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The Jehoshua Novels


Keeping Up With Right-Wing Drivel About Obama and Derrick Bell

Palin insanity: Barack Obama’s support, when he taught at Harvard Law School in the early 1990s, for law professor Derrick Bell’s efforts to make the law school’s faculty more diverse, means he wants to take Americans back to pre-Civil War days “when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin.” Atlantic’s David Graham deconstructs:

The most immediate problem here is the basic one of the entire Bell “controversy”: Bell wasn’t a violent revolutionary but an academic theorist and campaigner for equality; there’s no evidence that Obama was a zealous apostle of Bell’s critical legal theory; and Obama’s term in office, whatever other criticisms one may make of it, hasn’t been characterized by radical black nationalism.

What makes Palin’s take different and more problematic is the idea that Barack Obama wants to take the nation back to the days before the Civil War. Just think about that for a second. Palin claims that the president, a man who would most likely have been a slave had he lived in antebellum America — or, had he been lucky enough to be one of the small percentage of blacks who was a freeman, would have been at constant risk of kidnapping and enslavement — wants to return the country to those days.

She claims that Derrick Bell, who served in the Justice Department in the years immediately following Brown v. Board of Education, as the federal government dragged southern states kicking and screaming toward abolishing Jim Crow laws, wanted the nation to return to the pre-Civil War era.

She suggests that by taking part in a protest of the near-total lack of senior faculty of color at Harvard Law School in the 1990s, both Obama and Bell wanted to restore apartheid in the United States. Keep in mind, they weren’t black nationalists calling for blacks to separate themselves, which might give some credence to her charge: they were advocating greater assimilation.

Incredibly, Palin seems incapable of uttering the word “slavery” when discussing the Civil War. Thankfully, she’s not even flirting with the neo-Confederate belief that the war was about states’ rights rather than slavery. But she doesn’t mention slavery because it would clearly undermine her case: even the most hardcore Son of the Confederacy would see the absurdity of arguing that the first black president would like to return to the days of slavery.

At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman has a really good essay about the Breitbart crowd’s “race-baiting“:

Over at Breitbart’s web site, I count eight separate pieces on Derrick Bell (who died last year), trying to make the case that he was some kind of insane radical pushing radical theories of radicalism, all with the intention of oppressing white people, which is obviously what Barack Obama is up to as well. Just to get a flavor, here’s an excerpt from one of the articles:

Racialism is so woven into the thinking of Bell, and many believe Barack Obama, any white individual, regardless of ideology or personal attribute lacks the ability to understand and relate racism in America. Consequently, the notion of racial quotas is not simply based upon some idea of equality of opportunity, they must be imposed as white’s [sic] are inferior to blacks in an area Bell and Obama see as critical. While we like to think of equality as color blind, that is not the view Bell shared as a “truth” Obama embraced and encouraged others to do, as well.

You’ll notice the chain of logic, though I use that term loosely: Here’s an exaggeration of something Derrick Bell once said, “many believe” Obama thinks in the same way, here’s a leap to a parody of policies Obama doesn’t actually support, here’s a conclusion about how Obama hates white people and wants to screw them.

From the beginning of Breitbart’s enterprise, race-baiting was a key element of his attack on Barack Obama, one that continues even after his death. And he always had plenty of company, from Glenn Beck saying Obama “has a deep-seated hatred of white people,” to Rush Limbaugh’s repeated insistence to his white listeners that Obama was motivated by racial hatred in everything he did. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations,” Limbaugh proclaimed. “The days of [minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry,” he said. “And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That’s what Obama’s about, gang.” When in 2009 he found a story about a white kid getting beaten up by a black kid on a school bus, Limbaugh said, “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.’” And yes, he did that last part in an exaggerated “black” accent.

The message is always the same: Obama and the blacks are mad, and they’re coming for you. Yet people like the Breitbart folks and Limbaugh have two problems. First, they’re running out of material. There aren’t any more shocking revelations to be had. The best they can do is try to make mountains of racial resentment out of the most innocuous molehills, like the fact that Obama supported Derrick Bell’s effort to diversify the faculty when he was a law student. And second, by now anyone who can be convinced that Obama is a secret Black Panther never thought otherwise. The guy has been president for three years. Americans are pretty familiar with him. He hasn’t actually started herding white people into concentration camps, and it’s an awfully tough sell to tell people that he might any day now.

