Fake Outrage at Mitt Romney

Via Big Lizards we get the story that Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was caught using an Unacceptable Phrase in a recent speech, in reference to his takeover of the Big Dig Project:

The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can," he told a crowd of about 100 supporters in Ames, Iowa.

In case you don't quite see it, the phrase was "tar baby". The story helpfully points out:

Black leaders were outraged at his use of the term, which dates to the 19th century Uncle Remus stories, referring to a doll made of tar that traps Br'er Rabbit. It has come to be known as a way of describing a sticky mess, and has been used as a derogatory term for a black person.
I blogged about this kind of thing back in May when White House press secretary Tony Snow was "caught" using the exact same phrase. Let me (tiresomely) summarize what I've said in the past:
  • It's clear from the context that Romney was using the term in the "sticky mess" sense.

  • While it's no doubt true that the phrase "has been used as a derogatory term for a black person," Romney was (also clearly) not doing that.

  • In fact, those last two points should be—and undoubtedly are—clear to everyone and anyone with a lick of intelligence who thinks about it for more than half a second.

  • Hence the claim that "Black leaders were outraged" is almost certainly a complete falsehood. More accurately: Black leaders decided to pretend they were outraged at Romney's words.

  • Why? Probably to cause exactly the result that occurred: Romney apologized profusely. Many (not all) racial/ethnic "leaders" seem to enjoy displaying faux outrage over "slurs" that everyone knows are imaginary. It's a meaningless symbolic ritual that only serves to boost their egos.

It would be neat if mainstream news sources reported it that way. I'm not holding my breath, though.

It would also be nice if Mitt Romney had enough of a spine to make these points himself. He'd almost certainly gain more votes than he'd lose.

Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:05 AM EDT