Richard C0hen has a scathing op-ed  regarding Sarah Palin and her lack of knowlege about other Americans, in particular, Michelle Obama.   From the Washington Post, in its entirety:

When I was 11, my father thought it was time to show my sister and me the nation’s capital. I have only vague memories of that trip – the heat, the expanse of the White House’s grounds, the Jefferson Memorial. I do remember we took Route 1 through Baltimore (no I-95 yet) and it was there that I saw my first sign with the word “colored” on it – a rooming house, I think. This was 1952, and the United States was an apartheid nation.

It is Sarah Palin who brings back these memories. In her new book, she reportedly takes Michelle Obama to task for her supposedly infamous remark from the 2008 campaign: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” Instantly, Republicans pounced. Among the first to do so was Cindy McCain, who said, “I have and always will be proud of my country.” It was a cheap shot, but her husband’s selection of Palin for the ticket and plenty of cheap shots from Palin (“death panels,” etc.) were yet to come.

Michelle Obama quickly explained herself. She was proud of the turnout in the primaries – so many young people, etc. Evan Thomas, writing perceptively in Newsweek, thought – as I did – that she was saying something else. He dug into her senior thesis at Princeton – “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” – to find a young woman who felt, or was made to feel, “more aware of my ‘blackness’ than ever before.” This was not a statement of racism. This was a statement of fact.

It’s appalling that Palin and too many others fail to understand that fact – indeed so many facts of American history. They don’t offer the slightest hint that they can appreciate the history of the Obama family and that in Michelle’s case, her ancestors were slaves – Jim Robinson of South Carolina, her paternal great-great grandfather, being one. Even after they were freed they were consigned to peonage, second-class citizens, forbidden to vote in much of the South, dissuaded from doing so in some of the North, relegated to separate schools, restaurants, churches, hotels, waiting rooms of train stations, the back of the bus, the other side of the tracks, the mortuary, the cemetery and, if whites could manage it, heaven itself.

It was the government that oppressed blacks, enforcing the laws that imprisoned them and hanged them for crimes grave and trivial, whipped them if they bolted for freedom and, in the Civil War, massacred them if they were captured fighting for the North. And yet if African Americans hesitate in embracing the mythical wonderfulness of America, they are accused of racism – of having the gall to know more about their own experience and history than Palin and others think they should.

Why do politicians such as Palin and commentators such as Glenn Beck insist that African Americans go blank on their own history – as blank as apparently Palin and Beck are themselves? Why must they insist that blacks join them in embracing a repellent history that once caused America to go to war with itself? Besides Princeton, Michelle Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law School. It’s hardly possible that she is not knowledgeable about the history of African Americans – no Ellis Island for them, immigrants in their colorful native dress waving at the camera. Should she forget it all simply because she went to Ivy League schools – be thankful for what she had gotten and the hell with the rest? Why should she be more grateful than Cindy McCain?

Sarah Palin teases that she might run for president. But she is unqualified – not just in the (let me count the) usual ways, but because she does not know the country. She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans – and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter. Did she once just pick up the phone and ask Michelle Obama what she meant by her remark? Did she ask about her background? What it was like at Princeton? What it was like for her parents or her grandparents? I can offer a hint. If they were driving to Washington, they slowed down and stopped where the sign said “colored” – and the irritated Palins of the time angrily hit the horn and went on their way.

26 Thoughts to “Richard Cohen: Attack on Michelle Obama shows Palin’s ignorance of history”

  1. e

    the year is 2010, not 1860, or 1960. michelle obama grew up middle class in chicago, not in the segregated south. she was educated at ivy league school, and got paid 300k/year for a do-nothing sinecure job at a chicago hospital when good ol barry was elected state senator, yet all she can do is kvetch and rage at what a downright mean country she lives in. michelle obama sees everything through the prism of race, and rage. words mean things, and when she said that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of her country, it’s pretty obvious that until that point she was not proud to be an american.
    sarah palin is, and always has been, proud to be an american. there are no millstones of liberal guilt hanging around her neck, or seething rage at all the iniquities and injustices perpetrated by america.
    evan thomas is a big lib, his dad was a big communist, and his rag newsweek was just sold for a buck and will probably soon cease publication.
    richard cohen is just another colorless inside the beltway hack who, like colin powell, david brooks, and numerous others, ingratiates himself with the cocktail crowd by voicing scathing remarks about conservatives.

