I am all for a bruising primary season. I think they make for better, tougher, battle-tested candidates; and as we all know the opposition is highly unlikely to observe Marquis of Queensberry rules when we face them in the general election. However, its good to remember that after primaries we're all going to be on the same team, so you might want to cut back on the horse-collars and cut blocks.
Watching the campaign in the last few days I got the same sick feeling I got yesterday watching the Chargers upset the Colts-while losing their Starting quarterback, Superstar Running back and leading receiver-and now they get to face the only undefeated team in the NFL. (reached for comment after the game Coach Pyrrhus said "well we feel pretty good, after all a win is a win")
Specifically, I think Clinton is playing with fire by bringing up the race issue and it has to potential to burn both candidates badly:
I woke up today to this very misleading but powerful AP headline
Now to be fair to Obama, the proper headline to this article should have been "Clinton Surrogates attack Obama, then blame Obama when reporters print the dumbass things they said". But frankly the truth matters a lot less than the headline (a lot more eyeballs will hit the headline than the accompanying article--as any Kos Diarist knows) and this particular headline is deadly for two reasons:
- "Clinton-Obama Clash": Well, so much for the "upbeat, positive tone" of the Democratic primary campaign. In three little words that perception is destroyed, and instead the casual observer of politics can say "Yep, about what I expected..." and write them both off as typical politicians who will tear each other apart to climb the ladder. This does BOTH candidates a grave disservice frankly and allows the media to go back to their favored Jerry Springer/Horse Race style coverage of the elections. They would so much rather cover the nasty , he said/she said slapfight of a negative campaign, rather than have to actually look at Issues and policies as they were reluctantly being forced to by the lack of anything negative to report from the Dem's campaign trail
- Over the Race Issue : bad as the first three words of the (probably inevitable)headline were; , the last four words were far far worse, and potentially deadly to Dems, particularly if Obama become the eventual nominee: Over the " Race Issue". See? just like that there IS a "race issue" in this race. The triumph of Hope in Iowa, the hope of a color-insensitive American Electorate just frayed a little; and since it's a pretty fragile thread to start with, it can't take much of that. This is the THERE I'm begging Hillary not to go.
Make no mistake, she actually did go there:
Hillary Clinton had said King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Sorry, but message there was clear. Hillary was trying to cast Obama as a charismatic and inspiring speaker, but not a politician who gets things done. I get the analogy but besides being historically false (I think it is historical consensus by now that but for King in the streets and Marshall in the courts, Johnson could never have gotten the VRA and CRA passed.); there are very few ways of looking that statement that AREN'T insulting to Obama, King, and a whole host of other civil rights leaders.
If she'd stopped there and just issued a full-stop apology, I'd have had a lot of respect for her (hey, we all get carried away and her original point wasn't as malicious as it came out.)
Instead, in a shining example of why people hate the Clintons, she tried the classic Clinton two step:
- High minded denial, mixed with a concealed Jab at political enemies:
"This is an unfortunate story line the Obama campaign has pushed very successfully," the former first lady said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I don't think this campaign is about gender, and I sure hope it's not about race."
Well, we'll pretend that Hillary, HASN'T repeatedly traded on her gender so far in the campaign, And take her at her word. After all this race CANNOT be about race r gender if we hope to win it. But again notice the Trademark Clinton Ju-jitsu in Blaming Obama for making a racial thing out of her negative comment about the most Iconic Black American leader ever.
And that might have been almost credible if the very same day her campaign hadn't pulled this tired old tactic:
- Renewed attack coupled with adamant but ridiculous denial they said/did anything untoward :
But no sooner had Clinton said she hoped the campaign would not be about race than it got even more heated. A prominent black Clinton supporter, Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson, criticized Obama and seemed to refer to his acknowledged teenage drug use while introducing Clinton at her next event.
"To me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book — when they have been involved," Johnson said.
Obama wrote about his youthful drug use — marijuana, alcohol and sometimes cocaine — in his memoir, "Dreams from My Father
So while you are trying not to make Race an issue, you roll out your biggest possible gun in the African American community to criticize Obama on racial issues. Gotcha. And in that maddening way that the Clintons have; they then denied the attack ever happened the minute they saw it going over like a lead balloon:
Johnson later said in a statement released by the Clinton campaign that his comments referred to Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago "and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."
Begging your pardon MS. Clinton and Mr. Johnson--but, bullshit. That's not only a bald-faced lie, but its not even a good one, and frankly, I'm insulted that you think I'm stupid enough to swallow it. This is on the level of "who you gonna believe baby, Me? or your own lying eyes?"
Plug in the words "working tirelessly as a community organizer to help draw attention to social needs of impoverished blacks" to Mr. Johnson's quote above. Does it even make sense? Of course it doesn't. But as We've so often heard from both Clintons when caught in uncomfortable situations-"that's their story a they're sticking to it"
Okay , I can hear you say: "so Hillary's doing some hard checking on Obama and using black surrogates, so what?"
Well the What in this case is the response it is forcing from Obama and his camp, which is to acknowledge race and accept that is it is or should be an issue:
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Obama's wife rose to his defense over Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" comment. Michelle Obama said some blacks might be skeptical that white America will elect her husband, but advised them to look to his win in Iowa.
"Ain't no black people in Iowa," she said during a speech at the Trumpet Awards, an event celebrating black achievement. "Something big, something new is happening. Let's build the future we all know is possible. Let's show our kids that America is ready for Barack Obama right now."
"Ain't no black people in Iowa", sigh. To me the story line from Iowa should be the miracle that after 7 years of being brutalized by their government, people are still willing to discard cynicism and vote for hope. It should NOT be the "Miracle" that them down home, rural white folk threw the lever for a brother from the big city. THAT should be an utterly unremarkable side fact, no more noteworthy than the fact that largely christian Iowans voted for Romney who is a Mormon. Romeny has done a VERY good job defusing the religion issue, even while running against an actual evangelical minister. And up unitl now Obama has done an equally good job running as an "American" not a "-American" and that is utterly critical to his, and likely our, chances of success in November
Here is the brutal facts: if Obama is "the Black Candidate" and perceived only as the champion "black" causes, he could well win the nomination, as, but he WILL lose the general election. Call it latent racism, or appealing to a too narrow demographic, but there is no way to win if you are seen as the exclusive candidate of 10% of the population. You cannot embrace one race, gender, or relgion, without alienating all the others to some degree.
And here's the thing: There is no Republican who can do this to him. Should they even try it, the GOP's deplorable record on race relations would cause such an almighty backlash that it would unquestionably sink the candidate foolish enough to bring it up. To the republicans this is a radioactive issue. So only Hillary, wife of "America’s first black president" can damage Obama this way. And this is why I’m here and now begging her not to.
Please Hillary, you might well win the nomination; and if you do, I will hold my nose, muck in and do everything I can to get you elected. BUT you might not win, by now you must have accepted the possibility exists. So PLEASE don’t leave all you rival and our other best hope of winning in November so badly damaged that we hand the election to the Republicans one more time. There really are some prices that your conscience and the nation cannot afford to pay for your ambition