So lame is this supposed “gotcha” that I’m tempted to accuse Mediaite, which debuted a few weeks ago, of drumming it up in bad faith to create buzz. The “controversial” part:
That’s part of the African American experience. You are, in some ways, connected to this distant land, but on the other end, you’re about as American as it gets. In some ways, African-Americans are more fundamentally rooted in the American experience because they don’t have a recent immigrant experience to draw on. It’s that unique African-American culture that has existed in North America for hundreds of years long before we actually founded the nation.
Skip ahead to 5:30 and watch until about 7:20. They’re talking about how black Americans reconcile their national and racial identities; the boldfaced part is simply Obama saying that they identify more with the U.S. than with Africa because their ancestors came to America centuries ago and created a discrete culture. To believe that he was saying something Sotomayor-esque, i.e. that blacks are “more American” than other demographic groups, you’d have to ignore The One’s record as a national politician of staying as far away from racial controversies as humanly possible. As far back as the 2004 Democratic national convention, he was framing himself as a post-racial candidate (“There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America”); the only time he touched the subject on the trail was after the Wright controversy blew up and threatened to bring down his candidacy. Even here, he goes out of his way to say how not only black Americans but some white Americans he knows consider their visits to Africa to be life-changing experiences. The guy simply doesn’t throw “wise Latina”-type bombs. They’re not worth the political headaches. But as John Avlon notes today, we’ve already reached the point in some quarters on the right where Barry O is guilty of whatever charge is leveled at him, whether it makes sense or not. Presumably Mediaite’s counting on that to kick up some traffic. Have at it.