Kathleen Parker, the conservative syndicated columnist (in the Washington Post and many other papers) and frequent TV guest, earned plaudits from liberals during the fall campaign by bravely speaking out against the Palin pick (even urging her withdrawal), which drew the wrath of many of her fans. Then, in a column yesterday, she revealed that she wept on watching Obama declared the winner this week. Parker concluded: "The little speck of difference that kept us imperceptibly apart had been dissolved in a lovely instant of national consensus that race no longer matters."
One hates to be churlish at a time like this, but allow me to point out that this is the same woman who in a quite different column back in May strongly questioned Obama's patriotism, "DNA" and Americanism.
If you want to be kind you could take that as an example of how far Parker, and maybe America, have come since then.
Parker's mid-May column, which drew wide condemnation in this space and many other places, followed hard on the heels of a Peggy Noonan piece in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan had opined: "Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem." She wondered if Obama had ever gotten "misty-eyed " over the Wright Brothers, D-Day, George Washington or Henry Ford. "[W]hat about Obama and America?" she asked rhetorically. "Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was lovable, and what does he think about it all?" She concluded: "[N]o one is questioning his patriotism, they're questioning its content, its fullness."
Now here's what Noonan wrote two days ago: "The explosion of joy in large pockets of the country Tuesday night was beautiful to see, and moving....It is a matter of profound importance that everyone in a nation know that with whatever facts they start their life, there is a clear and open route to rise. It is a less great country in which routes, and heights, are closed off or limited by things that, if you some day get to heaven, you will look back on and realize were silly, stupid: class, color, condition."
Back in May, Kathleen Parker had borrowed the words of another to set forth her central premise. She opened her mid-May column by quoting 24-year-old Josh Fry of West Virginia who said he backed John McCain over Barack Obama in that state's primary: "His feelings aren't racist, he explained. He would just be more comfortable with 'someone who is a full-blooded American as president.'" Of course, West Virginia went strongly against Obama in both the primary and later in the general.
But Parker assured us that her own views had nothing to do with race:
Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide. Who 'gets' America? And who doesn't?...It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of Josh Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically -- and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century -- there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity. We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants -- and we are. But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.
Parker, of course, ignored the fact that Obama, in fact, is half-white, is related (god help us) to Dick Cheney, and can trace his family back as far as McCain in America -- to George Washington, even. And speaking of "generations of sacrifice": Obama's grandfather fought in World War II.
Those fine small-town Americans may not know any of that -- and Parker sure didn't remind them. "What they know," she related, "is that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America."
Even Hillary Clinton has "figured it out," Parker wrote. Her "own DNA is cobbled with many of the same values that rural and small-town Americans cling to. She understands viscerally what Obama has to study. That God, for instance, isn't something that comes and goes out of fashion."
After noting other true American values such as easy gun ownership, Parker concluded, "Full-blooded Americans get this. Those who hope to lead the nation better get it soon."
Judging from Parker's misty-eyed writing now, you'd have to believe that Obama suddenly "got it" sometime between May and November.
Or maybe she's the one who got it. Maybe her tears were more about that than anything else. It would be nice if she admitted that.
Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher and its hot new blog The E&P Pub. His next book, on the 2008 campaign, will be published in January (for more information on that go here.