Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Has Hillary Found Racial Code Words? Perhaps

When Dodger baseball executive Al Campanis said that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, field managers, or perhaps, a general manager," and that blacks are often poor swimmers "because they don't have the buoyancy," he was fired for making racist remarks.

When Sam Yorty called Tom Bradley a militant and said he was trying to benefit from a black bloc vote, he got himself reelected in 1969, but most people understood he was using racial code words.

The same thing with George Wallace when he defeated Albert Brewer in Alabama in 1970 after calling him a "sissy" for appealing to black voters. This was not exactly as blatant as, "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," but Alabama voters understood the racial pitch and narrowly reelected Wallace.

And I believe that when Hillary Clinton advertises that Barack Obama is not "ready" to confront a terrorist attack, she too is making a racial argument. Will Texans be taken in? We'll find out today.

The Clintons, determined to take back power, have been searching for some time for some argument that will take Obama down. One way or another, it was going to be racial.

In South Carolina, Bill Clinton said he thought a solid black vote for Obama would generate a white backlash against him. Later, he compared Obama's South Carolina victory to primaries won by Jesse Jackson. But this was a little too blatant and crass in 21st Century America, even the Deep South. Clinton was criticized, white votes for Obama increased in subsequent primaries, and Hillary was finally forced to rein her classless "Dog Patch" husband in, for once.

But she and her advertising flack, Mark Penn, the man who almost bankrupted the Clinton campaign by raking in millions of dollars of commissions and consultants fees, were still looking for something that would do Obama in.

And maybe they found it just three days before the Texas primary, when they launched the advertisement of a call arriving at the White House at 3 a.m. with perhaps word of terrorism and asking who Texans would be most comfortable with receiving such a call.

The ad wasn't used in Ohio, which is not a Southern state. But Texans, the Clintons, must have felt, would know what this meant, and be susceptible. (In Ohio, the Clintons, through surrogates, floated rumors that Obama might be Muslim, which he is not).

Today, we'll see if all this works. But in fact Obama peaked in the Texas polls and started going down in some of them after the ad appeared.

With some experience covering Southern politics, I immediately had a strong fear this subtle racism might work.

The same thing with the Clintons' focus on the word "experience," the subject of a Time magazine cover this week. After all, hadn't Time's pro-Clinton apologist, columnist Joe Klein, just suggested a couple of weeks back, that Obama wasn't as knowledgable as Hillary?

All that means the same thing that Campanis, Yorty and Wallace meant, in this case that a black man is not "ready, " or that politicians fair to blacks, are not "ready" to assume high positions.

Never mind that Obama is much brighter than Hillary, and, in fact, as Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation, has a great deal of experience, living internationally and community organizing, that Hillary can't touch.

This is what I termed "sleazy" the other day. This is what, down South, "white trash" means.

The Clintons got away a long time pretending they were friends of black people, until a black candidate began threatening their political futures. Then, with the help of their high-priced advertising hack, they began using the same arguments former Southern politicians had -- Orval Faubus in their own state, Wallace, Bilbo, Thurmond and Watson.

Will these tired arguments work again? We're going to find out today.


Kevin Roderick, in LA Observed this morning, reports that three Pulitzer Prize winners and many other prominent L.A. Times staffers, fearful of impending cutbacks at the stricken newspaper, have filed for buyouts, and that the destructive publisher, David Hiller, and his choice as new editor, Russ Stanton, will descend on the Washington bureau this week with a big hatchet.



Blogger Surfsister said...

At least someone (namely, you) is not afraid to call a spade a spade. No, I wasn't trying to make a bad pun. I'm a fan of neither Clinton nor Obama and I've watched this campaign as objectively as possible. I don't like what the Clintons are doing. There. I said it. Let the flame war begin!

I'm female and black, thus I'm as ready to take up the cause of women as I am of black folks. But I'm seeing many things I don't like or respect coming out of the Clinton camp. I'm sorry people feel the need to belittle you for simply calling it like you see it.

3/04/2008 1:57 PM  
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