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Barack Obama

President Obama’s Race Problem

Obama's Real Problem on Capitol Hill? Race

They know we can’t prove it. We can deduce and infer from their actions, statements and policies.

But we can’t confirm that congressional Republicans, a bloc of nearly unbroken Whiteness, and their media hatchet people are stealthily deploying race — Blackness — to obstruct President Barack Obama at every turn. But obstructionists seldom give us concrete, irrefutable proof of gutbucket prejudice. When we think we have them cold, they’ll use the I’m-rubber-you’re-glue strategy. You’re playing the race card, they’ll say. In fact, you’re the racists for bringing it up. It’s the “nyah, nyah, nyah” of savvy — or at least well-trained — political machinists. These are men and women who have studied the playbook for Republican race-baiting drafted by party strategist and consigliere Lee Atwater.

“By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires,” said Atwater in 1981, quoted years later by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. “So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” Right-wing pols continually update the Atwater script. During the president’s first term and the campaign that preceded it, Barack Obama was cast as a Kenyan, Muslim, socialist, Nazi witch doctor. Tea Partiers, Birthers and Republican backbenchers were the nasty tip of the spear of a full-on assault, but the big boys pitched in, too, usually in ways that kept them from getting hit by shrapnel from the vilest attacks.

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