Monday, August 27, 2012

Obama: “He tried. You tried.”

By Bill Maher

On last Friday’s Real Time, we showed an anti-Obama campaign ad that ended with the sadder-but-wiser words, “He tried. You tried. It’s OK to make a change.”

I pointed out that I think this ad is subtly racist and I got called “race obsessed.” Maybe it’s true. I mean, who other than an obsessive madman could possibly even suggest that sometimes Republican ad makers play on white voters’ racial prejudices? It’s not like there’s a long, well-established history of it, outside of the Willie Horton ad, the Jessie Helms’ “Hands” ad, the “Harold Ford is not right for Tennessee” ad, last year’s ad from Turn Right PAC, “Give Us Your Cash, Bitch!,” this year’s Super Bowl ad from Michigan GOP congressman and senate candidate Pete Hoekstra, and about a hundred others I could continue naming just off the top of my head.

The RNC makers of “It’s OK” may have a lighter touch than the people who brought you “Give Us Your Cash, Bitch!,” but they’re in the same business. When they deem Obama a failure and say, “He tried. You tried. It’s okay to make a change,” what do they mean by, “You tried.”? Surely they didn’t pick those words by accident. What did we try with Obama that we had never tried with an American president before? What’s different about him? Hmmm…Is it that he’s tall? No, we’ve had tall presidents before. Is it that he’s an Ivy Leaguer? No, had those, too. I don’t know. I’m stumped. Can I use my lifeline?

This ad is targeted at people who voted for Obama in 2008, but were never entirely comfortable with it. It reassures them that once you go black, you can go back. It comes from the same winking bigotry that had people demanding, about two minutes after Obama’s inauguration, “We need to take our country back!” Back from who? The foreign country that invaded us, Blackmanistan?

I’d never heard any language like “you tried” – addressed directly to the voter – in a campaign commercial before. I think that it’s uniquely about race, and about white people telling other white people that it was brave – really, really noble and brave – the way you gave that black kid a chance to clean out the garage.

And he stole your coin collection. Okay, he didn’t steal it; it fell behind the lawn mower. And you called the cops before it turned up. But that doesn’t make you a racist. You tried. It’s OK to make a change.

If you don’t believe me, that this is a racial dog whistle, try imagining it in an ad between two white candidates. Imagine an ad that gives the listener credit for taking a good-hearted risk on a white candidate. Let’s say, Rick Perry. “You tried.” Tried what? Voting for a crash test dummy?

Can you imagine saying, “He tried, you tried” about a WASP president? If it were an ad run against Bill Clinton, people would have been totally perplexed, like, “We tried what, exactly? A horny president???”

Remember Al Campanis? He was the Dodgers executive who went on Nightline in 1987 and told Ted Koppel that blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.” Al’s gone now, but his sort of thinking is still alive, and I see this ad as a way of tapping into it. It’s saying, “We gave the kid a shot at managing the big club, but he’s just not cut out for it. Let’s move him back to concessions and make sure we never try that again.”

I’m not race obsessed – just a little skeptical when I hear odd phrasings in Republican ads. I’m also admittedly a little sensitive when I hear Mitt Romney describe Obama’s ideas as “foreign” and claim that he’s a nice guy, but just not up to the job. In a country where whites with criminal records are more likely to be hired than blacks with clean records, shouldn’t we all be?

The “You Tried” ad reduces the election of Barack Obama – a law professor and a United States Senator – to a misguided act of charity. It reduces the President of the United States to his race, while it praises the listener for not being a racist. It’s brilliantly awful. People are going to be studying it for years.


Fight Bigotry said...

Racism and stupidity exist on both sides. For a nice summary of Obama's tacit defense of black racism against whites, see

Anonymous said...

The NDAA - Jared Loughner Act says it all.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Bill 100%. I grew up in a Mormon family, I clearly remember my dad talking bad about "towheads" and anyone else he didn't approve of any chance he could when I was alone with him. I would call what both my parents did to me as brainwashing, and when that started wearing off or people asked the wrong questions people would get hit. My dad was so determined to look like he had a nice big happy family at church that on more then one occasion I was actually yanked out of bed or off a couch by my hair a few times, at least two times when I was actually sic, just so I could get ready to go to church. Well that kind of treatment made me question things in a hurry, not just the treatment of me, my siblings and mother but how religion treats the world as a whole. The Mormon religion/cult depending on how you view things, has loads of racists in it, I am not just talking about a few people that are in my family, I am not talking about some Mormon church in the deep south, try just about any Mormon church. I am 100% sure it isn't just Mormons too. I grew up in the sf bay area till I was about 15 then lived in AL for about 5 years, not too many mormons in that area but how much different are most religions from eachother? I think it was the year 2000 + or - when I saw a sign up on a hill from a freeway in Ga that said "don't let the sun set on your black ass in whatever county" unfortunately racism exists all over the world and in many forms, and a lot of the time religion is potentially backing it. The book of Mormon has changed so many times to be less racist sounding it is sickening, changing "white" to "pure" and a lot of other crap. I just hope Romney doesn't get into the white house, his fake smile and laughing remind me too much of my ass of a father and I actually fear for not only this country but world if mitt gets in. Speaking of getting in I think the only reason mitt made sure bain didn't shut down steal dynamics was his order for a needle big enough for an elephant to pass through wasn't finished.

