Race Matters

Monday, January 14, 2008

Daily News columnist Errol Louis and Politico senior political writer Ben Smith look at how racial politics will impact the presidential race.


Errol Louis and Ben Smith

Comments [36]

tony t

With all the clinton bashing that is going on, I can feel that every woman,mother sisters,wives that were marginalized and given less than the respect they deserve at home or at work will see to it that their voices will be heard. and all the people that the non racial statements made by the the clintons themselves that the Obama camp and the media had tried to twist into a racial issue will backfire on the Obama camp.I for one will stand with the people who stood with me for the last 20 years than with Obama,he compares himself to MLK after 2 unenventful years in the senate. Mr Obama, you were not attacks ,jailed or shot for your ideas,YOUR NO MLK.

Jan. 15 2008 09:49 AM
Judith from New Jersey

I enjoy the BL show and the level of discourse, but I was very disappointed in the guests discussing this topic.

I understood what Hillary meant about LBJ - as did many of the people commenting on this page. As a professional woman working with all male colleagues, I'm not surprised the guests did not see the nuances and complexity of the statement. I also understood her (much vilified) comment in the debate about NY drivers licenses & illegal aliens (I disagreed with the governor, but I saw the point - and clarity - of Hillary's argument. )

Solutions are not sound bites. Solutions are not simple. History is not simple. Give the woman a break! This is NPR not a tabloid.

Jan. 14 2008 06:42 PM
jsu from new York

What is amazing after reading all these comments is that a major point is missing. Clinton is trying to create a false dicotomy. That is that Obama should be either an activist or a president. Why can't he be both. With his inspiring and motivating words he could mobilize the nation. He could be the president that not only inspires a nation but gets the legislative job done as well. He has appeal with not only democrats but republicans and independants as well. He could motivate our country out of this partisan funk. Remind us we are americans. She is just trying to say she is the only politician that can do the job, as if. She is just part of the old way of doing things. She will keep the country polarized as demonstrated by her actions. If we want to take back our country and bust up this partisan nonesense, we will need a leader with a different point of reference. Using what we have in common as a point of building instead of what deals can be struck behind closed doors. This is why we need Obama. I am amazed that she and Bill seem to have a sense of entitlement to be first family again. Maybe its their wish to rebuild a tranished legacy. Which of course is silly since they can rebuild it in so many other ways.

Jan. 14 2008 06:32 PM
Jessica from London UK (but really a New Yorker)

Can you please please do a followup on the comment that was made on this show about the Clinton campaign (supposedly) sending out fliers that Obama is not a reliable pro-choice candidate?

I keep hearing about this story but have been unable to ascertain whether or not Obama would be a strong advocate of reproductive rights or not.

If not, then this might make it easier for him to gain support of Republicans/conservatives in the general election. It would also make the fact that younger women seem to support Obama over Clinton more complex and interesting. Although as a younger woman myself, this would be a deal breaker that would make it impossible for me to vote for Obama.

On the other hand, if Obama is pro-choice, this would count as a mean scare tactic by the Clinton campaign and would count as a kind of gender-based scare-mongering.

I think this would make a good segment for the show and would love to find out more.

Jan. 14 2008 05:55 PM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Chestine, #27--that scenario is chilling. I'm getting chills writing about it.

I've often thought how different our nation would be if MLK had lived to be a powerful social gadfly (when he was killed he was working to improve the economic rights of, iirc, garbage workers--the bidness interests didn't find that aspect of his work that, uh, appealing.)

I've thought how different our country would be if RFK had not been assassinated and had run for president.

I've thought about a less iconic JFK living into old age and his effects on this nation. Would RFK have become as socially aware as he did?

All what if's. Thanks for your observation.

Jan. 14 2008 11:34 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Re: #16 by John--Fairy tale and witch? Didn't Obama take part in a SNL sketch which clearly connected Hillary with "witch"?

I was extemely uncomfortable during that whole witch/bitch skit on SNL.

