Limbaugh, after saying “Did you catch that?” and playing the sound bite a second time, sneers, “Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off.” Then he suggests that the incorrect pronunciation was purposely spelled that way on the teleprompter. (Very funny.) Then he speculates that the President was trying to “reach out” to “the Reverend Jackson.” (Ho ho, if I may be permitted a bit of “black dialect.”) Then he says,
If I use the word “ax” for the rest of the day, am I going to get beat up and creamed for making fun of this clean, crisp, calm, cool new articulate President? Maybe we should do it and see what happens. I’ll ax my advisers.Emphasis Limbaugh’s....
What is one to make of this?
The reader will have ... noticed the racist coding of Limbaugh’s description of Obama as “clean” and “articulate.” Yes, I know—Joe Biden used the same words about Obama during the campaign. But you’d have to be pretty obtuse not to notice the difference in intent, the difference between awkwardness and haplessness on the one hand, malice and contempt on the other.But Limbaugh didn't say: “Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off.” He said: "This is what Harry Reid was talking about. Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off." Hertzberg took out the part about Harry Reid!
Back in January, when the book "Game Change," came out, there was much talk about the report that Reid had said — during the 2008 campaign — that Obama would be able to succeed because he's "light-skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Yes, Reid said "Negro." And he apologized. So the racial remark about dialect was Reid's. It went right along with Joe Biden's "clean and articulate" remark that Hertzberg concedes he knew Rush was riffing on.
Rush has been making a big deal out of Biden and Reid's racial remarks. It's a running theme on the show that the Democrats are racist, and Rush riffs on this material all the time. For example, Rush did a monologue on January 11th called "Why Harry Reid's 'Negro Dialect' Comment is Devastatingly Racist," and one on January 12th called "We're Dwelling On It, Dingy Harry! We Won't Ignore Democrat Racism."
Limbaugh has "malice and contempt" all right, but it's for the way Democrats use race. Reid had said that Obama could turn "Negro dialect" on and off, which suggests that he'd turn it on when it was politically useful. In that light, the original audio clip was funny, suggesting — facetiously — that Obama's slip was a deliberate turning on of the "dialect" to suit his purpose.
So Biden's remark only evinced "awkwardness and haplessness"? Why not come down hard on him? Apparently, it's for the same reason that Hertzberg didn't see fit to bring Harry Reid into the discussion at all: He's a Democrat.
Hertzberg's "What is one to make of this?" is an inane pretense of puzzlement. It was obviously humor, and it came from someone who is trying to expose the racial foibles of the Democrats. Hertzberg ends by calling Rush a "vicious demagogue." Hertzberg is, himself, the vicious demagogue — unless he's an idiot who didn't listen to the clip himself or who can't hear humor that doesn't suit his political tastes.
Hertzberg is scandalized that Rush Limbaugh is "enabled by nominally respectable media corporations and advertisers." But the scandal, I would say, is that Hertzberg is able to publish such dishonest trash in that great magazine, The New Yorker.
ADDED: Language Log doesn't understand my point, and I respond at length here.
AND: Hertzberg responds and I respond.