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Post Partisan
Posted at 12:47 PM ET, 04/19/2011

Going ape over racist depiction of Obama


President Obama will leave Washington tomorrow for California and Nevada. It’s part of his “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” tour to tout his vision for bringing down the nation’s soaring deficits. While he’s out West, the president will also rattle a tin cup at a couple of fundraisers for his reelection campaign that hopes to raise “north of $750 million.” By the way, “north” means $1 billion.

So, why would Team Obama need so much money?


We should be used to presidents being depicted as primates. President George W. Bush routinely was lampooned as a monkey during his tenure in the White House. But it takes on a different and racist flavor when applied to the current occupant and his family. The instance above shows the most explicit bond yet between the Republican Party, the Tea Party movement and birthers. And it reveals the ugliness to come in the 2012 campaign.

OC Weekly writer R. Scott Moxley broke the story that Marilyn Davenport, a member of the Republican Central Committee of Orange County, sent an e-mail to a few fellow conservatives with what was meant to be a family photo of the president and his parents. Obama’s face is superimposed over the baby ape’s. As if that weren’t bad enough, the caption above the photo in the email read, “Now you know why no birth certificate.”

It should be noted that Davenport isn’t the first Orange County Republican Central Committee member to dabble in racist stereotypes involving Obama. Under the caption, “No Easter egg hunt this year,” Dean Grose sent around an e-mail just after the inauguration in 2009 depicting the South Lawn of the White House as a vast watermelon patch.

When called on it by Moxley, Davenport was defiant. “Oh, come on! Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist,”she told Moxley when he reached her by phone on April 15. “It was a joke. I have friends who are black. Besides, I only sent it to a few people — mostly people I didn’t think would be upset by it.” She later asked Moxley, “You’re not going to make a big deal about this, are you?”

Cue the outrage. But the gasps didn’t just come from the left and liberals. Scott Baugh, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, said what Davenport did was “despicable” and “dripping with racism.” Now Davenport is repentant. “I want people to know that I humbly apologize and ask for forgiveness for my unwise behavior,” she told Moxley in an interview on Monday.

Davenport’s “unwise behavior” is being repeated by others who should know better. Donald Trump continued to scamper around the dark wormhole of birther conspiracy theories in television interviews this morning with NBC and ABC. Trump told George Stephanopolous, “Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate.” Despite ample evidence that he’s perpetuating lies, Trump continues to give life to uglilness that breeds comments such as “Now you know why no birth certificate.”

We used to be able to laugh off the birthers as the far-right fringe of the Tea Party movement. We can’t do that anymore. According to Public Policy Polling, Trump leads the potential GOP field with support from 26 percent of Republican primary voters surveyed. Mike Huckabee is second with 17 percent. The PPP poll shows that the Trump surge is fueled by folks who don’t believe Obama was born in the United States and, therefore, is illegally occupying the Oval Office. No other candidate comes close to getting their support.

Unfortunately, those clinging to this conspiracy theory aren’t just “the nutty right,” as Karl Rove delicately put it. They are the Republican Party. An astonishining PPP survey of likely Republican primary voters released in February revealed that 51 percent did not believe that Obama is American.

That’s why Marilyn Davenport — a Republican and Tea Party activist who questioned the president’s citizenship in a manner “dripping with racism” — perfectly illustrates why Obama will need $1 billion for his reelection. Every dime of it will be needed to dispel persistent rumors and to repeat truths about himself and his policies in every corner of the country until the last vote is counted.

By  |  12:47 PM ET, 04/19/2011

 
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