Michelle Obama recently invited rapper Common to the White House for a poetry reading. This was problematic for two reasons. First, nobody with one name deserves any respect whatsoever; this is especially true of rappers, who have generally contributed nothing to humanity except for the systematic dissing of women and an explorations of verbal porn and vulgarity. Second, Common happens to be an especially egregious in giving the non-art of rap a leftwing political dimension – he averred that Americans should “Burn a Bush for peace,” he opposes interracial relationships (“I disagree with them. It’s a lack of self-love. It’s a problem”), and he defends cop killers.
When faced with the public outrage over showcasing Common in the White House, Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, spat, “[Common is] known as a socially conscious hip-hop artist” who has been feted “by a lot of mainstream organizations and fair-and-balanced organizations like Fox News, which has described that music as very positive.” Jon Stewart, the ever-willing flunky for the Obama Administration (and his army of trained seals in the audience – what are they laughing at?) has made it his mission to personally rehabilitate Common, explaining that after all, Common is a “two-time Grammy-winning vegetarian.” By that standard, Hitler may have been a decent guest to the White House – after all, he was a Time “Man of the Year”-winning vegetarian. (And no, Jon, I didn’t just compare Common to Hitler – I’m mocking your standards of what makes someone a worthy White House invitee.) Stewart also explained that Common’s lyrics were being taken out of context: he actually opposes violence against cops. But Common’s defense of cop killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal were very much in the context of his music. So, in essence, Stewart took Fox News’ out of context remarks out of context. Well done, sir.
The left’s defense of Common raises another, more pernicious question, however: who won’t they defend? When the left likes a person or organization, and that person or organization is linked with a nasty behavior, the left immediately implements a “totality of the circumstances” test. “Totality of the circumstances” is a legal standard often utilized in criminal law to determine whether or not there was probable cause for a search and seizure of a suspect. Historically, judges looked at the “totality of the circumstances,” for instance, to determine whether a suspect’s confession was coerced. “Totality of the circumstances” is even used in bankruptcy law from time to time. It’s essentially a catch-all legal principle allowing the judge to decide what he or she wants to do without reference to any bright-line rule whatsoever.
The left loves totality of the circumstances tests with regard to political actors. Generally, the left will excuse any action by any leftist under the guise of “totality of the circumstances.” Bill Ayers’ terrorism? Totality of the circumstances – he’s now a highly-respected educator, so let’s not bother with whatever he did when he was a young fellow. Van Jones’ communist rhetoric? Totality of the circumstances – he’s actually a moderate (like Common), plus he’s working for “green jobs,” so let’s leave him be. Obama’s kowtowing to foreign dictators? Totality of the circumstances – he’s simply respectful of their cultures and trying to integrate relations with them into a larger scheme of “soft power.”
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