TRIBE AND RACE: Yet this is us!


Part 5—Soaked in tribal certainty: To what extent is Obama disrespected on the basis of race?

It’s an interesting question, although, of course, it can’t be answered in anything resembling a precise way.

Charles Blow discussed this question last weekend, responding to what Oprah Winfrey had said. Early in his column, he offered a potentially helpful framework:
BLOW (11/16/13): To what extent does this president’s race animate those loyal to him and those opposed? Is race a primary motivator or a subordinate, more elusive one, tainting motivations but not driving them?

To some degree, the answers lie with the questioners. There are different perceptions of racial realities. What some see as slights, others see as innocent opposition. But there are some objective truths here. Racism is a virus that is growing clever at avoiding detection. Race consciousness is real. Racial assumptions and prejudices are real. And racism is real. But these realities can operate without articulation and beneath awareness. For those reasons, some can see racism where it is absent, and others can willfully ignore any possibility that it could ever be present.
Much of that passage is hard to parse. But at the end of that passage, Blow offers a framework which could have been useful, especially to his many “liberal” readers.

People can err in different ways, Blow says in that passage. Regarding racism, some people can ignore the possibility that racism even exists. But uh-oh:

Other people can see racism where it is (or may be) absent!

That formulation could have served as a useful warning to Blow’s liberal readers. It could have warned us that we can err in our perceptions too.

But Blow went on to offer two examples of alleged misperception concerning race. In his first example, he savaged Rush Limbaugh for a comment which wasn’t especially stupid. And each example catered to prevailing “liberal” preferences.

Wouldn’t you know it? Blow failed to provide an example of someone “seeing racism where it is absent!” As a result, we’d have to say he got the comments he bargained for.

In the very first comment, a regular commenter dreamed of the day when “those people” will all be dead. Out of Blow’s 598 comments, that comment received the third highest number of recommendations from Blow’s readers.

Let’s consider the two comments which were enjoyed even more.

By far, the following comment was recommended by the most readers. (To see rankings, click on READER PICKS.) It offered a basic answer to the basic question Blow posed:
COMMENTER FROM SOBE: No President of the United States has EVER had to put up with what President Obama has had to endure. From "you lie" to congressmen who are birthers, every effort has been made to delegitimize the Obama presidency.

Meanwhile Congress is bent on being destructive. First they were obsessed with denying the President a second term. Now they want to deny the President a legacy. They don't care if the country falls apart as long as Obama gets the blame. The deliberate message to the electorate is obvious. "Don't ever elect one again."

This is not a "poor Obama;" It is a "poor us." Because of obvious racial resentment, our country has been in a stalemate for five years and we, the good citizens, have permitted the lunatic fringe to control the House of Representatives.

I am hoping that Hillary gets elected. She has the skills to wear out these miscreants.
Earlier that week, name-calling historian Rick Perlstein had said that Presidents Kennedy and Clinton received the same amount of vituperation as that now aimed at Obama. In this, the day’s most recommended comment, Blow’s reader rejected that view.

No one has ever been attacked like Obama, this commenter said. And it’s all because of “racial resentment”—obvious racial resentment.

That was the most recommended comment. In this, the second highest-rated comment, a reader offered a sweeping assessment of what Those People think and feel:
COMMENTER FROM RHODE ISLAND: While George W. Bush was president, I reflexively pushed the mute button if he turned up on TV; couldn't stand the man and everything he stood for, and this distaste extended to his voice. It was visceral. I felt the same way about Ronald Reagan. I still make a noise of disgust when I see a photo of him. So I understand how political views can become very personal and intense. Reagan and Bush, to me, symbolized the ascendency of the plutocracy, the end of the middle class, the end of democracy as we understood it. I was angry and frightened by that. Barack Obama's opposition is no less angry and frightened about their world changing, and he is the embodiment of their fear: that people who aren't like them are achieving some political power, and it will be at their expense. I felt Bush and Reagan governed only for the rich; they feel Obama governs only for blacks. Barack Obama, despite his consistent, maddening tendency to favor Wall Street, is first and foremost a black man to those who hate him most. I don't for a minute believe that his opposition is not motivated by race, since they vilify him for things that he hasn't actually done, like make life appreciably better for blacks and the poor. It's not about "spending”—presidents always spend, Republicans even more than Democrats; it's on whose behalf the spending is done that gets people so upset–if it's a black man doing the spending, it must be for blacks. Even if it's not remotely true.
This reader “still makes a noise of disgust” when she sees a photo of Reagan. Because she was “angry and frightened,” she knows that everyone is.

Given 598 comments to choose from, we liberals liked this second best.

The key word is that comment is “they.” Without a hint of self-consciousness, this reader assumes that everyone who opposes Obama does so for the same reason, with the same consciousness:

“Barack Obama is first and foremost a black man to those who hate him most. I don't for a minute believe that his opposition is not motivated by race.”


In this sweeping assessment, is it possible that this reader is “seeing racism where it is absent?” If Blow had offered an example of this type of error, this reader might have taken useful instruction. But alas! As it stands, Blow’s denunciations of Rush Limbaugh and Richard Cohen fueled the familiar fury which animates the modern, poorly-instructed pseudo-liberal world.

