The Clinton-Obama Race on Race

-

rosa parks rotunda the washington note.jpg
People from all walks of American life pay respects to the unassuming civil rights leader Rosa Parks in the US Capitol rotunda.
I’m not well positioned or exceedingly informed on the subject to comment much on the strange battle brewing between the Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama camps on race. In his comments on George Stephanopoulos’ This Week this morning, Senator John Kerry in his broad endorsement of Barack Obama slipped in a line that seemed incongruent with other parts of his statement.
Kerry said something along the lines that when President Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights act, he handed the pen he used to Martin Luther King. This had to be a clear reference to Hillary Clinton’s comment the other day that “Martin Luther King’s dream was realized when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.”
Stephanopoulos pressed Kerry on this wondering whether Obama’s team was playing a race card against Hillary Clinton.
I think it’s absurd for anyone to be engineering drama over the clear collaboration of effort and objectives that required both Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson — but politics needs battles. One wishes that they were over real issues and not nuanced language.
But what I find really interesting IF indeed Senator Obama’s team is trying to hammer Hillary Clinton for some subterranean racism is that Barack Obama in Iowa was trying to be the candidate who had finally transcended race in this nation — not an aspirant to the White House who was highlighting the divisions between a white president who signed legislation into law and a black minister who helped inspire the need for that law and change.
Christopher Ames — Provost and Dean of Washington College, a liberal arts college on Maryland’s eastern shore founded in 1782, as well as a media expert — wrote this note to me on Senator Obama’s subtle sleight of hand in his Iowa victory speech that seemed to transcend race but still flirted with the concept without mentioning the word:

Steve,
I enjoyed listening to your dialogue with Mark Schmitt on over-analyzing the primaries. I then took a few minutes to listen to the Obama Iowa victory speech.
It’s quite something. Here’s my over-analysis, informed a bit by our conversation at your house in D.C. about the very question of whether Obama can win with the degree of racism still alive in this country.
Here’s what fascinated me about Obama’s stirring speech: the unnamed referent. “They said this day would never come.” “You [voters in Iowa] have done what the cynics said we couldn’t.” Now I think it is pretty clear to everyone what Obama means by “what” and “this day.” I’d paraphrase it like this: Cynics said a black man couldn’t draw enough white votes to succeed in a national election, but now, by winning the primary in very white Iowa, we’ve demonstrated that the country is no longer so racially divided for that to be true. Indeed, people voted for the candidate whom they believed could best turn around (or “change”) the disastrous policies of the Bush administration regarding foreign policy, torture, health care, the environment, and corruption.
Now this is a powerful message and a smart one because it pats his supporters on the back for rising above vestigial racism with their votes for him. And it underscores, perhaps rightly, his electability.
In all, I think it is a fine message and a legitimate talking point after the Iowa victory.
What fascinates me is that Obama communicates this in a fifteen-minute speech that never mentions race, even though the electability of a black candidate is the unnamed and perfectly clear referent. Race is thus always present and always unnamed. Thus the appeal of Obama as the post-racial candidate, somehow so different from a candidate like Jesse Jackson, who espouses similar political positions. Thus Obama’s appeal to whites who are “tired” of race, who complain of “the race card,” who see racial politics as “special interests.”
To me, it’s a remarkable rhetorical move, almost a sleight of hand. And it just might make the difference.
By the way, I recall your friend recently returned from Russia responding that if I was right about Obama not being electable, he’d like to return to being an ex-pat. Fair enough. I share his frustration and disappointment with the lasting power of racial division. But I wonder what countries one would consider moving to if the criterion was a country that has proven its ability to elect a member of a racial minority to national office. Certainly not Europe?
But that is a genuine question.
All the best,
Christopher Ames
Provost and Dean of the College, Washington College

Ames’ comments intrigue me, but perhaps that is because I’m just not as tuned in as others on race policy questions.
One of my first colleagues formerly at the New America Foundation and a person I admire greatly is Debra Dickerson who in the early part of this decade was exploring the politics of race in a post-racial environment. She was watching the collapse of affirmative action and the disaggregation of racial blocs and often spoke about what a post-affirmative action racial agenda might look like.
Given that she was making these comments in the late 1990s and early part of this decade, it seems clear to me that at least in the political benchmarks pols are using — political machines aren’t ready for candidates who are truly racially transcendent.
And one more quip before I close. I found it unbelievable that Senator John Kerry said on Stephanopoulos’s show that Obama as a black president could speak differently to African leaders than Hillary Clinton could as a white woman (I’m paraphrasing).
Whoever is in that White House is going to have to talk to all sorts of global leaders, and Kerry’s comment seemed racist to me, perhaps not intended by him, but still. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have both invested heavily in relationships with various African leaders — and Kerry’s comments slight them not on substance but for the color of their skin.
My hope if Barack Obama is elected is that he’ll get his people and advocates to transcend this kind of positioning.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

39 comments on “The Clinton-Obama Race on Race

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Any one listen to Hannity or Limbaugh this morning? Both of them are using this “race” division issue between Hillary and Obama to rip the dems a new asshole.
    How are we, the democratic constituency, served by this fuckin’ bullshit?
    Both of these scumball candidates need to quit seeing who can out-sleeze each other, stop jerkin’ off, and work together to restore this democracy, the rule of law, and our standing in the world community.

    Reply

  2. Dan Kervick says:

    Carroll, I’m just being realistic. It’s not a question of whether we encourage people to behave this way or not, but rather a question about how they actually do behave. I used the example of Pope John II earlier. He made important trips to Poland that drew huge and enthusiastic crowds, and publicly supported Solidarity. His influence is often credited as one of the factors that helped end Communism in Poland and Eastern Europe. An Italian pope wouldn’t have had the same influence.

    Reply

  3. Carroll says:

    And it is really very improper to describe Kerry’s comment as racist. That Clinton could be particularly effective on behalf of women’s issues; that Obama could be particularly effective in African relations; or that Bill Richardson could be particularly effective in Latin American relations – these all strike me as eminently plausible claims.
    Posted by Dan Kervick at January 13, 2008 02:38 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I can’t believe that I finally disagree with you on something.
    It is exactly this kind of identity, ethnic and sex politics we need to move away from.
    Why encourage people or countries to believe that only their “kind” can possibility understand or represent their views?
    I can think of many examples to show that isn’t necessarily true.
    Did the black corrupt former Mayor of DC do anything good for blacks?
    Did Ellen Chao, of the Labor Dept do anything good for equal pay for women workers?
    We can all think of many examples of why ethnics and sex doesn’t guarentee anything…least of all a unbiased and fair government.
    The personal identity of a leader is the last thing I want injected into their judgements or considerations. There is no shortage of advocates to represent the views of every group in this country but the person who makes the decisions should be as blind and impartial as the Statue of Justice.

    Reply

  4. Carroll says:

    “and it’s hard not to read a bit of white entitlement in between the lines as a result. Sorry, it needs to be said.”
    Posted by Maxwell at January 13, 2008 03:27 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    What? Where do you see any white entitlement in that post? I don’t see it.
    Another thing….if I kept a political diary I could probably tell you the exact day the Media started making “race” and “the woman” thing into “the” main campaign issue to create a got’ya for the candidates and give the pundits something to babble about.
    It’s typical dumbed downed sleeze media crap leading the discussion away from the real issues. Unfortunately the public and the candidates followed the sleeze lead.

    Reply

  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Never mind race. Which one of these candidates is acting to block the TSA’s fascist decrees? Which one is calling Bush out on his increasingly incendiary rhetoric against Iran?
    Why are these cowards failing us so completely, yet asking us to send them to the White House?
    Why should we? What have they done for us?
    Do you think any of THEM will have to give 72 hours notice before they step into thier Gulfstreams and fly off to their palacial summer homes, European junkets, or all expense paid tours of Israel??

    Reply

  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Wake up people, and stop buying into irrelevant diversionary BULLSHIT.
    http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts10252007.html
    “Now the Bush administration wants to take away the American people’s freedom to travel within their own country by airplane. Not content with an 80,000 “no fly” list, a subset of a 500,000-750,000 “watch list,” the Bush administration’s Transport Security Administration has proposed new rules that will require Americans to get government permission 72 hours in advance prior to being allowed to board a domestic flight.”

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    These people deceive and lie to us on a regular basis, its simply the way its done. Frankly, debates like we see above are pretty much useless, just another part of the charade. Race, energy, economics, the Iraq war, the “threat” posed by Iran, all issues that are twisted by the various candidates into words that are framed to garner support, but not as honest representations of what policies we can expect the various candidates to pursue. Of course, as this “race” diversion unfolds between Obama and Hillary, the press is totally ignoring the recount efforts in New Hampshire, and the future mess this portends for the election itself. After the indisputable fraud that occurred in ’04, nothing has been done to repair the electoral process, and it is just as insecure and easily tampered with as it was in Ohio.
    The article below will undoubtedly illicit the usual “Whats the big deal” reactions, either voiced or simply felt on a personal level. But this article underscores the underlying strategy that ALL these candidates use to slither their self-serving lying non-representatives asses into OUR White House. Its called deception, and it is used from framing the smallest issues, to sending our young men and women off to war.
    When following the mainstream candidates on the mainstream media outlets, are we really so ignorant as a population that we so easily fall prey to the irrelevant blather, vicious swiftboating, partisan rhetoric, and useless in-party bickering like we see Obama and Hillary currently engaged in? Is this the kind of party “unity” we can expect from these posturing bags of human flatulence when either of them assume office, supposedly to represent our best interests? How are we served by this fuckin’ horseshit while our kids are dying in the sand of Iraq, and this treasonous monkey of a man in the White House is nattering about pre-emptive nuclear strikes against an enemy that poses no threat within the foreseable future?
    Truly, we are a nation of bleating ovine buffoons.
    Published on Sunday, November 11, 2007 by The Los Angeles Times
    Clinton Campaign Admits Planting Questions
    by Don Frederick & Andrew Malcolm
    Hillary Clinton stopped at a biodiesel plant in Newton, Iowa, last week to see alternative fuels in the making and to drive home the week’s campaign theme of her energy plan. After a tour, the candidate took questions from the crowd.She called on a young woman. “As a young person,” said the well-spoken Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff, “I’m worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?”
    “Well, you should be worried,” Clinton replied. “You know, I find as I travel around Iowa that it’s usually young people that ask me about global warming.”
    There’s a good reason for that, too. The question was a plant, totally rigged in advance, like a late-night infomercial. Just before the public forum a Clinton staffer had chosen the young woman, a student at Grinnell College, and asked her to ask that specific question.
    Trouble is, the young woman told others, and her account showed up on the Grinnell website, including mention that the staffer signaled Clinton whom to call on.
    As other campaigns chuckled and hypocritically spread the news far and wide (”That’s what George Bush does,” intoned John Edwards at the Iowa Farmers Union), a Clinton campaign spokesman sheepishly admitted the plant. “On this occasion a member of our staff did discuss a possible question about Sen. Clinton’s energy plan at a forum. However, Sen. Clinton did not know which questioners she was calling on during the event. This is not standard policy and will not be repeated.”
    Although other campaigns are righteously denying it, virtually every professional presidential campaign plants questions. It’s a routine part of preparation for the advance people staging every event.
    Not every question is planted, as you can tell from the weird ones that sometimes pop up. Most are arranged with more sophistication than grabbing a passing college student. They’re done in advance with known local supporters who can be trusted and, frankly, are flattered by their moment in the limelight addressing the possible next president in front of friends. They want the world to think it’s their own question.
    A twist on this strategy is for a candidate’s team to smuggle one of its supporters into an opponent’s event to ask an embarrassing question while the cameras roll. Remember the confrontation a few weeks ago when Clinton accused one persistent questioner of being an opposition plant? And then she apologized later.
    © 2007 The Los Angeles Times

    Reply

  8. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear Anonymous — Many thanks for the note. I admit that my policy commentary on race attitudes can be better — but after receiving an avalanche of email last night about this (far more email comes in from other commenters than posts) I’m confident that my take on some of the issues has a legitimate place in the spectrum of discussion on the subject. But I’m not going to make discussions of race and racial attitudes a staple here — not my thing.
    But let me respond to your comments about Obama and his commentary about the interconnectedness of our challenges. I completely, completely, completely agree with Obama on that point. That’s why I want him to move more expeditiously towards serious discussion of how on the national security front a comprehensive approach might be part of the answer to our current mess. I have always thought that his focus on Africa was essential in any comprehensive approach, and if he can somehow make his unique ‘identity’ an aspect of effective public diplomacy, I’ll applaud.
    But let me tell you what I don’t like. I’m not one who believes that Europe is irrelevant in these challenges. Europe is the vital partner and frankly, outperformed us in approaching Iran. I don’t like the belief that many seem to have that the characteristics of identity that Obama has are acceptable substitutes for serious strategic discussion and an ordering of priorities and approaches to the problems we have.
    While I too am inspired by a rhetoric of hope — I’m underwhelmed when I get to any serious consideration of the international/national security proposals from his camp — or from Hillary’s camp for that matter.
    Some acquaintances of mine at AIPAC noted that I had reported that Obama, Hillary Clinton and other of the candidates were basically AWOL during the Annapolis process, and they sent me Obama’s statement. Honestly, I was disappointed in the silo-like nature of Obama’s treatment of the Israel-Palestine crisis. It had none of the bravery and vision that Obama’s truly impressive and detail rich approach to changing US-Cuba relations had.
    And on Africa, I think that any President — of African descent, Scotch-Irish descent, or Hispanic descent, or Asian descent (clearly we aren’t getting those approaches) — must make “the developing nation problem” an American problem. And that means Africa. If Obama has an edge in getting some leaders in Africa to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t — or has a way to deliver resources and projects to Africa that otherwise wouldn’t happen — then I defer to your take on this.
    But again — my real view: I don’t think we are succeeding or anyone will succeed with Africa taking a paternalistic, or charity approach to the problems there. China is doing just fine with building dams, bridges, telecom hubs, building firms — and its massive cash outlays to African states is creating jobs, opportunities, and the kind of corruption which is state-directed, rather than the type of corruption that America stewarded over in the Phillipines or Vietnam in which the capital immediately rushed out of the borders into offshore and Swiss bank accounts.
    China has a mercantile set of interests in Africa and arguably is doing more to remedy systemically some of the problems in Africa than we are in our more siloed approach to problems.
    I think Obama can be a major player in responding to some of the problems across the World — in Africa too — and he probably has far better ideas than the Chinese on responding to genocide possibilities there, but my interests are in knowing as much as possible about the comprehensive approaches a candidate will take — and to get a sense of the priorities than these candidates have. He has two of the Brzezinskis — both Zbig and his son Mark — on his team, and they are extraordinary in doing the kind of thing I’m suggesting. . .but it’s not clear to me yet that Obama is listening to them, or is comfortable deploying their brand of logic to these problems.
    So, hope this helps. Thanks again for your note.
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  9. Bill R. says:

    Steve, the MLK comment was an inept gaffe on HRC’s part. I was aghast at it. But perhaps it truly reflects her view that leadership is about pushing the levers of power, and not giving vision to the people. I think that was the real argument that is going on in the debate and continues in the contest between the two candidates. That said, what the Obama campaign rightly is pushing back about is the use of surrogates to make personal attacks with racial framing. Three instances in point- the attack by Billy Shaheen in New Hampshire suggesting that maybe Obama was once a drug pusher, the “shuckin’ and jivin'” comment by Cuomo in New York ( the meme that Obama is not a serious candidate but a non-serious young black man with a gift for conning us), and the most recent attack where Hillary was present, by a black man, BET CEO Robert Johnson, who brings up the innuendo about past drug use, and that Obama is a black man trying to be Sydney Poitier (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”) who is presentable to white people. She looked on, smiling, said nothing. All bad stuff, and on the face of it, a trashing Clinton tactic. It’s all very cynical on her part. Who is the Democratic voter in the primaries, the majority are white females. So I suggest strongly here the race card is being played by the Clintons. And that is plural because clearly this is about both of them, Clinton Dynasty 2.0.

    Reply

  10. MarkL says:

    Brewster, Hillary’s point was that without LBJ, the Civil Rights Act would not have passed—not then, anyway. Why is that simple, correct point so hard to understand? Compare the CRA with the ERA: supposed Johnson had also managed to get an Equal Rights Act passed. The effect would have been profound. Unfortunately, the ERA never passed, to the detriment of the women’s movement.
    Hillary is saying that having the RIGHT person as President is tremendously important in creating change—and she’s correct.
    There’s nothing at all dismissive of King in her argument though. Unless King was AGAINST the CRA, these criticism of Hillary make no sense.

    Reply

  11. Brewster says:

    The Clintons are at fault here, and I’m just flabergasted by the entire sorry story. LBJ signed the Voting Rightd Act. So? Does that deminish MLK’s brave and stirring leadership. The voting Rights Act was the result of King’s inspired non-violentcivil disobedience; Signing the law was so outrageously overdue, it was more likely than not that whoever the POTUS, the bill would have been signed. But so what? Even if we give LBJ all the credit for the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, what presisely is HRC’s point? Does she suggest Obama should drop his powerful, moving oratory? HRC needs to try another tact cause this tragic reflex of slash and burn does not flatter her. She JUST DOES NOT GET IT.

    Reply

  12. Robert Morrow says:

    THE STORY OF BLACK WOMAN CHARLOTTE PERRY; ANOTHER WOMAN ABUSED BY THE CLINTONS
    Bill illegally gave no-skills GenniferFlowers an Ark. state job in 1990 over qualified black woman candidate Charlotte Perry
    http://www.salon.com/news/1998/09/11newsa.html
    BY MURRAY WAAS
    WASHINGTON — Late on the same evening that President Clinton testified before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury from the Map Room of the White House that he had had an “inappropriate” relationship with Monica Lewinsky, he defiantly went on national television to ask the American people “to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months.”
    The entire affair should now become a private matter between him, his family and God, he argued: “Even presidents have private lives … It’s time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life.”
    A longtime Arkansas state employee named Charlotte Perry might be excused for believing otherwise. An African-American woman with three young children at home, Perry is the type of person who comes to mind when, as he is wont to do, the president talks about those who work hard and play by the rules. It was such folks whom Clinton said he wanted to serve when he asked us to elect him as president in the first place.
    In February 1990, Charlotte Perry hoped that her hard work, integrity and many years of service to the state government were finally going to pay off. She applied for a better paying job as an administrative assistant at a state agency called the Arkansas Board of Review. The position paid slightly more than $17,500 a year.
    But Perry didn’t receive the promotion she clearly deserved . Instead, it went to another woman with less experience and fewer qualifications — Gennifer Flowers, whom everyone around Little Rock knew to be the governor’s girlfriend. An investigation of the matter by a state agency later determined that the hiring procedure that led to Flowers being hired over Perry was “improper” and the result of favoritism.
    Flowers, seeking work, had approached Clinton about finding her a position with the state. There were, after all, surely perks to be had for being the governor’s mistress, Flowers reasoned. Clinton turned over the dirty work of finding the appropriate position for Flowers to an assistant named Judy Gaddy. Gaddy tried hard to find something for Flowers, even landing her an interview with the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program as a multimedia specialist. But Flowers was found to be unqualified for that job.
    On Feb. 23, 1990 , even more desperate for work than before, Flowers wrote Clinton: “Bill, I’ve tried to explain my situation to you and how badly I need a job … Unfortunately it looks like I have to pursue the lawsuit to hopefully get some money to live on, until I get employment.”
    The lawsuit Flowers was referring to had been filed by a former Arkansas state employee named Larry Nichols. He alleged that Clinton had had sexual relationships with five women, including Flowers. Nichols had sued the governor after Clinton had fired him for stealing state funds. When a local radio station named Flowers based on papers filed in the lawsuit, Flowers told Clinton she would have to sue the radio station for slander so that she would have some money to live on.
    In fact, Flowers was only bringing up Nichols’ charges as a means to try to intimidate Clinton to find her a job. No one in Little Rock believed much of anything Nichols had to say, because he was known as the local loony. The four other women he named in the lawsuit simply laughed off his charges. And except for the one radio station, no reputable news organization in the state of Arkansas gave credence to Nichols’ charges. Nevertheless, Flowers’ ploy to intimidate Clinton had the intended effect.
    In March 1990, the job that Gennifer Flowers and Charlotte Perry were to compete for became available. At first glance, things did not look good for Flowers. She ranked ninth out of 11 applicants.
    But then Flowers caught a break. On April 26, 1990, Don K. Barnes, the chairman of the Arkansas Board, abruptly changed the qualifications for the job. He did so at the direction of his boss, William Gaddy, the husband of Judy Gaddy, the governor’s assistant to whom Clinton had earlier assigned the task of finding a job for Flowers.
    The new requirements for the job now included experience with computers and public relations. As it happened, Flowers had listed those precise qualifications on her résumé a month earlier when she applied for the Arkansas Board of Review job.
    In two telephone interviews last year, William Gaddy told me that he could not recall any role in changing the job requirements to help Flowers: “I just don’t know what to think about that … I’m not sure why my name has come up in this.” William Gaddy also denied to me that he had ever spoken with his own wife, Judy, about the potential job for Flowers: “She does her thing and I do mine,” he said. “We never talked with each other about Gennifer.”
    After failing to get the promotion, Perry filed a complaint with the state Grievance Review Committee, the Arkansas equivalent of a merit protections selection board, saying that she was unfairly denied the job awarded to Flowers.
    Barnes testified to the committee that he changed the job description at the direction of William Gaddy. He said that he had supported Flowers because she had told him about her experience with computers during a job interview.
    In her own sworn testimony, Flowers, however, could not recall any type of computer that she knew how to use. And asked how she had learned of the state job, Flowers swore: “It was advertised in the newspaper and I had heard about it through the personnel department.”
    Barnes, the state official who hired Flowers, told Newsday in 1992 that he believed Flowers had committed “perjury” by not disclosing the Gaddys’ assistance in finding her the state job.
    Newsday also discovered that Flowers had told a few lies on her job application. She had stated that she had been “director of public relations” for the Dallas-based Club Corporation of America, even though in an earlier application for a state job, she had said that she was only the “membership director” for that group. Flowers further represented on her résumé that she had an associate degree from the University of Arkansas . But that college had no record of her ever attending. And Flowers had also lied about her experience working on computers.
    In early 1992, as disclosures about their affair were on the verge of going public, Flowers called Clinton and secretly recorded the conversations. Flowers told her former boyfriend she was concerned that someone might find out about his assistance in her obtaining the state job.
    “The only thing that concerns me, where I’m, where I’m concerned at this point, is the state job,” Flowers told Clinton.
    “Yeah, I never thought about that,” Clinton responded, in that earnest manner we are all so familiar with. “If they ever ask if you’ve talked to me about it, you can say no.”
    When Flowers told Clinton that she had lied about how she learned about the job, he responded: “Good for you!”
    Clinton’s deceptions did not end there. As Salon recently disclosed, during that telephone conversation between Clinton and Flowers, Hillary Rodham Clinton was standing only a few feet away from her husband.
    According to a version of the story that Hillary Clinton has told two close friends, the first lady-to-be was standing right next to her husband as he talked to Flowers on a phone extension in the kitchen of the Arkansas governor’s mansion. The first lady had told the friends that her presence was evidence that her husband could not have possibly been deceiving her when he claimed that he had no relationship with Flowers.
    It was vintage Clinton: He was simultaneously encouraging Flowers to conceal the relationship while saying nothing too incriminating in case she was taping the conversation, and he was putting on a show for his own wife as well.
    On Jan. 23, 1992 , Flowers held a press conference to publicize a story in the Star tabloid, alleging that she had had a 12-year relationship with Clinton . Having been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the confession, she no longer had any use for her state job. She never even bothered to call work to tell her bosses that she wasn’t coming in anymore. They had to figure that out on their own when she simply stopped showing up.
    Apparently believing her husband’s explanations that Flowers’ charges were the result of Republican dirty tricks, Hillary Clinton personally directed a campaign to raise similar allegations against then President Bush. There had been rumors circulating around Washington for years that Bush had had an extramarital affair with an aide named Jennifer Fitzgerald. The only problem was that there was little evidence to support the charges, which were most likely false.
    According to three sources, the first lady personally, and through her surrogates, began to encourage a number of journalists to look into the allegations. Eventually, New Republic writer Sidney Blumenthal, now Clinton ‘s aggressive spin doctor, convinced a Spy magazine writer to include the Fitzgerald allegations in an article just prior to the 1992 presidential election, even though the piece contained no compelling evidence to support the rumors.
    Blumenthal then publicly questioned the ethics of Spy for publishing the story, even though he had put the magazine up to publishing it in the first place. Hillary Clinton and Blumenthal then spearheaded a further effort to have the sex allegations against Bush circulated in the mainstream press.
    “That was probably the genesis of the so-called scorched-earth strategy … You investigate our sex-lives, we investigate yours,” recalls one veteran of the 1992 Clinton-for-president campaign. (A spokesperson for the first lady declined to comment for this story.)
    New Yorker columnist Kurt Andersen, who was then editor of Spy, said he didn’t know about Blumenthal’s involvement, but offered: ” Sidney’s first political crush was Gary Hart, whose career was ruined by a sex scandal … a tragic and compulsive motif in Sidney’s career.”
    The Flowers allegations were only a momentary distraction for Clinton, who would quickly move on to the presidency and recidivism.
    As for Charlotte Perry, the Arkansas state Grievance Review Committee ruled in her favor. It concluded that there had been favoritism and “irregular practices” in the hiring of Flowers and recommended that Perry be awarded Flowers’ job, and also that she be compensated for back pay.
    Still, justice was never done. The review committee’s findings were not binding. They were overruled by Barnes, the very same official who was found by the committee to have engaged in favoritism on Flowers’ behalf in the first place.
    Unlike Flowers and Lewinsky, Perry is the other woman we should care about. Flowers and Lewinsky were never the victims they have portrayed themselves to be. Flowers received a state job and a half million dollars for her story, using Clinton perhaps as much, or more than, he used her. As for Monica, now that she has confided to Starr’s grand jury her tales of White House trysts in all their glorious detail, fortune will surely follow fame.
    In contrast to all of them, Charlotte Perry is a true victim of the president’s sexual misconduct. As we consider her story, it illustrates why, despite the president’s desire to the contrary, his private affairs are sometimes public matters.
    SALON | Sept. 11, 1998
    Murray Waas has published numerous investigative reports in Salon.

    Reply

  13. Anonymous says:

    I found your take here bizarre too.
    I read your blog not just because you often work to be policy-heavy here, and because of the fun, inside-the-beltway tidbits you drop, but also because you usually come across as fairly enlightened, and judicious.
    You said you feel yourself at a disadvantage on the ethnicity and ethnicity politics discussions. That’s disappointing because it raises the question of how up-to-speed you are, and how attentively you’re watching political developments. Your relay of the tete-a-tete between the campaigns on the subject sequences things oddly, and isn’t strictly chronological, for instance. But that part is merely disappointing.
    The part that really gets me is your take on Kerry’s Africa policy comments. It’s difficult for me to accept that you don’t appreciate how the ethnic identity of countries’ principal foreign policy actors colors not only how actors interact personally with other principals, but how it also shapes to a striking degree the meat and patotoes of the policy itself. Have you heard Obama riff about adopting an ‘interconnectedness’ approach to our foreign policy? He isn’t alone in advocating that sort of shift, clearly, but what’s extraordinary is how he seems to want to target the shift. Along with current hot spots, the larger middle-east, and the usual G-20 suspects, he routinely mentions Lagos, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Johannesburg too. Starting from those premises in a foreign policy readjustment here would be huge, and that unique view of US foreign policy possibilities seems to lead almost entirely from Obama’s unique ethnicity — and dare I say, unique creeping loyalties — in current presidential politics.
    Would you argue that this is unimportant, or that it marks Obama as unserious, or insufficiently concerned with our nuts and bolts interests? Because I think a quick glance at, for instance, the NATO Treaty, — which makes unabashed reference to common ethnicity, and casts it as fundamental to Atlantic interests — and almost all other central planks in our foreign policy engagement arsenal show a not-easily-missed bent towards shaping policy, and bolstering relationships, even when inessential, along pan-ethnic lines. Having a president who’s wont is to shape his foreign policy identity along new ethnic lines, with Africa instead of Europe, (or with Asia, South America, or the Mideast), and who wants to reshape our national foreign policy identity that way too, would be shattering. And it can’t — or shouldn’t, I think — be dismissed as simple petty groupism.
    Did you miss this, or did you notice it and simply take a different view of its import and potential worth?
    And thanks for being involved with your audience here. As unsettling and offensive as I found this post, your engagement with readers makes this a great place to read.

    Reply

  14. DC says:

    I have to say that the photo of HRC sitting next to Robert Johnson today, within the context of his divisive racial comments directed at Obama, says all you need to know about her character. I won’t get into the factual details here, or recent comments by other proxies on her behalf, but from my perspective his attack was intentional and sanctioned. I come to read Steve’s stuff because he is a policy guy, and policy is extremely important when you’re deciding who to support for the presidency. But character also counts. I would rather elect someone who I believe aspires to the noble tradition, rather than an outcome-oriented cynic. I think HRC falls in the latter category.

    Reply

  15. Linda says:

    I actually went to visit someone and out to dinner for the last 4 hours and don’t have time to read all on this topic since 4 p.m.
    I live in Atlanta and have a four year old grandson who is a blue-eyed blond and has been in such a diverse day care since he was four months old that he has always been in the minority. He started going to a music class this fall where he is in the majority, and yesterday at that class, he remarked: “Mom, have you noticed that there are a lot of white people here?” We were talking about this at dinner tonight, and my daughter informs me that Crayola now makes a set of marker pens for kids that are just for coloring all different kinds of flesh/skin tones. Wake up, folks, this is 21st century USA!
    I’m getting so sick of this whole Democractic race that I’d kinda like Clinton, Edwards and Obama to take a pledge right now–I’m debating which one it should be: 1.) the one who wins the nomination pledges to pick the runner-up as VP, or 2.) whoever wins pledges to have a public coin toss between the other two, and whoever wins that is VP!

    Reply

  16. Steve Clemons says:

    Interesting posts all. . .I hope Maxwell does come back actually. As POA is correct to note, I do have some buttons and I’m not shy about expressing my frustration when they are pushed. But I also admit that as Maxwell suggests, I and many others can make a better effort of getting some distance from our respective views and trying to be self critical.
    Dan — you may be right on the race issue. It’s tough for me to call. I don’t think in those terms, and I guess when I think about how Obama has framed his candidacy — very much about the future, hope, the next way of doing things — it’s hard to see how race politics gets him there or helps Hillary. I may be misreading you — and perhaps we really agree. . .not sure. But in any case, I don’t really feel very grounded in this topic.
    I just finished my run and feel great — far more pleasant and less grumpy with endorphins kicking around.
    On other fronts, Nicholas Schmidle called me and is well in DC. He’s speaking for the New America Foundation tomorrow afternoon for those around.
    I also ran into Andrew Sullivan at the gym — and he’s as frustrated as I am with our political choices.
    Best, steve

    Reply

  17. Reader says:

    I was unclear. The Clintons do not need South Carolina to win the nomination. It is better than conceivable that the Clinton franchise are willing to concede SC if they can make their chief opponent vulnerable there by having the “black” candidate pander to “black” grievances, however conjured. Your latter assessment, Steve, of who stands to benefit from the “race card” prong of a strategy to win the nomination is correct. If the Obama campaign takes the bait in SC, the Obama effort might just squeak through to victory in South Carolina with the help of African Americans and liberal white South Carolinians then lose on Feb. 5th due to the focus on racial issues focused on in SC in what will inevitably be a national media campaign leading up to Feb. 5th . Which candidate has better experience in national media campaigns?
    Separately, Republican Governor Sanford’s recent op-ed on these issues is important.

    Reply

  18. B.N. says:

    I agree with a previous poster’s warning of/concern that the relevant Democrats in the race for their party’s nomination and the White House hurt each other. As far as I am concerned,Clinton, Edwards, and Obama are by far better presidential contenders than any of the Republican line-up of look-alike candidates. If we want the most fundamental change, we need to prevent the viable Democrats in the race to take each other down. The similarities between them are far more pronounced than the differences.
    But, then, tell the media’s talking and writing heads who create and feed off conflict and controversy.

    Reply

  19. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    I think you are quite wrong about who benefits in the long term if issues of race come to the forefront in this campaign.
    It doesn’t matter who “plays” the race card. To the extent that white Americans start associating Obama with the identity politics of the past, to the same extent his message is undermined and appeal is diminished. Now my interpretation of recent events is that over the past few weeks Clinton surrogates have been sneaking provocative little racially charged suggestions into the discourse to get the race discussion going. But whether this is true, or the two campaigns just fell into this rut, it hurts Obama for these divisive discussions to interfere with his national unity message. So far, he has personally stayed above it, but I think it would be good for him to make some important policy statement or announcement to try to change and uplift the discussion. It’s really bad for Democrats to get dragged into all this race and gender stuff.

    Reply

  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “More to the point, are you asking me to leave? Clearly these challenging comments are bothering you.”
    ROFLMAO!!!!
    Trust me Maxwell, if ya push the right buttons, you will have no trouble understanding what Steve is telling you. He’s not shy when he’s pissed off.
    And frankly, I’m amazed that we get as far as we do into examining these candidates various stances, experiences, political positions, and campaign strategies. In truth, none of them have earned such a close scrutiny, because their cowardly subservience to Bush these last seven years have not qualified them to be pursuing the office they aspire to. When you get past discussing their failure to protect Habeaus Corpus, their failure to oppose the Patriot Act, their failure to halt renditions and White House sanctioned torture, thier failure to abide by their oaths of office and act to hold Bush accountable for numerous crimes, what else is their to discuss?? I mean really, is any of this other posturing bullshit relevant if these candidates have ceased to fulfill thier obligation of working in the people’s best interests? Once, this was a “representative” government. If we have moved past that point, what reason do any of us have to examine thier rhetoric? They’re just going to pursue their own interests anyway.
    In truth, the bickering here, like this keyboard spat you and Steve are currently engaged in is kinda chuckle inducing. Christ man, this lyin’ piece of shit Bush is busy fabricating “international incidents” in the Strait of Hormuz, and not one of these cowardly posturing frauds is calling him on it. This horseshit like what you and Steve are bickering about is gonna seem prettty irrelevant if Monkey Boy decides he’s in the mood to launch a bombing run against Iran’s “worldwide security threat”.
    I mean geez man, lets really wallow in the useless horseshit, and argue over whether or not Hillary was really crying or not. I mean hey, if we’re gonna get stupid, we might as well do it up right.

    Reply

  21. Steve Clemons says:

    Nice note reader — but I’m surprised that you’d think that the HRC camp would benefit in a battle over race in South Carolina. Without bias, I think it’s not in HRC’s interests to be engaged in this kind of battle, primarily for SC black voters. I don’t know whether the Obama campaign engineered this or not in reaction to Hillary’s LBJ/MLK comment — but it seems she stepped into a trap that they had been hoping for. . .or at least some around Obama. In any case, I agree with the general tenor of the latter part of your post and concur.
    But in this political game, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out who did what to whom when and why…but one can measure whose interests are helped or hurt by various debates — and I think that the race card issue, if that’s an OK way to put it, helps Obama and hurts Clinton in that State and maybe in some other Southern states. . .but it hurts Obama nationally and probably helps Clinton, but that affect is further off than the near term South Carolina primary.
    best regards — and now, I really am going running,
    Steve

    Reply

  22. Reader says:

    It is fairly apparent from today’s Meet the Press interview that the Clinton campaign is posturing to invite the Obama campaign to engage vigorously on the race topic so Barack Obama can be painted in South Carolina as the “race card candidate” in his delicate efforts to woo the African-American community of voters. The product of this Macchiavellian framing effort can subsequently be broadcast nationwide for the February 5th votes, so Clinton II can have its “Sista Souljah Moment of Glory 2.0” as they destroy the “Fairy Tale” well beyond the hallowed halls of old Dartmouth.
    Secondly, on the topic of identity as a contributor to insight, wisdom and perspective, we would all benefit from looking to our left and to our right at work and at play. If we don’t see someone who is outside our own familiar racial group, we are part of the problem of racial misunderstanding and are uniquely deprived of information necessary for commenting accurately on the merits or demerits, the plusses or the minuses, the relevance or irrelevance of identity in the formation of sound perspective.

    Reply

  23. Steve Clemons says:

    Maxwell. . .I am going running. Perhaps, more later. 😉
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  24. Steve Clemons says:

    Maxwell…hope we can move on soon. No, I don’t want you to leave. Just hate guaging anything on attracting or repelling readers. Just don’t like that issue much — my problem; not yours.
    I’m not the best commentator on race and gender issues — perhaps I should not have veered into this subject. But I have questions about the political dimensions of what I’m hearing from folks like Kerry, et al. I didn’t ask for just the past year on travel. I asked for travel since 2004 so I could get at least one two year period in….I figured that gathering the data would be burdensome for campaign and congressional staff, so I wanted a fair window of travel to look at.
    I was very surprised by the amending process — but I wont post why here. we can discuss offline if you like.
    I mentioned Obama’s travel to Russia and Ukraine — but primarily to Russia, which I think was important and noted it as so in my discussion of how thin many of the other candidates were in contacts with UN P-5 nations.
    I disagree with your last point. I don’t think I was scattershot — and I was shocked that what I wrote got so much attention from others. I didn’t drive that attention…I post a lot, and one does not know what is going to float up and grab headlines. I was solely interested in how a legislator shows executive skills….something I am interested in, and given my rather thoughtful expose on Eric Redmon’s book and my experience in the Senate, I’m surprised that you would call that scattershot….
    all the best,
    Steve

    Reply

  25. Maxwell says:

    First off, I didn’t threaten to leave…I said your comments made me “feel like dropping the Note from my blogfeed” as a result. A throwaway comment at the end of eight paragraphs that you seem to be focusing on specifically to the exclusion of much else, which seems childish to me.
    More to the point, are you asking me to leave? Clearly these challenging comments are bothering you. Maybe, you feel them unfair to you, but also perhaps they’re also making you think a tad?
    I’ve seen you respond much less emotively to outright trolls here, but I’m actually a serious reader of this column, and have been for some time, though I’ve only begun posting of late. I don’t believe I’ve ever accused you outright of partisan bias.
    But I do notice that you get awfully defensive when folks scrutinize the ends of your international travel segment, or when we discuss race and gender bias here. Why is that?
    Two substantive points here:
    The information you requested from the campaigns regarding international travel was already strangely circumscribed…it wasn’t clear to me as a reader why you wanted just the past year, or if not, whether you were willing to look to the past decade as well. It’s unsurprising to me that the campaigns “amended” their information when they were doing you a generous service to provide it in the first place.
    And if you are specifically Asia-centric, which of course includes Russia and the near-East, you seemed awfully ambivalent about or perhaps indifferent to Obama’s travel focus on Russia and the Ukraine.
    My take, ultimately.
    And to be fair, I’m not the only one who has questioned this segment of yours. It was announced casually, seemed to evolve spontaneously, and it was very difficult (as witnessed by questions from other commenters) to understand where you were going with it, what information you precisely wanted from the campaigns, and what constituted an appropriate response.
    I think you bear as much responsibility for the scattershot responses of the campaigns and the puzzlement of some of your audience as they and we do.

    Reply

  26. Steve Clemons says:

    Very good point on the racial diversity realities here Linda. Getting rid of the demarcated boxes in census forms has been one of Michael Lind’s pasttimes.
    And yes you are right — I remain a skeptic thus far of all the candidates.
    Obama does give me a flicker of so-called hope but at the same time the absence of detail and the gamesmanship on identity politics and governing by gut instinct make me perceive him as a lightweight.
    Hillary Clinton is a heavyweight with experience — but maybe the wrong kind of experience. She may be an incrementalist, stuck in the weeds of how America used to do things. We cannot have a presidency that is continuous into the future based on what the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations have done. Things have to change — and I’m not seeing the kind of Hagelesque framing that would instill confidence. She also has a tendency to tilt toward rather than away from the pounding drums of war and conflict.
    Biden, even Dodd, came closer for me.
    McCain — who I admire for opposing torture and for his immigration views — and for other strengths, tilts toward war and standoffs in a way that scares me. Like John Bolton, he doesn’t seem to do carrots — and that’s a concern.
    More later on this – but none of the candidates as I seem them today is ideal. I want someone who has Hagel’s foreign policy/national security approach.

    Reply

  27. Linda says:

    First, I absolutely believe that Steve hasn’t made up his mind.
    I meant to add above a few thoughts about the racial demographics of this country that have changed markedly in the past 40 years and will change so much in the next 40 years that affirmative action on race will be impossible. Indeed Census racial date are whatever a person declares him/herself to me, and a multi-racial category was added in 2000.
    The diversity of our melting pot today is amazing in interracial marriages just comparing my friends at age 68 to my daughter’s at age 39. So Obama’s being half-black and half-white really personifies the future of this country and appeals greatly to younger generations who are more color-blind. He has that real advantage over all the other candidates.

    Reply

  28. Steve Clemons says:

    Maxwell — I don’t want to have a fight either, but I have communications from people who work on the ABC show that Kerry appeared on who were as surprised as I was by the way some might perceive Kerry’s comment about African leaders. Dan Kervick is right of course that if one has (paraphrasing) Latin heritage, then that person might respond to leaders in central or south america differently. If arabic heritage, then the same there. But I guess in the short bit I saw of Kerry, I felt if he was saying that having some African DNA will help Obama connect with leaders in Africa differently than a white leader. On its face, I suppose that is true — but I find it incredibly shallow and racist in reverse.
    Leaders must deal with leaders over interests and competing agendas and priorities. If those interests become tainted by the gender or color of one’s skin, there is something hugely wrong. If Hillary became president and then became pals with Angela Merkel and other foreign leaders because of gender and not because of interests — I’d be very disappointed and angry with that.
    In any case, sorry if I seemed hot-headed. Of course I want to know your views…but I have zero interest in threats related to readers keeping or dropping an RSS feed. I find that kind of angling offensive, and it pushes a “fed up” button of mine. Apologies for that.
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  29. Steve Clemons says:

    Maxwell — I was originally researching a piece that I thought would play well to Obama when I was looking into the executive skills of Senators and legislators in general. I am former colleagues with Obama’s Senate policy director, and I know that the guy drills in and studies hard, as he did with Samantha Power in scheduled tutorials for a year. And I assumed (wrongly) that Hillary Clinton was too busy to really be involved in policy hearings for which she had some responsibility.
    It proved to be the reverse. I’m not Eurocentric…If anything, I’m Asia-centric, and think that China and Russia remain the key challenges for the global order in the next era.
    But Obama is not Chair of the African Subcommittee for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — he is chair of the EUROPE Subcommittee for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . .and he held NO policy hearings. This was stunning. Several of Obama’s own foreign policy advisors were surprised.
    Is that something to end a campaign over. NO! And I said so….repeatedly. Hillary Clinton, to my surprise, chaired several Superfund Submittee hearings of the much less sexy Senate EPW committee during this campaign period.
    I reported what I found — and then OBAMA’s CAMPAIGN gave me the roster of his travel, which did not include Europe. They gave that to me — as many of the other campaigns gave me material as well.
    Then Obama’s people kept amending what they had sent. . .twice in fact. And I posted those amendments.
    So geez…If you want to have an argument with me over my intentions and what I have written, let’s have at it. But I know precisely what I wrote, why I wrote it — and have as I have written previously, challenged all of these candidates on the basis of issues I think are important.
    I have even written — if you care to go back and look — that what I care about is the ability to leapfrog out of today’s mess into something different, and less incrementalist than someone with lots of general experience might be prone to. I also said that experience with Africa and elsewhere may be more compelling in the future than a heavy focus on Europe — but I believed Europe had to be a key partner.
    And if you didn’t notice, I also wrote that Obama and Clinton were portfolio-lite when it came to Latin America and Asia.
    Can we stop this now? Are you sticking around to further the general discussion at TWN — or do you want to pack your bags as you threatened in your previous comment.
    Sorry, this need to be said. . .

    Reply

  30. Maxwell says:

    If you’re in this to “learn and share ideas”, then why are you chiefly responding to the emotion in my post rather than the substance?
    Frankly, you should know when things you write are offending your readers. But reducing a serious comment on my part to “games” speaks more to your defensiveness than your seriousness.
    I’m giving you an honest take. Reading it otherwise is your privilege, but it hardly furthers communication or “idea sharing”.

    Reply

  31. Steve Clemons says:

    Maxwell — if you are hanging on to your blogfeed for TWN by such a tenuous thread, then probably time to go, which I will regret. I disagree with your take obviously — but I’m in this to learn and share ideas, not to strut. But I won’t be cowed one way or another in my political assessments by whether folks have an RSS feed of this or not. There are many who see a big difference in the transcendent nature Obama’s style and victory in Iowa — and what he has done now as we approach South Carolina. I don’t mean to give HRC an edge at all….but I do think it is my right to post pieces that explore this question, which I tried in part through the interesting comments of a college provost, through John Kerry’s comments on George Stephanopoulos’ show, and through Debra Dickerson.
    Sorry if it didn’t fit the bill for you — but seriously, I don’t like or find myself moved at all by public comments by readers that they will go elsewhere. Just go if that’s what will help you lead a more informed and thoughtful life.
    Again — hope you stay — but don’t play those kinds of games here.
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  32. Maxwell says:

    A footnote:
    These comments, wherein Kerry’s emphasis on the role of MLK in furthering civil rights protection is insensibly twisted into some scenario where Kerry is racistly maligning the contributions of Carter and Clinton to diplomacy and civil rights…. These comments come after a series on the international travel experiences of the candidates where you repeatedly brushed off or discounted Obama’s extensive travels in Africa and the Middle East to focus on his lack of recent engagement with “Old Europe”. How many posts was it, three, four, that hectored the guy about Europe specifically?
    I try to be fairminded. But Steve, do you ever stop to question just how Eurocentric your recent tendencies make you sound?
    I don’t want to get into a fight here. But I do think you need to check yourself a second for prior assumptions before you write this shit. You’re handing out life preservers to folks that hardly need them, meanwhile throwing the underdogs an anvil, and it’s hard not to read a bit of white entitlement in between the lines as a result. Sorry, it needs to be said.

    Reply

  33. Ben Rosengart says:

    The President of France has a Hungarian father and a Jewish grandfather. Is he an “ethnic” rather than a “racial” minority? These categories seem fluid to me, and in any case they function differently in France. But Mr. Ames should perhaps hesitate before dismissing Europe’s record in this regard.

    Reply

  34. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear SomeCallMeTim: Interesting points between you and Dan Kervick on gender. I don’t prefer Clinton to Obama — or the reverse yet. I’m completely undecided. Long term readers of TWN will know that I favor many of Obama’s foreign policy framing views, particularly his pro-engagement views. But I have not liked the way in which the campaign and his supporters have spun the identity/gut instinct factors in his portfolio over experience and/or sharp thinking and recalibration of the global political situation the US is in.
    I have blasted both of them — and applauded both.
    Believe me, when I decide who I really want to support, I will trumpet it.
    But the only candidate I really liked and who is not going to run is Chuck Hagel. His approach to foreign policy matches my own — and remains quite distinct from any others in this race.
    So, I hope that some of you will take me at my word that I remain completely undecided and am an equal opportunity critic now.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  35. SomeCallMeTim says:

    Dan:
    Clemens prefers Clinton. I think he’s said as much; certainly he’s implied it (on, as I recall, “knowing the levers of govt. grounds”). Hence the particular concern about the race card rather than the gender card.
    The whole thing is a bit crazy: any foregrounding of race harms Obama in a way that of the foregrounding of gender doesn’t hurt Clinton, for straightforward demographic reasons. Maybe he is playing it–I remain a bit skeptical, because I think it would be stupid–but there are obvious reasons for him to limit its use.

    Reply

  36. Maxwell says:

    It’s frankly completely bizarre to me that this entire column is framed as the Obama camp using the “race card” when all the racialist comments are coming from the Clinton camp.
    Andrew Cuomo’s comment about “shucking and jiving”, the Clinton advisor’s comment about Obama being an “imaginary hip black friend” to young voters, the Clinton NH co-chair’s implication that Obama might have been a drug-dealer in his youth, Bill Clinton repeatedly calling Obama, a 46-yr-man, a “kid”, HRC’s spontaneous musings that while MLK was swell “it took a president” like LBJ to advance the civil rights agenda. The latter comment infuriated Rep. Clyburn, who hasn’t endorsed either camp, btw.
    Maybe all this is cool with you, Steve. Maybe the fact that Obama supporters find these comments suspect and the African-American community questions these items looks like _inverse racism_ to you…from the Obama camp, no less.
    But if so, that it’s an awfully odd take. _Reacting_ to suspicious racialist rhetoric from a political campaign is suddenly playing the “race card”. Boy, white folks do indeed have it tough if they can float racist frames out there and have to bear the “hurtful” (as Clinton put it) reaction of the very minorities their racist frames pinch.
    I mean, is fair, even-handed analysis suddenly a white man’s burden? You’re using the emotional hangover from your recent microparsing of Kerry’s endorsement speech to excuse comments from the Clinton camp that have upset the black community, and you’re attempting to assign responsibility to the Obama campaign for the black community’s discomfort with those comments. Moreover, the takeaway is that Kerry’s emphasizing the importance of MLK’s role in the civil rights process is itself racism, and that it’s the Obama camp that needs more message discipline as a result.
    That’s granting the Clinton campaign an awfully big handicap. How wonderfully convenient. I’ll refrain from reading into why that might be.
    No in fact, I’m being too charitable. Instead:
    This is the singlemost disappointing column I’ve read here in months. I feel like dropping the Note from my blogfeed after this one.

    Reply

  37. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    I agree that both campaigns should do what they can to prevent the Democratic nominating process from degenerating into old-fashioned identity politics filled with “race cards” and “gender cards”, as it has become over the past week. Of course, a lot of voters, supporters and media types are going to talk about these things no matter what the campaigns say themselves.
    But you say, “I found it unbelievable that Senator John Kerry said on Stephanopoulos’s show that Obama as a black president could speak differently to African leaders than Hillary Clinton could as a white woman (I’m paraprasing).”
    Why is that unbelievable? Do you honestly doubt Kerry’s statement is true, or are you just expressing an idle wish wish that we lived in a world where it is not true? As a comparison, would you have said it was “unbelievable” if someone said in the 80’s about Pope John Paul II that he could speak differently to Eastern European Communist leaders than an Italian Pope could? Isn’t it rather clear that that Pope’s Polish background did play a significant role in his impact on the European discussion of Communism, in Poland specifically?
    Not only is Obama an African-American, but his father was from Kenya. African affairs have been one of his long-term interests and a focus of his Senate term. He has already traveled to Africa as a Senator and developed relationships there, and my understanding is that he was very enthusiastically received. And surely this reception has something to do with who he is in addition to what he said.
    Rather than doubting this, I think Clinton supporters would be on firmer ground to point out that Hillary Clinton would be a particularly effective leader in the area of global women’s rights, in part because she is an actual woman.
    And it is really very improper to describe Kerry’s comment as racist. That Clinton could be particularly effective on behalf of women’s issues; that Obama could be particularly effective in African relations; or that Bill Richardson could be particularly effective in Latin American relations – these all strike me as eminently plausible claims.

    Reply

  38. Linda says:

    Steve,
    I saw Kerry as well as Clinton on “Meet the Press”. I didn’t think Kerry’s comments were racist, but just a fact, i.e., no matter what the message, Obama’s father is Kenyan. He is going to have an immediate tie with all blacks in Africa that nobody else can have. Kerry was smart to praise Edwards and not be drawn into commenting on Shrum stuff.
    I still wish the Democrats would stop tearing each other apart. Clinton dodged the question of whether Obama was ready to be President or not and always comes back to how she will be more ready on day one–so she leaves the implication (and all the others do too) hanging that he isn’t ready. Every one of the Democratic candidates should be responding to these questions the same: “I will support the Democratic nominee with enthusiasm even if it isn’t me. We all are better choices than any of the Republicans running for their nomination.”
    BTW, no President is ready to be President on Day One because their Cabinet choices have not been confirmed by the Senate, and it takes a minimum of six months to get all the top political appointments in all the departments filled. And a Democrat will be less ready than a Republican because all the policy positions in all the departments will be changing. It’s a stupid argument to make because we’d be most vulnerable during a transition that involves change of party. The Republicans could easily turn it around in the general election to appeal to those for whom security is the top issue.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *