Sarah Palin is unhappy. A new Barack Obama campaign ad quotes her out of context, she says, as part of an effort by “the far Left” to divert everyone from the “real issues” that the president doesn’t want to talk about.
That’s a serious complaint. Quoting opponents out of context is a familiar ploy in politics, but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous. Like when Mitt Romney’s campaign edited a clip of Mr. Obama talking about John McCain to make it sound as if he were talking about himself. That was outrageous.
Let’s start with the ad, which splices together Mrs. Palin’s remarks from her recent interview on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.
(The video had appeared in a Frontline documentary about Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that ran in October 2008.)
“It is a tragedy that the media did not do its job in vetting Barack Obama in 2008,” Palin said. “Here, this is belated vetting of Barack Obama, but it must be done. People must be aware of his radical past, his radical associations … He has chosen these people because what went into his thinking through those college years, through years probably before his college years and his profession as a community organizer, what went into his thinking was this philosophy of radicalism, based on the people whom he chose to be around. He has chosen now to help lead this country more of these radicals.”
Mrs. Palin says Mr. Obama has never been “seen in the conventional, traditional way of we who would describe a man of valor.” She accuses the president of embracing a “philosophy of radicalism” and of wanting to bring us back to the “days before the Civil War…when we were in different classes, based on income, based on color of skin.”
Now here’s the full interview.
So, is Mrs. Palin right when she says she was quoted out of context? Technically, yes.
In the ad, it’s not clear that Mrs. Palin questioned Mr. Obama’s “valor” because he failed to reject a campaign contribution from Bill Maher. Mr. Maher used a crude sexual obscenity to describe Mrs. Palin and Mrs. Palin was right to take offense.
And it’s not clear that the “radicalism” comment was part of a discussion about Mr. Obama’s ties to Derrick Bell, the African-American legal scholar who agitated for more diverse law school faculties. Right-wingers have lately been making much of an old film clip showing a young Mr. Obama supporting that effort.
The ad also truncates her civil war comments. Here they are in full (via Breitbart):
He is bringing us back to days, you can hearken back to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly believed that not all men were created equal. And it was the Civil War that began the codification of the truth that here in America, yes we are equal, and we all have equal opportunities, not based on the color of your skin, you have equal opportunity to work hard and to succeed and to embrace God-given opportunities to develop resources and work extremely hard and as I say, to succeed. Now, it has taken all these years for many Americans to understand the gravity of that mistake that took place before the Civil War and why the Civil War had to really start changing America. What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin. Why are we allowing our country to move backwards instead of moving forward with that understanding that as our charters of liberty spell out for us, we are all created equally?
So, yes, the ad removes context. It does not, however, actually misrepresent Mrs. Palin’s opinion of the president. In the Fox interview, she did indeed question the president’s valor, invoke his “radical past,” and accuse him of wanting to take the country back to the days before the Civil War. On her Facebook post attacking the ad, she repeats the accusation of radicalism: the “ad opens up the discussion of Barack Obama’s radical past associations and the radical philosophy that shaped his ideas about his promised ‘fundamental transformation’ of our country.”
Mrs. Palin doesn’t specify what she thinks the Obama campaign intended to accomplish by taking her comments out of context. Is her complaint that it appears as if she were launching a racially charged attack against Mr. Obama? Well, she was. What else can you call it when a white right-wing Republican accuses an African-American of trying to return the country to a time when people like him were slaves? This is not racist dog whistling. You don’t need to have canine hearing to pick up that signal.