Democracy Soup

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Cokie Roberts’ ‘foreign’ concept of Hawaii makes her this week’s Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 14, 2008

Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts went on attack this week, trying to portray Sen. Barack Obama’s vacation to the state in which he was born and raised, and where close family members still live, as seditious. Instead, we think she came off looking like a bigoted tool of the RNC, which more than qualifies her to be this week’s Media Putz.

Roberts began her attack on ABC’s This Week on Aug. 10. She somehow managed to admit Hawaii’s statehood, while in the same breath erroneously calling it “foreign.”

“I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place. He should be in Myrtle Beach, if he’s going to take a vacation at this point.”

Then on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition the next day, Roberts repeated the attack to host Renee Montagne:

“I know that he is from Hawaii, he grew up there, his grandmother lives there, but he’s made such a point about how he is from Kansas and, you know, the boy from Kansas and Kenya and it makes him seem a little bit more exotic than perhaps he would want to come across as at this stage in the presidential campaign.”

Basically, Roberts is attacking Obama for not making his vacation into a political stunt. He usually visits Hawaii yearly, for Christmas vacation, but had to skip last year due to the campaign. He recently lamented the fact that he hasn’t seen his grandmother, who is unable to travel due to health problems for about 19 months.

Besides the basic reasoning of Roberts’ argument, there are two even more insidious aspects of her line of attack.

First, it’s clear this is not just about distance. Exotic has long been a code word for something much more sinister. Consider this: Would Roberts have said the same thing if Obama were from the similarly far-flung and newly minted state of Alaska? Would she say the same thing if his opponent, Sen. John McCain, visited his own equally exotic birthplace of the Panama Canal Zone (which is neither a state nor a territory)? We’d bet “no” on both counts. While her suggestion of Myrtle Beach, SC, boasts a population that is more than 81 percent white, Hawaii’s white population is less than 30 percent. And that may be too frighteningly “exotic” for Roberts.

But it may be that this trip really didn’t personally bother Roberts at all. Perhaps she, along with Republican Party strategists, thought the American people might be convinced to react negatively to Obama’s vacation, if fed the right buzzwords. Which brings us to the second point: it appears Roberts may have been working directly from the McCain handbook of slander.

On The Jed Report Web site, there is a screenshot of an e-mail purportedly sent out to reporters by the RNC with what appear to be talking points on how to make Obama look bad for going home, titled “Barack Obama’s Hawaii Travel Guide.” It’s complete with snarky notes about where Obama and his family ate and what they did while visiting the 50th state.

It would be one thing if Roberts came up with this lop-sided, prejudiced smear of Obama’s trip home on her own. But her toeing the Republican Party line is truly reprehensible, albeit unsurprising. So we agree with the nomination sent by Terry Adcock of Austin, Texas, and that’s why Cokie Roberts is this week’s Media Putz of the week.


Written by democracysoup

August 14, 2008 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

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