- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Just as Barack Obama recently declared that the “Straight Talk Express had gone off course” (referring of course to John McCain) so too has the “change” we were supposed to believe in.

Last Friday night, in a closed-door meeting with Hispanic supporters in Florida, Mr. Obama declared: “The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they´re going to run. They´re going to try to make you afraid. They´re going to try to make you afraid of me. He´s young and inexperienced and he´s got a funny name. And did I mention he´s black?” After I got over the shock and disappointment of Mr. Obama´s half-hearted attempt to pander to people of color, this column began to take shape. It was also inspired by the many emails received following my vocalized disappointment on CNN Friday night.

Essentially, Mr. Obama has indicated that his strategy to combat “fear” this election, is to incite it himself. In March, he warned against such “distractions”: “For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism… We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction … And nothing will change.” That was Mr. Obama then.

And now, without cause, Mr. Obama has turned his “change” to divisiveness by declaring that “they” - the Republicans - will play the race card. If that is not the epitome of division, conflict, cynicism and distraction, what is? The insinuation is nothing more than a set up that plays on every fear and insecurity among people of color. It demands automatic outrage. This is the same kind of “fear-mongering” Democrats have used since 1968. If this is Mr. Obama´s idea of outreach, it is a sad commentary.

Don´t misunderstand me: “Racism still exists in America,” as some of my critics have stated. There are some white people who will not vote for Mr. Obama, simply because he is black. This is unfortunate, but true. Also true is that those were white Democrats (not Republicans) who, when polled, said they would not vote for Mr. Obama. So let´s be fair. Republicans aren´t the racial boogey-men the senator depicts them to be.

What Mr. Obama really means to say when he says “they,” are white people - the ones who aren´t going to vote for him. He just finds it easier to lump them all in with Republicans (and 527s - except for the 527s that support him).

At the other end of the spectrum, the overwhelming majority (roughly 90 percent) of blacks are not going to vote for John McCain. And some black conservatives will abandon their beliefs just to vote for the black guy.

Race can be an ugly game - that big elephant in the room that no one really knows how to talk about. It comes as no surprise. What is surprising, is that Mr. Obama is the one playing this card. He is, after all, the standard-bearer against racial divisiveness, who stood before a podium in Philadelphia to declare the need for racial harmony, given “how hungry the American people are for this message of unity.”

But this begs the question, Mr. Obama: What is unifying about fear? Pardon me for having the “audacity” to suggest that he is a different kind of leader. One who would rise above the rhetoric and forge a new way toward unifying the races. One only needs to take him at his word to come to that conclusion: “I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle … But I have asserted a firm conviction … that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union,” said Mr. Obama, on March 18.

How does one “move beyond” the racial wounds of the past, when the senator continues to inject the bitter salt of fear back into those wounds? If Mr. Obama is the “change” leader he professes to be and insists on bridging the gap of racial harmony, one would expect him to set the example - steering clear of generalized, unfounded statements which do nothing to add to the debate but do more to incite fear and anger in all Americans.

Mr. Obama would do well to look for ways to challenge the Republican Party´s ineffectiveness with minorities, based on his ideas not on cheap shots.

I predicted in previous columns that the “race card” would no doubt be played at every turn by the left this election. It never dawned on me that Mr. Obama would be the one dealing that hand.

Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times. She can be contacted at twall@washingtontimes.com.