Chris Matthews is right. For the past few months, the Romney campaign, the Republican Party, and their handmaidens in the media have been engaged in an underhanded effort in foreignisation, an attempt to make President Obama seem alien.
Movements in this direction began with Romney surrogate Newt Gingrich, who frequently labels Obama the “food stamp President” and a “Saul Alinsky radical”. They continue when John Sununu goes on FOX News and says that, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American”, and when Romney gets up on stage in Michigan and proclaims, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate”. And, unintentionally or not, Reince Priebus did it right in front of Matthews on the set of Morning Joe when he said that Obama “looks to Europe” — the source of all evil for Romney — for inspiration on his domestic policy.
No candidate or surrogate will ever call the Presidentblack, or African-American, or make any overt reference to his colour. But otherness is a leitmotif which runs through contemporary Republican rhetoric. These phrases and axioms are dog-whistles, audible to those pockets of the United States which have never trusted the President solely because of his nature, and designed to alert those very people that the Republican Party doesn’t believe him, either.
Thus, I agree with Matthews when he told Priebus to his face, “We know what game you’re playing and everybody knows what game you’re playing”. It’s embarrassing and degrading — not just for the GOP but for the United States as well — and it must stop.