Well, another morning, another egregious example of a media outlet accusing the Romney campaign of racism based on non-existent evidence. Today’s entry comes courtesy of the National Journal’s Ron Fournier. The piece is titled “Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card.” It’s as bad as you would expect.
Fournier’s column is noteworthy for three reasons: (1) To make the argument, he tosses a childhood friend he interviewed for the piece under the bus by accusing him of racism; (2) one of his pieces of evidence is polling that shows that substantial numbers of Democrats harbor resentment towards blacks; (3) he concludes by conceding that the Romney campaign may genuinely believe they are not playing the race card but that they “should know” that they are.
The basic argument of the article is that Romney’s ads attacking Obama’s welfare policy are the “race card” in question. Like most mainstream media reporters, he asserts the ads are inaccurate based on the findings of groups like PolitiFact.com. Well, Mickey Kaus has fact-checked the fact-checkers and made a compelling case they are wrong. (He also points out the awkward fact that Obama ran as a welfare-cutter in 2008.)
The column begins with Fournier talking with two blue-collar fellows in his hometown of Detroit — Dave Miller and Benson Brundage. In the conversation, Brundage notes that the National Journal’s polling shows that African-Americans are optimistic about the future despite the current high unemployment rates. When he attributes this optimism to “subsidization” and Miller endorses his argument, Fournier has his “Aha!” moment:
There it is. The Macomb County buzz word for welfare, a synonym that rests on the tongues of the white middle class like sour milk. Men like Miller and Benson don’t use the N-word and they don’t hate (disclosure: I grew up with Miller, who now lives in Macomb County): For a five-figure salary and overtime, Miller risks his life fighting fires in a black neighborhood just south of 8 Mile Road. But Benson casually overestimated the black unemployment rate in Detroit by more than 10 percentage points, and both he and Miller will talk your ear off about welfare cheats.
So, there you have it. “Subsidization” – something the Obama administration has labored hard to establish as a good thing with the stimulus bill and its green energy investment program – is the new racial code word according to Ron Fournier. “I share this story to crack the code,” Fournier says, triumphantly, using as proof a childhood friend who regularly risks his life by literally running into burning buildings in black neighborhoods to save people’s lives.
By the way, have Miller and Brundage ever even seen the Romney welfare ads? If they have, Fournier never says so. As the column itself concedes, in hard economic times economic resentments arise naturally among many voter groups.
Later in column, Fournier cites this factoid:
Also in 2008, an AP-Yahoo News poll found one-third of white Democrats harbored negative views toward blacks—many calling them “lazy,” “violent,” or responsible for their own troubles. (Disclosure: I was AP’s Washington bureau chief and helped coordinate the polls.)
Well, maybe so, but whose fault is that? These are Democrats, unlikely ever to vote for Romney. It’s one thing to link a Republican candidate to the negative sentiments of some of his supporters. It seems hardly fair to link him to the other team’s. (To be fair, Fournier is presumably making the argument that Romney’s welfare ads will either suppress turnout among this Democratic group or create some crossover votes, though he never explicitly says either.)
The column concludes:
Knowing all this, and with deep personal roots in Detroit’s racial maw, I felt on firm ground Tuesday asking Ron Kaufman, a Romney adviser, why the campaign was playing the race card in places like Macomb County.
“I couldn’t disagree more,” Kaufman replied.
“You know an ad like that touches a racial button,” I said.
“No it doesn’t,” Kaufman replied. “I don’t agree with you at all.”
Kaufman who (sic) I’ve known and respected for years, accused me of playing the race card – a fair point, strictly speaking, because I raised the question in a public setting: a joint interview with CBS’ John Dickerson before a large audience and live-streamed.
Still, Romney and his advisors stand by an ad they know is wrong – or, at the very least, they are carelessly ignoring the facts. That ad is exploiting the worst instincts of white voters – as predicted and substantiated by the Republican Party’s own polling.
That leaves one inescapable conclusion: The Romney campaign is either recklessly ignorant of the facts, some of which they possess – or it is lying about why (and how) it is playing the race card.
Ruled out of this either/or scenario is option number three: Obama’s record on welfare reform is a legitimate issue.