22(4) Irish Voice, January 23, 2008
SENATOR Barack Obama's campaign may have made a fatal blunder by
focusing on alleged insensitive remarks by Senator Hillary Clinton
about Martin Luther King and whether President Lyndon Johnson
achieved more on civd rights.
As a Clinton supporter I was scratching my head wondering what on
earth was offensive about pointing out that without Johnson
providing the political muscle, King's extraordinary vision of
equality for African Americans would never have been realized.
For a week or so, however, the argument raged on the airwaves about
whether or not Clinton was deliberately sending a mixed message in
order to bring up Obama's race as a campaign issue.
I think the record of the Clintons stands for itself when it comes
to helping minorities, so much so that African American writer Toni
Morrison once memorably described Bill Clinton as the first black
Anyone who has witnessed either the former president or first lady
among black crowds will testify to the extraordinary affection and
goodwill there is towards them.
It is hard to twist that record into something approaching racism,
but that is precisely what the Obama people appeared to try to do
after Hillary's remarks, and other remarks by Bill questioning
Obama's record on the Iraq war.
The Obama camp made a basic mistake. The beauty of the Obama
candidacy was that he appeared to be a candidate who broke all the
moulds and was accessible across the racial and ethnic divides.
After the attacks on the Clintons we witnessed an immediate
polarizing in the polls, with blacks Socking to his side and Clinton
taking white and Latino votes. The Nevada caucuses showed that
Clinton is much more likely to benefit from such a scenario.
Politics ain't beanbag, and Obama has got to expect that he will
come under fire from the Clintons and John Edwards and anyone else
who does not want to see him become the Democratic nominee. Playing
the race card however, is not the way to combat the heat.
Obama is being helped to do so by a compliant media which makes no
attempt to disguise their affection for him and their distaste for
Allegations of intimidation by rank and file union members in Las
Vegas last weekend from union bosses who backed Obama were barely
investigated in the mainstream media. Imagine that happening if it
was Clinton that the Culinary Union had backed?
When I was in New Hampshire that final fateful weekend before
Clinton clawed back from certain defeat in the primary there, the
love affair between Obama and the media clouded the farter's
judgment to the extent that every one of the so-called "experts"
called it wrong.
Yet it was evident that the Clinton crowds were just as enthused as
the Obama ones and that Clinton, unlike Obama, was taking the time
to answer every question asked instead of delivering inspirational
remarks and taking no questions.
The Clintons will always seek to outwork, outthink and out maneuver
any presidential challenger, which is what appears to be happening
now with Obama.
You can take on the Clintons on policy and how they used power when
they were in the White House, but you cannot get away with hinting
they are racist.
The incident shows that the Illinois senator is woefully short of
real political experience. The notion that you require none, being
pushed by his campaign, is truly fantastical. Would you entrust
major surgery to a surgeon who had never done an operation?
Despite what you read in the newspapers, experience is act ually a
vital and needed commodity in politics. We see now that President
George W. Bush did not have enough, especially in foreign affairs
when he took over the Oval Office.
Obama has a Kumbaya message that we can all come together in perfect
harmony someday in the U.S. That plays well with many, but it the
kind of harmless sentiment that goes with naivety and inexperience.
Do you really expect that in Washington, D.C., where protagonists
use impeachment, personal attacks and foul tactics, will suddenly
become a kinder, gender place, taking cue from the Obama message?
Little wonder some of his opponents have taken to calling him Obambi.