The Washington Post

Rove, Hoffa and Obama’s fight for independents

Ten days after Teamsters chief James Hoffa’s caustic Labor Day comments, Karl Rove is still trying to whip up controversy where there is none. In his Wall Street Journal column today, the Architect points to President Obama’s silence on Hoffa’s remarks at the Detroit event as a reason why Obama’s standing with independents will continue to diminish. And, thus, cripple his reelection prospects. This is an assertion with which I completely — wait for it — disagree.

In remarks prior to a presidential speech on Labor Day, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa referred to Republicans and tea partiers as “sons of bitches” who needed to be “taken out.” By artfully distancing himself from Mr. Hoffa’s inflammatory attack, Mr. Obama could have reminded independents of his 2008 promises to heal America’s political divisions through a more civil discourse.

By continuing to twist Hoffa’s tart words, Rove perpetuates a storyline that doesn’t hold up after even a modicum of digging. Here’s what Hoffa said on Sept. 5.

And when [President Obama] sees what we’re doing here he will be inspired. But he needs help. And you know what? Everybody here’s gotta vote. If we go back, we keep our eye on the prize. Let’s take these son of a bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.

As I’ve said before, you can question the reliance on war imagery and the violence the mind conjures up. And even if it’s a tough-talking labor leader talking to a tough labor crowd,  you would certainly be right to question the appropriateness of “son of a bitches” at an event featuring the president of the United States. But to say Hoffa was calling for violence to take “these son of a bitches out” or intimating it  is just plain wrong.

What Rove conveniently ignores is Hoffa imploring the crowd that “Everybody here’s gotta vote” if they want to remove Tea Partyers from Congress and stop “the war on workers.”  Considering the low standing of Congress, Republican stewardship and the Tea Party, Obama’s tough fight to win back independents might not be as hard Rove would have you believe.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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