Jan. 14 2008 11:24 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

John, #16--Do you see the beauty of the Magic Ellipses? Take away context, and a statement can be used to mean anything the user of the truncated quote chooses it to mean.

It's magic!

Jan. 14 2008 11:22 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

ab, #18--Oh, do I agree with your cease and desist wish!

This whole mess is a Karl Rove wet dream. He's been searching for a way to create a wedge within the Democratic Pary, to chip off black support. Looks like he's got something he can really work with here.

Jan. 14 2008 11:20 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

The MCM tries to work in false dichotomies, stark either-or's.

It's change OR experience. It's invade Iraq OR a mushroom cloud in this country (Bush and his people are also extremely fond of the false dichotomy).

What's wrong with change WITH experience?

(Bush also promised change--and, boy oh boy, did we get change! He just didn't really specify, other than tax cuts, what his changes would be. Maybe it is important to know what a politician wanting the most powerful office in the nation plans to do, states what he or she will do. And, look at past actions as well.)

Note: Hillary is not my candidate in this race at this time. But I am so angry at how she is being treated by the press, I'm actually becoming more sympathetic toward her. It is so galling that the MCMers don't do ISSUES! The love the horse race and they have their narratives. Facts, difficult stuff like learning what pols will do in office, reality? Not so much fun!

Jan. 14 2008 11:18 AM
chestine from NY

Imagine if MLK had been killed without having first convinced LBJ to act - through his amazing leadership of so many throngs of courageous people - imagine how totally devastating that would have been to my entire generation and all minorities about the meaning and possibility of America. The next generations might never have even known about those dreams.

Jan. 14 2008 11:17 AM
David from Bridgeport, CT

Hillary Clinton and her campaign team are the ones that are trying to make race an issue of her campaign. As your guests confirmed, Senator Obama and his campaign have said very little in regard to race. When he Senator Obama criticized Hillary Clinton's remarks about LBJ and MLK, he did not criticize them on racial terms, only that her point was wrong. Senator Obama did not criticize Bill Clinton for using the fairly tale construct. Senator Obama instead criticized Bill Clinton for distorting his record.

Please make it clear who is trying to polarize the voters with their tactics.

Jan. 14 2008 11:15 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

BTW, re: Comment 1 from Spence Halperin--Hillary tried to say something a bit more complex than a soundbite--which nowadays is always dangerous for a politician.

Today's members of the Mainstream Corporate Media (MCM) tend to deal in soundbites, often of their own creation through the use of Magic Ellipses. Leave out enough words and anyone's statement can be twisted and used against that person. The MCMers tend to use only what supports their "narrative" of an issue or political race. See for more on this (like the best explication on the web of what the MCM did to Al Gore.)

Commenter 4, Iphie, did what Brian and his staff ought to have done, given the complete quote. If there wasn't sufficient time to do it during the segment, he could have posted it here. There's no space limti that I'm aware of with the pixels.

Jan. 14 2008 11:11 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Would LBJ have gotten the bill through Congress without JFK's death and his political muscle? Well, for starters, he wouldn't have been president, and then most historians do credit him with both the clout and the courage. Without the immense desire to honor JFK, would Congress have agreed with LBJ, even with his political skills? I don't know. Historians may have addressed this, but I do not know.

We don't have to say MLK's legacy is lessened by saying LBJ's political courage and strength mattered immensely in this matter.

And honoring MLK's courage and ability to move people doesn't have to denigrate the accomplishment of politicians in the political arena.

Both were needed.

Jan. 14 2008 11:05 AM
jawbone from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

I don't believe Hillary said MLK wasn't as important as LBJ--I mean, LBJ muscled the civil rights legislation through a Congress with plenty of Southern Dems who did not support it. He would not have done this without the work of MLK, the movement he took to incredible strength, and, possibly, without the death of JFK.

There is some question as to whether JFK could have gotten the legislation, which he introduced, passed. The powerful combination of MLK's leadership(A), JFK's introduction of civil rights legislation plus the shock and sympathy for JFK's assassination (B), and LBJ's decision to use his immense clout with Congress to push through something he felt needed to done (C)--and which he saw as putting his party out of contention in the South--that's some pretty strong political courage. Could there have been this landmark legislation with the combination of A, B, and C?

