11/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Conservatives: Our Racism Is Better Than Your Racism

No matter how many Hitler mustaches or jungle bunny feathers right wing protesters paint on pictures of President Obama, conservative pundits are working overtime to assure their audience that the behavior of liberals towards Bush, and any conservative, was much, much worse. It's an exercise in behavior justification, an attempt to change the argument and accept no responsibility. It's an eighth grader saying to his mom, "Yeah, I did it, but Billy made a bigger mess."

A recent example: at this year's Values Voters Summit in Washington, the Christian right's yearly square dance, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer tried to equate the actual racism directed at Obama to the alleged racism directed at Justice Clarence Thomas. Bauer assumes his audience is still living in a world without Google.

Opposition to Thomas was based on his ideology, opinions and qualifications, not race. He was opposed by at least two black organizations, the NAACP and Urban League. The race card was first played by President George H. W. Bush, who allegedly appointed Thomas because he felt he needed a black man to replace a black man, Justice Thurgood Marshall, not because of Thomas' qualifications. To many, Thomas' pick by Bush seemed an affirmative action choice, despite Bush's and Thomas' opposition to affirmative action.

Then Professor Anita Hill showed up with lurid tales of sexual harassment and dirty talk, and the Thomas confirmation became about sex, power, pubic hair on coke cans and Long Dong Silver (not to mention jaw-dropping TV). Having spent most of his career decrying someone screaming "racism" at the first opportunity, Thomas then screamed it.

Thomas fought back by dealing a whole deck of race cards: "...from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree." Lest there be any doubt as to his resentment, he sweat a lot, looking like Brock Peters in To Kill A Mockingbird without the pathos.

No one brandished racist signs or placards making fun of Thomas' race, no one screamed "nigger" as they did at a Palin rally, no one photoshopped images of him dressed like a warrior with a bone in his nose, again as has been done to Obama. No one compared his wife to an escaped gorilla, as South Carolina GOP activist Rusty DePass did to Michelle Obama. (It's sad -- I went to college in South Carolina and I enjoyed it, before it became this hotbed of philandering governors, congressmen with Tourette's syndrome, secessionists and confederates. Myrtle Beach ain't wait it used to be, neither.)

Racism is not something that reasonable people lightly throw around as a convenient accusation -- it's there for all to see, unless you change the channel. Signs at the 9/12 rally included "Go back to Kenya," "Half-rican" and so on. Alexandra Pelosi's HBO film Right America Feeling Wronged showcased people saying things like, "I ain't voting for no nigger." Rush Limbaugh played a song called "Barack the Magic Negro," and said, "In Obama's America, the black kids can beat up the white kids. We need segregated buses." If this is "satire," the graves of Wilde, Moliere and Shaw should be checked for activity.

Is everyone opposed to Obama a racist? Of course not. Are some people opposed to Obama racist? Duh.

In an effort to show that real "values voters" aren't racist, Bauer criticized "Obama Waffles," a satiric box of waffles with an Aunt Jemima type picture of Obama on the box, which were almost sold at the Values Voters Summit until authorities intervened. The waffles were sold at the Conservative Political Action Conference and no one seemed to mind then. Lou Dobbs even stopped by the table to compliment the vendors. No one had a problem until bloggers noticed and someone decided it was bad PR.

There is legitimate racism being directed squarely at the president. For Bauer, or anyone, to deny this insults the intelligence of anyone but a teabagger. It's interesting how conservatives, who preach personal responsibility and denounce anyone who plays the victim, play the victim the first chance they get.

As a footnote, can we please have a moratorium on comparing someone to Hitler or the Nazis? I didn't like it when people did it to Bush or Reagan and I don't like it now. The minute you compare someone to the Nazis, you've usually lost the argument and you've insulted a survivor of the era. Excepting Al Queda and some homegrown extremist groups, no one is like the Nazis. I'm going to try that at home for Christmas: "Mother, last night's gelatin dessert was worse than the mess hall at Auschwitz."