No president has ever been so disrespected! The disrespect is motivated by race! These sweeping assessments reflect the modern pseudo-liberal consensus.

This meal sells well on MSNBC and over at Salon.

The suits can make a lot of money throwing this feed to the herd. We cattle run along the wagons, waiting for our latest feeding. And make no mistake:

This gruel is the stuff of divide and conquer, the world the plutocrats love. The 99 percent has always been easy to beat when it makes war on itself.

We humans have always been easy to play; the plutocrats have always known this. It’s easy to pander to the tribes, “to children ardent for some desperate glory.”

For ourselves, we’d recommend the cool, clear reason of the seasoned charioteers, like noble Nestor of old. In Homer’s account, “He always gave the best advice.” For one example, see below.

In the current instance, who has given good sound advice? Consider the way Kevin Drum reacted to Perlstein’s piece about the various vituperations.

“It’s crucial to realize that the vituperation directed at Obama is little different from that aimed at John F. Kennedy, who was so hated by the right that his assassination was initially assumed by most observers to have been done by a conservative; or Bill Clinton,” Perlstein wrote.

Below, you see a chunk of Drum’s reaction, with which we don’t fully agree:
DRUM (11/13/13): I don't doubt for a second that the racial component of the latest right-wing fluorescence is stronger because Obama is black. But it's only modestly stronger, and you hardly need to go back to JFK to see this. It's easy to think of Bill Clinton today as a cuddly, beloved elder statesman, but anyone over the age of 40 knows that Clinton lived through an eruption of right-wing rage that was every bit as bad as what Obama has gone through. Even the specific obsessions of the wingers weren't even very different. Health care socialism? Check. Economy-killing taxes? Check. Gay rights destroying America as we know it? Check. Supposed juvenile drug use? Check. Endless faux scandals and corruption? Check. Government shutdown? Check. Deficit hysteria? Check. Ball-busting wife? Check. The similarities, frankly, are pretty stunning.

The differences are on the margin. There were no birthers in the 90s, but there were all the black babies Clinton supposedly fathered. There was no Benghazi, but there was Black Hawk Down. There was no Solyndra or Fast & Furious, but there was Mena airfield and Monica's blue dress. You work with what you have, so the details are always going to be different. But the melody is pretty much the same.

Tea partiers don't hate Obama because he's black, they hate him because he's a Democrat, and Democrats are forever taking away their money and giving it to the indolent. And while being black probably hurts Obama a bit with this crowd in a way that Clinton avoided, being a philanderer hurt Clinton in a way that Obama has avoided. In the end, I suspect it's mostly a wash. Perlstein is right: Obama was destined to be hated by the reactionary right no matter what.
“The similarities, frankly, are pretty stunning. The differences are on the margin.”

We’d be inclined to agree with that. And by the way, however moronic some assaults on Obama have been, the assaults on Clinton were also amazingly stupid—unless you believe that he and his wife were involved in a succession of murders, even as he was running drugs through the Mena Airport.

(As late as August 1999, Chris Matthews let Gennifer Flowers lounge about for a full half-hour recalling the Clintons’ various murders. Back then, he was being paid millions to do that. Today, Matthews is paid to shovel the shit which pleases those in our tribe. Astoundingly, embarrassingly, we in the “liberal” world happily tolerate this.)

Serial murders, in the mist of drug-running! If those claims were made about Obama, the hustlers would say that such things would only be said about a black man. They would shout this truth from the rooftops, stuffing money into their pants as they so proclaimed.

Drum downplayed one part of Perlstein’s assessment—the part in which Perlstein seemed to say that the assaults on Kennedy and Clinton were “racism-soaked,” just like the assault on Obama. In that way, Perlstein—whose brilliant name-calling suffused his piece—continued to let us enjoy the claim that Those People are defined by their racism.

That said, Drum advanced a rather obvious point—the vituperation aimed at Obama is amazingly similar to that which was aimed at Bill Clinton. But Blow’s top commenter quickly said that no president has ever been treated like this, and liberal readers stampeded in pleasure.

We made that comment our number-one pick, out of some 600 choices. In this way, we show how little we know. We show how little we paid attention during the 1990s.

We show how little we actually cared, back when the previous bullshit transpired. We show how little we care to remember or learn.

We show how happily we will stampede as the hustlers earn their clicks and achieve their ratings.

To our taste, even Drum offers an overly sweeping assessment of the motives of the tea party, a poorly-defined collection of tens of millions of people who happen to be fellow citizens. (Do no tea partiers “hate Obama because he's black?”) But as our nation is driven apart by the hustlers on the two cable channels, we liberals have established a point which we ourselves find surprising:

We are just dumb as They are! We love to soak ourselves in our tribal purity too!

Those top three comments just weren’t very sharp. Let’s be more frank—they tilted toward dumb.

