A Colossus of Nope

[Content Note: Racism; language policing.]

George Will, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, has repeatedly gone after President Obama using coded (or not so coded) racist language. In his latest, headlined "Barack Obama, the adolescent president," Will complains bitterly that Obama's rhetorical skills prove that he's "an adolescent."

Will is just savvy enough to realize it would be too obvious to call our first black president "a boy."

His column opens thus:
Recently, Barack Obama — a Demosthenes determined to elevate our politics from coarseness to elegance; a Pericles sent to ameliorate our rhetorical impoverishment — spoke at the University of Michigan. He came to that very friendly venue — in 2012, he received 67 percent of the vote in Ann Arbor's county — after visiting a local sandwich shop, where a muse must have whispered in the presidential ear. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a "meanwich" and a "stinkburger."

Try to imagine Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan talking like that. It is unimaginable that those grown-ups would resort to japes that fourth-graders would not consider sufficiently clever for use on a playground.
Those grown-ups. Unlike our current president, who is a boy.

Frankly, I can absolutely imagine any of those former presidents making a similar sort of joke at a similar sort of venue. Media coverage of those presidents, however, is different than media coverage of presidents and candidates today, so I'm not sure an offhand joke would have been recorded or remembered or considered evidence of anything other than the fact that most national politicians are pretty awkward with the relate-to-the-people humor.

What I can't imagine is a serious national columnist proposing that one of those presidents making an offhanded wordplay joke rises to the importance of a column in the Washington Post about how said joke reveals something meaningful about the character of the man who made it.

And, listen, I'm genuinely not one to play the "What about Bush?" game, because I generally see it being used to deflect legitimate criticism of Obama. But this is categorically not legitimate criticism of Obama, so WHAT ABOUT BUSH.

Former President George W. Bush, during a debate with then-Democratic nominee John Kerry: I own a timber company? That's news to me! Heh heh heh. Need some wood?
That was not merely a stupid joke, but a deflection of the fact that Bush was, in fact, part owner of a "limited-liability company organized 'for the purpose of the production of trees for commercial sales,'" i.e. a timber company. Bush routinely used his "bad jokes" to lie, not merely to try to make the partisan audience in front of him chuckle politely.

Which is but one example of the many behaviors exhibited by Bush during his presidency, which might reasonably be called a wee bit immature. On balance, maybe referring to Ryan's budget on one occasion as a "stinkburger" isn't any worse than Bush nicknaming and routinely referring to his own closest adviser, Karl Rove, as "Turd Blossom."

Will wasn't publicly handwringing about Bush's immaturity while in office, because he wasn't trying to discredit Bush. And now Will can apparently find no viable critique of Obama, so he resorts to racist dog whistles about his being "an adolescent" rather than a man. Which is itself a further extension of the "manhood problem" meme.

The Washington Post should be ashamed to publish this despicable nonsense. But, clearly, they're pretty okay with continuing to pay a fine salary to a man who uses their space to make belittling racist attacks on the President of the United States.

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