Dan Balz does a little more work and shows a little more independence on Barack Obama’s use of the race card this week. Instead of spinning in concert with the campaign as Michael Powell did in the New York Times, Balz does some actual reporting — like asking the Obama campaign for examples of race-based attacks. The silence was, as they say, deafening … and defining:
First, Obama campaign officials, lacking any example of McCain ever pointing directly or indirectly at Obama’s race as an issue in the campaign, have backpedaled rapidly away from any suggestion that their Republican opponent is using the very tactics Obama suggested on Wednesday.
Campaign manager David Plouffe was pressed hard during a conference call on Thursday for examples and could not point to any. An inquiry to the Obama campaign later in the day produced no immediate response and later no answer to a direct question asking for evidence to buttress Obama’s suggestion that McCain would try to scare people into not voting for Obama because he’s black.
In other words, the Obama campaign, including the candidate himself, has engaged in smear tactics. It’s no different than McCarthyism (and spare me the McCarthy-was-right e-mails, I’m talking about making vicious allegations without evidence), only exchanging “racist” for “Red”. Media outlets that will drone on for hours about the “blacklist” of fifty years ago somehow miss it when it comes from the Democrats.
Why did McCain choose to fight back? Balz explains that better than the Times:
Before all this happened, McCain advisers believed that the Obama campaign successfully pinned a racist label on Bill Clinton during the during primaries — for comments that drew protests from some leading African American politicians — and were determined not to let the same happen to McCain. Also, they take personally any suggestion from the Obama campaign that they are part of a campaign that would play the race card and are indignant about it.
The general consensus is that Bill Clinton didn’t hit back hard enough at the accusations of racism from Obama and his campaign, but Clinton began that exchange by dismissing Obama’s showing in South Carolina on that basis. McCain hasn’t even suggested that kind of dynamic. He has annoyed some on his own side for scolding them over references to Obama’s middle name and his twenty-year association with racial demagogue Jeremiah Wright, demanding message discipline in this campaign. If McCain took this attack personally, he had good reason to do so after all of his efforts to leave race out of the campaign.
McCain is no Bill Clinton. He knows how to fight, and Obama and his team just learned that lesson.