Brace Yourselves: This Is a Campaign About Race Now

dog whistle

It has been an ugly campaign so far, but I have a feeling it’s about to get a lot uglier. Mitt Romney gave an interview to USA Today yesterday. The article is mostly focused on Romney’s complaints about Obama’s supposedly negative campaign against him and how he intends to fight back.

Naturally Romney included another dog whistle (or as Charles Pierce more appropriately calls them, “obvious racial air-raid sirens”).

“There are plenty of weaknesses that I have, and I acknowledge that,” Romney says. “But the attacks that have come have been so misguided, have been so far off target, have been so dishonest, that they surprised me. I thought they might go after me on things that were accurate that I’ve done wrong, instead of absurd things.”

He ticks off the examples he has in mind. “The Harry Reid attack, ‘Oh, he hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years.’ Ridiculous,” he says of an allegation that the Democratic Senate majority leader attributed to an unnamed friend. “The attack about how Romney’s responsible for this woman who died … and the vice president’s comments about ‘chains.’ Really? The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower, and the people of America know this is an important election and they deserve better than they’ve seen.”

As if the small percentage of his income that Romney pays in taxes and the multiple tax havens he uses to keep his taxes low aren’t issues. But here comes the “obvious air raid siren.” Actually, it’s a twofer. The interviewer asks Romney about the utterly false claims he has been making that Obama “gutted” the welfare work requirement and about his recent “joke” about Obama’s birth certificate.

Romney defends the welfare ads as accurate, accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political calculation designed to “shore up his base” for the election. He denies he was trying to stoke discredited questions about Obama’s birthplace when he said at a Detroit rally Friday that no one had ever asked him for his Michigan birth certificate.

“I understand some people don’t think we should ever joke,” Romney says, saying he was just being “human” and “spontaneous.” He argues that his attacks have been based on policy while Obama has attacked him on more personal fronts. The president’s team has tried “to minimize me as an individual, to make me a bad person, an unacceptable person,” he says.

Obama’s “base” presumably being poor black welfare recipients? And we’re supposed to believe that Romney couldn’t talk about being born and raised in Michigan without also talking about his birth certificate? Please. This is the kind of crap we’re going to be hearing from now on unless polls demonstrate it isn’t working. It’s jarring to it coming from the nominee himself instead of the VP candidate or a surrogate, but Romney clearly has no shame at all.

I know most of you have already seen this, but I’m going to post Chris Matthews’ rant about Romney’s race baiting from today’s Morning Joe show.

Matthews is absolutely right on, but notice how the rest of the talking heads patronize him and minimize the reality of what the Romney campaign is doing. Here’s what Pierce had to say about it:

If you can tear yourself away from the attempts of the hosts to tut-tut-my-good-man the whole thing to death — and poor Tom Brokaw, who freaking covered the civil-rights movement and knows good and well which party latched on to the wrong side of those events and rode them to glory, looks as though he might have a stroke — listen carefully to what Matthews says. He links the birther joke to the welfare commercials, which any thinking analyst would do, since they came hard, one upon the other, and since that was the only hymn in the modern Republican hymnal Romney had not yet sung to the approval of the choir — he’d warmed up on the melody when he was ripping up Rick Perry on the issue of immigration — his campaign was bound to get around to it eventually. Priebus dismisses the birther comment as “an attempt at levity,” and chides Matthews for failing to have a sense of humor….
“We’ve gotten to a point in politics where any moment of levity is frowned upon by guys like you…It’s a moment of levity. Everybody gets it.”

Somehow, the truthless welfare commercials, which are the really deafening sirens in the current moment, disappeared from the dialogue and never come up again. There was yet another blow-up later when Priebus smirked about the president’s alleged “European” policies, and Matthews went up the wall again, calling what Priebus said “insane,” while Mika Brzezinski suggested that everyone “work on tone.” She has her work cut out for her down here, I’ll tell you that.

Pierce thinks Matthews will be “disciplined” for his outburst. I not so sure. Matthews has been talking about the race baiting for awhile now. But most of the corporate media outlets are not going to deal with the race issue in an honest and up-front way. They’re even having trouble calling Romney out on his bald-faced lies.