Suggestions that racism shared some blame for Obama's low approval ratings, and a Manhattan-centric snobbishness about opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, marked the August 19 edition of the "Political Points" podcast, hosted by Sam Roberts, who was joined by reporters Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jeff Zeleny.
Roberts began by talking with Zeleny about Obama's plunging approval ratings. Zeleny pointed the finger at the lousy economy, but also hinted at "several other reasons, as Sheryl has written about, you know, which are causing voters and the electorate at large, and Americans at large, to sort of question other things about this president."
That led Roberts to segue to Stolberg and discuss her recent mournful story on the "misperceptions" being circulated by tabloids about poor President Obama, based on findings from a Pew Research Center poll showing "18 percent now believe he is Muslim." Roberts appeared to link Obama's poll struggles with the tabloid rumors and conclude that American still had a problem with racism.
Sam Roberts: "Well the whole notion, Sheryl, you wrote, of 'otherness,' which is rather incredible, considering how far we've come. I guess maybe we haven't come that far, and the whole notion that America, a majority-white country, elected a president who is black, we still haven't gotten over that in a way."
Sheryl Gay Stolberg: "Well I think that's right. There's a new poll out from the Pew Research Center that finds a startling rise in the number of Americans who believe if incorrectly that President Obama is Muslim."
So where was this racism when Obama's approval ratings were through the roof after his inauguration?
About four minutes from the end, Stolberg took up discussion of the controversial plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero, explaining how the hicks in the sticks, who disapprove of the plan, don't know what's going on, unlike sophisticated Manhattanites (who may not like it much either):
Stolberg: "Here's another reason for the disconnect. I think, in New York, especially in Manhattan, people realize that Muslims live and work in Lower Manhattan, in the area where they're seeking to build this mosque and community center, which would also include a fitness center where young people could play basketball or swim or what have you. Out in the country, the news coverage has not been as intense, there are fewer details and it allows for the debate to be reduced to its essence, boiled down to a few words: Mosque at Ground Zero. And those words have become inflammatory around the country and I think the nuances is somewhat lost, frankly."
That urban snobbiness shows up in the paper's news coverage of the mosque project.
You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.