Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Flog Ferraro Because She Got It Right

Note: Updated a bit as the story developed today.

Geraldine Ferraro won't shut up. And that's probably a good thing.

In 1988, when asked if then-presidential candidate Jesse Jackson got softball questions because he was black, she took it a bit further, saying:
"If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."
Then just last week, she told the Daily Breeze, a South Bay daily in LA we lovingly call the Daily Sleaze,
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."
Let's understand that right. Obama has one thing to thank for his place as the front-runner for the Dem candidate for POTUS, his close encounter with the most important job in the world. Without it, the mobs would throng around him, and Hillary would have clinched the nomination three heartbeats after Iowa and New Hampshire.

And that is that he's a black man. Sort of. Half way.

Before you slam me and call me racist, read on. I understand that Ferraro's comment minimized Obama's accomplishments and pinned them on one factor -- race -- when actually much of his appeal has nothing to do with his race. In that regard, Ferraro's comment doesn't cut it. But there is a kernel of truth in what she said. She missed that kernel entirely, as did most radio commentators. But I didn't.

First, anyone with smarts and honesty needs to recognize that for some people, voting for Obama is all about race. You need not look any further than the results in Mississippi (95 percent of the black vote?!) or the blogstorm surrounding Ferraro's comments. To quote one of the more temperate examples:
So, being Black is now a CONCEPT.

A CONCEPT, People.

Well, she can CONCEPT this.

Did you even catch the word "concept" in Ferraro's quote? If you did, did it strike you as racist? Of course not; no more than "fairy tale." And that's why being black gives Obama three advantages, which I have not heard anyone lay out:
  • "America's first black president" captures the imagination much more than "America's first first-term Senator president" ever could.

  • It gives him a cushion, a usually subtle but sometimes quite evident protective field, discouraging tough questions.

  • And most importantly, it gives him the ""you're racist" defense for any tough challenge. Not said by him, mind you, but by leagues of people like the blogger above, who will circle the Obama campaign like a protective black cloud.
As the too-tough-talking Ferraro told the Breeze:
"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up."
I wrote about this last month, when the race was even more up in the air than it is now:
As the Dems are all too eager to tell us, this election is about change: We'll either have a black or a woman running from president -- and that changes everything for the GOP, setting up what will be the most difficult campaign to message in the GOP's history.

If Bill Clinton gets charged with using dirty, racial politics for calling an Obama position a "fairy tale," how in the world will serious questions be raised by McCain, old white guy that he is?
How indeed? The gal who ran for Veep just may have the answer:
"Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"
There's some serious victimhood going on there, especially given that Ferraro admits that she would not have been on Mondale's ticket if she were a man. Still, it takes some serious huevos to throw something so obvious and straightforward into the PC cesspool that is American public discourse today, and God bless Ferraro for not giving enough of a darn and just doing it. I would say it differently, however:
Asking questions of a political candidate, as I have, certainly is not racist. Attacking me because I asked questions of a candidate who is a black man most certainly is.
The McCain staff should be building a file of questions and statements about him that would be called racist or sexist if they were asked of Obama or Clinton, so when the question arises, the McCain team can answer it with their own question.

And call me racist or sexist, but the McCain team also should be considering a Veep who is not a white man. Like Sarah Palin, who, as Gov. of Alaska, has appeal far beyond bringing him a state he's already assured of getting and could care less about.

There's another thread that's worth exploring as we struggle to deal with the messaging challenge posed by either Obama or Clinton: Ronald Reagan earned his "Teflon" status, but Obama/Clinton is demanding that it be issued to him/her as standard equipment for black people/women.

Remembering Reagan in this manner will help not just with the rank and file of the party, but also with all the Reagan Democrats, who just might be looking a bit askance at their party's offerings.

By the way, if you want to read an excellent case history on the cushion being black provides, read Rhymes with Right's The Pittsburgh Airport Incident and ask yourself, how would this have turned out if Monique were white?

Finally, upon getting the news that Ferraro has resigned from Hillary's finance committee, Hugh Hewitt pointed out to his radio listeners that Ferraro's gone, but Eliot Spitzer's still in office -- which means bringing up the subject of race in America is a more heinous crime today than all that Spitzer is charged with.

Hmmm. He may have something there.

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