Last week, a “right-wing activist” (according to Michael Eric Dyson, guest-hosting for Ed Schultz on MSNBC) interrupted President Barack Obama as he explained his executive order that bars deportation for at least 800,000 illegal aliens who came to America — “brought to this country by their parents” — before the age of 16.
As Obama stood in the White House Rose Garden and outlined the plan, Neil Munro, a reporter with a conservative website, shouted, “Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?” Based on his colleagues’ reaction, one would have thought he’d thrown a shoe at the President. Reporters and pundits called him unprofessional, rude and even racist for interrupting Obama.
Never mind Munro asked a legitimate question — one that probably wouldn’t have even occurred to amnesty-supporting media: Will this harm the job prospects for struggling young American citizens? (Nor has anyone had the chance to ask Obama why, only a year ago, he told a Univision audience that he lacked the power to suspend student deportations via an executive order.)
Munro, for his part, claims he assumed the President had concluded and wanted to get in his question. Obama holds few press conferences, a matter of frustration to the White House press corp. When a president restricts access to the press, the newshounds grow restless and become more aggressive — at least they should.
In a 1987 article titled, “Why Do Grown Men and Women Shout at President Reagan?” The Associated Press wrote: “They do it for a living…shouting, badgering Reagan for one last word. It even takes place at ceremonies [including] the Rose Garden….They … blame … Reagan and his aides, who have sharply curtailed opportunities for the press corps to engage the President under more civil circumstances.” Longtime White House correspondent-turned-columnist Helen Thomas often crossed the line when giving commentary that only masqueraded as inquiry. When “questioning” President George W. Bush, Thomas made it clear she opposed the Iraq War and accused President George W. Bush of starting “a war for oil.”
In Munro’s case, MSNBC contributor Julian Epstein asked: “Would the right wing be doing this if we had a white president there? … We’ve never had a president heckled so disrespectfully. We’ve never had this otherness afforded to any other president. And I think the rightwing is going to have some explaining to do, because to me, it seems patently obvious.”
Imagine, lessons in civility from the network that gave a show to the race-hustling incendiary, the Rev. Al Sharpton. This “civil rights activist” became famous by falsely accusing a white man of raping a black teenage girl. Sharpton helped foment the 1991 Crown Heights riots, a three-day outburst of mostly black-driven, anti-Semitic violence that one Columbia University professor called “a modern-day pogrom.” Sharpton once called David Dinkins, the black mayor of New York City, a “n–ger whore.” MSNBC also gave a show to Ed Schultz, who once called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut.”
But the claim that racism drives much of the opposition to Obama does not confine itself to cable. Former President Jimmy Carter also blames racism for much of Obama opposition: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American. Racism … still exists, and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.” Proof? None required.
Lack of respect for the office of the presidency? In the interest of time, we provide but a few reminders from the distant past:
“George W. Bush is our Bull Connor,” said Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., comparing Bush to the Southern lawman who turned dogs and water hoses on civil rights marchers during the ’60s.
“Bush is an incompetent leader,” said then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “In fact, he’s not a leader. He’s a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon.”
Sen. (then-candidate) Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.: After Hurricane Katrina, President Bush “let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black.”
“I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Neuman is in charge in Washington,” said then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, referring to the dimwitted icon of Mad magazine. She even used Neuman’s catchphrase, “What, me worry?” to describe how Bush handled tough issues.
Democratic Sen. (and then-Minority Leader) Harry Reid of Nevada called Bush a “loser” and a “liar.” Reid apologized for the “loser” comment, but “liar” stood.
Former ABC White House reporter Sam Donaldson, who called Munro’s interruption “wrong and unusual,” wrote: “Many on the political right believe this President ought not to be there — they oppose him not for his polices and political view, but for who he is, an African American.”
“Many”? As many as those who support and defend Obama — because he is black? Or is it rude — and racist — to ask such a question?