Jake Tapper debunks the “Derrick Bell visited Pres. Obama at the White House” story:

The conservative Heritage Foundation shows some pluck by searching for the late law school professor Derrick A. Bell in the White House visitor’s logs, and finds that ”œVisitor logs show that Derrick A. Bell visited the White House twice since President Obama took office. The logs show two visits by an individual of that name on January 29 and 31, 2010.”

Why would this matter? Bell has recently splashed into the conservative media world after Breitbart.com and Fox News showed some video of then-Harvard Law School student Barack Obama speaking at a rally on campus in 1990 in support of Bell’s efforts to improve the diversity of the school’s faculty. The video had been previously shown on Frontline in 2008, including a scene of Obama hugging the professor,* which some falsely claim was not in the original PBS documentary. Bell without question held some controversial views (read this 1993 New Republic piece for more on that) and some conservatives seek to portray this as yet another close Obama associate with radical views ”“ with a lapdog media covering it up.

There are two problems with the Heritage post. One: it excludes some details from the visitors’ logs. There are 28 columns on the publicly released records, the Heritage blog lists seven. The data they omit includes a description of what the visit was for: in this case, for both visits: TOURS. A White House tour ”“ not MEETING or APPOINTMENT. Another data point: TOTAL PEOPLE. This is a reference to how many people were present for the tour, meeting or appointment ”“ in this case 304 people and 282 people.

Check out the visitors’ logs HERE.

But Bell surely could have taken a tour or two and then met with President Obama, right? Sure, it’s possible ”“ and I asked the White House about it. The answer from a White House official: this was not the same Derrick A. Bell. He had a different birthday than the late law professor, whose birthday was November 6, 1930. That would seem to undermine the significance of this visit.

12 comments to Keeping Up With Right-Wing Drivel About Obama and Derrick Bell

  • steeleweed

    when the minds are disengaged.
    Bigotry and idiocy will always be with us and the best (only?) way to marginalize it sans violence is through ridicule.
    We should make our laughter as loud and public as possible, which will embarrass the True Believers.
    If we’re lucky, it will also enrage the right-wing bigots to the point of apoplexy.
    Limbaugh wanted a porn video of Sandra Fluke. I want a video of Rush et al having heart attacks.

    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • Tina

    ‘journalists’ give these idiots a voice we will have to fight back against the idiocy. My guess Palin and Bachmann’s recent mind diarrhea are just to draw attention away from Rush.

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • Anonymous

    “The Evolution of Racism”, I would call it. You could start with the unchallenged supremacy of the white man over the black man during slavery, with all the attendant descriptions of blacks as sub-humans. Then came Jim Crow, where the loss of slavery and the unquestioned supremacy of whites was replaced by anger if not hatred for the black man. In the South white supremacy was enforced with state-tolerated violence, debt peonage, and segregation laws. In the North, racism was characterized by mockery of blacks, and private violence, since overt violence against blacks might result in state punishment. The post Civil Rights period has brought about the “I Am Not a Racist” era. Whites can assert their open-mindedness while they move to all-white neighborhoods and make sure their kids don’t get caught in schools with too high a minority population.

    I am sure there are more than a few good books that have analyzed this development. They just need an up-dating for the Age of Absurdity, wherein today whites can only express their racism by projecting it onto blacks, asserting that blacks are the privileged oppressors of the white race. Any sort of hypocritical, nonsensical assertions are acceptable no matter how absurd, including the absurdity that it is impossible for a black man to be president, so therefore Barack Obama has to be illegitimate.

    What follows the Age of Absurdity I don’t know but it would be interesting to speculative. Is there ever ultimately a period of acceptance by whites? Will they have to literally be in the minority to finally accept the verdit of the Civil War?

  • Mattyb719

    What the hell does Rush have to do with anything?

  • Anonymous

    Rush Hudson Limbaugh III is an American radio talk show host, conservative political commentator, and an opinion leader in American conservatism. He hosts The Rush Limbaugh Show, which is aired throughout the U.S. on Premiere Radio Networks and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States.

    Limbaugh signed an 8-year, $400 million contract extension with Clear Channel in 2008.

    A bargain at only $50 million/year – A million / week!

    Wikipedia also says:

    Because of his parents’ desire to see him attend college, he enrolled in Southeast Missouri State University but left the school after two semesters and one summer. According to his mother, “he flunked everything“, and “he just didn’t seem interested in anything except radio.”

