Friday, March 14, 2008

Must not mention that Obama is black

Geraldine Ferraro, the former Democratic vice-presidential candidate, resigned last night from Hillary Clinton's campaign after declaring that Barack Obama was successful only because he is a black man. Ms Ferraro's comments, which emerged on Monday, were condemned by Mr Obama and bought fresh charges of "insidious" tactics against the Clinton campaign by the Illinois senator's chief adviser. Ms Ferraro initially blamed the Obama campaign for stoking the controversy, an accusation that Mr Obama denied yesterday.

In her resignation letter to Mrs Clinton, she said: "The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen." She quit as a member of the former First Lady's finance committee.

Ms Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, said of Mr Obama: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position . . . He happens to be very lucky to be who he is." Her resignation came on a day when Mrs Clinton demanded a rerun of the disputed primary contests in Florida and Michigan, part of a strategy to capture the Democratic nomination by belittling Mr Obama's lead among elected delegates.


Obama and the Race Card

Is it just us, or does Barack Obama seem a mite too quick to play the race card when facing criticism from political opponents? In recent days, the Obama camp has been demanding an apology from Geraldine Ferraro, the former Vice Presidential candidate and current Hillary Clinton supporter who last week let slip that, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Though Ms. Ferraro resigned from the Clinton campaign yesterday, her remarks reveal little more than a firm grasp of the obvious, even if she could have found a less artless way to express herself. There is no disputing that Mr. Obama's skin color has been a political boon for him to date. And the suggestion that saying so aloud betrays racial animus implies that only the Illinois Senator can discuss the issue of race in regard to his candidacy.

Back in January, the Obama campaign was on similarly shaky ground when it accused Mrs. Clinton of belittling Martin Luther King Jr. by stating that "it took a President" to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mrs. Clinton was stating a fact, not slighting King, and the context in which she uttered the statement made that perfectly clear. We're not suggesting that the Obama campaign has never been justified in crying foul over racially tinged remarks out of the Clinton camp. When Bill Clinton gratuitously invoked Jesse Jackson after Mr. Obama won the South Carolina primary, he was clearly trying to define the Senator's victory in narrowly racial terms.

But for all of Mr. Obama's soaring rhetoric about the nation's need for a post-racial politics that "brings the American people together," his campaign at times has seemed overly sensitive about race. It also seems to want it both ways. Mr. Obama claims that his brand of politics transcends race, but at the same time he's using race as a shield to shut down important and legitimate arguments.

Already, prominent Obama sympathizers, such as Harvard's Orlando Patterson, are detecting racial overtones where none exist. In a New York Times op-ed this week, Mr. Patterson said a Clinton political ad designed to question Mr. Obama's readiness as Commander in Chief contained a "racist sub-message" because none of the people depicted in the TV spot are black. Counting people of color in an ad about national security is hardly consistent with the Obama theme that "race doesn't matter."

We suppose some of the current back and forth is due to the diversity preoccupations of Democrats. But it bodes ill for an honest fall campaign if Mr. Obama and his allies are going to play the race card to blunt any criticism. A campaign in which John McCain couldn't question Mr. Obama's policies, experience and mettle without being called a racist is not what the country needs. Or wants.

Democrats have repeatedly touted the diversity of their party's White House hopefuls. And it is true that a Clinton or Obama Presidency would make gender or racial history. Americans of all backgrounds can take satisfaction in watching the country field its first black Presidential candidate with a chance to win. But voters also want their would-be Presidents properly vetted, by the media and by each other. To that end Mr. Obama would do better to focus more on answering his political critics with specifics and less on questioning their motives by crying wolf on race.


The press are part of the Obama campaign

Hypercritical of Hillary and indulgent to the hate-filled Mrs Obama

Anyone who doubts this bias has only to look at the past week's charges that Hillary Clinton and company have been playing the race card -- the latest in a series of such accusations made by Obama surrogates, carried forward by the media.

Of those offenses, the most memorable, perhaps, concerned Bill Clinton's challenge to the record Sen. Obama claimed regarding his long opposition to the Iraq war, which Mr. Clinton called "a fairy tale." In short order, word was put out that the former president had insulted black Americans and their high hopes for this election, by use of this disparaging term, "fairy tale." Mr. Clinton, some charged, had denigrated Mr. Obama's entire candidacy as a fantasy.

