Is Barack Obama Too Black to be President?

If the above question offends you, you wouldn’t be alone. But it is exactly the sort of stereotypical garbage that Barack Obama personally trucks in.

My Way News – Obama accuses McCain of ‘losing his bearings’
NEW YORK (AP) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday that Republican John McCain was “losing his bearings” for repeatedly suggesting the Islamic terrorist group Hamas preferred Obama for president.

That brought an angry response from McCain’s campaign, which accused Obama of trying to make an issue of McCain’s age.

Age is a touchy subject for McCain, who turns 72 in August and would be the oldest person to be sworn in as president if elected.

Obama’s point is as follows

(a) John McCain possesses a non-trivial degree of age, and this cannot be changed
(b) It is known that age correlates negatively with intelligence
(b) Therefore, is some statement by John McCain evidence that he is too old?

Of course, if one replaces “age” with “African ancestry,” the attack, this prejudicial line of reasoning would still work. Barack Obama’s insinuation that McCain is ‘too old’ is analogous to if John McCain claimed that Obama was ‘too black.’

Obama’s already a race-baiter, so I suppose his age-baiting shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, as I was stupid enough to think Obama would be an improvement, Obama’s latest bigotry it is dispiriting.

What’s ironic, of course, is that Obama’s bigotry might well be besides the point — even if his specious conflation of group and individual levels of analysis is ignored. Yesterday, I wondered if the luckiest nations have intelligent populations and unremarkable leaders. If so, we could do worse than an affirmative action hire.

Certainly, our legacy pick has been worth the trouble.

21 thoughts on “Is Barack Obama Too Black to be President?”

  1. There is a lot of difference between John McCain suggesting (however subtly) that Barack Obama is in the pocket of Hamas than Barack Obama suggesting (however subtly) that John McCain is 71 years old and has all the baggage that goes with old age. John McCain was obviously trying to plant doubt in the mind of the electroate regarding Obamas patriotism, a crude political statement. In the case of John McCain, Obama was stating a simple fact. Please open your eyes and be honest.

  2. You have gone completely off the deep end in your posts on this campaign. I would say that this post is “retarded” but then you would probably throw out some nonsense about how that is a positive claim requiring empirical evidence and I need to get this post to take a written IQ test to verify that claim…

    McCain: Obama is liked by terrorists! (subtly reinforcing the meme of Obama as “different”, playing on his race, the “secret Muslim” thing, the reverend wright debacle, etc.)
    Obama: McCain is losing his bearings! (playing on the “old man going senile” theme)

    standard dirty/sly politicking stuff – you don’t need to like it, but everyone does it. Besides which, senility should be a disqualification for the office of President, in a way that race should not be. Obama is not an anti-grandpa bigot for bringing up McCain’s age.

    “intelligence” has nothing to do with anything anyone said here – you inserted that yourself. “losing his bearings” has to do with going senile, not going dumb. Your analogy seems to assume that Obama’s race implies less intelligence in the same way that McCain’s age implies the possibility of senility. Yet in all your posts you make about linking blackness to dumbness, you repeatedly stress that it only has to do with aggregate populations, not individuals. Perhaps you could explain the analogy more. Right now it doesn’t look pretty.

  3. “””Barack Obama’s insinuation that McCain is ‘too old’ is analogous to if John McCain claimed that Obama was ‘too black.’”””

    Right now I support Obama, but what I copied and pasted above does make sense.

  4. It’s my feeling after watching the Situation Room interview that Obama’s comment about McCain “losing his bearings” was not referring to McCain’s age but rather McCain’s own comments that he would not run a negative campaign and yet has repeatedly highlighted Hamas’ Obama “endorsement.”

  5. And thus losing one’s bearings does not equal senility.

    Losing one’s bearings equals disregarding earlier statements about a course of action.

  6. And thus, in context, losing one’s bearings does not equal senility.

    Losing one’s bearings equals disregarding earlier statements about a course of action.

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments!

    One of the interesting things about the Obama campaign is how Obama supportesr and surrogates appear to have so little understanding of each other or, alternatively, of Obama. For instance, a few months ago Obama made waves with his new style of international diplomacy, which involves talking to enemies — because nothing can be lost through talking. Now Fareed Zakaria reimagines the debate, as Obama considering talking under certain circumstances. As with the discussion with Adrian & Tyler on whether or not Obama meant to imply senility, the “talk with enemies” line is spun by some Obama supporters are supporting something entirely new, and others as merely holding to the status quo.

