by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
Van Jones in his final communiqué says, “On the eve of historic fights for healthcare and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.” I have not watched the now supposedly infamous Beck exposures, but I am curious what exactly constitutes a “vicious smear campaign.” Did Jones or did not Jones in public and in interviews compare the president of the United States to a crack-cocaine addict, assert that white people are polluting the ghetto, that only white students commit mass murders in the public schools, that Republicans are a**holes, and sign a petition calling for an investigation of the Bush administration’s purported role in causing 9/11?
The Jones mess brings up a larger issue. Americans were assured that with the ascendance of Barack Obama we would evolve beyond race. Yet in the last ninth months it is almost as if precisely the opposite has occurred — but with a strange twist. The country has been serially lectured about race from some of the most privileged Americans in the country. Columbia law grad elite Eric Holder accused the country of cowardice for its reluctance to speak about race. Harvard-law alum Barack Obama accused the Cambridge police of profiling and acting stupidly in taking elite Harvard professor Skip Gates down to the station after his screaming invective episode. Harvard-law educated Michelle Obama explained Justice Sotomayor’s unease at Princeton by comparing her own ordeal there. Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel who had serially dodged his tax obligations claims that white angst explains his IRS problems. New York governor David Paterson blames his sinking polls on white racism, more prominent than ever in the age of Obama. Now Yale law graduate Van Jones claims smears did him in. The list could be easily expanded.
What we are seeing is a very unfortunate turn of events in which racism is now the guaranteed retreat position once many prominent African-American elites find themselves in controversy. The problem is that the rest of the population of all races and classes looks at this privileged cohort and does not really detect bias or ill-treatment in their past or present circumstances, but rather remarkable tolerance and race-blind attitudes, as exemplified by their career successes.
The roots of all this scapegoating were in the campaign, not just with the mansion/golf-course living Reverend Wright, the president’s mentor and pastor, slurring his country and its various constituencies, but also with Obama’s own stereotyping of Pennsylvania voters, once the election there did not go his way. Worse still, we are only in month nine of this new age of Obama — with more than three years to go in his first term — and the country is already tired of the blame-gaming and whining, when officials like Rangel and Jones start to defame others for their own lack of ethics and judgment. This is all very unfortunate, but I predict it will only intensify given the example at the top, and sadly probably result in a polarization that we have not seen in generations.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson