Skinny =’s Black? The Left Goes Farther Around The Bend On Race

As a general rule, calling the left “oversensitive” about race is like calling the sun “hot,” but as Barack’s numbers have started to soften over the last few weeks, the Left has started to go around the bend. As a matter of fact, they can’t even see the bend at this point.

You’ve seen all the frantic and bizarre attacks on the most wildly successful political ad of 2008, “Celebrity,” but Timothy Noah over at Slate has actually ratcheted it up another couple of levels,

“In the Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick asked, “[C]ould Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability?” Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren’t skinny. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who’ve reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be thin is to be different physically. Not that there’s anything wrong, mind you, with being a skinny person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of skinny people to move in next door? “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy,” an “unnamed Clinton supporter” wrote on a Yahoo politics message board. My point is that any discussion of Obama’s “skinniness” and its impact on the typical American voter can’t avoid being interpreted as a coded discussion of race.

Chozick insists that she didn’t intend her playful feature about Obama’s physique as potential electoral liability to carry any racial subtext. “I can’t even respond to that,” she told me. “That’s ridiculous.” Bob Christie, Dow Jones’ vice president of communications, phoned me in a flash to reaffirm that message. I believe Chozick and Christie when they say that the Journal never intended skinniness to serve as a proxy for race….

But I firmly disagree that a racial reading of Chozick’s story is “ridiculous,” and I would counter that any failure on Chozick’s part to recognize such is just a wee bit clueless.”

…Let’s review the basics. Barack Obama is the first African-American to win a major-party nomination for president of the United States. African-Americans are distinguishable from other Americans by their skin color. This physical attribute looms large in our nation’s history as a source of prejudice.

The promise of Obama’s presidency, in many people’s minds, is partly that America will move toward becoming a post-racial society. It’s pretty clear, though, that we aren’t there yet. When white people are invited to think about Obama’s physical appearance, the principal attribute they’re likely to dwell on is his dark skin. Consequently, any reference to Obama’s other physical attributes can’t help coming off as a coy walk around the barn. A whole genre of humor turns on this reality. A Slate colleague informs me that an episode of the TV sitcom Happy Days (“Fonzie’s New Friend”) had its 1950s-era characters nervously discussing the fact that a black man in their midst was so … skinny. Was it true that skinny people liked fried chicken? That they were good at basketball? And so on.

Now, I don’t know how relevant Barack Obama’s “skinniness” will turn out to be in the race. At first glance, it does seem like a frivolous topic to write an article about, but the presidential race, from primary to finish, is a nearly two year long experience and it’s hard to come up with fresh material. Plus, it’s not as if people have never discussed this sort of thing before. In fact, I specifically remember someone telling me that the decisive factor in the 2004 race could be that Kerry was taller than Bush and that it might look bad for W. if Kerry towered over him in the debates.

But frivolous or not frivolous, discussing whether Obama’s thinness could make a difference in the election is unequivocably not racial despite the possible existence of some decades old episode of Happy Days.

In fact, if someone made a claim that off-the-wall in conversation, you’d look at them a little differently, a little closer, right in the eyes, so you could see if there was any crazy leaking out of there that you hadn’t noticed before. After all, can anybody possibly be this hypersensitive?

I’d say, no, no they can’t. To the contrary, what’s happening is that the Left is using a variation on one of their favorite tricks: they’re trying to shut down debate. You’ve heard the old phrase, “If you can’t beat them, join them?” Well, the Left’s version of this is, “If you can’t beat them, keep them quiet.”

When it comes to someone like John Edwards, they’ll simply refuse to report criticism. When it comes to conservative talk radio hosts, they’ll try to drive them off the air with the “Fairness Doctrine” — and when it comes to Barack Obama, they will find “racist” slants on anything and everything negative that is said about the guy in hopes of stopping criticism of him.

It’s a vile, dishonest un-American strategy, but it’s just what the Left is all about these days.

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