racism! the VP debate and the community reinvestment act of '77

The only thing that will be deadlier than tonight’s VP debate will be the endless analysis…which has already begun, prodded on by Republican and Democrats playing the expectations game. Republicans push that bar lower and lower so that even the slightest, surprising spark will make Palin seems like less of a hooplehead (as Bob Cesca puts it) and Democrats pushing that bar up to give Biden room to maneuver. It’s all posturing, with pundits offering opinions left, right, and center as to whether Palin will crash and burn or charm her way out with catchy non-answers, and whether Biden will play the patronizing Big Daddy teaching the helpless little girl a lesson or come across as the clearly superior elder statesment. But in a campaign defined by increasingly desperate Hail Marys, you may have heard of McCain’s latest gambit: question the moderator’s impartiality.

Apparently, Gwen Ifill – a smart, reliable, and very professional journalist in my opinion (based on watching Washington Week and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) – is biased because she wrote a book allegedly favourable to Obama – a book made public a few weeks ago but schedule to be released on January 20, 2009. Of course, we could ask whether the book does show a bias or not. Here’s the description from Amazon:

In THE BREAKTHROUGH, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.

Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s. She offers incisive, detailed profiles of such prominent leaders as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and U.S. Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama, and also covers up-and-coming figures from across the nation. Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Senator Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the "black enough" conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history.

THE BREAKTHROUGH is a remarkable look at contemporary politics and an essential foundation for understanding the future of American democracy.

I don’t see anything partisan about the book’s premise, examining race and politics in the context of the first black presidential candidate (a historical event whether the racists approve of it or not). Maybe the book is favourable to Obama, maybe it’s impartial; I can’t say without reading it. It’s a fake issue, though. As my wife pointed out to me this morning, people tend to be registered with either Republicans or Democrats – does that mean everybody is biased? No: it means that a professional journalist performs his/her job with impartiality, which even McCain admits after sleazily raising doubts about her objectivity:

"Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn't writing a book favorable to Barack Obama," McCain said of Ifill, who is examining the rise of the Illinois Democrat and other post-civil rights Let's face it. But I have to have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is."
But of course the whole issue is misleading: the question is, why this Hail Mary now? Possible answer: because the McCain campaigning is hedging its bets against a disastrous performance by Palin, by setting expectations up that if Biden does perform well despite all the tap dancing, they can resort to blaming Ifill for “gotcha” journalism.

My reaction is that Republicans wouldn’t have made this play if Ifill had been an old white guy, although Ifill herself is guarded:

"Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?" said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, "I don't know what it is. I find it curious."

Well, I’m calling racism.

Speaking of racism, you may have been hearing some mincing from the right-wing meat grinder on how something called the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, enacted under Jimmy Carter, is the real culprit behind our lovely reenactment of the Great Depression. Again, Doesn’t picking on programs to help the disadvantaged – minorities! – seem a bit of stretch, especially with legislation that is 30 years old? Sure, and it smells of racism too. Hence, this link to the Federal Reserve’s description of the CRA, and a helpful list of 11 racist lies conservatives tell to avoid taking the blame that is rightfully theirs for this mess.

Yeah, I call racism of the "What, me racist?" kind that comes with the smell of political opportunism.

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