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Cubs patriarch Joe Ricketts is in need of “a literate” black man

May 17, 2012, 9:40 AM EDT

Joe Ricketts Getty Images

Remember Joe Ricketts? He’s the patriarch of the Ricketts family which owns the Chicago Cubs. His son Tom runs the team, but old Joe’s fortune — made founding Ameritrade — is what built the family’s nest egg.

As we’ve noted before, Joe Ricketts is quite the political activist. He is the founder and leader of an anti-government spending group called “Ending Spending.” Never mind that his family business asked for and received millions for a new spring training facility in Arizona and continues to ask for tax dollars to renovate Wrigley Field. He’s really, really against spending. At least spending that benefits people other than himself and his family.

But now he’s branched out and is bankrolling efforts aimed directly at unseating President Obama.  Which is fine as far as it goes, but as the New York Times notes today, the kind of rhetoric he’s bankrolling is … interesting:

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.

Theory: if you specify that you need a “literate” black person — like you need to specify that you don’t want one of those many illiterate ones — you probably do need to “respond to charges of race-baiting,” because you probably are engaging in a bunch of racist baloney.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article. And a reminder that the patriarch of the Chicago Cubs is going to spend millions of his money to make people believe that Obama is an extreme radical black man out to undermine the American Way. If that’s something you believe, great. If not, perhaps a literate black man will change your mind.

Oh, and Joe: have you paid for Shawon Dunston’s college education yet? You don’t want him to be illiterate, do you?

156 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. florida727 - May 17, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    “And a reminder that the patriarch of the Chicago Cubs is going to spend millions of his money to make people believe that Obama is an extreme radical black man out to undermine the American Way.”

    Clearly a waste of money, because everyone already knows that Obama is an extreme radical black man out to undermine the American Way. Why is this “news”?

    • drewsylvania - May 17, 2012 at 12:02 PM


    • bufordmaddogtannen - May 17, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      WOW, another country heard from.

    • koufaxmitzvah - May 17, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Yeah. As extreme as Ronnie Raygun.

      Hey, is weed still illegal? And just how many wars are we in?

      It is true, though, that he’s got a funny first name. That’s way cray-cray.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 17, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        Still illegal Sandy. Sigh…

  2. thefalcon123 - May 17, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Jesus. If these people think Obama was too liberal, would there heads just explode if they were put in a time machine back to 1965 for LBJ’s Great Societies initiatives? Or god forbid, New Deal-era Roosevelt?

    Lemme tell ya guys, compared to previous Democratic administrations, Obama ain’t that Liberal.

    • explodet - May 17, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      They don’t need a time machine. Just a plane headed to any other first-world country on earth.

    • iruletheweb - May 18, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      Liberal no. Socialist extremist yes.

      • thefalcon123 - May 18, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        As compared to…what? He spends less on the poor and taxes far less than Carter, Johnson, Truman and Roosevelt…or all of Europe.

  3. tmohr - May 17, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Who knew that, when they were planning to bring Cubs legends back into the fold, they were referring to Cap Anson?

  4. hansob - May 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    It’s a good thing they didn’t let that crazy man Mark Cuban anywhere near the Cubs. WAY too controversial for Major League Baseball.

  5. Craig Calcaterra - May 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    I find the “literate” vs. “extremely literate” distinction amusing. This is for TV/web video. How exactly, do the makers of these ads plan to established the “extreme literacy” of their spokesman? Film him in front of his bookshelf to show us that he reads Tolstoy? Perhaps have him hold up his M.F.A degree?

    No, the intent is to get a black man who speaks clearly. That is all. To play up the “articulate black man” meme that old racists like to use when they mean “a black person who shockingly agrees with me.” Someone who does not invoke the racial stereotypes of how black people speak. The goal is to contrast this man against the stereotypical scary black people the targets of the ad think about all the damn time.

    But sure, if you believe that the ideas was to find a “very well-read” black man for the ads, as if such a thing could be determined, be my guest.

    • explodet - May 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      Maybe they should hire Obama to be their spokesman. He’s pretty good at that whole “talking articulately” thing.

      • madhatternalice - May 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        I totally snarfed at that. Thanks for the afternoon pick me up :)

    • Marty - May 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      What can you expect from the same network that edited the Zimmerman 911 call?

      Craig, you know why Morgan Freedman wins all those narrating gigs over Ja Rule? Hint, it’s not racism.

      Go back to something you have a handle on …baseball.

    • OchentaYcinco - May 17, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      Just wrote my comment saying the same before seeing yours. Well put.

      • Marty - May 17, 2012 at 12:53 PM

        …just wrote my comment saying the same before seeing yours

        What Craig is saying is that he knows Ricketts to be a racist, so forging the truth is no big deal.

        A technicality sure, but the accusation is sound. So the charges should go forward.

