In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Andrew Breitbart predicted that this would be the “dog whistle” election–that the mainstream media would accuse Barack Obama’s opponents of racism at every opportunity. Andrew’s warning has come to pass–first in the Trayvon Martin affair, and then in the push-back against Obama’s revealing “you didn’t build that” monologue. Never before, however, has the “dog whistle” pantomime been as self-parodying as in the coverage of Mitt Romney’s overseas tour.
The attempt to tarnish Romney’s voyage as racist began with the comment, attributed to an anonymous adviser, that unlike Obama, Romney understood the common “Anglo-Saxon” heritage shared by Britain and the United States. The term “Anglo-Saxon” is, in fact, used by Continental detractors, especially in France, to describe an individualistic outlook and rule-bound social ethos shared in some measure by the US and the UK.
To transform “Anglo-Saxon” into a racist epithet, it is first necessary to conflate the term with “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” (WASP), a sort of euphemism for white people. Then, it is necessary to imagine further that Romney sees the US and UK as “white,” and that Obama, being (half) black, cannot understand or relate to either. Voilà–racism!
Next, the mainstream media–assisted by a particularly mendacious Palestinian official named Saeb Erekat–concocted the idea that Romney had made racist statements at a fundraiser in Jerusalem. Because Romney praised Israel’s culture of “economic vitality,” as opposed to the relative stagnation engendered by the cult of martyrdom next door, Erekat–and the Associated Press, and NPR, and CNN–accused him of racism.
To do that, the AP had to invent a quote–namely, that Romney had praised “Jewish culture” rather than Israeli culture in general. He said no such thing, of course–and nothing that he has not said before, or that has been said by others, without causing a fuss. The irony was that these journalists had to introduce anti-Jewish stereotypes into their reports to make their case: “supporters” became “Jewish donors,” for instance.
Finally, as Romney headed to Poland on the last leg of his tour, NPR’s Cokie Roberts claimed that his journey was racially motivated–that he was attempting to appeal to “white voters” back home. No, Romney was not just trying to contrast his foreign policy with Obama’s abandonment of U.S. allies in Eastern Europe–rather, Roberts claimed, he was focused on “getting those ethnic voters excited,” Poles included, back home.
It is noteworthy how rarely the mainstream media draws similar conclusions about what President Obama was doing–when he awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a roll call of ethnic voting groups in an election year, for example. Too often, the same journalists–Roberts included–who lecture us about the need to talk to each other about the issues make it more difficult by introducing cynical, false “dog whistle” accusations.
There is nothing racist about Romney’s tour–except to those who want to cast any opposition as racist. There are no “dog whistles” pitched at Romney’s allegedly racist supporters–the policy differences between the two candidates are stark enough to motivate partisans on both sides. The false attacks merely reveal what Andrew Breitbart predicted–that the mainstream media would destroy its own integrity to protect Obama.