American Culture

Larry Johnson: Pariah or jeremiah?

Do we ignore his warnings about Michelle’s “whitey” tape at our own risk?

I can’t believe “Grandmama” would pull something like this. I used to enjoy seeing him play alongside Alonzo Mourning and even thought he played well for the Knicks.
— Comment by Art-P.O.G. in response to “Everything’s Gonna Be All White,” a post by David Weigel at Reason magazine

Not that Larry Johnson, the forward who could be counted on to come up with clutch shots in the playoffs for the New York Knicks. The other Larry Johnson, veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism. He’s designated himself the point man in reporting on the existence of a videotape in which Michelle Obama wields the term “whitey.”

It’s true that, on behalf of Hillary Clinton, he’s gone after Obama with a vengeance. Worse, he’s basing his reports on hearsay, though that of trusted friends. In turn, Obama supporters are acting as if Johnson’s a right-wing ideologue like someone Michelle Malkin or someone.

But, even Michelle Malkin herself is suspicious of Johnson’s efforts. She asks:

So, where’s the stupid tape? To all of you who keep bugging me about this subject, please stop sending me e-mail. Until and unless anyone actually produces a video, I’m not going to mention it again.

Meanwhile, in response to attacks on him by Obama’s supporters, Johnson writes:

Those who want to vilify me for having the audacity to raise this warning can have at it. I ran up against similar attacks and skeptics in May of 2003 when I warned that the Bush Administration had cooked the intelligence on Iraq. . . . I caught more heat in October of 2003 when I defended Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA officer.

Besides Obama’s supporters attacking him, the media is treating him as if he’s gone off the deep end. But read Johnson’s imposing bio (click on his byline at his site), and you’ll see how hard it is to write him off.

In “Update on the Michelle Obama Rant,” he explains why he thinks the videotape matters. It’s not just about Hillary.

The folks who have [the tape] are working to elect John McCain. They are using it now to raise money for a 527 effort that will attack Barack Obama. I am told that they fully intend to keep this “off-the-market” until after the Democratic Convention.

He says that “if I had the tape I would put it out in a heartbeat.” Wait, then his love for Hillary truly is undying as his animosity toward Obama. Let him finish his thought.

Getting the tape out now does one of two things — either it persuades Super Delegates that Barack is not electable or it gives the Obama campaign time to repair the damage.

In other words, “I cannot support John McCain, who is staffing his national security team with many of the bozos who were instrumental in bringing us the debacle in Iraq.”

As reproduced at Ben Smith’s blog at Politico, Obama responded, in part, “If somebody has evidence that myself or Michelle or anybody has said something inappropriate, let them do [sic] it.”

Asked whether he knew for a fact that rumors of the tape’s existence were false, Obama replied that he had answered the question.

It’s true that if ever there were a matter in which Obama should stand above the fray, it’s this. But even a supporter, like this author, can’t help but wonder if Obama the lawyer is indulging in the type of faux denial that came to be associated with Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, if we’re not shooting the messenger (even if Johnson turns out to be empty-handed), we’re clapping our hands over our ears and ululating to drown out the rumor. Perhaps we’d be better served by preparing for the possibility that there might be some truth to it. At least we’d be putting the energy we’re currently wasting on denial to constructive ends.

After all, Obama needs our help. As As John at the conservative blog Power Line noted, he can’t give his wife the Wright-Rezko treatment. You know: “Michelle Obama is not the woman I’ve known for nearly 20 years.”

But the Obama camp itself has gotten off to a good, if oblique, start. In a New York Times article, “Obama Is Mapping a Nationwide Push in G.O.P. Strongholds,” Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny report:

Recognizing the extent to which Republicans view Michelle Obama’s strong views and personality as a potential liability for her husband, Mr. Obama’s aides said they were preparing to bring aboard senior operatives from previous Democratic presidential campaigns. . . . devoted to responding to attacks and challenges.

Who knows? Perhaps that’s in response to this very issue. As for the rest of us, we need to work up answers to two questions. First, just how damning is the use of the term “whitey?”

While worse than “the man,” it’s clearly not as derogatory as “nigger,” a candidate for the worst word in the world. More to the point, we need the expertise of black commentators.

Second, if the wife of a candidate indulges in such behavior, does that disqualify the candidate? However distasteful, maybe it’s time to dust off the subject of Cindy McCain’s drug theft from her own foundation in the early nineties. Along with its baggage — possible manipulation of the criminal justice system by her husband and his cohorts, as well as her firing the man who blew the whistle on her to the DEA.

