Last week something notable happened. The Daily Caller, a conservative web site, came up with a tape of President Barack Obama speaking in the spring of 2007 to an audience of black ministers about matters of concern to black ministers and their black congregants.
After the tape was aired, conservative commentators announced with considerable urgency that they had discovered “the real Barack Obama.” He is — and there are reliable sources for this — a black man!
The perspicacious Fox News host Sean Hannity was among the first to note the importance of the speech. He said it offered “a glimpse into the mind of the real Barack Obama.” The real Barack Obama is not, as you might foolishly think, the man who has been in the White House for almost four years — covered by the media, giving speeches, pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys and not returning the phone calls of key members of Congress. He is, instead, the man who gave a single speech back in 2007 and who lapsed, as many politicians do before black audiences, into a black speech cadence that, if you ask me, he should use more often.
As for the speech itself, while it might have sounded innocuous to the average (white person’s) ear, it supposedly contained “dog whistle” messages that could only be heard by black people in the audience. This explained the headline on a column by Washington Examiner columnist Gregory Kane: “Obama’s dog-whistle speech from 2007.” Kane, too, wondered if the speech revealed “a glimpse of the real Barack Hussein Obama.”
The search for the True Obama is the Holy Grail of the conservative movement. It is a quixotic quest, a fool’s errand, which induces a kind of delirium in the president’s critics. The 2007 speech itself is evidence of this recurring madness. It was not, as both stated and implied, overlooked at the time. It was matter-of-factly reported by various news organizations, and so the tape contained nothing startlingly new. One bit of stale news was that Obama had praised the rabid Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom he would eventually dump as his spiritual adviser. He also pandered to the audience. I guess this is the sort of thing only radicals do.