The comments we love aren’t all that sharp. And yet, to borrow from the poet:
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that's quite [our] own.
Yet this is [Us.]
Nestor gives good sound advice: In Book 9 of The Iliad, headstrong Diomedes stands in council and hotly opposes Agamemnon.

“You lie,” he more or less says. Plainly, a racial statement.

Instantly, Nestor rose to speak. Homer records his advice:
And all the Achaeans shouted their assent,
stirred by the stallion-breaking Diomedes’ challenge.
But Nestor the old driver rose and spoke at once:
"Few can match your power in battle, Diomedes,
and in council you excel all men your age.
So no one could make light of your proposals,
not the whole army—who could contradict you?
But you don't press on and reach a useful end.
How young you are—why, you could be my son,
my youngest-born at that, though you urge our kings
with cool clear sense: what you've said is right.
But it's my turn now, Diomedes.
I think I can claim to have some years on you.
So I must speak up and drive the matter home.
And no one will heap contempt on what I say,
not even mighty Agamemnon. Lost to the clan,
Lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for all the horrors of war with his own people.

But now, I say, let us give way to the dark night,
set out the evening meal...
“Come, gather us all and we will heed that man who gives the best advice,” Nestor says, moments later. “That’s what they need, I tell you—all the Achaeans—good sound advice...”

What did Nestor mean when he warned against “all the horrors of war with his own people?” You’re asking a very good question!

Oprah Winfrey has often been judged to give her followers good sound advice. Could it be time for her to make The Iliad one of her books?


  1. In addition, I think Republican President GW Bush was disrespected more than Obama. E.g., despite earning a Yale Bachelor's degree and a Harvard MBA, he was widely represented as an idiot. The linking of Bush to Hitler was routine.

    1. Did you miss the entire point of this post? Do you really think it was about criticism of presidents?

    2. Please name one senator or congressman who linked Bush to Hitler you dumb shmuck.

    3. No sane person ever linked President Bush in such a horrid way and you know it and are just making this up. Routine? Stop the lying.

    4. After 9-11, George W Bush enjoyed a honeymoon with the Press Corp that extended, essentially until the "enough's enough" moment of Katrina. It was important to his fucking up the planet in a fashion unlike any other individual in our time. Even the obvious catastrophe of the invasion of Iraq received
      "even handed" coverage, and Bob Somerby ran protection for the Bush White too, in his way, with his refusal to write seriously about the Scooter Libby send up. The Press had looked the other way in Bush's AWFUL background, the company wrecking and influence peddling that had defined his career, and which would play out predictably in his Presidency. David in Ca is a dishonest person at a very fundamental level as he well remembers all of this. Bill O'Reilly threatened to ruin the careers of anyone who was critical of the invasion of Iraq in real time. He was never called out for this by the Daily Howler, who has constantly forgiven or looked the other way at this kind of crap from O"Reilly. If the Daily Howler really believes a kinder, gentler approach with the right is a good idea, I would be able to respect that opinion a lot more easily if he tended to be honest about what the right actually does and says. When real examples of right racism (not mind reading tribal bellyaching) DO occur, he shrugs them off. So Paster Bob is stuck preaching to an ever dwindling choir. It's a waste.

    5. Greg,

      As far as I can remember, TDH has never taken the position that a "kinder, gentler approach" is a good idea when dealing with right-wingers. Can you quote TDH to that effect? TDH recommends that the left not stoop to the level of the right.

      Contrary to your claim, TDH has called out O'Reilly. Check the blog entry for 6/5/13. But if you're looking for a blog about the failings of the right, then you should look elsewhere. That's just not the main concern of TDH.

      Is there some reason for spelling "Pastor" with a penultimate "e"?

    6. And is there some reason for responding to my typo by misusing the word "penultimate?" In any case, since you are responding to EVERYTHING on this thread, I'll take it you concede my main point about Bush's free ride is correct and David in Ca is full of crap as usual, so far, so good. As for the TDH never calling for a "kinder gentler approach", I would submit to you that that is now largely what he does. At best, as has been pointed out many times, he alternately berates liberals for A) ruining everything by taking crap, or B) ruining everything by not taking crap. This is often amusing, but in the case of race somewhat less so. If you listened to the radio appearance Bob posted a link to earlier this year, the mod asked him, "Well, how do you respond to racism, when it is CLEAR and over the line?" and Bob said, like MLK you must take a firm stand when it IS clearly racism. Flash ahead to Larry Klayman a few weeks ago and Bob's "just ignore him" response.
      He can't have it both ways, particularly if he is going to appoint himself as a judge in these matters. No Bob, I am not "just like them." YOU are like so many lily white "nice" people who have looked the other way and allowed racism to flourish in this county.

    7. Greg,

      I didn't mean anything snarky with my question about Paster/Pastor. It never occurred to me that it was a typo because you use the -er ending consistently. I thought I might be missing some pun-like joke. "Penultimate" means next-to-last, which is appropriate here. What do think it means?

      I wasn't aware that I needed your approval to respond to anything on this thread. Or everything. (Or EVERYTHING.)

