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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Flood the Zone VI: A Review of Two Books on Race In American Politics

No, I am not reviewing the books. I am barely reviewing the review. But let's find some highlights:

Kennedy - Throughout 1959 and the 1960 campaign, Martin Luther King, Jr. quietly but clearly backed Richard Nixon, a card-carrying NAACP member and a more ardent supporter of civil rights than John F. Kennedy. As Kennedy courted the South for the Democratic nomination, he voted to undermine both the 1957 Civil Rights Act and, later, his own party's 1960 civil rights platform. He was often not only a canny strategist but so consummate a hypocrite that even the historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was quoted in 1960 admitting that Kennedy was "slightly soft" on civil rights--a reckoning whose own softness foreshadowed David Gergen's later acknowledgment, also noted by Mayer, that Ronald Reagan was "not a crusader" for civil rights. Kennedy double-dealt his way around racial controversies until his stagey telephone call to Coretta Scott King during her husband's imprisonment launched him on what became as believable a pilgrimage as Jimmy Carter's against injustices both men had abetted for most of their lives.

Bush I : 1988 Willie Horton tactics will remain in the history books and whose eight different, evasive, finger-pointing pronouncements on the Los Angeles riots of 1992 made him seem both inept and hypocritical.

Clinton: It is often forgotten that Bush's 1992 opponent took a break from campaigning to kill Ricky Ray Rector, a retarded black man; Bill Clinton was playing hardball after having watched Michael Dukakis fold in 1988. Not to be upstaged by Bush's commendable dissing of Pat Buchanan's racist demagoguery, Clinton also refused to be upstaged, as Walter Mondale had been, by what New Democrats viewed as another kind of racial demagoguery at the hands of Jesse Jackson: He chose Jackson's Rainbow convention for an attack not on white racism like Buchanan's but on the racial pyrotechnics of Sister Souljah.

Hey, wait a second - the black man executed on Clinton's watch wasn't retarded, he was brain damaged - he killed some folks, then shot himself in the head and lived. And I am not even going to look that up. [Mini-update: Angry, and angrier. I have a vague recollection that C Hitchens was angriest. But not a lot of media -Clinton was, after all, only the front-runner for the Dem nomination.]

Anyway, read the article.

UPDATE: Commentary on the 2000 Presidential election: the author cites a New Republic article I cannot find, which apparently says that Bush did not engage in race baiting against Gore (don't ask about McCain). However, Gore did and the Democrats did, with, for example, the NAACP ad.

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