Let’s conclude where we began, with the comments section of a post — in this instance, Johnson’s. One “Yo” writes:

The Obama trolls are sure in a frothing frenzy, are they not? . . . You can tell by their high-pitched, whiny, attacks that they are like an ant’s nest that has been stepped on. Oh, have to defend my plastic Jesus.

If we fail to get out front on this, Barack Obama could wind up as black Jesus — not our savior, but the victim of a crucifixion.

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  2. Dear Russ,

    Don’t take this personally. I’m not sure whether you are a scholar, a rogue or an enabler. For definition of the last word google “enabler faux democrat fox news”.

    You clearly have not been following Larry Johnson’s antics or perhaps you caveat all of his other attempts at Obama-baiting as you do for this latest and lowest one. Larry Johnson (his wonderful resume notwithstanding) is one of the thugs in the Clinton mafia whose membership includes other notables such as Geraldine Ferraro, James Carville, Terry McCalledit etc. His not so subtle assignment has been to sabotage Obama with a rumor campaign. The non-existent tape in question is a good example. The question of whether such a tape exists or not becomes irrelevant when scholars such as yourself who offer themselves up as carriers of the following meme.

    a. Michelle Obama has strong views.

    b. Said views have tended to include strong words easily twisted, taken out of context (She said that white people are whaaaa ….)

    c. Queue Larry Johnson with story of tape, keywords “michelle obama”, “whitey”

    d. White america get ready to shit your pants.

    Now I’m not calling you any names (the r-word etc.) I’m just saying that you are either poorly informed, gullible and/or a patsy. I have a tape that says so.

    To summarize: the point of a rumor campaign is the rumor itself. As Obama said in response (and as you somehow left out of your article):

    “We have seen this before. There is dirt and lies that are circulated in e-mails and they pump them out long enough until finally you, a mainstream reporter, asks me about it,” Obama said to the McClatchy reporter during a press conference aboard his campaign plane. “That gives legs to the story. If somebody has evidence that myself or Michelle or anybody has said something inappropriate, let them do it.”

    And you just gave the story two more legs. Thanks Russ.


    ps: you wind up your argument by citing a comment from LJ’s page. Come on man. I guess I beat up on you enough already so I’ll just say: “Homey, don’t play dat way”

    pps: “Black Jesus” ???!!! WTF ??!! Being half-black isn’t a enough of a handicap (as in golf). Now he has to defend himself from accusations of being the son of god ?

  3. You know, the rumor has been percolating for days now. And in this age, where NOTHING manages not to get out … still no tape.

    First things first. Show me the tape. Until then, this is a cheap smear and I don’t think we need to help it along.

  4. I just think that such a tape is entirely within the realm of possibility and we need to be prepared. Obama camp seems to agree:

    Recognizing the extent to which Republicans view Michelle Obama’s strong views and personality as a potential liability for her husband, Mr. Obama’s aides said they were preparing to bring aboard senior operatives from previous Democratic presidential campaigns. . . . devoted to responding to attacks and challenges.

  5. That statement by the Obama camp is a general statement of strategy and which said nothing about the tape or any other made-up-crap. Regardless of what Michelle might ever have said or did, even if she was a member of Liz Cheney’s book club, she would be target practice for Republicans in November. Why? If you can’t bring down an honest man any other way, attack his family.

    Trust me. This election is going to plumb the depths of despicability. This tape thing is just the first drop. Its going to be her thesis (black power!), her words (she really wasn’t proud of america … jeez, she must be like an evil transformer robot or something), her clothes – yes her clothes, she makes condi look like an amateur in the how-to-dress-up-like-a-strong-sexy-black-woman category, and “some say” that that’s “just not right”, and every other possible way to bring her, and as a corollary her husband, down.

    At the end of day this election will come down to “us” vs. “them”, as in cast your oppenents either as co-players or as hated enemies. For Obama the “us” is all of us. The “them” are the actual problems that plague our society not the people themselves. Repubs will try to convince voters that if you are in the “us” category, you better watch for out for “them”. A not so subtle difference in philosophy,
    but easily lost in all the noise.

    Question is Russ are your posts really an attempt (unwilling or otherwise) to play the Repub strategy by painting MO as one of “them “?

    Primary’s over. Now the “fun part” starts. I for one will not refrain from calling out a foul when I see one. One cannot afford to be blase about confronting such tactics especially in a campaign which will eventually revolve entirely around innuendo.

  6. Russ, you’re wrong on this. And you’re making a mistake giving it any validation whatsoever. The “tape” is a bullshit smear job.

  7. But my question is when did Larry Johnson transform into the type of person who would do something so questionable?

    I don’t think he has and that he has our best interests at heart. Read his posts, especially his latest. They make an awful lot of sense.