Would JFK have introduced the legislation without pressure from MLK? I don't know.

Jan. 14 2008 11:03 AM

comment #11

I think it's a bit extreme to say with certainty that MLK would have "failed" if LBJ had not done what he did but it's clear that we can recognize that Lincoln and LBJ are the two Presidents who implemented changes that helped blacks the most...recognizing this fact however in no way diminishes what MLK did...obviously without the civil rights movement there would have been no's not a one or the other story can acknowledge what LBJ did without diminishing MLK's legacy

Jan. 14 2008 11:02 AM
daniel stern from Montclair NJ

I am a very concerned democratis voter. I would be for either candidate Hilary or Barack. But, Clintons strategy can divide the party...........

Jan. 14 2008 10:58 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

ab, you've crystallized my view on this subject precisely.

Jan. 14 2008 10:58 AM
eric from jersey city

in general agreement with comment #1.

seems to me that clinton's intended point was that realizing a vision requires a different (or additional) skill set than articulatiing a vision.

the question this raises for me is whether her communication skills are strong enough.

communication is an important aspect of the presidency. a president needs to be consistently able to make important points without putting her foot in it even when those points are subtle or complex.

Jan. 14 2008 10:57 AM

You know, I've been more of an Obama supporter than Hillary...I feel that Hillary panders too much and veers right when it is politically convenient to do so

That said...this seems a bit ridiculous to me. I disagree (as a person of color) wholeheartedly with comment #5. Reading Hillary's whole statement (thank you Iphie) I think it's pretty clear Clinton's point is NOT that it "could only be done by a white man". That's just a ridiculous interpretation which the media quite frankly is is not what she was saying.

I think BOTH of them need to cease and desist this nonsense. I do think there is a tone coming from the Clinton campaign that is a bit disturbing but let's not credit them with saying things they didn't say by doing the usually thing of taking an out of context soundbite and twisting it around.

They need to stop this, it makes them BOTH look bad in my opinion.

Jan. 14 2008 10:56 AM
Stan Rusin from Nazareth PA

Cuomo's use of the S---- & J--- word may have a racial connotation, but cocaine does not. If the Clinton people had said "crack", that would have been different.

Fairy tale is not racially weighted against African Americans. Perhaps if Obama had used the term to describe Clinton it would have associated Clinton with the wicked witch.

Jan. 14 2008 10:55 AM
John from Brooklyn

The more objectionable thing that Bill Clinton said was to call Obama a "kid," which -- leaving aside the fact that Obama is a U.S. Senator -- is tantamount to calling him a "boy."

As for "fairy tale," Bill Clinton said that "THIS WHOLE THING is the biggest fairy tale."

"Whole thing" cuts two ways -- both Obama's Iraq record AND his larger message.

Jan. 14 2008 10:55 AM
chestine from NY

Don't forget the press's role in conveying the generalized interpretation of "fairy tale"

Jan. 14 2008 10:53 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

This is all media spin!

Jan. 14 2008 10:52 AM
Nicholas Wolfson from New York

Ms. Clinton is making the point that socio-political movements in the USA depend for their success both on activism (MLK) and a legislative process (LBJ). She's saying MLK was GREAT and that the legislative process validated his greatness. She's also saying that to get the job done, you have to be both a great activist and a great legislative player. I.e. You've got to vote for Hillary (who has both) and not for Obama (who has only one).

Jan. 14 2008 10:51 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Post 5: I think that is absolute crap. She used the word "Dream" because Dr. King is known for his famous and inspiring "I Have a Dream" speech. She said quite clearly that his efforts BEGAN to be realized with the Civil Rights Act. She didn't say it was the end of the road or that the battle was over once the white man stepped in.

