I don’t understand why commentators persist in saying this week that Barack Obama avoided any discussion of race during the presidential campaign. Which campaign were they covering?
Here’s Jack Cafferty on CNN from this afternoon:
Isn’t it ironic, he went through the whole presidential campaign, with nary a nod toward any sort of racial problems in this country, and at the tail end of a news conference the other night he stepped right in it up to his eyebrows.
You might argue that Obama didn’t make race the centerpiece of his campaign or that he was careful not to explicitly shoulder the burden of centuries of black grievances. (The symbolic shouldering of those grievances was something the first serious black candidate for President, whoever he turned out to be, would not be able to shrug off easily.) But it’s wildly inaccurate to say that he ignored race during the campaign, even if he declined to play-act in the highly choreographed racial set-pieces that linger in our politics.
The most overt and significant of his “nods” to race was the March 18, 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech. Given in the midst of the long Democratic primary, with the Rev. Wright controversy still roiling, it was the biggest news event of the day, as I recall, covered live and in full by all the cable news networks, and universally praised for its nuance and candidness.
It was a speech that Cafferty himself blogged about at the time. His description then suggested Obama did more than merely give race a nod: “In the face of a withering barrage of taped replays by the media of Wright’s comments, Obama had little choice but to suck it up and face the issue head on.”
And so he did.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.