force against the Islamic State during a panel discussion last week. Keep in mind that Perry is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and oversight chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

The conundrum for people like you, people like me and people out in the homeland that feel the same way is that we feel duty bound to do something…..We have a commander in chief who seems not only not ready, not unwilling, but really working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and of individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity. And in that context, how do you vote to give this commander-in-chief the authority and power to take action when…you know in your heart that, if past performance is any indicator of future performance, that he won’t, and that he actually might use it to further their cause and what seems to be his cause and just drag you as a complicitor in it.

Perry later backed off his treasonous assertion against Obama, saying, “Of course he isn’t collaborating with our enemies.” Yeah, okay.

Perry, Giuliani, D’Souza and countless others are part of a larger problem in American political discourse: the constant questioning of whether Obama not only loves this country, but also whether he would do everything in his power to protect it. Those engaging in this destructive discussion are the ones who “don’t love America.”

 

By: Jonathan Capehart, Postpartisan Blog, The Washington Post, February 19, 2015

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Racism, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From The Fringe To The Hill”: For Conservatives, Strange Ideas Effortlessly Seep Into The Mainstream

It’s alarmingly common to hear congressional Republicans repeat some deeply odd conspiracy theories. But more often than not, the theories didn’t start on Capitol Hill; they just ended up there.

This keeps happening.

Four Republican senators have sent FBI Director James Comey a letter regarding conservative author and political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was indicted for campaign finance fraud last month.

In the letter, Sens. Charles Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee quote Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz as saying, “I can’t help but think that [D’Souza’s] politics have something to do with it…. It smacks of selective prosecution.”

“To dispel this sort of public perception that Mr. D’Souza may have been targeted because of his outspoken criticisms of the President, it is important for the FBI to be transparent regarding the precise origin of this investigation,” the senators write.

Last April, I laid out the flight plan, showing the trajectory of these theories: they start with the off-the-wall fringe, then get picked up by more prominent far-right outlets, then Fox News, then congressional Republicans.

Now note the Dinesh D’Souza conspiracy theory. It started with Alex Jones and Drudge. It was then picked up by Limbaugh. And then Fox News. And now four members of the U.S. Senate.

It is one of the more striking differences between how the left and right deal with wild political accusations: for conservatives, strange ideas effortlessly seep into the mainstream.

In this case, D’Souza, a fairly obscure anti-Obama provocateur, was charged with violating federal campaign finance laws, allegedly using straw donors to make illegal third-party donations to a Senate candidate in 2012. D’Souza has denied any wrongdoing.

Looking at this in the larger context, let’s make a few things clear. First, there’s no evidence to suggest politics had anything to do with the charges against D’Souza. Second, if the Justice Department were going to politicize federal law enforcement, risk a national scandal, invite abuse-of-power allegations, and use federal prosecutors to punish conservative activists, it’d probably go after a bigger fish than Dinesh D’Souza.

Third, when the Bush/Cheney administration actually politicized federal law enforcement during the extraordinary U.S. Attorney purge scandal, and there was overwhelming evidence of a genuine scandal, Senate Republicans couldn’t have cared less. Now that an obscure right-wing activist is accused of campaign-finance violations, they’re interested?

And finally, there’s just the unsettling pattern in which Alex Jones and Drudge come up with some silly idea, and within a few weeks, congressional Republicans – including the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for goodness sakes – are demanding answers from the Justice Department.

As we talked about last year, this just doesn’t happen on the left. This is not to say there aren’t wacky left-wing conspiracy theorists – there are, and some of them send me strange emails – but we just don’t see Democratic members of Congress embracing ideas from the far-left fringe.

On the right, however, no one seems especially surprised when a story gradually works its way from Alex Jones’ show to Chuck Grassley’s desk.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 21, 2014

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Idiots They Are”: Once Again, Conservative Media Treat Their Audience Like Idiots

Dinesh D’Souza is one of a number of people who has made a good living over the years trafficking in anti-liberal screeds, culminating in his book The Roots of Obama’s Rage and follow-on film 2016, in which he charges that President Stokely Charmi—excuse me, President Barack Obama is consumed with anti-white racism, hatred of America, and generalized fury because he’s living out the “Kenyan anti-colonialism” of the father he barely knew. It’s a story pitched to the deranged, but there’s a healthy market for that in the right, as we know.

So when D’Souza was charged by a U.S. Attorney with violating campaign finance laws with a straw donor scheme, it wasn’t surprising that some conservatives ran to his defense. You might think they’d take the opportunity to attack the law as unjust, particularly since D’Souza’s lawyer all but admitted his guilt, essentially saying that sure, he violated the law, but he only did so out of friendship for the candidate in question and not for corrupt purposes (“Simply put, there was no ‘quid pro quo’ in this case, nor was there even any knowledge by the candidate that Campaign Finance Rules may have been violated. Mr. D’Souza did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever. He and the candidate have been friends since their college days, and at worst, this was an act of misguided friendship by D’Souza”). But no.

Instead, you get the conspiracy theories, which Ben Dimiero helpfully gathered here. Matt Drudge tweets, “They are going after the Obama critics with indictments. VA Gov. Now Dinesh D’souza. Holder unleashing the dogs…” Nationally syndicated radio host and frequent Fox news guest host Laura Ingraham says the indictment “is more about stifling political dissent and intimidating other people from speaking out than it is about any real serious allegation of wrongdoing.” Rush Limbaugh, the most successful radio host in America, tells his listeners that the Obama administration is “trying to criminalize as many Republicans and conservatives as they can.”

To be sure, plenty of conservatives think that’s ridiculous. But think about the argument here: Do these folks actually believe that the Attorney General of the United States is sitting around with his aides and says, “I’ve had enough. That D’Souza? I want him taken down! He’s been a thorn in our side for too long.” Then he places a call to the White House. “Mr. President? Good news. I think we found a way to get Dinesh D’Souza.” “Thank God!” replies Obama. “He could destroy this entire presidency if we don’t deal with him.”

The answer is, of course they don’t think that. But they think their audiences do. They think the people who read their web sites and listen to their radio shows are so stupid that they’d believe there’s a conspiracy at the highest levels of the federal government aimed at…Dinesh D’Souza.

The left’s media stars may be far from perfect in a variety of ways. But one thing you can say about them as a group is that they don’t assume their audience is made up of idiots.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 24, 2014

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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