Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, November 06, 2003  

People seem to be responding much as I did to the controversy over Dean's "confederate flag" comment. The verdict seems to be bonehead, not racist.

Cohen, writing in the Post:

For some people, the Confederate flag is a loathsome symbol. But we all know what Dean meant. And we know Dean is not a racist.

In the LA Times, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of The Crisis in Black and Black today wrote:

Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton is shooting from the lip again, and it doesn't help his cause or his constituency....

He doesn't have a real shot at the nomination, and his antics make him — and not Dean — appear to be anti-black.

Clarence Page drives home the bonehead point--but he doesn't think he's a racist:

Maybe so, but Mr. Sharpton's persistent appeals to racial solidarity are a double-edged sword for his party, too.

Whether he realizes it, Mr. Dean is following the Page Principle of Racial Politics: When race is the issue in a presidential race, Democrats lose. When class is the issue, they win.

Low-income whites, for example, often have voted against their own economic interests in the name of racial solidarity, particularly in the South.

Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe:

The piling on of Dean for racial insensitivity, with Sharpton leading the charge, runs the risk of looking way out of proportion to the original offense. Dean should have said he wants to represent Joe Sixpack or the average Southern Joe. That is what he meant taken in the context of similar remarks over the course of the last year.

The Times was perhaps the most critical, characterizing Dean as a pugnacious bumbler, hinting that he may not be ready for prime time. It seems like a contortionist's position--criticizing him in the absence of anything critical to say. They also seem to let off the accusers, who, it seems to me, very clearly did imply Dean's a racist:

Now, Dr. Dean is going to have to demonstrate that his Confederate flag moment was a one-shot, recoverable gaffe and not a symptom of something more haunting, like a pattern of misspeaking or a hardheaded combativeness that makes it impossible to give way with grace. He obviously is no racist, and no one who criticized the flag comment imagined that he is. But he waded unthinkingly into an issue that almost anyone experienced in national politics knows must be handled with great care.

This is a pretty brief survey--I didn't do an exhaustive search. But in my quick spin around the editorial pages, the closest I saw to someone agreeing with the critics was at the Miami Herald, and it was fairly mild criticism (still closer to bonehead than racist). So he'll have to recover from the "bonehead" charges. Fair enough. They're a lot easier to handle than "racist."

posted by Jeff | 10:05 AM |
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