Bizarro Ex-Pres, the Race, and Race

Maybe I was wrong about Russert on Edwards. Maybe people are just “pointing to” really weird things now! It was stunning to hear Bill Clinton comparing Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson completely out of context, not because I don’t know that Clinton is a ruthless campaign attack dog, which he clearly has become, but whatever happened to media savvy? Didn’t it occur to him that this could backfire? (I’m not even going to bring up the question of poor taste…. This _is_ Bill Clinton we’re talking about).

Having said that, I have to say, it is becoming difficult to say ANYTHING critical about Obama without being accused of racism. He is a terrific candidate — whom I will probably vote for and I WILL vote for in November if he’s the Dems’ nominee — but is any reference to his “inexperience” really “code” for “black”?

He is relatively inexperienced. Of course Clinton is overplaying that card, given that she doesn’t have a ton of formal experience, either. But she does have more than he does. She has lots of sensitive international relationships and two solid terms in the Senate. She has a long history of corporate and legal experience (the kinds of private sector experience politicians regularly tout as relevant to public office — I’m not necessarily taking a position on this). Senator Obama’s record lacks similar depth. He doesn’t seem to have done any job for very long (except 7 years as state legislator, and even part of that time was spent running for Congress). That’s his state level experience. His _only_ national experience is his _current_ term in office, much of which he has spent focused on his presidential bid. It’s like he’s always campaigning for the next job. I’m not comparing the candidates’ motives. I’m sure Clinton’s eye was on the White House when she became a Senator, but she put in some solid work there before running for president. Tellingly, her ratings among her constituents in New York are extremely favorable. [The above links are to the summary of each candidate’s experience from Brian Lehrer on WNYC — he did a great series this week on the actual backgrounds of each Democratic candidate (Republicans are discussed next week).]

To attack his insubstantial record might miss the point (I love his retort from last summer: “Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had two of the longest resumes in Washington”). But to say he has little experience is certainly not a lie and certainly not irrelevant to the election. And in the name of all things sacred, please let’s not call it “racist.”

I should add, my point here is not to defend Clinton or her increasingly horrifying campaign. if I seem to defend her often, it’s mostly because the media hate her. I’m tired of people with control of the means of mass communication trying to “direct” the way I look at candidates. Some candidates, like McCain and Obama are adored by the media and get much less scrutiny for any weakneses they may have. But Clinton, even before all this ugly stuff happened, was hated.

Even the horse race is tracked as though a Clinton win is a personal (perhaps racist?) attack on Obama. Back in New Hampshire (can you believe it was less than a month ago?) people spoke of Clinton’s “surprise” victory as some kind of giveaway from white women or the operation of the “Bradley effect.” I don’t recall anyone once suggesting that perhaps the sudden poll surge for Obama was the distortion that happens right after a win (and let’s not forget that HIS win in Iowa was unexpected by earlier polls). I heard no instance of the very reasonable speculation that by the time people went to vote, perhaps many of them cooled down from the Iowa high and reconsidered their original candidate (which appeared to be Clinton by double digits only days before — another fact that nobody seemed to remember).

BUT: just because I sometimes want to point out the undue harshness she faces in the media doesn’t mean I’m not really sick of her husband’s antics. I’m guessing the voters in South Carolina were too.

What are you DOING, Hillary?? Are you going to let this guy mess up your life AGAIN???

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