      Sure, the WPE got a free ride. But that's because reporting is hard, and reporters don't do it anymore. They're lazy, so they write "even-handed" one-said-the-other-said pieces on substantive topics while they wait for the distractions of the next scandal.

      DAinCA is DAinCA, the archetypical, modern "conservative." If he can find a right-wing opinion he agrees with, he thinks he's confirmed the truth. Welcome to the evidence-free voter.

      I have no idea what you're talking about when you write "taking crap." TDH berates liberals for adopting conservative tactics, what I call "making crap up." Part of making crap up is what TDH calls "nutpicking," finding the craziest guy at the rally and pretending that everyone there is marching in lock step with him. Larry Klayman is such a guy, and here's what TDH said about him:

      <quote src="TDH" date="10/15/13">
      Klayman has been a giant public buffoon since the Clinton era, when he filed 18 lawsuits against the administration. Last year,he filed a lawsuit to keep Obama off the Florida ballot, claiming he wasn’t a “natural-born citizen.”

      We’ll guess that Klayman is less a nut than a devoted chaser of money. Whatever his motives, there you see the pitiful comments he offered at the protest.

      Not tough enough for you? TDH didn't go on to say ignore him. He said don't pretend all your opponents are Klaymans or "pal around," so to speak, with Klayman.

      Here's the takeaway from this entry: "The 99 percent has always been easy to beat when it makes war on itself." If every Republican voter is a teahadist, and every teahadist is a Larry Klayman, and Larry Klayman is a stone racist, then you've branded a lot of people you don't know as racists. Even though their economic interests coincide with yours.

      OK, so you're not "just like them." But if you make up crap just like them, who are you?

  2. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” --- George Orwell.

    1. Doesn't that depend on the size of one's nose?

  3. The gnawer misses the point. "Core" Americans are made uneasy by democrats (=blacks in their eyes) for their diversity and there is always the whiff of secession/nullification/deligitimization whenever Democrats are president.

    You should see a picture of (all white) air-force pilots with Colin Powell during the first Gulf War - they all look like they are being electrocuted.

    As the dear departed Breitbart said "we have the guns".

    The cravenness of liberals is how they have all become "Republican Lite" - what bone-gnawer is gnawing on is grotesque.

    1. I know the troll is trolling, but the lying is just sickening.

  4. I guess racism doesn't really exist. Thanks for the clarification.

    1. I guess you cannot read or think. So sad.

  5. I admit, part of my reason for picking Obama over Hillary in 08 was fear of another 4 to 8 years of reliving Clinton hatred.

    Little did I know...

    1. Odd fear given that so much of the Clinton hatred was coming from the left in 2008.

    2. You make not a lick of sense - it was a Democratic primary campaign so, yes, duh, animus directed toward Clinton came from the left, the same direction from which the animus directed towards Obama came at that stage. Had she, instead of Obama, advanced to the general, the lizard brain shit weasels would have gone at least as nuts over her as they did over him.

    3. Yeah, Jeeves, how'd that work out for you? Good thing we don't have to endure Clinton hatred and we've now entered post-partisan heaven.

  6. and others can willfully ignore any possibility that it could ever be present.

    Where there is this kind of doubt, there is no reason to entertain the "possibility" racism could be present. But it's what pays the bills for Blow, Sharpton, and all the rest of the race hustlers so naturally they want to promote this behavior.

    Race relations would improve tremendously if people assumed there is none when it isn't obvious rather than imagine there "might be." And that would be very bad for "progressives" who thrive on R bombs.

    1. So why exactly are they making it harder to vote in the South?

    2. A non-racial reason is because it will suppress votes of Democrats for Democratic candidates since the people who will be deterred by the obstacles they are imposing tend to be disproportionately Democrats.

    3. I read VoteView, and have for a long time. They find that Congress is mostly 1-dimensional, bigger vs. smaller government. They find three exceptions since the Civil War, all of which were regional issues: Reconstruction (the South, 1860s-70s), Bimetallism (the Mountain West, 1870s-90s), and Civil Rights (the South again, 1960-1980).

      Voter ID laws, which do enhance the integrity of the vote, hurt the bigger government party.

      They aren't passing laws which say "only black people need ID."

    4. So why exactly are they making it harder to vote in the South?

      Claiming a requirement to show a driver's license or state ID to vote is racist so should not be imposed is beyond insane.

    5. There's no evidence that ID laws will enhance the "integrity of the vote." In spite of frantic Republican attempts to find voting fraud, almost none has turned up.

      Voter ID laws are put in place to keep poor people from voting.

    6. If you think requiring photo ID's to vote isn't one fairly effective way way to protect the integrity of the vote, you're very dumb.

      A lack of evidence of fraud in whatever elections were investigated does not prove it is a bad policy, and neither does a nefarious motivation for implementing it. Your logic is lacking.

    7. Well, it's quite true that I may be very dumb. But this is unrelated to the fact that Republicans have been searching high and low for voter identity fraud and have been unable to find more than an isolated case or two.

      Republicans aren't the least bit shy in telling you why they want photo IDs -- to suppress the Democratic vote. I understand that you think it's good policy to solve a problem that doesn't exist to give Republicans an edge in elections.