  2. RJ

    I heartily concur with the rebuttal #1, above. Michelle Obama is the racist. I RARELY, if EVER, see her photographed with a white child in her supposed “concern” for the welfare of children in general. It is disgusting to me that the “first lady of the land” would be such an overt racist! This woman — and her husband — have gotten entree into top educational institutions not through their academic acumen (geeze, just read the disorganized and mis-spelled mess that was supposed to be Michell’s thesis) and just TRY to find anything Barry produced that was actually published while he was in charge of the Harvard Law Review, for example. These two got where they got because of affirmative action — and NO other reason. Yeah — Michelle SHOULD finally be proud of what America has done for her!

  3. El Guapo

    Great contribution to a discussion.

    I would love to know what it’s like to be the descendant of a slave. Maybe I wouldn’t want to know. But at least be able to understand how they feel. I don’t perceive Obama as kvetching and raging. But I would like to understand her. Until then I really can’t judge whether her feelings are rational or not unlike some Mensa group members.

    At First Baptist the sweetest people are the older gentlemen who I know were treated rudely and probably discriminated against by people that looked just like me solely because of their race. There’s so much that we can learn from these men.

  4. Rick Bentley

    Michelle’s statement was flat-out stupid. She’s since managed to conduct herself very well.

    I don’t agree with Cohen’s suggestion that someone should use Presdiential politics or the Oval Office to explore black anger and/or to make the type of anti-American remarks that some liberals like to spend their time justifying or “explaining” to the rest of us through the prism of history and culture. Obama’s remark was totally incompatible with the Presidency.

    God knows though it’s the same sort of “us vs. them” remark that Palin is known for, and will probably make in abundence over the next couple of years. Just the other day I noticed her little remark :

    “A European movie might have had Juno get her abortion in the opening scene and then spend the next hour and fifteen minutes smoking cigarettes and pondering the meaning of life,”

    In trying to be clever she shows what a nitwith she is. Is she trying to say that “European” movies are all pro-abortion and artsy? Does she think that most “European” movies are Jean-Luc Godard types of attempts at philosophy mixed with abstract art? Because rather obviously that’s not all they watch over there and it’s stupid to make a generalization like that. Or does she think “European”s have more abortions? Not particulatrly true (

    She tries to be clever but she can’t do it without putting “Europe” down smirkily. Unfortunately Palin’s not going to zip her lip, she has a lot more talking to do.

  5. Starryflights

    If Sarah Palin loves Alaska and her country as much as she claims she does, why did she quit her job as governor? You can say a lot of things about Michelle Obama, but ‘quitter” isn’t one of them.

  6. Rick Bentley

    And she makes Dan Quayle look like an absolute genius. She’ll do things much more dramatic than misspell potato before this is all over. Her bringing someone else to task for something stupid they said is known as “making your own bed”.

  7. Rick Bentley

    Palin quitting is her biggest achilles heel. Her detractors will probably label her “The Quitter” or “Sarah the Quitter” or something like that. I don’t anticipate her becoming Presdient, but stranger things have happened (Bush’s re-election for example after having already demonstrated incompetance).

  8. MIchelle Obama is now 46 years old. Let’s do the math. She was probably 5 when she started kindergarden in 1969. So even if she had been raised in the rural south I expect she would not have seen ‘colored only’ signs. I am sure there were a few remaining signs but those signs were not the standard.

    Secondly, as for Michelle Obama growing up middle class, I think that is a stretch. Her parents made extreme sacrifices so their children would be educated. They didn’t make sacrifices normally associated with middle class sacrifice. Furthermore, I would venture to say that Chicago has seen as much discrimination as any place in the south.

  9. Morris Davis

    e : sarah palin is, and always has been, proud to be an american. there are no millstones of liberal guilt hanging around her neck, or seething rage at all the iniquities and injustices perpetrated by america.

