The word "racist" is the new shorthand for "evil," replacing Hitler as the all-purpose evil those with stunted imaginations accuse their opponents and enemies of. Not so long ago, racism was a crime so heinous that merely to be accused of it was all the proof needed for conviction. Racism and bearing false witness are still heinous, but like "Hitler," through reckless use is losing some of its sting.
In the overheated anger of some Democratic partisans, Mitt Romney has become the personification of racism. There's not a shred of evidence that the presumptive Republican nominee is a racist, or a bigot or a zealot or even a fanatic. In fact, it's his tone of moderation and quiet sobriety (as befits a proper Mormon) that frustrates many of his supporters, who want him to toughen up and get mean on the stump.
But here's how a columnist for Rolling Stone magazine describes him: "(He) is not merely unlikable, and not merely a fatuous, unoriginal hack of a politician, but also a genuinely repugnant human being, a grasping corporate hypocrite with so little feel for how to get along with people that he has to dream up elaborate schemes just to try to pander to the mob."
The columnist, one Matt Taibbi, is angry because the campaign is so uncivil. What provoked his tantrum was Romney's appearance before the Houston convention of the NAACP -- one of his best speeches of the young season -- when he spoke bluntly, plainly and respectfully of his differences with black Democrats. What specifically provoked the rolling stone was Romney's remarks about the Houston speech the next day to "a mostly white audience in Montana."
"I gave the NAACP the same speech I'm giving you," Romney told the Montana audience. "When I mentioned (in Houston) that I am going to get rid of Obamacare, they weren't happy. That's OK. I want people to know what I stand for, and if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that's just fine. But I hope people understand this, if they want more stuff from the government, go vote for the other guy."
Romney was enthusiastically booed, as has been widely reported. But not by everyone in the audience. He was cheered for some of the things he said, notably his affirmation of familiar religious and moral values, and he received a standing ovation when he finished his speech.