      And that's fine. It just doesn't reflect on my logic.

    8. Again, your logic lacks. Perhaps black Democrats disproportionately suppress their own votes when rational measures to prevent voter fraud are put in place that are easy for anyone to comply with but require expenditure of extremely minimal effort, but that doesn't amount to Republicans suppressing votes. It amounts to something quite different. Democrats will be shy in admitting that they don't want photo ID's because they prefer protecting any potential of voter fraud over discouraging lazy people from voting.

    9. Again, your failure to understand things does not reflect on my logic.

      Let me guess. Like me, you're white and middle class. I can get a photo ID by going to my convenient DMV office a half mile from my home. It takes no more than 30 minutes if I have to get my picture retaken. Renewal takes about 10 minutes. Hard to even believe it's a DMV office. The office is open only on weekdays, but there are two nearby that have Saturday hours. If I needed a passport, that would be no problem either. The post office is only four blocks further than the DMV office. The fees for both the required certified copy of my birth certificate and the passport are as negligible for me as is the time and inconvenience of getting the documents.

      So things are easy for me to comply with and the effort requires extremely minimal effort for me. And, I'm guessing, for you. The difference between us is that I don't extrapolate my experience to the rest of the world, and I don't impute laziness to people who aren't as plugged into the system as I am. (By the way, didn't you mean lazy and shiftless?)

      Things are harder if say, you live on Chicago's south side. There's one office and it's open only during working hours. Things are also harder if you're older or if you live in rural areas or if you weren't born in a hospital or if you don't have a car or if you're homeless.

      If voter identification fraud were even a small problem, my views would be different. But it's not even microscopic, and God knows Republicans have been searching high and low for it. The irony is that when they look, they find Republicans like Charlie White, the former Secretary of State for Indiana.

    10. For all of the excuses you offer, there are other ways in which the goal can be achieved. Mobile units (they exist), other outreach efforts. The fact is, it is known that a portion of potential voters you call "lazy and shiftless" and I call lazy simply will not make the investment of time you make to get your ID because they're lazy.

      Waiting until there is a significant enough problem that it makes differences in elections is a far dumber way to approach the problem than implementing the measures and addressing legitimate hardships in other ways. You want to wait until the integrity of the system is broken before fixing it. History tells us those fixes are always too little and too late.

      The legitimate hardships no doubt number fewer than incidents of voter fraud. The fact is, Democrats are interested in mining lazy and illegal voters because those voters vote for Democrats, and they are willing to block policies that discourage them.

    11. The legitimate hardships for people like you no doubt number fewer than incidents of voter identity fraud, which is close to zero in any case.

      History also tells us about the people who wish to restrict suffrage.

      Let me be clear, I'm imputing the "shiftless" label to you in a bit of snark. And you know whom I'm talking about. It's probably true that the voters you don't want on the rolls are more likely to vote Democratic, and it's probably true that the Democratic Party apparat is therefore interested in those voters. But that's also why you don't want them on the rolls.

      There's no evidence that the system is broken (except in the sense that people you denigrate vote), and you know what they say about things that ain't broken.

  7. Wouldn't it be really hard to come up with an example of racism where it didn't exist?

    1. It's an example of behavior that's labeled racism when it's not.

    2. I know what it means, I'm just wondering what a good example might be.

    3. You are walking down a hallway and someone you know fails to acknowledge your friendly smile and greeting. They just walk by. If you are a member of a minority group, the slight might be interpreted as motivated by that group membership (e.g., racism). If you are not a member of a minority group, you wonder what is preoccupying your colleague. These small slights are now being called racial micro-aggressions and are indicators of latent racism.

    4. Blow used two examples, including one about Rush Limbaugh, of racism, both of which made liberals look good. Bob seems to suggest that liberals took Blow's bait, and ignored even considering cases of things which weren't racism, but were labelled as such.

      I'm looking for a concrete example of that, like, one that includes a public figure like Rush Limbaugh.

    5. JoshSN -- I think a good example would be Rush Limbaugh. He's often called a racist by liberals, yet he has chosen to work with a black sidekick for many years. James Golden's role was covered by the New York Times magazine in a 2008 feature. In a better world (or in a better newspaper), Blow would defend Limbaugh from the charge of racism, while disparaging Limbaugh's favored policies.

    6. JoshSN,

      Sorry, I took your query too literally. Go here:

    7. It's hard to defend Limbaugh from charges of racism. Amongst his main contributions to racial understanding:

      "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back." To someone identifying herself as black on his radio program.

      'They are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?'' On the African-American portion of the US population.

      And then there are his favorite terms for Obama -- halfrican American, the affirmative action candidate, and Barack the Magic Negro. This last also the title of a song with the tune from "Puff the Magic Dragon." You can find versions on YouTube.

      My personal view is that Limbaugh is more provocateur than racist, but only a fool thinks that Limbaugh hasn't provided plenty of evidence to the contrary.