    If she’s so proud to be an American then how do you explain her involvement in the Alaskan Independence Party? If she’s so proud of America then why participate in a group whose goal is to take Alaska’s star off the U.S. flag and leave the union? Toad’s party registration for a number of years was AIP … imagine if Michelle Obama had been a registered member of a group that wanted to break away from America. I hope all the TP sheepeople keep buying into the SP BS and don’t come out of the SP vapors until sometime after November 2012.

  10. Rick, I don’t think Cohen is suggesting that the Office of the President explore black anger. I think that he is affirming that Palin lacks that combination of education and exposure to racial understanding that makes one a good political candidate. Knowing more about grizzly bears than 20% of the population is a good place to start the disqualifers.

    Sarah Palin is woefully ignorant about race, especially as we examine the subtleties.

    Basically, while many of us understood what Michelle Obama was saying, she mispoke, she paid, will continue to pay for her remarks, and has greatly redeemed herself since. And for the record, I should probably say, I will never REALLY know what she was saying because I am not a black woman.

  11. Morris Davis

    Governor McDonnell and the Virginia delegation met with the SECDEF yesterday to try and stop the closure of JFCOM and sharp cuts in spending on defense contractors, two Defense Department plans that will cost jobs in Virginia. It highlights the hypocrisy in the “cut taxes, cut spending and reduce the deficit” right-wing mantra … people like McDonnell and Cooch are all for reining in government, so long as it’s reined in somewhere else.

  12. Morris Davis

    Ooops … last comment posted in the wrong thread … sorry.

  13. e,

    I don’t think Sarah Palin is any prouder to be an American than the rest of us. Why on earth to uber conservatives always try to claim patriotism as their very own and exclude others. It reminds me of how many try to claim Christianity as their very own, to the exclusion of others.

    And what is the metric? Where is that prouder-meter?

    I certainly don’t think that Palin is prouder then Michelle Obama to be an American. And while we are at it, I would say Michelle Obama has worked harder and come away with more than the Palins. Don’t forget that Michelle’s brother is the head coach of the Oregon State Beavers basketball team. That is quite an accomplishment for anyone.

    The Robinsons lived in a 2 bedroom apartment and literally EVERYthing went into the kids’ education. It is a real determined story of American at its best.

  14. RJ, want to provide a link to the misspelling mess? Otherwise, you are purely speculating.

  15. Rick Bentley

    “Sarah Palin is woefully ignorant about race” I don’t think that’s a fair statement.

    It’s funny to watch the political debate in America start to polarize around Sarah Palin. Who’s not especially bright or capable. Just when I thought I’d seen it all.

  16. Emma

    Call her ignorant, but Palin’s still got a net worth of about $12 million and an ever-growing following. Even if she decides to run for president and loses, she will likely only build on her empire.

  17. What life experiences does Palin have that would make her an expert or even knowledgeable abouut race relations.

    I would hardly say that something on a blog is polarizing. Her new book just came out. She is in the media….again. My take is she is going to over expose.

    I would agree with you, Emma about the money but her numbers aren’t looking so good these days. I don’t think her following is quite as high as you might think.

    I have no problem with her building her own empire. She should be the spokesperson for her state. She does an excellent job of promoting it. A smart person would hire her as the official tour person of Alaska, pay her a couple million a year and laugh all the way to the bank.

  18. marinm

    I would prefer if Ms. Palin would remain as a King Maker versus running for POTUS. While I adore her to death I know too many people that while they fully support her – won’t vote for her because she left elected office before her term.

    The problem that I see on the -R side of the house is that sans her I just don’t see anyone that can defeat the annointed one. Mr. Romney is an instant NO in my book. He’s an anti-gunner pro-government healthcare candidate. I just don’t see anyone else…. If you had to put me on the spot the only names I can think of…maybe.. are McDonnell, Rubio, Perry, or Christie.

    So, I agree with MH that Palin is ‘polarizing’ but disagree with all her other opinions.

    1. @Marin,

      I am curious what it is you like so much about Ms. Palin, Marin. Is it because she is attractive? I have never really heard her beliefs–just sound bites.

