I’ve been talking about this for a few days. The Romney campaign’s welfare ad is demonstrably false. Everyone seems to concede that. And the Romney campaign is pushing it so hard for one reason: to find an angle to inject the president’s race into the campaign. The accepted phrase ‘playing the race card’ is too trivial and glib to pass muster. Let’s call it what it is — appealing to racial bigotry, fear of black people.
Mainstream media types are chronically unwilling to, shall we say, call a spade a spade in cases like this. It’s too radioactive. And the charge once leveled isn’t one that can easily be treated in the comfortable he said/she said narrative of political reporting.
But maybe something’s changing. At least a bit. Or at least for a few.
You may have seen yesterday that Chris Matthews went after RNC Chair Reince Priebus yesterday for playing the ‘race card’ as he put it. Now Matthews, as everyone knows, runs a bit hot. So maybe that wasn’t that surprising.
But today we have another example from someone altogether more mainstream and circumspect, Ron Fournier, formerly of the AP and now editor of National Journal.
He got into a set-to today with long-time GOP lobbyist and political operative Ron Kaufman, a key player in the Romney campaign.
Here’s the key passage from US News …
Though the first few minutes were spent on niceties, Fournier soon brought the conversation around to a hot-button topic: the Romney campaign’s new series of welfare ads. The ads say that the Obama administration ended work requirements for Americans in the welfare program, effectively “gutting welfare reform.”
Fact checkers have largely debunked the premise of the ad, pointing out that the work requirements in fact have not been ended.
But Fournier did not just tell Kaufman the ad was wrong, he also accused the Romney campaign of “playing the race card.” Fournier, who is from Detroit, Mich., said that welfare is a hot button issue in his hometown, and that this ad was “pushing that button … playing to that racial prejudice. And I’m wondering: are you guys doing that on purpose?”
Again, pretty much everyone knows this is true. You’ve either got to be a rube or a jackass not to see it. But it’s … well, it’s indelicate to say it. And once you do, appealing to racism isn’t just one view against another. It’s something our society has decided is simply wrong. Could it be that the Romney campaign is just finally doing it so transparently that at least a few of the biggs will come out and say it?
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.