Friday, March 14, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton

Geraldine Ferraro made some comments about Barack Obama that offended some folks, including Keith Olbermann.

Here is Ferraro defending her comments on CBS. She is pretty convinced that she has done nothing wrong. But later in the day she resigned her honorary post in the Clinton campaign.

Here are Olbermann's comments, which are pretty strident, but then, that's what he is known for now.

And, surprisingly, Clinton has apologized for the comments and the uproar created by Ferraro. Maybe it's not so surprising -- Clinton can't afford any negative press.

Here are some of Clinton's comments:

Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton supporter and fundraiser Geraldine Ferraro gave up her honorary position with Clinton's campaign after she said in an interview last week that Obama would not have made it this far if he were white. Obama said Ferraro's remarks were "ridiculous" and "wrong-headed."

Of Ferraro's comment, Hillary Clinton told her audience: "I certainly do repudiate it and I regret deeply that it was said. Obviously she doesn't speak for the campaign, she doesn't speak for any of my positions, and she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee."

As first lady and senator, Clinton rarely cedes an inch to her critics. On the issue of her vote to authorize the Iraq war, for instance, she steadfastly has refused to apologize, coming close by saying she regrets it, despite calls from many anti-war voters in the party to make a more explicit mea culpa.

So, what do you think? Was Ferraro out of line for suggesting that part of Obama's appeal is that he is a black candidate with a serious shot at the White House? Furthermore, why not also contend that Hillary would not be where she is if she were not a woman? Would a male candidate with her views (and personality) have made it this far?

In my view, it's unfortunate that any discussion of race and gender is off-limits. We can never change the embedded prejudices in this country if we cannot openly discuss them. Maybe Ferraro went about it all wrong, but she raised a real premise that may be a partial truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would agree it would be unfortunate that "any discussion of race and gender were off limits", except it's not. On the contrary, while this election has had dismayingly little discussion of substance about anything at all (including race and gender), to the extent that anything at all has been discussed -- superficially, vacuously, vapidly, exhaustively -- race and gender have pretty much dominated.

The problem with Ferraro's remarks wasn't simply that she was wrong. To paraphrase what she said as "part of Obama's appeal is that he is a black candidate with a serious shot" is to remove its sting entirely: she said he wouldn't be where he is if he weren't black. Sure, this is highly debatable (why wouldn't a white guy with a similar record, talents, and temperament, making the same appeal, be where he is?). But more importantly, it can't be demonstrated either way. It's a complete hypothetical, and thus hardly substantive. Its only substance is in its attitude.

So, what "premise" did she raise? That it makes a difference what race or gender someone is? Tell me something new, please? Rather, I think she's saying that he's no one special apart from the "luck" of being black (snort). As if such "luck" (being in the right place at the right time to be picked by the right people) wasn't the major factor in anyone's place on a national ticket. Without such luck, who would our current President be? Who would Geraldine Ferraro be? And while she herself admits the latter fact ("if I had been named 'Gerald'" etc.), she apparently makes no effort to understand who she's trying to bring down to her own level.

After all, the only political patrons who have chosen him are the voters themselves.

BTW, like the blog.