Friday, January 17, 2003

Almost two weeks ago, on the January 5th episode of “This Week”, there was this odd exchange between panelists George Will and Michele Martin (ABC doesn’t post transcripts, so I’m depending on Punditwatch here):

I know why you like Al Sharpton. You can use him to beat the Democrats and play racial politics. --Michele Martin to George Will, on This Week, after he suggested that Sharpton might win some Democratic primaries.

Huh? George Stephanapoulos cut off any counter-response from Will, and they moved on to something else. But what does Michele Martin (who is black) mean by this? In what way is Will “playing racial politics” by stating that Sharpton might do well in the Democratic primaries? Did Tim Russert engage in racial politics on the January 12th “Meet The Press” ? After running down a list of racially-tinged incidents involving Sharpton, Russert asked :“If a white candidate had that background, do you believe people would take him seriously as a candidate for president?”

I’m sure that people like Martin believe that “racial politics” means Republicans stirring the pot to incite white voters to the polls. But when it comes to Sharpton (and maybe Carol Mosley-Braun), the phrase is used to derail legitimate discussion over a candidate’s qualifications to hold office. Jeff Jacoby exposed this tactic in an article yesterday titled “Hypocrisy on Sharpton .” Here’s the opening graf:

Among the earliest and clearest voices to condemn Trent Lott's benighted remarks last month were those of conservatives and Republicans, who were repelled by his nostalgia for segregation and quick to call for his ouster. When will liberals and Democrats show the same maturity and forcefully repudiate the noxious racial lout in their own tent, New York demagogue Al Sharpton?

Instead there’s silence from the Dems, who have nothing to say about this:

1995: When the United House of Prayer, a large black landlord in Harlem, raises the rent on Freddy's Fashion Mart, Freddy's white Jewish owner is forced to raise the rent on his subtenant, a black-owned music store. A landlord-tenant dispute ensues; Sharpton uses it to incite racial hatred. ''We will not stand by,'' he warns malignantly, ''and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.'' Sharpton's National Action Network sets up picket lines; customers going into Freddy's are spat on and cursed. ''We're going to see that this cracker suffers,'' says Sharpton's colleague Morris Powell. On Dec. 8, one of the protesters bursts into Freddy's, shoots four employees point-blank, then sets the store on fire. Seven employees die in the inferno.

Trent Lott lost his Senate leadership position – 4th in line from the Presidency – because of some stupid remarks at a birthday party. But Al Sharpton, racial inciter, continues to raise money and make the talk-show rounds and not one Democrat stands up to say: “He does not represent the ideals of the Democratic Party.” Now who’s playing racial politics?

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