    It is annoying that the Obama movement cannot identity what its aims are. [1]

    That said…

    Yontan,

    There is a lot of difference between John McCain suggesting (however subtly) that Barack Obama is in the pocket of Hamas

    McCain didn’t, so your point is void.

    McCain has suggested that Hamas’s goals and aspirations are more closely aligned with Barack Obama than with himself or Hillary Clinton. It’s a debateable point, but historically reasonable. (Certainly, George McGovern’s goals and aspirations for South-East Asia were more closely aligned with North Vietnam’s than those of other candidates).

    Adrian,

    You have gone completely off the deep end in your posts on this campaign. I would say that this post is “retarded” but then you would probably throw out some nonsense about how that is a positive claim requiring empirical evidence and I need to get this post to take a written IQ test to verify that claim…

    I am glad that participating in discussions around this blog have taught you the value of and standards for fact-based arguments. 🙂

    standard dirty/sly politicking stuff – you don’t need to like it, but everyone does it.

    This is reasonable, though goes against the earlier Obama hype that he represents a new kind of politics, etc.

    Besides which, senility should be a disqualification for the office of President, in a way that race should not be.

    Obviously, but you’re comparing a condition associated with a state (senility associated with race) with another state (race). Likewise, “low intelligence should be a disqualification for the office of President, in a way that age should not be.”

    Obama is not an anti-grandpa bigot for bringing up McCain’s age.

    No more (or less) so than McCain would be an anti black bigot for bringing up Obama’s race, in a similar context.

    “intelligence” has nothing to do with anything anyone said here – you inserted that yourself. “losing his bearings” has to do with going senile, not going dumb.

    Senility is a progressive loss of cognitive function associated with (but not typical of) age. Similarly, familial retardation is a chronic deficit of cognitive function associated with (not not typical of) race.

    I’d applaud Obama for running a bigotry-free campaign, if he was.

    McCain actually is, however, so I’ll applaud him, instead.

    Your analogy seems to assume that Obama’s race implies less intelligence in the same way that McCain’s age implies the possibility of senility.

    Like Obama’s, your statement confuses group- and individual- levels of analysis.

    John,

    I supported Obama too, once. You’ll come around. 🙂

    Tyler,

    How would you respond to Adrian’s assertion that the phrase did invoke senility?

    [1] http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/2008/05/mccain_could_easily_destroy_gl.html#comment-572622

  8. “Of course, if one replaces “age” with “African ancestry,” the attack, this prejudicial line of reasoning would still work. Barack Obama’s insinuation that McCain is ‘too old’ is analogous to if John McCain claimed that Obama was ‘too black.’”

    Would you vote for President someone that was as old as Strom Thurmond was the last time he was re-elected to serve in the senate? Would you vote for a five year old if the constitution didn’t forbid it? If that is age-dicrimination, then call me an age bigot.

    “I supported Obama too, once. You’ll come around.”

    How will I and John come around?

  9. It is a fact that as people age they begin to loose a bit, of a lot of things, and gain the risk of health problems etc. Age is a true and measureable potential problem for John McCain. “African ancestry” doesn’t have any comparable problems. This tit for tat is an ignorant red herring.

  10. Dan, I disagree with your term analogous. I think it confuses argument by analogy with parallel reasoning. The former is an inductive argument, the latter shows an argument to be invalid through its structure. What your argument has done is shown Obama’s thoughts to be invalid, you haven’t shown it to be analogous. For something to be analogous the premises need to be true. The premises arn’t true as John McCain didn’t say that, you’ve just created a hypothetical conditional. Therefore it isn’t analogous. However, the parallel reasoning of Obama’s thoughts is a good counterexample and is correct.

  11. Actually, after re-reading your argument again, I think my claim is pedantic and I’m reading too much into the use of words.

  12. hmmmm, it seems the blog may have eaten my other comment. I’ll write it again: I re-read the argument and I think I was being too pedantic with word use so i’ll redraw my argument above.

