Lucky Us

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by Rich Broderick, 3/15/08 • Thank goodness, Geraldine Ferraro has cleared things up for us! Not only were her comments about how lucky Barak Obama is to be a black man running for President not racist, but criticism of her comments are an example of reverse racism aimed at her solely because she is a white woman. So there we have it. Geraldine Ferraro, part of a long line of martyred American white women.

I’m referring, naturally, to the more than 3,000 white women lynched in the South and elsewhere between 1890 and 1930, the young white woman savagely beaten to death by Ku Klux Klan thugs in 1955 for daring to whistle at a young black man, the generations of white women forced to attend sub-standard segregated schools or grow up in bleak, crime-ridden ghettos, and the literally hundreds of thousands of white women currently languishing in American prisons for a host of non-violent drug related offenses. With one out of every three white women in this country either in jail, on probation or headed to jail it’s amazing there are any white families intact anymore.

Now, while I don’t wish to minimize the gender inequality that continues to exist in this country today nor the violence toward women – of all ethnicities – that is far too common in America, I do have a serious point to make here. To wit, what the Ferraro controversy reinforces is the idea that in order to understand Hillary Clinton’s campaign we need to think of the word “projection.”

Just like the Bush team, which attributes to its enemies every twisted impulse and evil thought lurking in the dark dank recesses of its own soul, the Clinton team likes to hang its opponents for the very offenses committed or contemplated by the Clintonistas. Thus, Obama, not Clinton, is guilty of distorting his opponent’s record, of lying about or exaggerating his experience and the history of his opposition to the war, of introducing race into the election and of trying to figure out ways of disenfranchising voters.

In short, all the things the Clinton team is up to.

A great example of this kind of projection is the oft-repeated charge by Hillary Clinton and her surrogates that the Obama campaign is guilty of employing strategies “right out of the Rove playbook.” The first page of that playbook calls for attacking your opponent’s strengths and turning them into a weakness. John Kerry a decorated war hero? Let’s unleash a campaign leveling spurious charges that he wasn’t really wounded in combat. Not really, anyway. Obama trying to run a campaign that does not focus on race? Let’s accuse him of injecting race into the campaign even while we’re busy pointing out how “lucky” he is to be a black man.

Look, despite the spin machine’s efforts to make it seem so, Geraldine Ferrara is no loose cannon. She was a carefully placed IED timed to go off by the Clinton camp for maximum effect — to take attention away from Obama’s nearly 2-to-1 margin in Mississippi, a state that ran a primary, not a caucus. Technically, there is a way in which what she said is true. If Obama were not a black male, he might not be where he is today. Of course, that he is a black male is part of what is potentially redemptive about his candidacy. Here at last is an opportunity for America to begin to transcend its racist past. For the first time in our history, we have a black-American who is a truly credible candidate for President.

But rather than honor that moment, the Clinton camp, in true Rovian fashion, is trying to turn it into something icky and evil-smelling. How? By working overtime to turn Obama into nothing _more_ than a black candidate – and therefore doomed to defeat. By turning his hope-driven call for America to come together into the candidacy of just another black protest candidate – Obama as Jesse Jackson without the sex scandals, Al Sharpton without the marcelled hair-do.

But here’s where the most egregious projection comes in. Yes, Barak Obama might be where he is in part of because of his race. On the other hand, no one has handed him anything. He is the offspring of a broken home, burdened with an alien name and raised for several years in a Muslim country. He has come up the hard way – the product of a personal history far more challenging than anything Hillary Clinton has ever faced. Rather than serving on the board of Wal-Mart or hiring a political consultant who made his fortune helping corporations bust unions or using his Senatorial powers to help a notorious corporate outsourcing firm open an office in Buffalo, Obama went from being the head of the Harvard Law Review to a community organizer in the mean streets of Chicago.

Meanwhile, as I’ve written previously, there is no alternative reality in which Clinton would be a credible candidate for President this year – perhaps any year – if it were not for the fact that she is married to Bill Clinton. Remove that piece of biography and she is the junior Senator from New York – a political neophyte with a very mixed record in her time in office. Thirty-five years of experience in public service? What does that mean – that as an undergraduate, she was a “public servant?” Helped negotiate peace in Northern Ireland and Bosnia? The only reason she was anywhere near those places was in her role as First Lady. End of story.

So, is Barak Obama the beneficiary of some strange kind of luck? Maybe. Is Hillary Clinton the beneficiary not just of luck but of nepotism and entitlement. Absolutely.

And because, as George Bush has reminded us, the way a person campaigns is the way he or she will govern, that’s bad luck for all of us.

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