Mitt Romney’s failure to respond to harsh attacks on Barack Obama has been criticized in the media. However, in contrasting it with John McCain’s reactions under similar circumstances four years ago, the media has revealed its own startling inadequacies.
Many people around the world, including myself, look up to the United States as a country where for the most part there is relative harmony between people of all races, religions and backgrounds. If anyone is in any doubt about this then you only have to look at the ethnic and religious tensions and conflicts in so many other places around the world. It is for this very reason, and the fact that the US trumpets its values of racial and religious tolerance, that we hold that nation to a higher standard when we look at racism.
Unfortunately, there is still much cause for concern there.
The racial attacks on Barack Obama have mostly been in the form of birtherism i.e. the suggestion that he was born in Indonesia or Kenya and not the United States, therefore making him ineligible to be President. This is a unique form of Obama derangement syndrome that has survived attempts to quash it, even after the placing of evidence in the public domain which categorically refutes such claims.
Other forms racism directed at Obama are less pronounced if no less subtle. So, at a recent Mitt Romney rally in Ohio, one surrogate compared President Obama to Ronald McDonald while another member of the audience stated that Obama should be tried for treason—no evidence required of course.
For decades now the Republican Party has used its anti-immigrant and pseudo-racist appeal to attract older white voters in what has become known as the Southern Strategy. So we can say that there is nothing new here. What is new is the anti-Semitism which accompanies it. Here is why.
Much of the American media, except for Fox News of course, has lambasted Romney for not decrying the attacks on President Obama as being inappropriate. Many of them then went on to compare Romney’s non-response to McCain’s rejection of an attack on Obama in 2008, during the last presidential election. Just one example of this is a Bloomberg article entitled Romney Silent as Ohio Supporters Calls Obama Treasonous by John McCormick and Richard Rubin. The particular extract reads as follows:
“No, ma’am,” McCain replied. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
The Huffington Post made a similar argument to Bloomberg. An article entitled Barack Obama Accused Of Treason At Mitt Romney Town Hall by Sam Stein, noted:
Indeed, it’s difficult to declare at what point Romney is obligated to correct or push back against a member of the crowd. But the whole episode brought to mind the infamous 2008 campaign event when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) corrected an audience member who asserted her belief that then-Sen. Obama was a Muslim. By not doing the same as McCain, Romney opened himself up to criticism.
So here we have two articles by two major American news organizations which state that John McCain was a good man, who did the right thing, when he denied that Barack Obama was not an Arab nor a Muslim, but a decent family man.
From personal experience the worse aspect of racism has always been the ignorance that accompanies it—when people offend without it even recognizing that they have done so. This is surely the case here. That said, had McCain’s comments been made with reference to Jews and Judaism then we can be absolutely sure that it would not now be held up as a prime example of good political behavior.
If one were to check the definition of Semitic in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary or any other reputable source, it would note that the word Semitic denotes and encompasses both Jews and Arabs. It is on this basis that one can conclude that Arab anti-Semitism has become so ingrained in the American psyche that even mainstream journalists fail to recognize it.
Whenever someone tells me that they don’t like people of one race but are OK with blacks, it always makes me wonder what they might be saying behind my back. This is because it is ridiculous to claim that one is racist against some people but not against others. There is no halfway house with racism. You are either a racist or you are not—there can be no exception. Racial equality is not like a buffet where you can pick and choose.
Americans of all stripes should treat Arab anti-Semitism in exactly the same way they treat Jewish anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism. They should make every effort to stamp it out. Only by doing so can Americans truly live the values they claim to uphold.
It is a pity that neither the politicians nor the media seem capable of leading the way.
Jonathan Ledwidge is the author of the books Clearing The Bull: The Financial Crisis and Why Banks Need a Human Transformation and a Mannequin for President.