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Ferraro Cries Reverse Racism

Comment

According to Geraldine Ferraro, Barack Obama is "lucky" to be black.

If he were not black, she believes, he would not be leading in the race for the Democratic nomination today.

Those 1,403 pledged delegates he has won so far? It's because he's black.

Those 13,278,372 popular votes he has received? Black.

The 30 or so contests he has won in states and territories? Black, black, black.

What a lucky guy.

Ferraro, who was part of Hillary Clinton's financial team until she stepped down Wednesday, does not see an America where racism exists, only reverse racism.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro told a California newspaper. "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."

After this set off the proverbial and predictable firestorm, Ferraro responded by saying: "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

Dumb, that's how that is.

Ferraro also said she is "absolutely not sorry" for what she said.

Ferraro, 72, was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1984, and if she said anything memorable then or in the years since, I can't remember it. But she seems intent on making up for lost time.

Asked for her reaction to Ferraro's comment, Clinton at first said, "Well, I don't agree with that, and I think it's important that we try to stay focused on issues that matter to the American people."

Race, apparently, is not an issue that matters to the American people.

Later, as the furor built, Clinton added, "I obviously disagree and reject the comments."

(Which is just shy of Clinton's gold standard of "reject and denounce," which is what she demanded of Obama regarding Louis Farrakhan's support. But wait a few days — Clinton might get there.)

Who cares what Ferraro says? Especially since, as Frank James of the Chicago Tribune points out, in 1988 Ferraro said the same thing about Jesse Jackson. "If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race," Ferraro said back then.

Some think Ferarro's comments may be tactical, however, especially with the Pennsylvania primary coming up in a few weeks, where Obama must do well in Philadelphia to have a chance.

"In a city with a history of racial tensions between working-class whites and African-Americans, I can hardly think of a better wedge issue for the Clinton campaign to use than this one — this notion that Obama has benefited from some sort of political affirmative action," Jake Tapper of ABC News wrote recently.

Obama's response to Ferraro's remarks was fairly mild.

"The quickest path to the presidency (is not), 'I want to be an African-American man named Barack Obama,'" he said.

And you can see why. Contrary to Ferraro's theory of the advantage of being black in American politics, African-Americans have a tough time getting slated to statewide office or higher, let alone winning.

In our history, there have been only two elected black governors. And since Reconstruction, only three elected black senators.

That does not seem to argue that being a black candidate is any huge advantage.

The race card has been played several times in this primary race so far, and usually to bad effect.

On Tuesday, The New York Times ran an off-the-wall op-ed piece by Harvard professor Orlando Patterson that claimed Clinton's "3 a.m. phone call" ad was not about Clinton protecting the nation from an outside threat, but that Obama is the threat — a threat to white society.

Patterson wrote that "the Clinton ad's central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger" — brought to mind "D.W. Griffith's 'Birth of a Nation,' the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society.

"The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat," Patterson wrote, adding, "In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within."

As I said, off the wall.

But Obama did not seek to exploit this when he did an interview with Chris Matthews on Tuesday. Obama could have used the tactic that Clinton used when she was asked if she had reason to believe that Obama was a Muslim and answered: "No. No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know."

Obama could have said that Clinton had no hidden racist message in the phone call ad "as far as I know."

But he did not. Instead, he said flatly, "You know, I'm not buying into the notion that race played a factor there."

Which means that, inevitably, somebody is going to accuse Obama of not being black enough. He gets it both ways.

He is just so darn lucky.

To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008, CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.



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