A Rare Twofer
Posted by Richard Adams
Several people have pointed to Joe the Plumber’s comment that Senator Obams can " "tap dance...almost as good as Sammy Davis, Jr." Inevitably, this had led to charges of racism. Actually, since we’re talking about Sammy Davis, Jr., Joe will presumably be accused of both racism and anti-Semitism!
12:22 PM / October 17, 2008
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Isn't the comment more of a compliment to Sammy's tap dancing ability than a commentary on race? One might have said the same thing about a white politician, after all. It's now racist to compare one black person to another black person? Would it have been more acceptable if he had said Fred Astaire? This is the kind of media commentary that is going to backfire on them.
Thanks for the light-hearted comments here. No one loves Sammy Davis Jr.'s Jewish-ness more than my fellow Jews, especially those closer to the Rat-Pack generation when most Jewish stars still anglicized their names.
Since Julie seized the seriousness of the issue, permit me a small addition. I agree the charge of racism on "Joe" here is overblown. The once pervasive "All blacks are good for is entertaining and athletics" seems meaningless in the post-Cosby show era. I guess many of us go on fighting the last battles. Therefore, it may be right to lampoon habits that may distort the current situation.
Sympathy may make more sense, however. Conservatives are alert to being "Borked" and illogical Regean or Bush-bashing. It is human nature to be on guard, to look for familiar attacks.
Conservatives have founding principles to take comfort and inspire. African Americans have, well, a mixed relationship to founding principles, as Fredrick Douglas states so well in his "What to the Negro is the Meaning of Independence Day" speech, although "I Have a Dream" certainly re-inspires a faith in the founding.
So, yes, Astaire comparison would more neutral. It's not such a stretch to appreciate this and practice habits that show our firm commitment to true meaning of our creed -- a bit of sympathy, a sense of tragedy to go along with our positive principles and policies.
Scott. Thanks for the comment. I'm not sure Fred Astaire would come naturally to the lips of a blue collar guy.
Julie is right that any outrage is probably fake. Scot is right that conservatives should watch their words very carefully if they are to have any hope of recruiting significant portions of the black community to the conservative cause and for reasons of basic decency. But while Joe is very eloquent, he is not a professional political communicator and people should cut him a break. And I can't help but notice that the media seems to be holding to Joe The Plumber to a higher standard than Joe The Vice Presidential Candidate.
Do we love Joe the Plumber not just for what he says, but because he has the courage to keep talking in the face of the sort of ludicrous criticism Pete points out? I know many men like Joe who would relish the chance to tell America the same sort of thing, if they had the opportunity. Isn't it wonderful that our nation has such people?