Hate Speech Makes a Comeback

April 29, 2011 - 3:29 AM

Well, it sure didn't take long for the Tucson Truce to collapse.

After Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 by a berserker who killed six others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and wounded 13, the media were aflame with charges the right had created the climate of hate in which such an atrocity was inevitable.

The Washington Post story on the massacre began, "The mass shooting ... raised serious concerns that the nation's political discourse had taken a dangerous turn."

Following Barack Obama's eloquent eulogy and call for all of us to lower our voices, it was agreed across the ideological divide that it was time to cool the rhetoric.

This week, however, hate speech was back in style.

After Donald Trump called on Obama to release his original birth certificate and produce the academic records and test scores that put him on a bullet train from being a "terrible student" at Occidental College to Columbia, Harvard Law and Harvard Law Review editor, charges of "racism" have saturated the airwaves.

To Tavis Smiley of PBS, this was a sure sign the most "racist" campaign in history is upon us. To Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg of "The View," this was pure racism. To Bob Schieffer, CBS anchor, an "ugly strain of racism" is behind the effort to get Obama's records.

Again and again on cable TV, the question is raised, "What, other than racism, can explain Trump's call for these records?"

Well, how about a skeptical attitude toward political myths? How about a legitimate Republican opposition research effort to see just how much substance there is behind the story of the young African-American genius who awed with his brilliance everyone who came into contact with him?

Trump is testing the waters for a Republican campaign. One way to do that is to attract the party's true believers by demonstrating that, if you get nominated, unlike John McCain in 2008, you will peel the hide off Barack Obama. Is there anything wrong with that?

As for the birth certificate, it was The Donald who forced Obama to make it public. Not in two years had anyone else been able to do it. The White House press corps did not even try. The pit bulls of Richard Nixon's time have been largely replaced by purse dogs.

Not since Jack Kennedy has a president had a press corps so protective of the man they cover -- though in Kennedy's case, they covered up a lifestyle that could have ended JFK's presidency.

Trump is drawing crowds because he speaks in plain language and appears unintimidated by the high priests of political correctness.

As Rush Limbaugh notes, it was Trump's demands for the birth certificate that turned the issue from a winner for Obama -- it had been seen as a young president bedeviled by conspiracy theorists and bitter-enders -- into an issue that had begun to cut.

When half of all Iowa Republicans, not a radical group, said they thought Obama was born somewhere else, and a fourth were not sure, the president, who had swept Iowa, was beginning to bleed.

The Donald had gotten under his armor.

As Newsweek's Howard Fineman notes, it was the rising doubts of independents about why Obama still refused to release his original birth certificate that caused him to end two years of stonewalling.

If the president has been hurt, is it not partly his own fault for not releasing the birth certificate and ending the matter after he was elected?

And the demand for Obama's test scores -- is that racism?

Well, was it racist of the New Yorker to reveal in 1999 that George W. Bush got a score of 1206 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test (566 verbal, 640 math) or that Al Gore got a 1355? Was it racist of the Boston Globe to report that John Kerry was a D student as a freshman, who eventually rose up to a C and B student at Yale?

Was it racist of The New York Times' Charlie Savage to report that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor had described herself as an "'affirmative action baby' whose lower test scores were overlooked by the admissions committees at Princeton University and Yale Law School because, she said, she is Hispanic"?

If a White House correspondent stood up at a press conference and said: "Mr. President, Donald Trump is asking for your college and law school test scores. Do you believe you benefited from affirmative action in your academic career?" would that be racist?

Perhaps Obama might begin his answer as he did, two decades before, in a Nov. 16, 1990, letter as president of Harvard Law Review:

"As someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review's affirmative action program when I was selected to join the Review last year, I have not personally felt stigmatized."