Jan. 14 2008 10:51 AM
Adam Fox from Long Island

Hillary was correct. Had LBJ not championed and signed the Civil Rights Act, MLK would have failed. The entire point of MLK's work was to get the goverment to realize the equality promised in the US Constitution. It is astounding that any surviving Civil Rights leaders would now try to suggest that their immediate goals were anything other than getting government support and action. It is the very goal of civil disobedience as espoused and developed by both MK Ghandi and ML King! It ultimately does take a President to sign a bill and ensure that the law is enforced. How can the Obama campaign take issue with this?

Jan. 14 2008 10:50 AM
chestine from NY

Bill Clinton's remarks sounded not like an attack but a defense!

Jan. 14 2008 10:50 AM
LAURA from Westchester

Here we go again. The media latches on to a mis-spoken comment and now we're going obsess on it. Sounds a bit like all the "talk" before the New Hampshire primary.

Come on -- these candidates are human. They can make mistakes of language just like radio, TV talk show hosts and even reporters.

Let's get back to the real issues that voters need to focus on to make an intelligent decision about who the next President of the US should be.

Jan. 14 2008 10:50 AM
Kathy Troyer from Ramsey, NJ

Clinton is a policy wonk. She was simply making the point that to be meaningful, social activism alone doesn't cut it. You need social policy, you need activism enshrined in law. If Obama doesn't believe that, he shouldn't be running for President. He should remain outside the political system and remain a social activist.

Jan. 14 2008 10:50 AM
Nicholas Wolfson from New York - Manhattan (175 West 79th St. NYC 10024)

GREAT and that the legislative process validated his greatness. Both are important. She's also saying that to get the job done, you have to be both a great activist and a great legislative player. I.e. You've got to vote for Hillary (who has both) and not for Obama (who has only one).

Jan. 14 2008 10:48 AM
Pat Zumhagen from New York

Just to clarify . . . Clinton was making a point about talk vs. action in comparing Obama with MLK. It had nothing to do with race . . . it had to do with Obama being a great orator but our needing more than oration to make change. . .for example, though MLK was also a great orator (now being invoked by Obama) he couldn't get things changed without action . . .which LBJ could do-- and she is running on action not words.

Jan. 14 2008 10:47 AM
Cheryl from New York City

The Clintons showed a great deal of arrogance in their comments. The steath message with the King/Obama comparison is that black men can dream, but it takes white people to make it reality. It's condescending to blacks and the ugly side of the Clintons' ambition is starting to show.

Jan. 14 2008 10:47 AM


Re: Hillary's quote about MLK, if you are going to 'unpack this' as far down as you can, you really ought to read the entire quote -- it does change the tone of what she said. That you would read only a portion (of a very short quote) further muddies the issue.

Full quote:

"I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the President before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became a real in people's lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished."

Couldn't take that much longer to read the whole thing.

Jan. 14 2008 10:46 AM
Nicholas Wolfson from New York - Manhattan (175 West 79th St. NYC 10024)

I think Ms. Clinton attempted to make the point that socio-political movements depend for their success both on activism (MLK) and a legislative process (LBJ). She's saying MLK was GREAT

Jan. 14 2008 10:46 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I think the Obama campaign made a big mistake attacking Hillary on her comment about LBJ. They were really twisting her words and all it will do is alienate white voters. The simple truth is that MLK was very important in the civil rights movement and bringing the cause to the forefront of people's minds. But he couldn't pass a law. Legislators and the President had to do that. Period.

Nothing she said played down MLK's role.

That said, the fact that Hillary has been demanding an apology really steams me though. This has just become such a culture of apology. She should've just clarified her position or disputed his accusations and moved on.

Jan. 14 2008 10:44 AM
Spence Halperin from Manhattan

I am not a Clinton supporter, but I think Hillary made the big error of trying to communicate a complex idea using a sound bite. The idea that she was trying to convey is that activists need to partner with politicians in order to implement their agendas -- which is exactly was Dr. King did.

She was making a good and valid point, completely supportable, but tried to shorthand it.

Jan. 14 2008 10:42 AM

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