    8. The phrase, "Barack the Magic Negro" originated with David Ehrenstein, an African-American columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Are Ehrenstein and the LA Times racist, deadrat?

    9. DAinCA,

      Let me guess. You have neither read Ehrenstein's 2007 column nor listened to the Limbaugh's favorite song. That's because you never check sources. Ehrenstein's column isn't so much about Obama as about the response to him by some portion of the white electorate. On the other hand, the song to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon" denigrates Obama as an inauthentic phony and is of a piece with Limbaugh's other jibes, "halfrican American" and "affirmative action candidate." When Limbaugh plays his little song, he attempts to belittle Obama on racial grounds. Which is not what Ehrenstein was doing.

      Now, maybe Limbaugh isn't a racist. After all, you've vouched for the fact that his best friend is black. All I'm saying is that some of Limbaugh's words and actions make him hard to defend. Hard, not impossible, as you've proved.

      Now, quit playing around in this commentary. You've claimed that for political reasons and in violation of the chain of command, Obama illegally and unconstitutionally granted waivers for substandard 2013 insurance policies. This is a serious charge. Isn't it time you either backed up your claims or retracted them? You can start by answering my four questions. Why so shy? Do I need to repost them?

    10. deadrat, I have provided several explanations or examples of why some of the Administration's modification of ACA are illegal. Here's another:

      Even if Obama wanted to extend the open enrollment period, he wouldn't be allowed to without an act of Congress — at least if he wants to follow the law he signed.

      Though the health care law granted the Secretary of Health and Human Services discretion to define dates for the open enrollment period to occur each year, it also specified that the initial enrollment period (i.e. the current one) had to be announced by July 1, 2012.

      Specifically, Section 1311 of the healthcare law reads, "ENROLLMENT PERIODS: The Secretary shall require an Exchange to provide for-- (A) an initial open enrollment, as determined by the Secretary (such determination to be made not later than July 1, 2012)."

      Given that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has already determined that the enrollment period must end on March 31 — and nearly 16 months has passed since she made that determination — extending the period would require an act of Congress to change the law.

      As I've said before, for better or for worse, I think the Administration will get away with this action. The public will figure that it's better to ignore the technicalities of the law and do practical things needed to make it work. And, I don't think this matter will ever go to court.

    11. DAinCA,

      When Obama uses the Negro dialect, he's being an inauthentic phony.

      I finally have no words to describe the depths of your ignorance. But I'm sure black people everywhere rejoice that finally there's a white person who can gauge their authenticity from their speech.

    12. DAinCA,

      Once again, the problem is that you don't know what you're talking about. You're reading the text of the law (or rather someone has quoted the law to you), and you've found a deadline. You've then concluded that the deadline is set in stone and HHS is acting illegally in not meeting the deadline.

      This is not the way the law works. Agencies miss deadlines all the time. Do you need me to quote examples? The law that governs agency discretion is the Administrative Procedure Act (5USC551-559), and the ACA like most other laws contains boilerplate that grants the appropriate agency the authority to make all "needful" rules and regulations. Disputes about whether delays are needful end up in the District Court for Washington, DC, which has given guidance in evaluating delays that violate deadlines. It's called "a rule of reason," which requires examining Congressional intent in setting timetables, considering the effects of expediting delays, and balancing the harm to parties against the benefit of a delay. In particular the court has found that delays in economic regulation are to be given more latitude than delays that affect public health and safety.

      I know you think that a right-wing newspaper's unsupported opinion is dispositive, but it just doesn't comport with precedent. The matter will never get to court, not because the public won't care about "technicalities," but because the District Court for DC has already given guidance on those technicalities.

      Now, I think I've been diligent in countering your arguments about waivers to be granted in 2014 and beyond. Don't you think you should have the courtesy to answer my questions on the 2013 waivers? You've accused the President of violating the chain of command to make political decisions that are not only illegal but also unconstitutional. Can you back up that accusation? Why not start by answering my four questions. Do I need to post them again?

    13. deadrat -- I think we have partial agreement. We agree that in some cases the Administration isn't following the exact terms of ACA. I'm not a lawyer. I always thought that violating what a law says means one is violating the law. You say the ACA law (and others) includes boilerplate that allows the government legally to violate the words of a law, in some cases. You might be right.

      I don't know how a court would rule on any specific deviation from the words of the ACA law. I am finished with this topic.

      On another topic, deadrat, your authenticity comment, evidently attempting some sort of race-based snark, is unworthy of you.

    14. DAinCA,

      You're quite right that the administration will break some of the 2014 deadlines specified in the ACA. And I'll take your word for it that you're not a lawyer. Neither am I. But you're wrong when you say that you thought that violating a law means violating the law. If you're being honest with yourself, you'd admit that no thought went into it. Some right-wing source told you that Obama was violating the law, and you simply bought it.

      Let me be exact about what I've said about the ACA. That law like others contains the implementation instructions to the federal agency in charge to make "needful" rules. And the Constitution tasks the President with "faithfully" executing those laws. For disputes that arise when agencies in charge confront ambiguities or find themselves unable to meet deadlines, the court that has jurisdiction, the District Court for DC, has laid out guidelines for the leeway allowed those agencies in doing the "needful" and the "faithful."