        Kind of like the Ryan Braun doping charges. Oh, wait a second! Craig almost got carpal tunnel arguing in favor of diligence and truth on that one.

        Hmm, why the change of heart?

      • Craig Calcaterra - May 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        I do not know Ricketts to be a racist. I do know that bankrolling a campaign designed to cast Obama as a radical black activist hell-bent on undermining America is designed to play to a lot of people who hate him for who he is as a person. And that the desire to hire a black person to be the spokesman for that effort is specifically designed to deflect what even the backers of it know will be rational criticism that it is about race baiting (if it was so crazy, they’d dismiss the possibility out of hand).

        Now, you can think whatever you want of me and my intentions, but the fact is this stinks to high Heaven.

      • Marty - May 17, 2012 at 1:24 PM

        Because no black person would ever argue Rickett’s thesis?

        That’s bordering on, dare I say racism.

        You’re a hypocrite, liar and fit into the intentions of the nbc motive very well.

      • nolanwiffle - May 17, 2012 at 1:27 PM

        Did I just see an atheist capitalize the word “heaven”?

      • OchentaYcinco - May 17, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        Because no black person would ever argue Rickett’s thesis?

        That’s bordering on, dare I say racism.

        Man, is that some screwed up logic. A black person can certainly argue anything that black person damn well pleases. The idea that Ricketts needs a black man to convey his message is the problem. It’s to convince the people who still want to believe this garbage four years later that their fears about this black man are completely rational – why, this well-spoken black man says so!

      • Marty - May 17, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        This is a piss poor strategy and one that will linger well after the campaign.

        Still, political ads are perception. I don’t like them any better than you. But we have actors dressing up as firefighters asking voters to approve bonds, rogue M.D.s advocating against cancer research, and a black spokesman making this case.

        All lend credibility to their cause. The fact that Ricketts’ PAC would prefer a black spokesman makes it race related. Unfortunately, highly biased simple thinkers like Craig take that to mean racist.

        Now, inferring that members of a race can only think a certain way lends to an entirely different reality. Perhaps Craig Calcaterra should do some soul searching.

      • Craig Calcaterra - May 17, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        Just because one does not believe in the things you believe in does not mean that one must disrespect what you believe in.

        Besides: Heaven is a proper noun. I mean, I don’t have to endorse the existence of New Jersey in order to capitalize it.

      • cleverbob - May 17, 2012 at 2:22 PM

        Tragically, New Jersey is real.

      • nolanwiffle - May 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

        As long as we can all agree that philadelphia is a Hell hole…..

    • nworca - May 17, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      I think the real problem they face is to find an “extremely literate conservative”. An extremely literate African American should not be a problem, but you can bet the person found would not be conservative.

    • cur68 - May 17, 2012 at 10:35 PM

      I’m available. Except I want to play catcher under the name “Cur “El Gaucho” Molina68″ as payment for doing this. Think he’ll bite?

  6. wpjohnson - May 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    The political efforts of Mr. Ricketts is his business. It has absolutely nothing to do with baseball. HardballTalk needs to stick to baseball and leave its efforts at political correctness out of it.

    • normcash - May 17, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      Of course it “has to do with baseball”—this guy owns the Cubs. As for your “political
      correctness” remark, it’s just a hackneyed term right-wingers like you use to
      dismiss arguments you can’t win.

      • wpjohnson - May 17, 2012 at 1:05 PM

        The truth hurts you liberal morons, doesn’t it norm?

      • cleverbob - May 17, 2012 at 2:24 PM

        Well you sure showed him.

    • OchentaYcinco - May 17, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      If no other part of the media wants to bring up the fact that Mr. Ending Spending is all about petitioning for taxpayers’ money to put into his privately-owned baseball team, I applaud Calcaterra for doing it. One, it is baseball-related, and two, it’s something we as taxpayers should know. Feel free to click ahead to the next post. It’s about the Mariners, you’ll love it.

    • cleverbob - May 17, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      Judging by the comment section activity, everyone disagrees with you.

    • comeonnowguys - May 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      You may be missing some facts (not wrong, just missing).

      — The report itself is calling for a very incendiary attack against a Democratic president.
      — The Mayor of Chicago was his former chief of staff.
      — Chicago is a heavily Democratic city.
      — The Cubs are asking for public money to renovate Wrigley.
      — The person that was tapped by the Cubs to be the public face of the renovation campaign has ties to Obama.
      — Said mayor is the ONLY high-ranking politician who has expressed active support for the Wrigley renovation.

      This has everything to do with baseball as it likely puts in jeopardy the Cubs plans to get public money to improve Wrigley.

  7. OchentaYcinco - May 17, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Is it not enough that Ricketts decided he needs to have a black man, regardless of “literacy”, to be the mouthpiece for this nonsense? This is, in fact, latent racism. It’s the equivalent of saying “I have plenty of black friends” after you’ve just said something completely ignorant. There’s simply no other reason to need to have a black spokesperson than the want of “If this black man is saying it, how could it be racist?” as cover.