Anonymous said...

Republican party = Whiteclub ... sort of like Fightclub.

Keep up your good work, Bill. I admire what you are doing. I wish more people in this world were sensible like you.

Cynthia106 said...

Coalition Party

What I envision is that every party put forth a candidate for each office, we have a "primary" of our own as The Coalition Party, and each party, keeping their "values" and guidelines, would vote for each other's candidates, or their own candidate. But, this is truly the only way to change the direction of our country and make real head way in this rigged electoral system we have. So, whoever wins the election in our Coalition primaries will be the candidate that we will all back and these candidates would come from each party whether it be a Green, Justice, Independent, Peace and Freedom, Declined to State, etc.

I can understand each alternate party wanting to keep their values and political parties alive, but the harsh reality is when you only get 5 - 10% of the vote and always being financially strapped, I think it is almost impossible for those parties to make any head way in this corrupt one-party system.

The way to achieve this is to spread the word about the concept and the stats of 5 - 10% of the vote they're getting in each election vs. the 43% we are as a coalition, and talk with the leadership of each party and make it clear that they either stay as they are and continue to receive 5 - 10% of the vote and dwindling membership, no funds to run but a shoestring election, and loss of ballot access or all these parties join together as the Peace & Freedom Coalition Party/the Green Coalition Party/the Independent Coalition Party/the Declined to State Coalition Party/ the Justice Coalition Party, etc.

The coalition party is the parties united.

This is akin to the Democrats having the "Progressive Democrats of America" as an offshoot of the Democratic Party or the "Tea Party", the "Log Cabin Republicans" and Libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

I am getting a lot of good feedback from people saying to keep them informed. I think if we have a coalition party which would be the umbrella of the Peace and Freedom, Greens, Declined to State, Independents, the Justice Party, etc., and encompassing the unions, LBGT, "minorities", women, etc., then we will appeal to so many people that the "leadership" of each alternate party will have to follow or lose members.

I like the idea of The Coalition Party, but maybe it should be named the 99% Coalition Party since Occupy has become so mainstream and people identify with the 99% vs. the 1%.

Anonymous said...

"But the idea that America is shifting into an authoritarian system is a difficult truth to handle, as it flies in the face of an endlessly marketed notion of progress and deep-seated political rhetoric about American exceptionalism. Political elites are also very good at dishonest excuses. In her convention speech, for instance, Michelle Obama remarked that change is hard, and slower than we might like. Many Democrats point out that Republicans block change at every turn. But this is misleading — in fact, Obama has turned out to be a transformative president, and has in fact solidified a bipartisan consensus in favor of a sweeping political change, for endless bailouts and endless war. Liberals do not want to recognize that this is his agenda, and that this agenda is designed to turn America into a society where democracy exists only in small rooms of elites. Better to say there hasn’t been enough change, than to recognize the radical change that has occurred.
Making the case that our systems are not what they are marketed as will be difficult. Americans overwhelmingly still, for instance, believe in homeownership as a virtue, despite the obvious bleak future on that front. They still think that paying crushing, predatory and illegitimate mortgage and student debt is the moral thing to do. They will not let go of their illusions without more personal experience in the malevolence of the system, denser organizational networks of dissident elites, and a possible alternative they can support. Liberal Democrats and union officials will not shake their faith in Obama, insisting on lying for him and the Wall Street-friendly Democratic establishment he represents. But these illusions are not sustainable, and neither is the increasingly authoritarian American state. It is a small group who realize this fundamental truth, but every day, more are waking up." Matt Stoller

Anonymous said...

Hey! Obama, Get Your Sh*t and Get Out Of The White House

Anonymous said...

No prosecutions? He didn't just try, he drove the getaway vehicle. Boehner rode shotgun.

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