The national discourse on race jolts forward again. Consider that presidential hopeful Herman Cain spoke with gusto at CPAC 2011 to an appreciative audience. Mr. Cain, however, drew a caustic essay from Alternet columnist Chauncey DeVega — a pseudonym — who claimed Mr. Cain's "shtick is a version of race minstrelsy where he performs 'authentic negritude' as wish fulfillment for white conservative fantasies. Like the fountain at Lourdes, Cain in his designated role as black conservative mascot, absolves the white racial reactionaries at CPAC of their sins."
That is only part of the author's reaction to Mr. Cain, an Atlanta businessman and former talk-radio host. The mysterious, Chicago-based "Mr. DeVega" also writes for Salon and his own blog, "We Are Respectable Negroes," waggishly described as an outlet for "happy, non-threatening colored folk... even in the age of Obama."
Mr. Cain, meanwhile, has many friends. Among many, Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality and an MSNBC commentator; media kingpin Andrew Breitbart, talk-radio host and BigJournalism editor-in-chief Dana Loesch, Powerline's John Hinderaker, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey, Newbusters' Ken Shepherd and even Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher are among those calling for an apology from Mr., uh, De Vega. So are hundreds of Mr. Cain's Facebook followers.
"I am humbled by the outpouring support from friends and supporters across the country willing to stand with me to defend civil rights of all Americans," Mr. Cain says, also noting that he'll appear on Fox News "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Thursday.
"The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton remain silent so far. As does the NAACP. And AlterNet hasnt seen fit to send the post down the memory hole. Yet," says Pajamas Media columnist Bryan Preston, who adds, "Its a racist attack on a good man, pure and simple."
WAITING IN THE WINGS
The podium has yet to be Carneyized. Though he made a silent public "debut" and took a ride aboard Marine One to Baltimore, White House press secretary Jay Carney has yet to man the press room lectern to wrangle cheeky journalists, mete out critical sound bites and manage a few clever asides. The last formal briefing was five days ago, when outgoing journo-wrangler Robert Gibbs fielded questions for the 250th time; he'll go into silent mode for a while before joining President Obama's 2012 re-election team.
Mr. Carney, no doubt, is ready to stride to the dais and take his first question.
"I figured that Id give Jay one more taste of freedom before we lock him in a room with all of you, so Im here to do a little downfield blocking for him," explained Mr. Obama, prior to his one-hour press conference on Tuesday.
Everyone's favorite straight-shooting politician travels to Washington on Wednesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be at the American Enterprise Institute to talk up his own ideas for budget reform and fiscal health in the Garden State and to urge Republican and Democratic leaders to, uh, just get freakin' busy, please.
"It is indeed a standing room only event. I think the title of the event says it all: 'It's Time to Do the Big Things,'" says a spokeswoman for the organization, which will be streaming the event live from 1 to 2 p.m.(www.aei.org).
The clash of the media critics? Wait, this isn't coming from the conservative Media Research Center. Mediaite — founded by former MSNBC correspondent Dan Abrams — has taken on Media Matters, a progressive group critical of Fox News and the right-leaning press.
Here's the opening salvo: Mediaite managing editor Colby Hall says the relevance of Media Matters is "diminished"; he was particulary irked by Eric Boehlert's unsourced report deeming Fox News a "propaganda outfit," among other things.
"Media Matters seems to have become exactly the sort of blindingly partisan, subjective and even misleading site that it was created to monitor. So what happened? How did an organization committed to 'notifying activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation' get usurped by pedantic whiners who have transformed a noble idea into an irrelevant, publicity-seeking rag?" Mr. Hall asks.
"There is no question their mission remains to assault Fox News, sometimes intelligently and fairly so, and in ways that Media Matters donors would and should most certainly relish," he later adds. "But often these days, a one-sided media watchdog serves little practical purpose, and their posts feel at best like comfort food for like-minded believers of their mission, and at worst, the antics of a class clown starving for attention."
And in the standard press patois, a request to Media Matters for a comment about the alleged whining has yielded nothing so far. But we'll see.
POLL DU JOUR
• 39 percent of Americans say the U.S. spends "too much" on national defense and military purposes.
• 18 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Democrats agree.
• 35 percent overall say the amount spent is "about right."
• 39 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats agree.
• 22 percent overall say the nation spends "too little" on defense.
• 40 percent of Republicans and 9 percent of Democrats agree.
• 37 percent overall say U.S. military strength is "not strong enough."
• 55 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Gallup Poll of 1,015 adults conducted Feb. 2-5 and released Tuesday.
• Cat calls and doggerel to jharper@washingtontimescom.
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