McConnell on his family's past: Like Obama, my family owned slaves, and like Obama, I oppose reparations

McConnell on his family's past: Like Obama, my family owned slaves, and like Obama, I oppose reparations

The guy’s pretty good.

I mean, love him or hate him, he knows what he’s doing.

He can barely suppress a smile here:

The snark about him once again finding himself in the same position as Obama is icing on the cake, a kick aimed right at the left’s collective ass.

Is it true that Obama’s ancestors owned slaves? It is — more than one ancestor, in fact. It may also be true, though, that not only was Obama descended from American slaves, he was descended from the first American slave. The very first one, again on his mother’s side (his father was from Africa):

President Obama is the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, a black man who came to America in the 1600s as an indentured servant and was enslaved for life in 1640 after trying to escape his servitude, according to a two-year study of thousands of records from colonial Virginia.

Although Obama’s father was a black man from Kenya, his ties to slavery stem instead from his white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, Harman said. The enslaved, black Punch had children with a free white woman. Because their mother was free, Punch’s mixed-race kids were born free and went on to become “prominent” land owners in Virginia, Harman said.

A complicated family tree, but that’s how American family trees tend to be. As for Obama opposing reparations, I’m not sure “oppose” is the right word. O’s view of that seems to track with his view of passing single-payer circa 2010. It’s not that he’s against it in theory, it’s that he just doesn’t see how it can be done realistically:

Theoretically, you can make, obviously, a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps. That those were wrongs done to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks, but in the form of a Marshall Plan, in order to close those gaps. It is easy to make that theoretical argument. But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation’s resources over a long period of time to make that right…

And what makes America complicated as well is the degree to which this is not just a black/white society, and it is becoming less so every year. So how do Latinos feel if there’s a big investment just in the African American community, and they’re looking around and saying, “We’re poor as well. What kind of help are we getting?” Or Asian Americans who say, “Look, I’m a first-generation immigrant, and clearly I didn’t have anything to do with what was taking place.”

Good luck trying to get it passed even if a majority of the country supported it, Obama added: “I have much more confidence in my ability, or any president or any leader’s ability, to mobilize the American people around a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment to help every child in poverty in this country than I am in being able to mobilize the country around providing a benefit specific to African Americans as a consequence of slavery and Jim Crow.” The cleverness of McConnell’s answer today, of course, is that it pits Obama’s perfectly sensible view of the politics of reparations — and his authority on the issue as America’s first black president — against the panderfest happening in the Democratic primary. Your argument isn’t with me, McConnell’s saying to reparations advocates, your argument is with the most popular man in your own party. Let Democratic candidates take a deep sniff of Obama’s reality check and see what they think then. If they want to call O a sellout on racial justice, by all means have at it.

Oh — if you’re wondering why he’s being asked about this at all, it’s because NBC went digging through his family tree to see if they could nail him with a gotcha on the issue. The first argument typically offered against reparations is the fact that not all whites directly benefited from slavery. (Supporters would counter that all whites *indirectly* benefited from it in the form of white privilege.) The McConnells did directly benefit, though, which makes Cocaine Mitch’s recent statement of opposition a bit stickier than the average white American’s. Knowing that the debate over this issue is entirely academic, NBC’s genealogical investigation of him is their version of a consolation prize to lefties, I guess.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Video