  19. Wolverine

    I dont know how someone who went to school on the Northern Plains and in the Rockies of the Lower 48 and then served as a governor in the land of Inuits and Eskimos could be rejected so easily as being “woefully ignorant” about race. Depends, I suppose, on the “race” in question. But, on the other hand, I’ve known many Americans who have lived amidst that other race in question and still remain more clueless than they should have been. Sort of like that guy who told Ted Kennedy about the people who usually serve the coffee.

    1. @Wolverine,

      I don’t think that going to school as in college makes anyone an expert on any type of race relations. Maybe she is an expert on the Native Hawaiians also. If you go to 5 different undergrad schools, it seems to me you aren’t there long enough to even memorize the neigbhorhoods. I am basing my remarks mainly on the things I have heard her say. By the same token, I wouldn’t go comment on how Eskimos live or really anything about them. Eskimo life is so far removed from my field of knowledge, I just wouldn’t go there.

  20. marinm

    MH, please — her being attractive or a hag has no bearing on me agreeing with her politics.

    The Telegraph ran a story with a good quote that speaks to me (re your requestion).

    For conservatives, especially women, her appeal rests in her individualism, the ordinariness of her background, her blithe mastery of motherhood and career and her plain speaking, while her flat, sharp tones are less grating to the ears of many fellow Americans.

    In what is a profoundly more conservative country than Britain, there is a solid base of public opinion that agrees with her politics. She is adamantly anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, pro-small government (at least ostensibly) and unyielding in the view that American military might can do no wrong.

    Now, there are things in the above that I’d like to see either changed or refined but on the whole — this speaks to me. The idea that a government doesn’t have to look over my shoulder and tell me what to do, how to do it and then punish me for coloring outside of the lines. She speaks to me in a way that not many other politicians can.

    Let there be no mistake —— that we talk about her, over and over and over again on this blog shows you that she’s not a creampuff. She’s not a 15 minute wonder. She is a viable risk to the current POTUS because as people continue to be un or underemployed and continue to be called racists for not agreeing with the Administration… Those in the middle will gravitate towards someone that gives hope rather than casting blame on a previous administration (or just telling people to get in the back of a rhetorical bus). That we talk about her means that the left are scared of her.

    Things can change in 2 years and her stock can only really go up, eh? 😉

  21. Morris Davis

    Marinm – “Those in the middle will gravitate towards someone that gives hope rather than casting blame on a previous administration.”

    Palin on Laura Ingraham’s show today in response to Barbara Bush’s comment that she should stay in Alaska:

    I think the majority of Americans don’t want to put up with the blue bloods — and I say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — but the blue bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition to pick and choose the winners,” Palin said.

    And referring to the Bush administration’s role in the economic crisis:

    “They kind of do some of this with the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times, too,” Palin told the conservative talk radio host.”

    She may speak to you, but so will a seashell if you hold it up to your ear.

    1. Moe,

      What the hell is Palin talking about? Does she even know? She doesn’t want to get into a pissing contest with Barbara Bush. She will not win.

      Why does she keep saying incredibly stupid things?

  22. Morris Davis

    Moon — I think you know the answer to your own question. Depending on whether people are under the SP trance or not, her little snits reinforce the perception that she’s ignorant and immature or that she’s a spunky everywoman/grizzly bear. If she feels compelled to take shots at John McCain, George Bush, Barbara Bush, Levi Johnson, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Katie Couric, Karl Rove or any of the others she’s gone after with verbal jabs over the past 2 years then how does she handle international diplomacy where she’s pitted against fellow irrational actors, some with large armies and nukes? As marinm noted, her romanticized notion that “American military might can do no wrong” coupled with a shallow understanding of the world and statecraft, coupled with a get-even (and then re-load) mindset is a receipe for disaster, one where American blood and treasure are wasted once again.

    1. Moe, I found the blue blood remark to be particularly offensive. Some of her remarks lately have also shown her to lack the decorum that goes with the office of president. If she wants her children to be off the radar then she needs to take them off the radar and keep them off. She cannot have it both ways. All the talk about giving people the middle finger and the fag remarks from her kids needs to be squelched rather than her laughing at them and saying they are just independent young mavericks or however she is brushing it off.

      Over exposure will be her down-fall.

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