Karl Rove is again pushing the suggestion that Barack Obama is lazy, a claim that connotes ugly racial stereotypes about African Americans.
Back in September of last year, a "senior White House official" (apparently Rove) accused Obama of "intellectual laziness" in an interview with Bill Sammon of The Examiner:
As for Obama, a senior White House official said the freshman senator from Illinois was "capable" of the intellectual rigor needed to win the presidency but instead relies too heavily on his easy charm.
"It's sort of like, 'that's all I need to get by,' which bespeaks sort of a condescending attitude towards the voters," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "And a laziness, an intellectual laziness."
He cited an example from Obama's memoir, The Audacity of Hope, in which the senator complains that many "government programs don't work as advertised." Five days after the book was published last fall, Obama was asked to name some of those government programs by Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"And he can't give an example," the official said. "Look, if you wrote the book, you should have thought through what it was. But he's sitting there, fumbling around."
Then, in a January Wall Street Journal op-ed, Rove described Obama as "often lazy":
Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate. In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates. He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn't know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.
Most recently, Rove revived the meme in a WSJ op-ed Thursday that suggested Obama needs to answer doubts that he is "intellectually lazy" at the convention:
Mr. Obama, on the other hand, needs to reassure Americans he is up to the job. Voters recognize he represents change, yet they are unsettled. Does he have the experience to be president? There are growing concerns, which the McCain campaign has tapped, that Mr. Obama is an inexperienced celebrity-politician smitten with his own press clippings.
And is there really a "there" there? Besides withdrawing from Iraq, it's not clear what issues are really important to him. Does he do his homework or is he intellectually lazy? Is there an issue on which he would do the unpopular thing or break with party orthodoxy? Is his candidacy about important answers or simply about us being the "change we've been waiting for"? Substance will help diminish concerns about his heft and fitness for the job.
Unfortunately, Obama's campaign has to expect that code words and innuendo will increasingly be used to inflame racial stereotypes in this way. It's shameful if not surprising.