"You can call me anything you want, but do not call me a racist," said an indignant President George Bush on Dec. 12, commenting on the despicable, opportunistic suggestion that any inadequacies in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina were due to racism.
But veteran network media giants Ted Koppel and Tom Brokaw don't quite see it that way. Indeed, they don't appear to see eye-to-eye with President Bush on much of anything if their joint interview with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" is any indication.
Russert was uncharacteristically tame toward these two, offering them repeated softballs concerning the past year's main stories. But the relaxed atmosphere gave us a clearer picture of the worldview these men share, which is doubtless representative of most of the Old Media players. From race and taxes to health care and Iraq, they spoke in a monolithic liberal voice, accented by its familiar air of moral superiority.
Koppel began by vigorously defending the media for introducing the issue of race into Katrina. "But the question had to be asked," said Koppel, "if that had been a section of a city that was populated by middle-class white people, would the response have been the same? … I think there was just a feeling that you didn't have to be as engaged as I think the federal government would have been."
Brokaw agreed. "I think Ted is correct when he says it was not overt or active racism." But it sure must have been subconscious racism, huh, Tom?
It bothers me deeply when race hucksters play the race card on Katrina for political gain, knowing it is outrageously unfair. But I think it troubles me more to hear these two supposed paragons of 20th-century journalism smugly level the charge and, apparently, really believe it.
Superficially distancing themselves from the allegation that racism was directly involved didn't mitigate it in the least. In fact, if President Bush's alleged bigotry were so deeply rooted as to affect his actions without even stirring his moral impulses, he would probably be a more consummate racist than the guy who consciously considers race while discriminating.
Isn't it ironic that in their sanctimony against perceived racism, presumably because of the evil of one group feeling superior to another, these two sermonizers reveal their absolute certitude of moral superiority over those who reject their liberal worldview? And their self-righteousness wasn't limited to race but included almost all other issues they discussed.