May 18, 2008


If I'm up at 10:00 AM on Sunday, I try to tune in to Howard Kurtz's RELIABLE SOURCES, an hour on CNN which examines the media's take on the week's big news stories. This week's line-up included Bush calling Obama an "appeaser" and Obama on the hot seat for addressing a female reporter as "sweetie".

I find it totally shocking that with so much airtime given to Obama, no one on Kurtz's show mentioned former republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's "joke" about Obama at a Louisville, Kentucky gathering of the NRA on Friday. Mike's remarks were aired on the Friday news, but Sweetiegate and Obama's subsequent apology to the reporter continued to receive regular coverage through Sunday.

Here are Huckabee's words. You tell if you think they are less offensive or less deserving of news coverage than calling someone "sweetie", an affectionate if slightly sexist term.

Addressing the NRA convention--which did not allow guns on the premises due to John McCain's presence--Huckabee heard a loud noise like a chair dropping, looked toward the direction of the sound and explained the crash with "That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair." Huckleberry's a gifted speaker with a great sense of humor and he got a good laugh. Huck went on: "He (Obama) was getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him, and he dove for the floor." There was an immediate lull with murmurs which turned into a nervous, muted laugh.

Watch it for yourselves here:

I love tasteless jokes. Filthy sexual jokes, Helen Keller jokes, dead baby jokes, AIDS jokes, racist jokes against any race including my own. I may not tell them in public, but the sicker they are, the more I generally enjoy them. Humor can sometimes defuse sensitive issues. But I grew up in Tennessee, the southern state directly underneath Kentucky, and I know good and well what the sentiment behind Huckabee's public punchline was: "Shoot that uppity nigger."

I don't think that it's too new age-y to to say that just by putting the notion out there that "somebody aimed a gun at him" to an assembly of gun owners is extremely offensive and even dangerous. I also think it's fair to assume that people advocating gun ownership want the right to own fire arms not just for hunting, but also so that they can take the law into their own hands if necessary and shoot someone, whether it's an intruder into their homes, a cheating spouse or a prominent black leader like Martin Luther King. Or "Martin Lucifer Coon", as he was known where I grew up.

Senator Obama requested secret service protection in May 2007, which is the earliest any presidential candidate has requested it. Why? Because this is a racist nation in which it is now, thanks to the efforts of the extremely influential NRA, easier to own a fire arm than ever. The notion that Obama may be assassinated is real--I cringe a little every time Barack's inspirational speaking abilities are compared to MLK's and pray that the similarities end there. Sadly, a black man can run for office in this nation but he might die trying.

It's telling that even a NRA republican crowd in Kentucky practically gasped at Huckabee's remarks. And for christ sakes, Huckabee is a former minister! A minister who seems to have forgotten THOU SHALT NOT KILL as he campaigned for president thumping a bible with one hand and preaching gun rights with the other. Huckabee apologized for his remarks, but again, I don't underrate the power of suggestion. Um, especially at a gun rights convention? There are backward people who would never support a black man for office because of their prejudice towards his race--regardless of his policies. And there are probably racist gun-owners who would, if possible, gladly take to law into their own hands and use their guns to ensure that a black man never represents their country.

I'm no fan of the NRA, which is solidly entrenched with the furthest right of the republican party. But I'll be that if Charlton Heston were still alive, that staunch NRA supporter who was also spoke out fervently against racism, would be damning Huckabee's comments all over the media. Too bad our news media doesn't share Heston's outrage. They prefer to cover Obama calling a reporter "sweetie" to Huckabee's assassination joke.

David Binder, who was hosting the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America in her absence on Friday, asked (I'm paraphrasing) whether Huckabee's comments were the indicative of the racist rumblings of the last batch of dinosaur good ol' boys or whether the presidential election was going to be an outright republican onslaught against Obama simply because he's black.

