Our View: Reappearing ‘race card’

Posted: April 16, 2014

Hard as it may be to believe for folks predisposed to rail against Fox News, Brit Hume is the epitome of the newsroom professional, as measured as he is low-key. Though the veteran newsman may, in truth, lean right-of-center in his predilections, he seldom lets it show, gratuitously. No bomb-thrower is he.

Thus, what Mr. Hume said Sunday — that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have used race “effectively” as “both a shield and a sword . . . to defend themselves and to attack others” — bears note, if for no other reason than as an honest appraisal of the administration’s political tactics. Mr. Hume was responding, in particular, to Mr. Holder’s deft albeit obvious implication that he and the president have encountered “unprecedented, ugly opposition” largely due to their skin color.

A man with a clear sense of recent political history, Mr. Hume reminded his TV audience, essentially, that criticism comes with the territory. Speaking pointedly of attorneys general, he said Alberto Gonzalez suffered contemptuous treatment at the hands of Democratic detractors, Edwin Meese took similar slings and arrows, and John Mitchell “went to jail” in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

As such, Mr. Holder’s accusations ring hollow — unless, of course, he had deployed them solely for political advantage. Which, one suspects, he has. Think about it, if you will: The “race card” is this administration’s ace in the hole, its trump card, its fallback.

How so? Whenever honest differences over policy draw blood and cannot be effectively parried, whenever Republicans throw up their hands in frustration and umbrage over the administration’s high-handed tactics — e.g., Mr. Holder’s tardiness or outright refusal to surrender critical documents to Congress — or whenever the so-called “base” needs energizing, the “race card” magically reappears. And it’s reappeared so much it’s hard for the discerning voter not to greet it with an ever-increasing cynicism.