    As one who also had an interest in radio, but who flunked nothing, let me tell you I often try and figure out where I went wrong.

  • Mattyb719

    Well, if we’re delving into the political realm of nonsense let’s see what he actually said.

    “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.
    So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.”

    I hate to say it boys and girls, but I agree with the foundation of his argument. Why the hell should I pay for somebody to get birth control medication? These little issues are just a path toward the socialized medicine that the left wants. If we pay for birth control we’ll pay for something else, then something else, and eventually we’ll pay for everything.

    I don’t give a pile of rat droppings who wants to get an abortion. I don’t care if every woman on the planet wants to have sex until their uterus falls out. I just don’t want to pay for it. Last time I looked every college provides condoms as a part of their awareness programs. I think they’re doing the right thing.
    After we pay for birth control are we then going to pay for raising the child if the birth control fails? I’m all for the reproductive rights of women in this country. I say that the government should stay out of a females uterus. I say the more abortions the better. I just find it pretty damn absurd that they’re saying stay out of my body while at the same time asking for a handout to prevent the result of their own reproductive choices.

    I have no problem with what he said. I wouldn’t say it, but I would certainly call Fluke out as a hypocrite. Aside from the fact that we were led to believe she was a law student, she’s a fraud. She wants me to pay for her birth control and then says the government can’t control her body. Make up your mind. If you want me to pay for it then I should have a say in what you do with those resources.

    You can dredge up a great deal of material that would make me say Rush is a moron, but in this instance I don’t think so. He was right. If somebody wants to be compensated for having sex, as in getting paid money or a tangible good, then that does actually fit the definition of prostitute. Why should the federal government be a john to this nonsense?

    I’m not sure why this comment has become a big topic in the media and blogs. It detracts from the very serious matter that the government should be taking care of. We have a slow economy, porous borders, and a deficit that is beyond reasonable. These little details seem to be minutia in the face of some jackass on the radio saying something people don’t like. How about we focus on getting jobs, cutting deficit so that my kids don’t live in a doppelganger of Greece in 2012, and start taking back our military assets from countries that wish we were dead?

  • Tina

    As someone who suffered dearly from endometriosis I resent some pricks telling my insurance company that they should not pay for my medical condition..as they do for erectile dysfunction.

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • Raja

    Ms. Fluke was not saying that she wanted to be paid for sex, and even if she were, it wouldn’t make her a prostitute. To be a prostitute, she’d actually have to have sex in exchange for the medicine.

    Her testimony is here, for the record. She doesn’t refer to herself except by way of introduction and to indicate that her financial position is similar to others with the need for birth control medicine.

    She was testifying in support of insurance coverage for medicines that are usually used to prevent pregnancy, but which are useful for other conditions. Up until recently insurance coverage of these medicines was not controversial. Viagra and the like are covered by health plans; As far as I know they are only useful to enable sexual activity. Should those plans not cover Viagra? If Viagra also reduced high blood pressure, would your answer change? Should there be a morality police that gets between people and their doctors?

    If you don’t want to pay for birth control pills, would you prefer to pay for whatever the statistical marginal increase in crime would likely result from the presence of these additional people? For the increased government-provided support that some of them would likely require?

    Or, consider, maybe the net cost of these medicines are actually negative! Perhaps the government will benefit long-term via higher tax revenues when people have control over their lives, reproductive and otherwise, and so can invest in more education, or have longer working lives. Or it just might be the simple case that a healthier populace is a more productive, harmonious populace.

    This is an important issue because it gets to the root of what it means to have a modern society. Are we all in it for ourselves, most of us pawns of a financial elite forced to be participants in a ruthlessly unfair Darwinian struggle for our rapidly shrinking piece of the pie, or are we part of a society that recognizes that minimal standards of civility should be met; that all of us benefit when each of us can live a meaningful, secure life.

  • Mattyb719

    Shame on me. I should have read her testimony before writing my comment and I admit that it was a very moronic thing to omit from my readings on the topic. I agree that what she’s asking for is not getting money or services for sex. She’s referring to an insurance issue.

    That said I still am not really all that worked up over what Rush said. Maybe I’m just too apathetic now having been exposed to constant potty mouth from public figures. The outraged is feigned since nobody has said a word about countless other rude and inappropriate comments made by people on the left. They both do it. The left acts insulted when somebody they don’t like says something and the right does the same thing. All this manufactured outrage is subterfuge while they take our money and hand it out to their friends and supporters.