      Neither of us knows whether the District Court for DC would issue a writ of mandamus should any specific deviation come before it. For my part, that's because it's impossible to know the future with absolute certainty. For your part, it's because you're completely ignorant of the cases that have come before that court. The kinds of deviations we're talking about haven't previously given rise to judicial intervention. In other words, the types of delays being discussed have been ruled properly within an agency's discretion in cases going back decades.

      Now, how is it that you don't know these things but are still convinced that Obama is acting illegally?

      Let me again distinguish between the announced 2014 waivers and the 2013 waivers for substandard insurance plans. The latter are directly contemplated in the law. I've asked you repeatedly to defend your claim that Obama deliberately violated the chain of command by interfering in the HHS waiver procedure and thereby broke the law and the violated the Constitution for political reasons. You've never even attempted to support this charge, and now you say you're finished with this topic? You never even started.

      On that other topic, I'm not sure what's got your panties in a twist over my snarky reply. So let me clarify my remark. Even after reading your various comments at TDH, I find breathtaking the sheer ignorance and arrogance it takes to judge someone's authenticity and genuineness from the reports of the person's diction. You can know nothing of Obama's interiority and I'm sure you know little of his life experience, just as I'm sure your knowledge of his use of "Negro dialect" is second-hand from people like Rush Limbaugh. What do you think, he talks like Uncle Remus in front of black audiences?

      I'm sorry if this sounds "racist" to you, but you're just slightly too pale, literally and figuratively, to declare who's authentically black enough. And while we're at it, you don't know me well enough to judge what I'm worthy of. You might want to stick to how worthy my arguments are. I realize that's a harder task since it would require marshaling evidence.

    15. You're correct about my knowledge of Obama's dialect being mostly 2nd hand, although I do also recall a seeing a video of him on TV or on the web talking to a black audience. I already told the source of my 2nd hand knowledge. As I said, my source of knowledge was Harry Reid, rather than some right winger.

    16. DAinCA,

      Harry Reid might be your source for Obama's not using a dialect unless he wanted one, but Harry Reid is not the source for your contemptible conclusion that this makes Obama an inauthentic phony. Reid's point (reported in the book Game Change) was that Obama's diction (and light skin) would make him so acceptable to the white electorate that his race would be a net plus.

    17. You are right, deadrat. Nobody told me that Obama's fake accent was inauthentic and phony. Nobody had to tell me. That's what the words mean.

      BTW here's another example of people straining to define normal conduct as racism. Some people claim that racism is expanding. IMHO, it's the definition of racism that's expanding.

      Student demonstrators [at UCLA] alleged that there is a “toxic” racial climate in the graduate school [of education], including in Rust’s classroom... Rust said students in the demonstration described grammar and spelling corrections he made on their dissertation proposals as a form of "micro-aggression."

      Whoever it is that teaches black youngsters to have such ultra-sensitivity is doing them no favor.

    18. DAinCA,

      But of course, the word "fake" is your word to describe events that you never witnessed but were told about. By people like Rush Limbaugh.

      Not Harry Reid, because it turns out that once again you didn't check your sources and just assumed that Reid agreed with you. And, big surprise! You were wrong. Again. Still.

      BTW, write down the size of the smallest thing you can think of. Now divide that by the largest number you can think of. You've now got an approximation to how much I care about your smoke screen of the scourge of people "straining" to redefine normal conduct as racism. I hope it's OK with you that I'm just not up to commiserating with you about the dreadful state of "black youngsters." What a drag that must be. Good thing we own everything, huh?

      I'm talking about your racism. No, no, not the Ku Kluxer kind. Not the aggrieved and fearful Lionel kind, either. I'm talking about the smarmy condescension and arrogance that lets you to conclude that a black man really isn't black enough because of second-hand reports from his enemies about the meaning of his diction. It hasn't escaped my notice that you assume that a "white" accent, not the "Negro dialect," must be the truly "authentic" diction. Assuming here that Obama's diction actually changes all that much with the racial makeup of his audience. And that the word "authentic" means anything more than "David in Cal approves."

      "That's what the words mean." Isn't that the same excuse you gave for your complete misunderstanding of the law? You've got your private understandings that arise from your abyssal ignorance. Most people would recognize these as misunderstandings and don't allow them to survive contact with contrary evidence. Not you. You just move on to spewing the next load of unchecked nonsense.

      Why is that?

    19. deadrat,

      Well, that's a really minor example. Limbaugh is a major nat'l figure, while this guy was the assistant to a Mayor.

    20. JoshSN,

      Does that mean I don't get full credit?

    21. Deadrat, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the APA has nothing to do about the statutory deadlines in the ACA. This is strictly a case of statutory interpretation by looking at the text of the statute and its legislative history. If I had the gumption I would drive the hundred miles to the State law library and get you the definitive answer. The *ucking APA has nothing to do with it. As a layman, I hope you appreciate just how wrong you are-as any lawyer would correct you in about 10 seconds. I hope you appreciate the fact that the law (and this is a legal question) is a profession which means that unless you are trained in it, it is wise to keep silent. I only bring this to your attention due to the sheer arrogance of your postings while being so ignorant yourself. Please contemplate with me the wisdom of Betram Russell-only the ignorant are sure.

