Unstacking the Deck
If Obama doesn’t talk about race, then who will?
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Myron Wyckoff of Carmel Valley is troubled by the turn the presidential contest took last week.
The retired Army sergeant first class was referring to assertions by John McCain’s campaign that Barack Obama played the “race card” in a speech July 30 in Missouri in which Obama pointed out that he is different than previous presidential candidates, and that the opposition will try to portray him as too “risky” to lead the country.
“It’s sad that we’ve got to go this low,” says Wyckoff, whose heritage is black, white and Native American. “It is building up class hatred… The one thing they taught us in the military is, if we ever get taken out it will be because of [racism]. We have tiptoed around this for many decades… We’ve got to shed this.”
As McCain continues to obliterate his “maverick” image, perhaps he thinks accusing Obama of playing the race card is the only way he can win the White House, since he basically is running on President Bush’s bankrupt policies on the Iraq war, the economy and health care.
“RACE IS AN ISSUE THIS NATION CANNOT AFFORD TO IGNORE RIGHT NOW.”
Or perhaps the response to Obama’s remarks was delayed jealousy because McCain couldn’t get the time of day from the media when they swarmed and swooned over Obama on his recent trip to the Middle East and Europe. With no other ammunition, McCain takes the cheap shot.
Besides, whether Obama was raising the race issue or not (he maintains he was not), what’s wrong with that? As a potential leader of this country, if he’s not going to talk openly about it, then who will? Recall his speech last March when he said, “Race is an issue… this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.” He noted then that the complexities of race issues are something “that we’ve never really worked through– a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.”
The speech was gutsy; Obama was challenging us as a nation to overcome our fears and suspicions of one another.
Certainly it was less dicey for him to give that speech during the thick of the primary campaign than it would be now, since he’s the presumptive Democratic nominee. But that doesn’t mean he should shrink from the conversation. And it doesn’t mean race is the only issue in the campaign, either.
Still, if blogs, web comments and 24-hour news network talking heads are any indication, the issue is on many peoples’ minds. Avoiding it will not make it go away.
On ABC’s This Week Sunday, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile noted, “The fact is, [Obama] is black. And he is injecting race… It’s a way to make people more comfortable. It’s the elephant in the room… I don’t think he accused John McCain of being a racist or running a racist campaign. Clearly, he has sought to inject race in a healthy way.”
This is what Obama said last week: “So nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me… You know, ‘He doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky.’ That’s essentially the argument they’re making.”
McCain called the statements “divisive, negative, shameful and wrong,” after his campaign accused Obama of “playing the race card… from the bottom of the deck.”
Add this to recent McCain ads in which Obama is likened to lightweight celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world,” the voiceover says. “But, is he ready to lead?”), and it is clear McCain isn’t running on the issues. These lowbrow ads have set the stage for even more rancor, racism and divisiveness as the campaign progresses. McCain continued down the low road Aug. 1 with a video mocking Obama as “the one.” The clip includes Charlton Heston as Moses, parting the Red Sea.
McCain just chuckles, saying the ads are fun.
For his part, Wyckoff says McCain should stick to the issues. “We need him to say what he’s going to do,” he says.
He emphasizes that Obama should not ignore all criticism when it comes his way.
“You just can’t let people whoop you over the head and you don’t say anything,” Wyckoff says. “My advice to Obama would be to stick with the issues and regardless of what McCain comes up with, let [some of] it slide off his shoulders. And say what he needs to, to take us forward. If race comes up, he has to tell the truth about it… but you don’t want to dwell on it.”
To borrow McCain’s catch phrase: “My friends,” that sounds like a prudent course.