    Tina, I hope you did get the medicine you needed. Hell, if you didn’t I’ll donate to a paypal account or something to help you get it. I believe in tribalism, that is I believe in people taking care of their own on a very local level. In this internet age local has become a bit muddled, but the idea is still sound. When people take care of their tribe all of the tribe benefits.

    I have a very low opinion of all insurance companies. Home owners, auto, life, and health insurance companies all love to screw over the people that pay them. Still, I think that insurance companies and the companies they work for should be able to create whatever plan they want. If the plan excludes some things then it excludes them.

    In the case of what Ms. Fluke testified to it sounds like the insurance company is not providing a service that it claims to under the policy she’s talking about. If the policy claims to cover contraceptives when necessary for a medical condition then they should. That’s a legal issue. I also suspect that, if the numbers she mentions are correct, there are about 1,000 drooling trial lawyers that would love to bring a class action against the insurance company.

    I don’t think mandating that this coverage be provided is anything other than what I said before. It’s a step toward putting medical coverage into the hands of the government. First the government requires certain coverage and next the government regulates all the coverage. This isn’t morality police getting between a patient and a doctor. This is an insurance plan that may or may not cover certain things. I think we need tight control over insurance companies providing the services that they claim to provide in their policy. If an insurance company claims to cover birth control medicine when it is required to treat a medical condition then they should god damn well do it. If they don’t there should be an efficient and cost free way to bring them before a judge in a timely manner.

    Raja, we spend more than enough on education so the tax revenues don’t matter much to me. The ratio of administrators to teachers has become absurd. Parents are no longer providing any support to teachers through positive reinforcement at home. Our educational system performs at poorer levels every year. We still keep pouring money into it. Money isn’t going to fix our education problems. We need a cultural shift toward personal responsibility. We need parents that read to their children. We need parents that make education a priority in their home life. If a system continues to fail as we keep dumping money into it then at some point we must realize that money isn’t the problem. Money is just the easy solution that looks good on paper and is a very convenient way for our politicians to seize more of our money.

    If we really care about womens health we would supply only condoms. Women are far more susceptible to STDs than men and condoms are the only way to prevent transmission other than abstinence. Birth control, except in cases as Tina mentioned that are necessary for prevention or treatment of medical conditions, has absolutely nothing to do with health and everything to do with preventing pregnancy. There are also risks to taking birth control medication. After the first time I read about birth control medications and the risk factors I find it hard to recommend birth control pills unless a medical condition requires it. Condoms work. They’re cheap. Why not use them? As somebody who works in public health I find the idea that birth control pills are a better alternative than condoms for preventing pregnancy to be silly.

    You mention people having control of their lives Raja, but it’s strange that you’re talking about the government mandating something to give us that control. Isn’t a government mandate the exact opposite of having personal control? The government mandating something actually restricts us having control of our lives. Taking my money and giving it to somebody else for some other purpose reduces the control I have over my own life. It gives the people that might get that money not control over their own life, but control over mine. I’m very generous. I give money to people that need it all the time. I refuse to donate to charities because most of them provide a very low percentage of their income to providing actual services. I give people money that are standing in front of me and clearly need it. I’ve subsidized another persons rent because they needed the help. The government telling me I have to do so with time in prison being the alternative is disgusting.

    Security in life is an illusion. Modern society is driven by money and affluence. It’s awfully hard for me to buy in to the idea that we should have meaningful and secure lives when we’ve predicated our definitions on having things that don’t matter and accumulation of things. Having things given to us is far from providing us with a meaningful life. I would contend the opposite. Living off the largess of others is a meaningless existence.

  • Raja

    Birth control, except in cases as Tina mentioned that are necessary for prevention or treatment of medical conditions, has absolutely nothing to do with health and everything to do with preventing pregnancy.

    Pregnancy is a major life undertaking, with significant risks. Gestational diabetes, raised blood pressure, and many others, I’m sure. To embark on a pregnancy is to affect one’s health, sometimes marginally, sometimes greatly.

  • Raja

    5 Reasons Why The Contraceptive Coverage Guarantee Is So Important

    Think Progress, By Lindsay Rosenthal, February 16

    During an interview on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she was “dumbfounded” that in 2012 Democrats are still having to battle with conservative lawmakers over basic women’s health care like access to contraception. “If my Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on,” she said, “we stand ready to oppose any attacks launched against women’s rights and women’s health.”