(On a side note, do you call Mariah Carey "black"? No. But like Obama, she's half black and half white. To me, simplifying his backround is indicative of this country's widespread bigotry. I recently watched the film RAINTREE COUNTY, and as a New Orleans belle, Liz Taylor frets to Montgomery Cliff that if you have a single drop of "negra" blood, you're tainted no matter how white you appear. BUT RAINTREE COUNTY WAS SET DURING THE CIVIL WAR! Are our racial prejudices that unchanged since then? Or is it just easier to say "black" or "white" than "mixed race"?)

David Binder went on to ask callers if the republican strategy against Obama was as simple as "Don't vote for a black man", what should democrats be doing to counter it? Binder pointed out how effective the Bush camp's smear campaign in 2000 which suggested that McCain had a secret black baby. McCain had just beaten Bush in the New Hampshire primary, so his competitors came up with this effective plan:

From The Nation by Ann Banks

"Rove invented a uniquely injurious fiction for his operatives to circulate via a phony poll. Voters were asked, "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain...if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" This was no random slur. McCain was at the time campaigning with his dark-skinned daughter, Bridget, adopted from Bangladesh.

It worked. Owing largely to the Rove-orchestrated whispering campaign, Bush prevailed in South Carolina and secured the Republican nomination. The rest is history--specifically the tragic and blighted history of our young century. It worked in another way as well. Too shaken to defend himself, McCain emerged from the bruising episode less maverick reformer and more Manchurian candidate."


Ann Banks continues:

"I don't want to say that McCain sold his soul to the devil, since I believe that religious metaphors have no place in politics. But consider this: shortly after losing the 2000 election, McCain told an interviewer that there must be "a special place in hell" reserved for the rumormongers."

Yeah, there is. Right next to the section in hell where those who go to make up with those who spread rumors about them. They are forced to lick the fetid asses of their rumormongers in perpetuity!

So just look how damning South Carolina voters considered the notion of John or Cindy fornicating and reproducing with a person of color. So I'd say that many people, certainly the republicans of South Carolina and similar states, feel equally negative about a candidate who is a person of color.

I think one way of combatting this possible republican strategy is through religious leaders. It's a no-brainer. If god is love and he created all men and created them equal, you logically can't be a racist and a christian if you hate a different race than yours. Of course, also a no-brainer is the fact that huge numbers of christians don't practice their faith with any brains or logic attached to it. Growing up in a white neighborhood in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I constantly marveled at the hypocrisy of southern baptists who loved god but hated blacks. Since so many people can't even comprehend the religion they swear to live their lives by, the clergy, who must interpret god's word for them, must be urged to take a strong public stand against racism. From their pulpits, they can bash Obama's liberal policies whether on abortion, gay civic unions and even (inexplicably) gun control, but if they are bashing an entire race which god created, they are denouncing their own Lord. Why would almighty god create an inferior race to be reviled? According to christian beliefs, god doesn't make mistakes.

With Obama all but clinching the democratic nomination, a lot of people in this country are going to be forced to confront their racism, and to reconcile it with their erroneous religious beliefs. I'm sure that many will find a way to justify their racism and christianity the way my childhood neighbors did. It's been decades since I ran the streets of Chattanooga with redneck brats. I hope that after years of social evolution, more positive images of blacks in entertainment and today's youth entranced with black musical influences, that blacks are seen as less scary and more familiar. And capable of running for president without thoughts of aiming a shotgun at them. But then an ordained minister makes an assassination joke at a convention of gun-toting rednecks and you start to wonder how far, if at all, we've come.

WACKY END NOTE #1: I can't find the link to the article, but not only were guns not allowed at the NRA convention at which Huckabee misfired, knives, nail clippers and other possible weapons were confiscted from attendees prior to their admission. Who should come to their aid but a "german nuts" vendor, who was kind enough check the confiscated items in the paper bags reserved for her nuts and write down the names of who they belonged to so that they could collect them upon exiting. What the hell are german nuts and why are they popular in Kentucky of all places???

WACKY END NOTE #2: Huckabee is among those rumored to be McCain's pick for VP.


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