    22. Anonymous @3:08P,

      May I call you Anonymous? Well, Anonymous, I'm going to cop to arrogance. And if you don't like my arrogance, you can go fuck yourself. Is that arrogant enough for you? If not reread this first paragraph until you're satisfied.

      I'm also going to cop to ignorance. I'm not a lawyer, and I make that clear. If that admission bothers you in light of my postings, please refer to the first paragraph.

      What's missing, of course is your demonstration that I am, in fact, wrong. Even the ignorantly arrogant (or is that the arrogantly ignorant?) can get things right. Apparently a shortage of gumption and an excess of distance from a law library are two factors. Perhaps a third is my lack of clarity in presenting my comments. I venture this in place of speculating on whether it's really your lack of reading for comprehension, and if you're unsure of my sincerity, I again refer you to the first paragraph of this comment.

      Just in case my writing wasn't clear enough, I will restate my claim. I am not arguing that the proposed 2014 waivers will be adjudicated as proper. If I did so, any lawyer would correct me in 10 seconds by pointing out that legal theory and precedents are fine, but cases are decided on the set of facts presented and accepted in court. And we don't know those facts yet. I am arguing that DAinCA is wrong in asserting that 1) Obama is granting waivers, 2) he's doing it for political reasons, 3) the waivers constitute violations of the ACA, and 4) the waivers are unconstitutional because they violate equal protection of the law.

      If my exchanges with DAinCA have led you to believe that I think the APA by itself will dispose of any questions of missed statutory deadlines, then I apologize. The APA sets up the framework and machinery for administrative agencies to issue the rules to implement a law. In the case of the ACA, this will be some part of HHS, which will grant waivers to insurance companies. Which is to say that Obama isn't granting the waivers, and if he's doing so by interfering in HHS procedures to score some "political" points, then DAinCA should have some evidence that he's doing so. Do you think this is a matter of some dispute? If so, I suppose I'll have to wait for you to find both gumption and gasoline to demonstrate the opposite.

      Courts generally allow wide latitude to agencies in their administrative procedures. Do you dispute this as well? Note that this general statement isn't enough to declare that the 2014 waivers will pass muster, but rather that a literal reading of the text of the ACA won't automatically tell whether a delay is legally impermissible, as DAinCA claims. To make such a determination a court would examine legislative intent (as you point out) as well as balancing the benefits of a delay against harm caused.

      Lastly, I have asked DAinCA to demonstrate that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment applies to the feds since the 14th Amendment applies to the states. It is, of course, a trick question.

      The law is a technical profession, and those who practice it untrained are not only unwise but also possibly in violation of it. But it's not such an abstruse subject that laity cannot understand it and offer cogent opinion. I understand that you think my understanding is lacking, and I would look forward to your corrections. Except that your car is out of gumption. Or something.

      I hope you appreciate that the points I'm making, which of course, might still be wrong, and I urge you to contemplate the wisdom of deadrat -- go back and read the first paragraph.

  8. White is the new Black.
    Racism? You must be joking.
    Charles Blow (and others) exemplifies this turn. 300 years of slavery. plus 100 years of suppression. Plus 50 years of resentment.
    Black people want to be free? What?
    When will White Americans revolt?
    C'mon guys. Lets take some guns to Bed-Stuy and take our country back.

    Good luck.


  9. I am always so grateful for your good advice.

    1. Bob, won't you please ban these trolls?

    2. Trollery in praise of Bobism is no vice.

    3. Anon5:13, correct. It's no vice for a reader to thank a writer for his thoughts.

      It's not trolling either.

  10. The trolls have started calling anyone who comments favorably on a column a troll. Something really needs to be done about these trolls. I will be leaving if things don't improve here. I know that is what the trolls want, but it isn't good for anyone's mental health to read the stuff they write here. If Bob doesn't care about his comment section, why should we?

    1. If you don't like trolls, don't feed them. Who cares what trolls write? Ignore them. The cure for bad speech is more and better speech. If you've got something worthwhile to say, post a comment. That's poison to trolls. Complaints about them are their manna.

    2. i agree with deadrat. OTOH, has anyone emailed bob about the troll infestation? seems like a better option than complaining in comments... since who know if he reads his combox...

  11. Doesn't anyone remember that Clinton was hated because he "acted black"? Not making this up.

  12. I want to compliment Al Sharpton. He is perhaps the first political leader of any race to publicly denounce the fad of "knockout" attacks by black youths.

    “Kids are randomly knocking out people [from] another race — some specifically going at Jewish people,” he said. “This kind of insane thuggery — there is nothing cute about that. There is no game play about knocking somebody out, and it is not a game. It is an assault and is bias, and it is wrong.”

    1. Perhaps, but in this case, accurate.