    Indeed, when you look at the overwhelming evidence of the benefits to women and society that will result from providing no-cost contraceptive coverage, it’s hard not to be baffled by the opposition to what is clearly a vital component of women’s healthcare. Here are the top 5 reasons why the Obama Administration’s regulation requiring insurers and employers to provide contraceptive coverage at no additional cost is so important:

    1) Birth control is expensive

    [...]

    2) Contraception has numerous health benefits. A Harvard Medical School study found that oral contraceptives reduced the risk of ovarian cancer by 10 to 12 percent during the first year of use and by about 50 percent after five years of use. It also prevents significant health risks to women and infants by allowing women and couples to achieve healthy birth intervals and prevent unintended pregnancy. Having too short a gap between pregnancies has been linked to negative health outcomes, like low birth weight, preterm birth, and small size for gestational age. Unintended pregnancy is also linked to several negative outcomes for women and children’s health, including delayed attainment of prenatal care, economic hardships, and relationship problems. Publicly funded contraceptive services have decreased unintended pregnancy among health center clients by as much as 78 percent, studies show.

    3) Birth control usage is nearly universal.

    [...]

    4) Providing no-cost contraceptive coverage is cost effective. A recent study shows that it costs employers 15-17 percent more not to provide coverage for contraception than to provide it. Every dollar invested by the government in contraception saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures for care related to unintended pregnancies. In 2008, services provided at publicly funded family planning clinics resulted in a net savings of $5.1 billion.

    5) It’s about more than birth control.

    [...]

  • Mattyb719

    about the first post. All of those things are certainly possible side-effects of pregnancy. A condom is a very effective method for preventing pregnancy if used properly. I’ll see your “raised blood pressure” and up the ante to HIV, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis. The bottom line here is that whatever benefit a contraceptive drug can give a woman, aside from those who need it for another medical condition, condoms provide a better method for protecting a woman from illness. Pregnancy can be terminated. Once you get HIV there’s no going back.

    Birth control is expensive? Correction, drugs to prevent pregnancy are expensive. Barrier birth control can be picked up free of charge at planned parenthood and any number of locations.

    Birth control has numerous health benefits? It reduces the chance of getting ovarian cancer. Wait, that’s a single benefit. All the other benefits listed can also apply to use of a condom and pretty much all boil down to preventing pregnancy. Condoms, in addition to preventing pregnancy, protect from deadly diseases.

    Birth control usage is nearly universal. Well I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but if everybody jumps off a bridge are you going to as well? There are plenty of medical trends that are universal AND universally poor decisions. The number of c-sections is absurdly high. This is a trend that is not a good thing. Women have been spitting babies out for as long as we’ve been on this planet. For some reason in the past 100 years it’s become necessary to perform a highly invasive surgery to complete almost HALF of all births? Something’s not right there. Universal use is not a reason for giving drugs to people.

    Providing no-cost birth control is cost effective? We already do that. Condoms. Now tally up some statistics on how much we spend treating STDs in women who had drugs to prevent pregnancy and subtract that from the benefits. Then we should find the whole tree of people that have to be treated originating from that single source.

    It’s about more than birth control? It certainly is. If it was simply about birth control and protecting the health of our female population there would be no argument because condoms are already available at very low cost (and no cost). Notice there was no information on condoms in her interview. Every single service she mentioned I could find free already for a woman who was unable to pay for it. The battle is BS and doing what is proposed is simply another step toward the government paying for all health care.

    We should also talk about the damage that birth control drugs are doing to our environment. Pissing out millions of gallons of hormones every year is having an impact on our water and the animals that live in it. Hey, what the hell right? I mean, the people pushing for free harmful drugs for everyone never claimed to be environmentalists right? Who would have the gall to do that?

    The same political party that wants to limit carbon emissions also wants to provide free drugs to as many people as they can find to take them in spite of the fact that they’re less effective in protecting health AND are actively damaging our environment. It’s every bit as hypocritical as conservatives trying to outlaw abortion while at the same time not wanting to foot the bill for indigent children.

    This “free” distribution of drugs would benefit one of the “evil” big pharmas. Nobody mentioned that yet. Who cares if risk of stroke increases for people that take it and frogs can no longer reproduce? What the hell, why not? The battle itself is far more important than what we’re battling about.

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