While I support Senator Obama, I have steadfastly defended your candidacy and told anyone who wanted to know (and more who didn't) that you would make a fine president and that I had no problem voting for you enthusiastically in November. When my son sent me Frank Rich's column calling you out for race baiting, I told him that Rich was over the top. But, Geraldine Ferraro's comment about Senator Obama has forced me to change my mind: Once again, your response to the provocative racial remarks by a surrogate has been tepid and unsatisfactory.
There's an unsettling pattern here. A member of your campaign makes a pointed remark about race, which you disingenuously turn aside without really condemning it. (Compare this to Senator Obama's denunciation of Louis Farrakhan in a far less inflammatory context.) It's not the content of any particular incident that bothers me, it's the accumulation of them. Together, they take on the cloak of a vile, cheap tactic to isolate Senator Obama by appealing to racial fears and attitudes.
You and your supporters deny this, of course. As for me, I only know what I read:
- Your pollster Sergio Blendixen told The New Yorker that Hispanic voters did not tend to support black candidates. You defended this statement as a historical reality when in fact it is not, as Gregory Rodriguez pointed out. A politician as knowledgeable and experienced as you must have known this; Blendixen's comment (unchallenged by either The New Yorker or the MSM) now comes across as a coarse attempt to drive a wedge between the two constituencies.
- Billy Shaheen, your New Hampshire campaign chairman, raised Senator Obama's "drug use" as a young man, hinting darkly that Obama may have sold drugs. Despite this allegation having no basis whatsoever in fact, your campaign kept it alive for nearly a week. And although you obtained Shaheen's resignation, his raising of the matter appears to be part of a high-level campaign strategy.
- During the South Carolina primary, President Clinton belittled Senator Obama's campaign (and by extension, his supporters) as relying on the black vote and later dismissed the senator as "the black candidate."
- Matt Drudge claimed to have obtained the infamous picture of Senator Obama wearing Somali ceremonial dress from "Clinton staffers." Even considering the source -- especially considering the source -- your campaign's "denial" was insincere and defensive, and had plausible deniability written all over it. Your response to a question during the Texas debate did nothing to alter this impression.
- Most recently, of course, you barely responded to Geraldine Ferraro's ridiculous assertion that Senator Obama occupies his current position as front-runner for the Democratic party presidential nomination because of his race.
It's ridiculous, Senator Clinton, because Senator Obama owes his position to a superior campaign plan, a superior rhetorical strategy, and because he is a superior politician. To what extent does his race play a role? I don't know and neither do you or Geraldine Ferraro. Racial dynamics are subtle and elusive, something two experienced and intelligent New York politicians surely recognize. That Ms. Ferraro reduced this to the kind of language that exploits the resentments of the so-called reverse discrimination, anti-affirmative crowd is worse than ridiculous: It's despicable. That you responded no more strongly than with a vague and smarmy reference to "regrettable" behavior by "supporters...on both sides" is equally despicable.
Senator, the discussion should be about the implications of Admiral Fallon's retirement, the mortgage crisis, health care, and the state of the economy. You should be working to keep the Iraq war on the front pages instead of helping to push it to the back.
The list above is long and depressing. If by some political miracle you become the party's nominee for president, I will vote for you in November. But I won't lift a finger to help and I won't contribute a cent. I won't even put a bumper sticker on my car. Not that you care, but I'm that disillusioned.
In the 1960's, Democrats surrendered the South and the presidency for the cause of civil rights. Our party faced a momentous decision and made the right choice. More than anything else, that's made me proud of my party and proud to be a Democrat. That you are willing to trash that legacy in the interest of your fading ambitions is cynical and pathetic. How did it come to this?