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Misguided or calculated resort to race?

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Is Barack Obama black enough? Is John Edwards Latino enough or woman enough? Heaven save us from the bean counters.

Isn't it ironic that while the sin in racism is judging, prejudging or treating people differently on the basis of their race, those most conspicuously exercised about the sin are often its most habitual practitioners?

Seriously. What values are we trying to promote here: equal opportunity for all and that all people be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin? Or something else, like settling past scores?

Do most of the people forever stirring the pot on these delicate issues care much about vindicating the original principles of the civil rights movement, or are they engaged in blind pursuit of political power — ultimately trampling on those principles and exploiting those they're pretending to protect? On what possible moral authority do those who promote race-consciousness to end race-consciousness rely?

I'm not just talking about the race hucksters who have built a cottage industry on manufacturing or greatly distorting racial grievances for the sake of empowering and enriching themselves without regard to the facts in individual cases. I'm also referring to politicians and their mainstream media enablers who shamelessly pander to ethnic (and other) groups by playing up their ethnicity, with reckless disregard for the long-term societal destruction they're causing.

Mr. Obama's wife, Michelle, is reportedly frustrated — and rightfully so — that she and her husband are questioned about whether he is black enough. She called on people to "stop that nonsense." By raising that question "we are messing with the heads of our children," she said.

Amen to that. But someone needs to pass that on to her husband. He told the Urban League, obviously referring to his race: "The day I'm inaugurated, the country looks at itself differently. And don't underestimate that power. Don't underestimate that transformation."

But Mr. Obama wasn't as guilty of playing to race as his rival John Edwards at that same Urban League convention. Mr. Edwards said, "I would ensure that my administration was a representation of what affirmative action can be. I would make sure that my administration looks like America, and I mean, from the top to the bottom, all the way through the administration. I would ensure that judges that I appointed to the federal bench and justices nominated to the United States Supreme Court believed in real equality and believed in the concept of affirmative action."

These statements are objectionable on at least two grounds. First, you don't solve a problem by treating its symptoms, especially when that could exacerbate the underlying problem, like trying to promote racial equality by focusing on the color of people's skin.

Secondly, liberals merely pay selective lip service to this superficial remedy. For those keeping score, everyone knows President Bush's Cabinet "looked a lot more like America" (read: included more minority members) than President Clinton's. But has that earned Mr. Bush any credit or Mr. Clinton any discredit with racial activists? No. Mr. Bush is still persona non grata, and Mr. Clinton is hailed as the first black president.

Mainstream journalists are often as guilty of the contradiction of decrying racism — and by implication encouraging us to ignore race in dealing with people — while pressuring us to dwell on race. Mary Mitchell, writing for the Chicago Sun Times, asked about the Obamas, "How do they convince white voters that a black man can represent all Americans while assuring black voters that they haven't forgotten where they came from?"

This is unmistakably a case of psychological projection. It is race-conscious liberals who tend to think like this. Conservatives don't see public servants through colored lenses. They don't think of someone's race as dictating how the person will perform in office or whom he will represent. Conservatives couldn't care less whether Justice Clarence Thomas or Samuel Alito or Chief Justice John Roberts is black, white or some other color. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's ethnicity is irrelevant to them. They want someone who will represent their judicial philosophy, their values or their ideology.

It's truly hard to understand how liberal politicians, activists and journalists so consistently escape accountability for stoking the flames of racial disharmony while purporting to dampen them and for dividing our society along racial, gender, and economic lines while claiming to unite us. Do they really believe they're promoting the principles they're violating, or are they engaged in one gigantic Faustian bargain with the activists and interest groups with whom they conspire? It's inconceivable these groups are oblivious to this endless parade of puerile patronizing pandering.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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