Accuracy in Media

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New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has grown increasingly critical of President Obama, was back at it again today, hitting the President for the way he has handled race relations in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Dowd, who has criticized Obama in the past for his handling of Benghazi—calling it “unworthy of the greatest power on earth”—and more recently for his frequent golf outings, says she finds it “oddly regressive” of him to hand over race relations to a man known for fomenting, not healing racial divides:

But the one thing it was impossible to imagine, back in the giddy days of the 2009 inauguration, as Americans basked in their open-mindedness and pluralism, was that the first African-American president would outsource race.

He dealt boldly and candidly with race in his memoirs, “Dreams From My Father.” “In many parts of the South,” he wrote, “my father could have been strung up from a tree for merely looking at my mother the wrong way; in the most sophisticated of Northern cities, the hostile stares, the whispers, might have driven a woman in my mother’s predicament into a back-alley abortion — or at the very least to a distant convent that could arrange for adoption. Their very image together would have been considered lurid and perverse.”

Now the professor in the Oval Office has spurned a crucial teachable moment.

He dispatched Eric Holder to Ferguson, and deputized Al Sharpton, detaching himself at the very moment when he could have helped move the country forward on an issue close to his heart. It’s another perverse reflection of his ambivalent relationship to power.

He was willing to lasso the moon when his candidacy was on the line, so why not do the same at a pivotal moment for his presidency and race relations? Instead, he anoints a self-promoting TV pundit with an incendiary record as “the White House’s civil rights leader of choice,” as The Times put it, vaulting Sharpton into “the country’s most prominent voice on race relations.” It seems oddly retrogressive to make Sharpton the official go-between with Ferguson’s black community, given that his history has been one of fomenting racial divides, while Obama’s has been one of soothing them.

The result has been predictable. With Sharpton fanning the flames in Ferguson—just like he has every time he has injected himself into a racially charged situation—Obama is left with an even bigger mess than when he started.

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