    If he had something worthy of honest discussion, it could be said by someone of any color. Hell, Ricketts could say it himself. I mean, aside from the pesky fact that, as Craig mentioned, he’s a complete hypocrite who’s more than happy to invest your money into his business.

    Craig probably should have just quoted “extremely literate black man.” It doesn’t change things one bit.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 17, 2012 at 2:03 PM

      Wrong. It is NOT a cover. Having a Black person say it is very simple. It will carry far more weight with the Black population. Simple really.

      • Craig Calcaterra - May 17, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        You honestly think that a campaign to tar Obama with an association with a black church leader who has an allegedly radically-pro black agenda is designed to appeal to the black population? Really?

    • pjcostello - May 17, 2012 at 3:58 PM

      No, I don’t think it’s a cover. He’s trying to lend credence to his position. It’s done every day, with every ‘group’. And very often it’s just stereotyping — like the commercials for fast food chains that feature 90% black customers, or the ad for a Mexican food item featuring an Hispanic spokesperson. It’s at once a way to tell your audience, “People just like you think or act in this way, and since they buy my product or service, you should, too!” and to lend a sort of ‘ethnic authenticity’ to your message.

      You can call it racist, or bigoted, or just ethnically insensitive, and you may be right. I shake my head over all of these types of messages every day. But that’s the point: It’s done every day.

  8. recoveringcubsfan - May 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I love you, Craig Calcaterra.

    • Old Gator - May 17, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      Are you stalking Craig?

    • wlschneider09 - May 17, 2012 at 11:32 PM

      And have you seen his picture?

  9. Norm B - May 17, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    I’m not following: Wasn’t this a proposal put together by a 3rd party vendor that was rejected by Joe Ricketts PAC?

  10. dadawg77 - May 17, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    One this could really hurt the Cubs in two ways. Chicago is a liberal town and thus this attack can turn off fans if people associate Cubs with the tea party. Also the politicians are dem here and the Cubs are seeking public money for rehabbing Wrigley. Thier biggest political backer has been the Mayor,, who happens to have been Obama’s Chief of Staff and still a strong allie. Thus does spending millions to attack Obama especially on this issue make anyone in Chicago want to help the Rickets family?

    • comeonnowguys - May 17, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      I know so many people with ideals different than my own, and I enjoy their company.

      But to take it back to this level, spending personal money to drag back up this kind of muck with one hand to “end spending,” while simultaneously asking for taxpayer money with the other, it’s almost indefensible.

      I’ve watched a lot of terrible Cubs baseball (redunancy) throughout my life, but I’ve never been ashamed of the team like I am right now.

  11. dadawg77 - May 17, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    also would this have any impact on free agency?

  12. pjcostello - May 17, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Just to be clear: Most of you think that Ricketts’ comment is racist? That’s fine, I wouldn’t argue the point, or presume to know the man or his heart… but I wonder if you think that Joe Biden is also racist? I don’t, but he used quite similar language.

    “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said.

    • OchentaYcinco - May 17, 2012 at 4:01 PM

      Yeah, Joe Biden putting his foot in his mouth – that’s news. On the other hand, Biden didn’t want to spend $10 million of his own money to say it to the world. Didn’t try to hide it behind a spokesperson, either.

      • skids003 - May 18, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        Oh, so that makes it Ok. Now I understand, I thought it was just because he was liberal it was OK.

  13. simon94022 - May 17, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    So it turns out Ricketts had nothing to do with this strategy — it is a proposal made TO him, which he came out and rejected today. Romney for his part emphatically repudiated an ad strategy based on Jeremiah Wright.

    This whole non-story is intended to reassure the Left that opponents of Obama are basically racists. The reality is that he has presided over 4 years of economic stagnation, pursuing policies such as the health care law and the 2009 stimulus which are broadly and deeply unpopular. He was elected as a messianic figure on the strength of a quasi-religious movement for Hope and Change that now looks ridiculous in hindsight to anyone outside the Left wing cocoon.

    The last thing Republicans want to do is distract people from Obama’s record in office and the economy. The Democrats are the ones seeking distractions about treatment of pet dogs, high school pranks, “war on women” and other gibberish that plays only to their base.

    • Marty - May 17, 2012 at 7:32 PM

      Like I said, to people like Calcaterra issues of race are purely political.

    • dadawg77 - May 18, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      That is the story which they are telling now after the NYT placed sunshine on the issue. They realize they had to run away from it. Not necessarily the truth. Someone leak this to the Times for some reason. Could have been they were strongly considering it but someone strongly disagree so they leaked it and killed the plan with minimum damage, That is how that game is played.

      Also Romney didn’t emphatically repudiated anything, he said it was off limits then started to backtrack when he said he stood by his comments on Wright on the Hanity show.

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