  13. Jeffrey & Blue,

    Obama’s slur referenced cognitive function and age, not health effects. Arguing that Obama would not have been bigoted if he said something else may be true, but it is besides the point.

    Regarding Jeffrey’s question of a five year old, adolescents brings on a qualitative change in cognitive function, and hence is beyond this discussion.

    Muzenberg,

    Thank you for your discussion on parallel reasoning! It was informative!

  14. “Obama’s slur referenced cognitive function and age, not health effects.”

    WRONG. I give you credit for trying, but this is ridiculous. His words were “losing his bearings.” i.e., conjuring the image of a befuddled old man not knowing where he is, or whether Al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. Not age making him dumber, but age impairing his judgment and memory. Old people don’t have their drivers licenses taken away because they get too dumb to drive, but because of health effects like dementia and alzheimers.

  15. Adrian,

    I’m confused by your comment. I hope you can clarify.

    Are you arguing that Barack Obama referenced John McCain with respect to subnormal cognitive function associated (though not universally so with age, or that he did not?

  16. Adrian,

    To expand the previous comment.

    conjuring the image of a befuddled old man not knowing where he is, or whether Al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite.

    Would those an analoous situation be John McCain conjuring the image of a befuddled affirmative action hire, not knowing where he is, or whether the United States is composed of 50 or 57 states? [1]

    I appreciate how you let your opinion be known (non-grammatical and rhetorically capitalized sentences such as “WRONG.”, for instance), though it would be convenient for me if you bothered to address the questions and criticisms I present on my blog.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/05/10/obama-and-the-57-states.html

    [1]

  17. Sigh. I should never have commented, seeing as ‘Yontan’ said everything that needed saying anyway. The capital letters come from my frustration – I believe you’re too smart to actually believe silly crap like what you’ve been writing on the election in the last few months.

    My ultimate point – it matters if we have a senile president or a non-senile president. It does not matter if we have a black president or a non-black president. That is why the “analogy” you made is, in my original word, “retarded.”

  18. A fuller quote:

    “This is offensive, and I think it’s disappointing, because John McCain always says, ‘Well, I’m not going to run that kind of politics,'” Obama said. “And then to engage in that kind of smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.”

    The Illinois senator added: “For him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don’t need name-calling in this debate.” [1]

    A definition of “bearings” includes:

    “6. Direction, especially angular direction measured from one position to another using geographical or celestial reference lines.

    7. Awareness of one’s position or situation relative to one’s surroundings. Often used in the plural: lost my bearings after taking the wrong exit. [2]

    “Bearings” has a relation to seafaring, as anyone even slightly aware of that subject knows (#6 above); the word has been metaphorized to include any sort of veering off course, through the phrase “to lose one’s bearings” (#7)

    Reading the fuller quote from Obama, in context — not merely pulling the phrase and then dreaming a context for the proper negative spin — shows how he meant it. To on the one hand claim an aversion to smear politics, but veering into using such political ploys after all, is to lose one’s bearings. To claim one is a “straight talker”, to take a principled stand against smear politics, but engaging in dubious assertions precisely to smear Obama, McCain has veered off his principled course: he may be losing his bearings.

    It has nothing to do with age — unless you are so sensitive about your age, you choose to hear it in a much more limited context of your own creation.

    [1] http://news.aol.com/story/_a/obama-accuses-mccain-of-losing-his/n20080508214809990005

    [2] http://www.answers.com/topic/bearing?cat=technology

  19. Adrian,

    The capital letters come from my frustration – I believe you’re too smart to actually believe silly crap like what you’ve been writing on the election in the last few months.

    If you want to use bathroom insults to express your frustration, post to some other blog. I am interested in comments that are useful to me.

    That is why the “analogy” you made is, in my original word, “retarded.”

    To paragraph someone, I believe you’re too smart to actually believe the silly insults you write.

    It can be frustrating to think that other people can disagree with you, even on matters where you believe deeply.

    Your last post ignores two questions I put to you. Please answer them, as your answers (unlike your insults) interest me.

    Curits,

    It has nothing to do with age — unless you are so sensitive about your age, you choose to hear it in a much more limited context of your own creation.

    Are there any useful online phrase dictionaries? I was wondering about that.

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