James Clyburn wants a correction to the McClatchy report that quoted him as suggesting that a large component of opposition to Barack Obama’s re-election related to racism. That’s not what the longtime member of House Democratic caucus leadership said at all, he asserted after Wednesday’s report. In fact, he never uses the word “racism” because he abhors it. Really. No, really:
In a letter to the editor of The State newspaper in Clyburn’s hometown of Columbia, S.C., the No. 3 House Democrat said an article published Thursday had sensationalized his perspectives on the ties between Obama’s race and his work as president.
“I have always abhorred the word ‘racism,’ ” Clyburn said in the letter. “I never use it. I believe it is a lethal term, and I am offended that my honest responses to a reporter’s clearly designed agenda would be distorted in such a manner.”
Duly noted. So what did Clyburn say to this agenda-driven reporter that got twisted into allegations of racism? Well, McClatchy helpfully provides a transcript of the conversation in its follow-up report:
QUESTION: What do you think of Obama’s election prospects?
CLYBURN: I think they’re improving every day. I think the president has been a good president, a great commander in chief. I think when people allow themselves to — you know, I’m 70 years old. And I can tell you; people don’t like to deal with it, but the fact of the matter is, the president’s problems are in large measure because of his skin color. All you got to do is look at all the signs they’re carrying out there and look at the mail that I get. As I said, I’m 70 years old, I been going through this kind of stuff all my life. I know what kind of mail I get, I know what kind of phone calls I get, I know what people are saying who call the office.
QUESTION: How does that relate to the president?
CLYBURN: We have the same skin color; that’s how it relates to him.
How silly of this reporter! Of course Clyburn meant from this musing on palettes and tone that economic malaise was Barack Obama’s biggest electoral problem. Or perhaps these answers were meant as an allegory on the effects of shoving an unpopular health-care power grab down the throats of voters who clearly didn’t want it. It could also be a subtle hint of the anger created from Obama’s regulatory adventurism, his foreign-affairs gaffes and stumbles, or any number of other weaknesses Obama will carry into the election.
Or Clyburn could be lying through his teeth now, too, but let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s take a really close look at how this agenda-driven reporter framed the first question asked about Obama in the discussion, which started off with a conversation about deficit reform. “What do you think of Obama’s election prospects?” Obviously, this was some sort of leading question that forced Clyburn to jump immediately into a lengthy discourse on pigmentation!
What’s even more amusing is the rest of Clyburn’s complaint:
In his letter, Clyburn correctly noted that his interview hadn’t been arranged to discuss the influence of Obama’s race as the first black president.
True … and they didn’t ask Clyburn about that, either. He couldn’t wait to volunteer racism — excuse me, skin color — as an excuse for Obama’s unpopularity. Now Clyburn wants to pretend that the reporter played the race card, and that he was just a victim of manipulation, which is about as clear a case of projection as one can see.