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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Boston Herald Columnist Offers Semi-apology to Romney for Over-reaction to "Tar Baby" Comment

Boston Herald columnist, Virginia Buckingham, wrote a peice today titled
"Mitt unduly tarred with Mel’s brush". It represents a semi-apology to Romney, and, if not that, at least a well-reasoned defense of his use of the term.
It’s a coincidence that Gov. Mitt Romney is taking heat for what some see as a racial slur in the same news cycle as Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant.

But it would be a real shame if there was no distinction made by the guardians against discrimination between Romney’s common reference and Gibson’s disgusting tirade.

All slurs are not created equal.

Romney quickly apologized for his use of the term “tar baby” to describe his involvement in the Big Dig political mess. If unintentional bigotry loves company, Romney has plenty of it including Sen. John Kerry, The Boston Globe editorial board, the Boston Herald editorial board, White House press secretary Tony Snow and WBUR’s “On Point” host Tom Ashbrook.

In a June 2003 Boston Globe profile, Kerry described his leadership of a congressional committee on missing soldiers in Southeast Asia as a potential “tar baby.”

In a 1994 editorial, the Globe described U.S. dealings with Iran as resembling a “tar baby” and even articulated the term’s assumed meaning in a 1998 editorial on China’s censoring of the Internet: “The Communist rulers of Beijing ended last year tangling with a tar baby. The tar baby - passive, sticky and invincible - was played by the Internet, which the leaders want to censor.”

The Herald weighed in on Romney’s Turnpike merger proposal in a 2004 editorial noting “What lawmaker wouldn’t want to pass this tar baby to the guy who may be running for re-election in 2006?”

More recently, in May, the White House’s Snow colorfully refused to comment on a government surveillance program saying that doing so would “hug the tar baby.”

And Ashbrook, as well as Romney apparently, missed the resulting brouhaha since the WBUR host also used the term in a June 16 broadcast to describe the Guantanamo prison issue.

I personally have used the term tar baby, at least in conversation, if not in writing (though I’ve done that, too) plenty of times in my 19-plus year career.

And I confess not only did I not know of its racial implications, I also didn’t know of its origination as a literary trap for Br’er Rabbit. The Boston Globe’s language expert, Jan Freeman, filled me in on that in a June column.

Ignorance isn’t an excuse, it is only an explanation. I assume most, if not all, of those who were offended by Romney will accept his explanation and apology and, more, understand his comment in the spirit in which he offered it.
A voice of reason coming out of Boston? I thought Romney was the only capable of that!

Seriously though, Romney was immediately denounced by the "race baiters" community and painted as a racist for using the term. I commented before how they seem to give Democrats/Liberals a pass when they use the same term. Where was the public outcry when John Kerry used it? How can the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald use the term without even a ripple, but when Romney says it to a small group in Iowa, it's major national news? How can the term be used in this Massachusetts Magazine article JUST TWO WEEKS AGO without any public outcry (Hat tip: Jason Bonham at Illinoisians for Mitt for this last one) . . . I mean Romney is NOT the first person to refer to the BIG DIG as a "tar baby". To quote the article:
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: At first blush he appears to be a winner, as he calmly rolls up those white shirt sleeves and takes control — but not so fast. Mr. Clean may have gotten national credit for purging the Winter Olympics of scandal, but this ceiling panel thing could prove a tar baby for him yet.
Funny how they can refer to the BIG DIG as a "tar baby" without repercussions but Romney cannot.


splitbamboo said...

This issue is amazing in it's stupidity.

If I say, "it was nip and tuck", do I get lambasted for being a racist??

Anonymous said...

Check out this excellent commentary from a newspaper in Mormon country: