How fantastic it is that the Democrats have two electable presidential candidates in one year, a woman and an African-American, either of whom could make history. How typical of the Democrats that they’ll both tear each other down, alienating blacks and women, and allow a Republican with little policy empathy for either constituency to waltz into the White House. Maybe they shoulda stuck with Brain-dead White Males.
David Gibson writes: “How typical of the Democrats that they’ll both tear each other down …” I must have missed something. The Clinton political machine, true to form, is trying to tear Obama down. (Recall, for example, Bill’s dishonest campaigning against Paul Tsongas in the Florida primary in 1992, and his dishonest campaigning against Jerry Brown in the New York primary the same year.) But I haven’t noticed the Obama campaign trying to tear Hilary down. Disagreeing with her, yes, but not trying to tear her down. Matt Bai has a terrific piece in today’s Times about how the Clinton’s are endangering their legacy, here:
Really Eduardo, do you think you are appearing objective with such a lead?
My concern in these discusions is to combat misogyny as I see it. Covert or overt. But many of us are downright political. Or so it seems.
Both camps are using this race bait stuff. To argue for one camp or the other on this may indicate politicking for one’s candidate.
Apparently, a cease-fire has been declared on the race issue. I am glad, but I do find it weird that Obama was the one people were blaming because he called the LBJ comment “Unfortunate.”
Bill: I talked to a student today at Morgan State about the LBJ comment, and he admitted to doing a double-take the first time he heard about it. It was so far off, that he was not sure he had heard things correctly. He thought that Clinton had no business saying what she said. I confess that I trust this young black man’s radar on this issue more than that of the blogger you link (Ya gotta chuckle a bit when you look at that picture! Here is clearly a guy with his finger on the pulse of racial concerns in our country).
Eduardo: The Nevada lawsuit is disquieting, to put it mildly. If you happen to hear any further details on the matter, I for one, would be very grateful if you update us.
Once again, though, I am glad the candidates want to move beyond this.
Obama seems to have taken the high road, and I think his characterization is evidently the right one. Op-ed in today’s Washington Post by Joseph Califano lays out the history of the Civil Rights Acts of the early ’60s. Martin Luther King paid with his life, but it’s wrong to underestimate the political courage of LBJ. What president has shown anything like it since? Also, it’s wrong to dismiss how important MLK also thought it was to change the law.
As a Republican looking forward to President McCain’s inauguration, I am enjoying this all a bit too much … for what it’s worth, in my view the lady doth protest too much while Obama is more sinned against than sinning.
I think David Gibson is right on track in his conclusion.
A la Juan Williams on NPR this mornming, it’s clear that a skgnifican segment of the black community were upset by Hillary on this. And race does matter and is a major covert problem.
So the issue is really about unity leading to winning an election.
Suggestions here that Barack is taking the high road tend to resonate more because of his unity/hope appeal.
But, because isues of prejudice cut so deep (yes, for all you bloggers) it’s going to be difficult to get more than a superficial unity here.
P.S. (there’s a lesson for Church leaders here abour out fractured Roman and Anglican communities.)
How typical of the Democrats that they’ll both tear each other down, alienating blacks and women, and allow a Republican with little policy empathy for either constituency to waltz into the White House.
No way the civil rights legislation would have passed without LBJ. Kennedy could not get the votes. No one worked congress the way LBJ did. Johnson did note that democrats would lose the south for decades because of it. Which did happen.
Obama’s said, while rightly saying Hillary’s words were not racist, that her words indicate that Washington was more important than people. That interpretation is a matter of opinion. But that is ok. It was a political remark to make points just as Hillary’s original words were. So, Joe, your student’s remark can be just as political.
BTW, on the view today, one of the women referred to mean as idiots which is common among many women. If we are going to grow on this issue, those comments must stop, also.
It strikes me that each camp (African-Americans & women) are rallying to their own, at the expense of each other, who should be natural allies. I think the Clintons will get no benefit of any doubt, and probably don’t deserve it. But Obama and his allies haven’t been pure in this regard. So take your pick. The important thing to realize is that this is a dry-run for the general election. Be it Hillary or Barack, they will be subjected to the worst sort of insinuations, and some of it will stick.
Bill: Let me see if I understand you. When a white political candidate makes a claim that sure sounds like it is claiming LBJ to be a more important civil rights figure than MLK, any black person who takes offense at this is just being political in return? If that is what you are claiming, the implication of your claim seems to let white politicians off the hook and to suggest that black people could have no non-political grievances.
As for my student, of course his remarks could be political, but my point was that I was willing to go with his intrepretation of Clinton’s comments over that of a white guy who calls himself the Irish Trojan of Tennessee.
Hillary’s comments about LBJ and MLK certainly strike me as a gaffe, and although I can’t find a transcript to read them in context, they don’t even make a lot of sense to me. But I am not sure how to regard them in the context of the campaign. It is impossible for me to believe that Hillary Clinton deliberately set out to detract from the role of King as the American civil rights leader of the 20th century, give undue credit to LBJ, and offend black people. How in the world would that help her win the nomination? The black vote is very important to any Democrat. Why on earth would she deliberately slight Martin Luther King? To win the votes of those who remember LBJ with fondness? I think she said something very clumsy, but I don’t see how it can be called race baiting.
As for Bill Clinton’s “fairy tale” remarks (which I have read a complete transcript of), any fair reading of it is that Obama’s description of his position on Iraq being consistent over the years, and consistently better than Hillary’s, is a “fair tale.” There is nothing racial there in the least. Even if Bill Clinton had called Obama’s entire campaign a fairy tale (which he definitely didn’t), it would be difficult to make the case that there was anything racial in the criticism.
Hillary’s remark did in some way have “racial content,” so I can to a certain extend understand the fuss. But to claim that Bill’s remarks were “race baiting” or were in any way racially motivated is unsupported by the facts.
In any case, regrettable as it may be, isn’t this the kind of thing that always happens in political campaigns? If your opponent makes the slightest misstep, you jump on it and make as much out of it as you can. And if you make a gaffe yourself, you rarely acknowledge it as such, but rather you “clarify” what you meant.
I’d agree with David Nickol’s take. The Andrew Sullivan post and others don’t make much of a case, it seems to me. Rangel and Lewis and other Clinton pals have said stupid things. And what’s new?
Don’t make much of a case? Rangel’s comments invert the truth. And the cocaine comment–again, after the Johnson episode? Please. This isn’t simply a series of stupid sayings on unrelated subjects. We’re talking about intelligent people, shrewd politicians. Look who’s doing the talking here.
David and David: I think Sen. Clinton’s initial comment was not planned or calculated. However, her subsequent denial that it was a big deal was. Moreoever, sometimes the nonscripted reveals what people really think, and I think the possibility that even Sen. Clinton harbors condescending attitudes about someone like MLK is a legitimate concern for some who hear her words. Her denial that she had said anything wrong did little to clarify matters. I am glad, however, that Obama is trying to shut this issue down.
I have never indicated on this blog (or anywhere else) that I thought that Bill Clinton’s fairy tale comment was race baiting. A cheap and inaccurate shot, yes, but not race baiting. I think it is wrong, wrong, wrong, to say that Obama is race baiting when he criticizes the LBJ comment. Lewis has gone down a notch in my book. Rangel is just doing what one would expect Rangel to do, but I think it is rather transparent.
Just to clarify what I think Sen. Clinton should have done. She should have admitted that her effort to extend the “importance of the president” arguement, however legitimate initially, ran off the rails when she moved it into the civil rights arena. That is, she should have admitted that sometimes one can run too far with a point, and that she had done that with the LBJ/MLK comparison. She should then have said that it was not only a flawed argument, but one that produced a very unfortunate and unintended implication, one that she rejects entirely; namely, the implication that LBJ was somehow more important to the civil rights movement than MLK.
I think the public has more tolerance than some pundits and politicians think for someone who admits that sometimes they say wrong, stupid, or misleading things; especially someone who is in the intense but highly scrutinized world of leading presidential candidates.
I wonder how you interpret things. Both the white guy and the black guy are important and should be listened to. That was my point.
The stated theme of this thread is “Hillary’s apparent embrace of race-baiting and voter suppression.” The two main accusations against the Clintons are Bill’s “fairy tale” remarks and Hillary’s MLK/JFK remarks. If neither of those is race baiting (and I admit I am not sure what that means), then perhaps Eduardo should explain why he introduced the thread the way he did.
It may or may not be low to bring up Obama’s drug use when he was a teen, but it is not racist. (Not that you said it was, but racism is pretty much the theme of the thread.)
Bill: I think all perspectives are valuable, but on some issues, I do not think all perspectives are equally valuable. I seem to recall you making a similar claim regarding women’s issues.
David: I think race baiting was probably the wrong choice of words, since I think the notion requires either Obama trying to get people to vote for him just because he is black, or others seeking to get people to vote against Obama just because he is black. That is, race would be the bait to get someone to vote one way or the other.
David: I confess that I find the claim that references to Obama’s drug use are not racist to be a little naive. Although many whites use drugs, the drug trade is embedded in predominantly black communities in ways that it is not in predominantly white communities. The face of drugs in America is black, and the person who is perceived to bring violence and lower property rates to neighborhoods is the black man.
David, it is low. I’m sorry, there’s no question about it. It’s as low as repeating the madrassa canard, and bringing up Obama’s middle name–as Bob Kerrey did a few weeks ago. It’s as low as trying to slime Obama with Farrakhan’s sins, as Richard Cohen did in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/14/AR2008011402083.html). This is ugly stuff. And a pattern. Whether or not the repeated references to Obama’s admitted drug use as a young man are motivated by racism (and I’m not convinced they are), you don’t think they play into racist stereotypes?
I was happy to defer to the explanation in the discussions to which I linked in the post. But this is how I was reading the Clinton tactics in light of the commentary by people much more in the know than I am: not so much as making racist comments themselves — that would be too transparent, but as using their surrogates to goad Obama into raising the race issue. That is, to make a bunch of comments (not so much the “fairy tale” comment or the LBJ comment, but the “hip black friend” comment and the drug use comments) that come very close to the line and force race into the discussion, a development that, while it may help Obama in South Carolina, will probably (on balance) hurt Obama on Feb. 5. The quotes in Sullivan’s post support that story, in my mind, because they accuse Obama of playing the race card.
Perhaps even more problematic, and less ambiguous, is the voter suppression lawsuit by Hillary allies in Nevada, which, last time I checked, Hillary refused to condemn and which, in fact, she seemed to misconstrue.
Dirty pool, I think. The Clinton campaign is staffed with professionals, top to bottom. This sort of thing doesn’t happen by accident.
I think what has gone off the rails is that the Clintons did not make any of the race-baiting remarks now being attributed to them. Did some of their allies (many of them black) do so? Yep. And many of Obama’s allies have said pretty awful things. The Clinton Camp would seem to have a much higher tally at this point. But to say Hillary Clinton was race-baiting is using race in a more divisive way, to me, than it was ever used originally. Perhaps that is the Obama strategy. At least that is as good an argument as claiming that the the Clintons are orchestrating all of this in a vast white-wing conspriacy. See Peggy’s link to the Califano column above. I guess the question is, will anyone who runs against Obama have to prescind from any discussion of any issue affecting African-Americans? Or any criticism of the black community? That would be pretty sad, given that there is a chance that Obama still may not be elected.
David: I genuinely enjoy your posts to this blog, but I am really confused as to your reaction. It would help me if you could fill in a few details. First, what horrible things have the Obama people said? It is easy to say everyone is doing it, but some details would help to see the truth of the claim. Second, where has Obama made any suggestion that race issues are off the table? He himself has said the absence of fathers is a huge issue that the black community must face. You seem to be claiming at least three things, none of which strike me as correct: 1) Obama had no business calling the LBJ comment unfortunate; 2) Many black Americans had no business getting upset about it; 3) The fact that the LBJ comment caused a rucus proves that Obama is thin skinned on race. Have I misinterpreted your post?
I have no interest in defending Obama against bad policy positions, errors in judgment, or poorly chosen words, but I would at least like to know the details of what Obama is being charged with.
One unmentioned problem with the LBJ/MLK argument is that it seems to have fallen out such that Clinton is LBJ and Obama is MLK. Yet, to conclude thus would be to grant Clinton the argument. Of course King needed presidential leadership to accomplish what he did. Clinton’s suggestion, however, is that only she could deliver such leadership, and that is a claim for which I do not find adequate support.
Eduardo: I retract any suggestion that you misused race-baiting. You may have a more sophisticated grasp of what is going on. To be honest, however, I hope not.
“Clinton’s suggestion, however, is that only she could deliver such leadership, and that is a claim for which I do not find adequate support.”
Suggestion? At least you leave room for some doubt, Joe. What she said is that a president is needed also. Certainly she is one of the many people, along with King, who fought for civil rights.
David G, Bill, et. al: This thread is making my head hurt, but it is also making my heart ache. I think I am going to say a few Jesus prayers, throw in a few Ohm money hums, sigh once or twice, and take my nightly benadryl.
God is great. Presidential politics sucks.
Note for file: Pettit regular user of Benadryl. Antihistamine stance could alienate prohistamine voters.
David N: You are such a medicinist! :-)
I, like Robert, am experiencing a degree of schadenfreude over all this. The Dems have been living off of race and identity politics for 35 years and now it’s come to bite them in the rear. It’s all a little bit too much.
More to the point, doesn’t the whole thing strike you as kind of silly. They are arguing over events that happened when Obama was reading about the adventures of Curious George and Clinton was worrying about who would sign her yearbook. Who cares?!?
The Dems have been living off of race and identity politics for 35 years . . .
I seem to remember something called the “Southern Strategy,” which, since it was devised by Nixon in 1968, has yielded 28 years of Republican presidencies versus 12 years for Democrats. Don’t pretend the Republicans haven’t been engaging in racial politics.
That is not what I mean. I do not disagree that both parties have taken advantage of their strengths among different groups.
The differerence is that the Dems tell us we should vote for a woman because she is a woman or Latino because he is a Latino, and they focus on percentages and numbers as menaing progress. Moreover, they have promoted the tactic – seen recently in even on this blog – that political opposition is ipso facto based on misogyny or racism, and that every word written or spoken must be parsed to discover some racial or sex bias – remember the Biden “articulate” controversy.
It is ironic that the linked story measures this in “Hortons” – made famous by none other than now uber-Progressive Al Gore.
I thought you were wrong, so I checked Wikipedia, and according to them you are. Gore brought up the furlough program in a debate with Dukakis, but it was only after Dukakis was nominated that the Republicans picked up the issue and put Willi Horton’s face on it. There’s a big difference.
Exactly how was I worng? So the Republicans ran with it, but the issue was Gore’s. The only reason he didn’t run with it was that it didn’t catch on with primary voters who weren’t all that interested in crime. Is there a difference, maybe, but not a big one.
The whole idea that the Willie Horton episode was all about race has become something of a liberal article of faith, but not everyone agrees about that. That notoriously conservative rag the Washington Post ran this in an editorial at the time -
“The one serious question in this is whether the Bush campaign’s attacks on the furlough program that freed prisoner Willie Horton, sentenced to life-without-parole, are an appeal to racism. You can believe that the importance of this topic was greatly overstated and that the “lessons” drawn from it were demagogic and extravagantly sinister without accepting its use as the basis for a charge of racism against Mr. Bush. To begin with, the Bush campaign wasn’t the first to raise the furlough issue against Gov. Dukakis; Sen. Albert Gore was, in an April 1988 debate in New York. The Bush campaign has done some disgusting things in this campaign. But the facts are that Massachusetts is the only state that furloughed prisoners sentenced to life without parole, and that for 11 years Mr. Dukakis supported that policy and resisted attempts to end it. It may or may not be relevant to stress that, but it isn’t racist.”
Joe: My apologies for not responding sooner, and for my tone. I am frustrated (as I indicated in the initial comment) by the fact that two strong candidates, an African-American and a woman, are running and leading in the same campaign and it is dividing the party, and the two constituencies. I honestly do not see how Bill Clinton’s “Fairy tale” comment about Obama and Iraq was race-baiting, as it had nothing to do with race, and the protests against it seem to indicate that one cannot criticize Obama even on foreign policy. I also subscribe to the Califano POV about the LBJ line. Could it have been more sensitively-rendered? Sure. But Hillary is trying to stake out turf as an experienced politician who can get things done, like LBJ, and Barack is trying to take on the preacherly mantle of MLK. So he talks about hope, she talks about putting hope into practice, etc. One has to look good by tearing down the other, and who scores points tearing down MLK? If that’s what she was doing. It gets messy, and there no doubt is ugliness, and I have no illusions about what the Clintons will do to win.
It starts with Obama playing the angry outsider card about the caucus suit, and–I love this–he blasts his opponents for getting “the lawyers” involved! “Are we going to let a bunch of lawyers prevent us from making change in America?” he shouted. Rich coming from a Harvard law star. Hey, all fair. Hillary does it too.
But at the church, the pastor endorsed Obama (and I won’t get into the tax exemption issues, which are another matter) saying:
“If you can’t support your own, you’re never going to get anywhere. … I want to see this man in office.”
So vote for Obama because he’s black and you’re black. Understandable, but not terribly cool, in my book. And if Hillary had said such a thing…? I haven’t found any refutation or explanation from the Obama campaign, though there may have been one. Gloria Steinem says vote for women because we got the vote later than the blacks did. It’s all depressing. Perhaps I am just adding to it then, by commenting. I will let it go, with apologies. For the record, I would happily support either Clinton or Obama, and I go back and forth daily, hourly, with periodic dalliances with McCain, until I remember his war views, and I shudder.
I do want to address Sean H’s comment on identity politics–essentially the point David Brooks made the other day as he did his “faint praise” routine, complimenting Clinton and Obama before tearing them down.
Identity politics is juts a new label for an old game. Catholics did it for ages–vote for one of our own because it’s our turn–and some are still trying to do it. Evangelicals do it all the time, and enlist God in the fight, which is perhaps more unseemly. The entire Religious Right project, inlcuding Mike Huckabee, is about “identity politics”–getting “one of ours” in the White House. They got George Bush, and that may be the best warning shot about either an Obama or Clinton victory. It will be sweet, and then quickly disappointing, even if ultimately a “successful” presidency. A bit like Bill Clinton.
I see an enormous difference between making the furlough program an issue and running the Willi Horton ad. I would agree with the Washington Post that the “importance of this topic was greatly overstated and that the ‘lessons’ drawn from it were demagogic and extravagantly sinister,” and that the Bush campaign did some disgusting things in the campaign. If the Willi Horton ad was not outright racism, it was far closer to anything the Clinton campaign has been accused of so far.
But in any case, I did not bring up Willi Horton. I brought up the Southern Strategy. Here is my own quote from the Washington Post:
RNC Chief to Say It Was ‘Wrong’ to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes
By Mike Allen
Thursday, July 14, 2005; A04
It was called “the southern strategy,” started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue — on matters such as desegregation and busing — to appeal to white southern voters.
Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was “wrong.”
“By the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out,” Mehlman says in his prepared text. “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”
To say the Horton thing was primarily race based, you whould have to conclude that the Bush campaign would not have run the ad if Horton had been white. I don’t think that is the case. Even within the democract party, Dukakis’s opponents were accusing of him of being soft on crime – Do you really think they would have not taken advantage of this story just based on the color of the guy’s skin? I don’t deny that it may have pushed some people’s racial buttons, but does that mean it was racist? The Post didn’t think so.
This is what I think, although it is impossible to know. If Horton had been white and had looked nonthreatening and clean-cut, there would have been no ad. If he had been black and looked nonthreatening and clean-cut, there might have been an ad, because a great many white people find any black stranger threatening. But of course he was black and scary looking, which was the reason why the ad was so effective.
Did you notice this in the Wikipedia article?
According to one political writer, Horton never went by the name “Willie”; Atwater called him that “hoping to get more racial mileage”.
If true, I don’t see how you can deny an element of racism in the ad campaign.
The above should have been as follows, with the sentence beginning “If true” my comment, not a quote from Wikipedia.
According to one political writer, Horton never went by the name “Willie”; Atwater called him that “hoping to get more racial mileage”.
If true, I don’t see how you can deny an element of racism in the ad campaign.
At least you put “if true” in quotes. I have seen this before, and even think I have seen where it came from, but that source never said Horton “never went by” Willie, it just said the ads were the first place it was used. It was always “William” before – in news stories etc. I do know the Fournier family (whose son/brother Horton and his confederates stuffed in a trash can and let bleed to death) referred to him as Willie, and I have a hard time believing he went by William only – I know a lot of Bills and Wills, and even a couple of Billies and Willies, but not many Williams. So unless this “political writer” knows what he did “go by” I am not ready to conclude it was a racist ploy.
Check out this paragraph from an article written by Kathleen Hall Jamieson. It would be difficult to find a more impeccable source.
Although his given name is William, he calls himself William, court records cite him as William, a July 1988 Reader’s Digest article identifies him as William J. Horton, Jr., and press reports prior to the Republican ad and speech blitz name him “William,” the Bush campaign and its supporting PACs identified the furloughed convict as “Willie” Horton. Even the crusading anti-Dukakis newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its exposé on the furlough program consistently identifies Horton as William Horton or William Horton, Jr. When the Maryland man who was stabbed by the furloughed convict contacted the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, he too referred to Horton as William Horton. In his account of the attack in the PAC ad, however, that man, Clifford Barnes, instead identifies the convict as “Willie” Horton.