Racial issues made an unusual – fortunately – appearance in the White House briefing room today, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney generally walking the perilous path with aplomb.
Chicago Tribune reporter Christi Parsons asked Carney if race had anything to do with Obama’s selection of Gary Locke, who is Chinese American, to be ambassador to China.
Let’s take a look with the White House Dossier Brain Scanner into Carney’s internal thought processes and see what’s there:
OK, that’s what I thought we’d find. This is one of those questions where the answer, obvious to any sentient being, is “Of course, it has plenty to do with it.” But in the Washington and in polite society answer is . . . well, let’s see what Carney said initially:
You know, it’s – there are a lot of very important ambassadorial posts around the globe, and this is top shelf, as you might say. So his background, his range of experiences, his – what he brings to this job make him ideally suited to fill it.
Yeah, well, Christi didn’t let him go with that one, so he finally summoned some courage and came up with this:
Secretary Locke spoke about how it matters to him, and it obviously matters to us that he brings that as part of who he is to the — to the — to the job.
So, let’s give him a few points for not saying that IT’S A COMPLETE COINCIDENCE that Locke is Chinese and he’s being made ambassador to China.
A couple of questions later, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks – a black radio news chain – wanted to know,
“How often does the president talk to the commanders at AFRICOM?”
AFRICOM is our African military command. She continued:
Especially right now, AFRICOM is very important because administration sources are saying that if indeed there were to be some way to enforce a no-fly zone and to deal with military options, the U.S. Africa Command Center would be at the lead.
So with that, do you know anything of how the president’s communicating? How is he getting information from AFRICOM? And also, not only just with Libya, there are other issues with Cote d’Ivoire . . . There are other issues within Africa. Is the president being apprised of what’s happening?
It seems to me the answer to the question of how often the president talks to the commanders at AFRICOM is likely, “From never all the way up to almost never.” I’m sure Obama basically deals with the Joint Chiefs. And it’s unlikely Carney, a generalist, would be apprised of this if Obama did happen to talk to the commander.
It also seems to me the subtext of the question was, “Obama cares about Africa and the black people there, right?”
April plays a important role in the White House press corps. She’s one of the few black reporters there, and with a largely black audience, she asks questions that wouldn’t occur to her white colleagues in a million years but that matter to the one eighth of Americans who are African American.
Carney to his credit didn’t try to pretend that Obama and his AFRICOM commander are special friends.
Obviously, there’s a chain of command. He doesn’t, as far as I know, have regular, scheduled contacts with different, you know, regional commanders. But beyond that, I’m not sure — I’d have to — I could find out for you.
Nice to see a lack of immediate recourse to political correctness at the White House.