Our View: Stretching for straw men

Posted: August 31, 2013

So much of the post-event “buzz” swirling around Wednesday’s 50th anniversary observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech had to do with who was invited and who wasn’t, and who showed up and who didn’t (but should have).

Wearisome stuff all, though we will say that House Speaker John Boehner, who was in Washington and was invited, should have found his way to the Lincoln Memorial if only as a preemptive strike against predictable liberal criticism that Republicans care not a whit about blacks. By the same token, event organizers should have made sure remarks tendered by former President George W. Bush, unable to attend due to recent surgery, were read to the crowd.

But magnanimity was in short supply at this event. Speaker after speaker chased shadows and bogeymen, somehow equating the blackrobed Supreme Court justices who overturned the “preclearance” section of the Voting Rights Act with white-hooded night-riders of the past.

Though he admirably implied that pursuit of genuine progress in the civil-rights arena is often sullied by “recrimination” and grievance, President Obama could scarcely resist stretching for predictable straw men himself. We take particular note of his injunction against those who “believe that greed is good and compassion ineffective.”

To whom was the president referring? His political opponents who do not mistake “wealth redistribution” for the American Dream? Those who believe government dependency is not synonymous with “compassion”?

Earlier this week, we expressed hope that Mr. Obama would view this speech as a vehicle for unity rather than further division. It seems our hopes were dashed.