Obama: I wasn't injecting race -- after all, my audience was 98% white; Update: We're letting it drop, says McCain camp

Yeah, why waste that sort of rhetoric on them? Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned this week, it’s that white liberals are … slow to perceive racial allusions.

“I was in union, Missouri which is 98 percent white – a rural, conservative. and what I said was what I think everybody knows, which is that I don’t look like I came out of central casting when it comes to presidential candidates. But that I think that what people are really concerned about, what they’re looking for is fundamental change on the economy, things that are going to help their families live out the American dream.

‘There was nobody there who thought at all that I was trying to inject race in this. What this has become I think is a typical pattern from the McCain campaign, whether it’s Paris Hilton or Britney or this phoney allegation that I wouldn’t visit troops. They seem to be focused on a negative campaign what I think our campaign wants to do is focus on the issues that matter to American families.”

By “nobody,” he means “nobody except my own chief strategist.” But never mind that. Two points. First, what is he aiming at with the reference to Union’s demography? That he wouldn’t think to mention race in front of white Democrats because they won’t appreciate his point or that there’s simply not enough political benefit in raising it with a white audience? If the latter, it shows you how seriously he takes the great national conversation he thinks we should be having, consistent as it is with the fact that that big race speech of his from a few months ago would never have been delivered had the Wright scandal not dropped a political bomb in his lap that he had to defuse. That is to say, Obama’s rhetoric on this subject is almost always transparently self-serving, and while normally I wouldn’t begrudge a politician that, it grates when he presumes to lecture me on the seriousness of the matter. Beyond that, though, he seems to be distinguishing between merely bringing up race and “injecting” it formally as a subject for debate in the campaign. We can quibble over how that distinction might be parsed, but here’s a hint: When you broach the subject in the context of an explicit attack on McCain (and conservatives generally, of course), it probably qualifies as “injecting” it.

But what if he simply meant that white Democrats (David Axelrod excepted) aren’t attuned to racial allusions the way minority Democrats are and therefore he wouldn’t have thought to mention it to them? Let’s test that theory. Here’s the clip of Obama from June explicitly making a racial point at a fundraiser in Jacksonville. According to the NYT’s pool report, the audience was mixed-race. Listen for their applause, as they obviously appreciate his point. Then watch the video below that from a few days ago, shot before an audience of mostly white Democrats in Springfield (91% white; the video from Union is here, but it’s harder to hear the crowd reaction because it’s shot outdoors) whom we should, reasonably, never expect to understand. The reaction is … oddly similar. Must be a coincidence. Exit question: Do you find it “troublesome” that McCain defended himself a bit too “eagerly”?
Update: The battle is over, to be resumed whenever John McCain decides to re-inject race into the campaign by defending himself from Obama’s accusations that he’s a racist.

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