Jonah Goldberg

In Britain to promote her film "The Butler," Oprah Winfrey gave an interview to the BBC last week. Not surprisingly, she promoted her movie about race relations in the White House with comments about race relations and the White House.

The BBC's Will Gompertz asked: "Has it ever crossed your mind that some of the treatment of Obama and the challenges he's faced and some of the reporting he's received is because he's an African-American?"

Now there's a fresh take.

Either Gompertz has been handcuffed to a radiator in someone's windowless basement for the last five years or, more likely, he was riffing off the suggested questions Winfrey's PR team handed out to interviewers. Neither explanation would lift the stench of staleness from the question -- or the answer.

Winfrey responded: "Has it ever crossed my mind? ... Probably it's crossed my mind more times than it's crossed your mind. Just the level of disrespect. When the senator yelled out, 'You're a liar' -- remember that? Yeah, I think that there is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs, and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he's African-American."

Now it's true that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) should not have shouted "You lie!" (whether or not it was a lie) at the president during his health-care address to Congress. But the evidence that Wilson was motivated by racism is simply nonexistent.

However, a lack of evidence hasn't stopped countless liberals, editorial boards, pundits and stand-up comics, not to mention administration officials, from propagating the idea that Obama's problems boil down to the irrational bigotry of his opponents.

Looking for examples of this relentless smear is like hunting for sand at the beach. In July, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the NAACP that the same people who opposed the Civil Rights Act and anti-lynching laws were opposing Obamacare. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) made similar arguments. And from what I can tell, so has virtually every host on MSNBC (except for Joe Scarborough). In one way or another they subscribe to Chris Matthews' view that opposition to Obama and Obamacare is driven by faith in white supremacy.

It's all very stupid and lazy. When President Clinton tried to transform health care in the 1990s, conservatives opposed the effort hammer and tongs. But when they mount the same battle with an even more liberal president who happens to be black, the only logical conclusion is that racism is afoot. George W. Bush is pretty white, and he was shown ample disrespect. You can look it up.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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