Whenever any host on MS-NBC refers to critics of Barack Obama as racist, just keep this link handy. Chris Matthews offers up this revealing non-sequitur as praise for Obama’s “appearance” of post-racial qualities in a manner that echoes Harry Reid’s strange praise revealed in the book Game Change. I’ve puzzled over this comment since I saw in on Twitter last night in the aftermath of the State of the Union address. Exactly what does it mean that Matthews “forgot he was black” in connection to his praise of Obama’s leadership?

It’s interesting. He is post-racial, by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. You know, he’s gone a long way to become a leader of this country, and passed so much history in just a year or two. I mean, it’s something we don’t even think about.

Except, of course, when Matthews and Olbermann accuse everyone else of being racist for opposing Obama, or deciding that a pickup truck is “racist imagery.” I can certainly tell you how this would have been interpreted coming from the mouth of Sarah Palin, Scott Brown, or any conservative or Republican talking head on a news show. They would have been pilloried for suggesting that national leadership somehow doesn’t go with an African-American background, and labeled as latent racists.

Of course, we got a chance to see that, too. Apparently some people have accused Bob McDonnell of staging people behind him as “props” in order to show an ethnic balance of supporters in the Virginia legislative chamber in which the Governor gave the GOP response, which is an accusation of at least hypocrisy, if not latent racism.  Let’s explain who these people are in the shot, from bottom left in clockwise order:

  • Staff Sergeant Robert Tenpenny, who served with McDonnell’s daughter Jeannie in Iraq
  • Lisa Hick-Thomas, Virginia’s Secretary of Administration
  • Jim Cheng, Secretary of Commerce and Trade
  • Janet Polarek, Secretary of the Commonwealth

They weren’t “props” chosen and arranged as a diversity optic.  With the exception of Sergeant Tenpenny, they’re all members of McDonnell’s Cabinet, which is why they have seats surrounding the dais.