There was, too, the Martin Luther King/Lyndon Johnson saga. Here Hillary Clinton's incontestably accurate comment -- that it had taken the action of a president, Lyndon Johnson, to pass the Civil Rights Act, and thus bring to fruition the goal to which Dr. King had devoted his life -- ignited storms of outrage, furious commentaries on how Sen. Clinton had played a sly race card, diminishing Dr. King's importance in comparison to that of the white president. In all, the pattern of these charges may well suggest a race card in play, only it wasn't the Clintons who were playing it.

The latest charge arose from a "60 Minutes" interview a week ago, in which Mrs. Clinton was supposedly contriving a way to suggest that Mr. Obama is in fact a secret Muslim. In the stories carried elsewhere in the media, the case against her rests on five words. The entire "60 Minutes" exchange -- showing her effort to answer interrogator Steve Kroft's persistent questions -- would have been more instructive. Because, as in so many interrogations, an emphatic no -- when the investigator is looking for another answer -- is never enough.
Mr. Kroft: "You don't believe that Sen. Obama is a Muslim?"

Mrs. Clinton: "Of course not. I mean, you know, there is no basis for that. I take him on the basis of what he says. You know, there isn't any reason to doubt that."

Kroft: "You said you take Sen. Obama at his word that he's not. . . . You don't believe that he's. . . ."

Clinton: "No, no. There's nothing to base that on, as far as I know."

Kroft: "It's just scurrilous . . .?"

Clinton: "Look, I have been the target of so many ridiculous rumors that I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets, you know, smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time."

The now famous five words, "as far as I know" come trailing a sentence showing an interviewee clearly trying to fill space -- babbling, as we all do, when there's nothing more to say and the persistent interrogator requires, nevertheless, more talk. Clearly, that "as far as I know" is chatter, without import, in the midst of emphatic declarations rejecting the notion that Mr. Obama is Muslim.

Without import except, of course, to the cadres prepared to find in those words material for the manufacture of another story of a Clinton outrage. To do so requires reporting only the sentence in which the phrase appears, while leaving out all that came before and after. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert did precisely that in a column on Saturday, charging that those five words represented "one of the sleaziest moments of the campaign to date." Mr. Herbert is far from alone in this stunning assessment -- a measure of the fevers that have swept so many journalists away in the course of this campaign.

Mr. Obama, in the meantime, has now found occasion to try going on the attack against Mrs. Clinton as he has been urged -- though not without trepidation from supporters worried about the effect on his image as an inspirational leader and voice of a new politics. Could he even do such things? Yes he could. As he showed in an angry speech this week, in which he lashed out at Mrs. Clinton for raising the possibility that he could serve as vice president, the worriers were right. The candidate will have to find, at the very least, an attack mode other than the preening and petulance on display Monday.

For all of Mr. Obama's celebrated speeches, his capacity to attract and arouse crowds, we know mostly his public persona -- a presence confident, forward-looking, thoughtful. Of his actual attitudes, social and political, his views about the nation he plans to lead, those lengthy speeches have revealed remarkably little, other than a belief that American hearts are filled to bursting with their yearning for change. We shall see.

His closest adviser, Michelle Obama, has left little doubt about her views of American society, and its people. These views have received relatively scant coverage, other than in the brief period that followed her observation on the campaign trail in Wisconsin a few weeks back, when the wife of the candidate told crowds that she was, for the first time in her life, "proud" of her country. It was an attention-getting pronouncement quickly amended and recast, once the uproar of amazement began to be heard.

Everyone can have an untoward moment under the pressures of campaigning. It was obvious, nonetheless, that this was no blip, no failure to express her real thought. She said exactly what she'd wanted to say. And for doing so Mrs. Obama expected no amazed response. The comment reflected her deeply held, grim view of American society, one she was accustomed to sharing with others who thought likewise. Why should it not have come tripping from the tongue?

It was, furthermore, just one of numerous such revelatory statements she has regularly made. In speeches on the campaign trail she has held forth on her view of America, which is, as she describes it, a country that is "downright mean" and "driven by fear." She recently waxed irate over the American attention to security interests, arguing that we should be "changing the conversation" and building diplomatic relations "instead of protecting ourselves against terrorists." A minor note, to be sure, though it's to be hoped that a President Obama will not turn to this closest adviser for her views on the national defense.

