Let me echo Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher and Conor Friedersdorf in condemning the utterly shameful and race-baiting exploitation of yesterday's school bus incident. I'm not big on writing posts that start "Rush Limbaugh did outrageous thing X today...", but this is an exception.
It’s Obama’s America, is it not? Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering[.]
So here's the basic dilemma. On the one hand, there's nothing ambiguous about this. It's straight-up George Wallace-style race-baiting. It's an intentional attempt to stir racial prejudices.
Limbaugh & Friends took a random fight and immediately tried to pin it on Obama (some less directly than others). And after the police quickly backed off claims that it was racially motivated, the corrections either didn't come or were merely one-liner updates inappropriate to the gravity of the previous charges.
But even if it was racially motivated, what on earth does Obama have to do with it? The answer is nothing other race. The only goal here was to stir up racial resentment and then pin it on Obama. I'm sorry, but this is infuriating. We shouldn't be putting up with this in 2009.
But here's the thing -- there's no way to win. If you ignore it, they get to race-bait. If you cause a big stink about it, it will have the effect of putting racial tensions in the news. And that's exactly what they want, because it hurts Obama.
Obama's numbers, recall, went down with white voters after the Gates incident. The reason, I think, is simply that racial animosities remain very much with us, despite our enormous progress. One reason Obama won was that he managed to persuade certain types of voters to ignore race. That's why Jeremiah Wright was so potentially threatening -- it put race front and center, which is precisely the opposite of where the Obama campaign put it. These resentments emerged again in the aftermath of Gates.
So that's the dilemma -- Limbaugh wins if you say nothing, and Limbaugh wins if you criticize. It's maddening.
But I don't care -- I'm still going to criticize. This incident is not a run-of-the-mill "Limbaugh said something ridiculous today" story. This is a big deal. Limbaugh was unambiguously racist, and he had an awfully big chorus in the Malkin-o'-sphere today.
But don't take my word for it, here's Dreher:
But good grief, Limbaugh is up to something wicked. He's plainly trying to rally white conservatives into thinking that now that we have a black president, blacks are rising up to attack white kids! . . .
[I]f the Limbaughs of the world are going to . . . blame, with no logical grounds whatsoever, a black president for black-on-white violence, and if they're going to do this in an increasingly hysterical atmosphere of protest against that black president, I don't want to talk about these things at all. Now is not the time. With this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, they are quite simply tearing the country apart.
This isn’t merely a lie — it is a lie that, if credulously received by its audience, is going to heighten racial tensions and mistrust in the United States. . . . Mr. Limbaugh accuses others of exacerbating racial tensions and obsessing about race. Sometimes he is right to do so. Yet here he is obsessing about race and ratcheting up racial tensions. It is difficult to think of hypocrisy more abhorrent.