Okay, following up on Coburn's racist statement (yup, I'm stickin' with that) Greg Sargent posts first an expanded quote from Senator Coburn (always helpful), and then some analysis:
“No, I don’t... He’s a very bright man. But think about his life. And think about what he was exposed to and what he saw in America. He’s only relating what his experience in life was...
“His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.
“As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man. And I understand, his philosophy — there’s nothing wrong with his philosophy other than it’s goofy and wrong [laughter] — but that doesn’t make him a bad person.”
I think what Coburn means here is that African Americans are more likely to need such programs than whites are, and by his own lights, Coburn actually thinks he’s being charitable to Obama here. He’s essentially saying that Obama’s life experience quite naturally dictated that he would view the safety net as a good thing, because it helped poor African Americans.
As Adam Serwer notes, the problem with Coburn’s remarks as they were originally reported is that he seemed to be saying that blacks get unfair advantages, thanks to the welare state — an implication that’s central to the conservative case against it.
I think the full transcript shows that this isn’t quite what Coburn was saying, but his use of the phrase “create dependence” is still highly questionable. Because as Serwer also notes, Coburn is also implicitly conceding that these programs succeed in their objective of helping people who lack the means to protect themselves.
What’s funny to me about this whole episode is that it reveals how challenging it is for the saner variety of Republicans to reason with some of their constituents about the President. Coburn is struggling to talk a constituent out of his anxiety that Obama actively wants to destroy the country. He needs to find a way of defending Obama’s motives that a constituent inclined to believe the worst about Obama might be able to listen to and even tolerate. So Coburn hit on this way of defending Obama while still keeping his argument confined within a world view that this constituent might find acceptable. It’s not easy being a Republican official these days.
Sen. Coburn still linked this erroneous idea about "dependency programs" to the President's race, suggesting that it is only blacks who benefit from them. That's even with the benefit of an expanded quote. So, Senator Coburn is not being charitable. He's still being quite racist, or at the very least, showing himself as willing to indulge in the racist thoughts and behavior of his constituents, which doesn't exactly warm my heart either.
It goes to show me, as an African-American, what these white folks are saying when none of us are around...and goes back to an argument about our fundamental status as not-quite-American.
Let me give you a quick background. I am an African-American male and did not directly benefit from any quote-unquote dependency programs. My father, having grown up poor in small-town Texas, did.
But in his case the "dependency" programs worked as were intented to work, and the American People benefited from their investment. The people of the United States shelled out Tax dollars to help give my Father a leg up. He then took that leg up, went to College, went to Graduate School, got himself a PhD in Mathematics. A rise from near-poverty to Upper-Middle Class Status...complete with the higher taxes that befits a man with his salary. This, of course, allows him to shell out his own dollars to help someone else get their leg up.
See how this works?
My Father's story, which in time became my own, is why I support the programs I receive no direct benefit from.
And just for the record, Welfare is not a blacks-only, or even blacks-majority program. Most of the people getting Welfare are white. That's just a matter of numbers.
However, most of the Politicians benefiting from selling racial resentment to white folks are themselves white (I doubt this is a coincidence). This includes Rick Perry, and includes Tom Coburn. That's just a matter of racism
As Jonathan Chait points out:
Keep in mind that the only area where Obama has attempted to create a new entitlement is health care, which is the same goal pursued by Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, and other non-black politicians.