A New Yorker profile published last week quotes numerous stump speech pronouncements, among them Mrs. Obama's assertion that most Americans' lives have gotten worse since she was a girl. "So if you want to pretend like there was some point in the last couple of decades when your life was easy, I want to meet you."

In short, not only is existence in America a desperate proposition for most citizens -- anyone claiming to have led a satisfactory one not sunk in the hell that is American life is, quite simply, lying. America is, she has elsewhere informed audiences, a nation whose "souls are broken."

It is a vision striking for its consistent hostility to any notion that Americans have cause for optimism and pride in their country: striking, too, for the stark and obvious absence, in this graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, of any sense of the reasons Americans might revere their nation and consider themselves fortunate to be its citizens.


Censorship for Obama

No dissension! Leftists must all march in lockstep together

Hi there. Linda Hirshman here. I just got the boot from TPM Cafe, where I have been blogging for more than a year. Back story: I published a piece on the cover of the Outlook section of the Washington Post last Sunday, March 2, on the class divide in Hillary Clinton's female supporters. Since I criticized the scribbling females of the blogosphere, the article elicited the predictable onslaught of response from them.

But when I sent Andrew Golis, my normal contact at TPM Cafe, my response to post, I got an email telling me TPM had pulled my posting privileges (I don't normally publish email exchanges, but I have no personal relationship with any of the people at TPM, including Golis, and this seems like a fairly straightforward public business communication with no personal material involved.):
"For the time being, we're cycling our regular contributers [sic] at the Coffee house and trying to cut down the number of folks with at will posting privileges. If you occasionally have a piece I'd of course love to check it out. But unfortunately we're limiting the number of people who post regularly."

I must admit I was a little surprised. I have not been fired in a long time (decades, really), and I think I'm having a pretty good run in the crowded precincts of political commentary. True, my last few postings at TPM Cafe, were not in keeping with the overwhelming majority of their articles, making and making the case for Senator Barack Obama. I questioned the value of an Idaho caucus victory. I criticized Maureen Dowd's column suggesting that when a perfect female candidate came along, the media would be delighted to support her. I suggested that "Josh" might have waited to get more survey results before he posted his video embracing the ultimately erroneous Zogby predictions for the California primary the afternoon before the primary.

But I thought that the new media of the blogosphere was actually established in part to offset what they considered the tendency of the MSM to cut its coverage to suit its preexisting, largely establishment, predilections. So I was blithely oblivious to the possibility that my dissenting views on the inevitability and divinity of the Obama candidacy might cause a problem. Never bashful, I thought I'd press the messenger.
Linda to Andrew: "So why did I not make the cut? Is writing for the times and the Post not good enough for TPM?"

Andrew: "It's not a matter of prestigious clippings, Linda. We're trying to both keep long-standing contributers [sic] around and flesh out the discussion by involving people who are covering things we're not yet addressing."

Linda: "And do you have a lot of contributors covering the female voters, who are likely to determine the outcome of the election of the President of the United States? I am assuming it's not that you don't want anyone who's not already in the tank for Obama. I am serious, here, Andrew. I think this is a real mistake; I have a point of view you don't have much of, I am getting increasingly prestigious opportunities to write and opine, and this is the moment you should capitalize on your relationship with me, not drop me."

Andrew: "I'm not sure the accusation of bias is particularly helpful. For now, like I said, we're focusing on getting our long-standing regulars and folks covering things we don't on the blog. I recognize that you think female voters should be one of those things, we disagree."

So. Either the dozen guys who run TPM do not think female voting behavior is worthy of their coverage or, dare I say it, they don't want to run material that might result in readers supporting a candidate other than the one they favor. They do not appear to have deacquisitioned Ruth Rosen, who is one of the Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama! which of course only supports my most paranoid thoughts.



1 comment:

Michael said...

I run a blog that is aimed at the urban crowd and as a black man I'd like to go on record saying I don't think Geraldine Ferraro is racist at all. At least not in the way we generally think of a racist. She see Barack being black as an advantage and not a disadvantage. In a way she is right. His race does get him noticed but in all honesty it is not going to help him get elected at all. One of the other writers over at Highbrid Nation says Geraldine Ferraro is evil not racist, lol. He might not be too far off.