Eugene Robinson: What Sen. Rockefeller Said About Republican Racism Is "Objectively True"


JOE SCARBOROUGH: Gene Robinson, Democrats have used the race card before. Republicans have played the race card before. This is not something new. You expect more, though, from Jay Rockefeller who was around in 1993 when Hillary Clinton was savaged and Bill Clinton was savaged by trying to provide Americans national healthcare.

I mean, this is -- we've talked about this before. I mean, you had the number two Republican in the House say that Bill and Hillary Clinton were Marxists and he said it on the House floor. He called them Marxists on the House floor. They're white. You had Jerry Falwell, one of the top conservative leaders in America, accuse Bill Clinton of murder.

You had others suggesting that Bill Clinton had murdered Vince Foster, had murdered Ron Brown. I just -- I am absolutely stunned by what Rockefeller said and that he didn't back down. Help me out here. Maybe, maybe I'm completely wrong.

EUGENE ROBINSON: Well, if you do rerun the tape what he said was some of the opposition to President Obama and his signature legislation is because he's the wrong color. Senator Rockefeller believes that. And frankly, if you were to see my e-mail and my snail mail and see some of the stuff I get, you would agree.

Now, does that mean that -- is that calling Ron Johnson a racist? It's not calling him a racist. That's making an observation about in general some of the opposition and he did say 'some of' the opposition. Does Johnson perhaps have a right to take offense because he was the only Republican in the room? I think he probably does. I think because in that context I can understand why he would feel personally attacked. But I think that what Senator Rockefeller said, if you just take it word for word, is objectively true.

SCARBOROUGH: But you don't have to look at my snail mail and you don't have to look at my e-mail to see invective and hatred spewed at me. Just look at my Twitter feed. I mean, we all confront that, but --

ROBINSON: But Joe, it's not all -- it's not all -- I'm talking about crude racial caricatures and insults and, you know, sometimes some really vile stuff, and then sometimes some stuff that's not, that you wouldn't call vile but that clearly has a racial tone. And if you step back and you look broadly at opposition to President Obama and his programs, of course it's not all based on race. Of course not everyone who opposes him is racist, but there is some of that out there. There is!

SCARBOROUGH: Gene, I mean, I can just take people that put #UniteBlue and make a sweeping condemnation about America's labor movement if I wanted to. But I don't because I know that these people are on the fringes. They're freaks. They're hate mongers. There are a lot of people in America's union movements who are decent hardworking people who actually would agree with me on a lot of issues. I mean we could all pick and choose, but should Jay Rockefeller say that to Ron Johnson? And then not bend over backwards and say I'm talking about people on the margins. I just don't think that's constructive at all. When Hillary Clinton faced as much or more animosity in 1993 and 1994 than Barack Obama. You were around in '93 and '94, am I wrong here?

ROBINSON: No, she certainly faced a lot of opposition. In fact, she didn't get hers through, and President Obama got his through. So either he was more effective or it was a better time or you can weigh one opposition against the other. But, you know, it's hard to compare those two situations and then say but I don't think race has anything to do with opposition to President Obama. I can't prove chapter and verse that it does, but I certainly can tell you anecdotally that I've got lots of reasons to believe that it does have something to do with it. Not the whole thing, but it's there.

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