From the Desk of HRC

Dear White Pennsylvanians:

Barack Obama is a Negro. We think maybe you hadn’t noticed.


Geraldine Ferraro
Ed Rendell
Bill Clinton
and other to-be-disavowed supporters yet-to-be-named.

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17 Responses to From the Desk of HRC

  1. emschwar says:

    Also, his middle name is the same as the last name of the guy who used to run Iraq. Just in case you missed that, too.

    (not an Obama supporter, but man, this is silly stuff)

  2. melman says:

    Maybe the Clinton Campaign should adopt a warning system akin to the Homeland Security Advisory System to provide us with daily updates on just how despicable their behavior will be on any given day. They could call it the Hillary Smear Advisory System, to keep the acronym the same (HSAS).

    So for example, when Clinton told Obama she was “honored” to be on the same stage with him during one of the last debates, that would have been a “Green” day for “Low” levels of negative behavior. When she and Bill speciously hinted there could be a Clinton/Obama ticket, that would have been a “Blue” day for “Guarded.” Circulating the photo of Obama in traditional Kenyan dress would have been “Yellow” for “Elevated” with rising levels of toxicity. The “Phone-Ringing-at-3:00 A.M.” ad would have been “Orange” for “High” levels of bad behavior. And, finally, faintly distancing yourself from a prominent fundraiser who makes overtly racist remarks, and then blaming Obama for being divisive to the party because he responded negatively to those remarks – well, that’s a “Red” day for “Severe” – as in abased, shameful behavior unworthy of a Presidential candidate who tries to claim any moral substance.

    So, what do you think Clinton Campaign? A little advanced warning of just low you’re going to go tomorrow would be nice. Why don’t you give yourself (and voters) a break and make it “Green” day?

  3. wfschneider says:

    I don’t beleive that Ferrarro, Clinton or Rendell are racists. And I don’t believe that Ferrarro’s comments were intended as a code for informing /reminding someone (who couldn’t know?) that Obama is a black man. If a Republican said what Ferrarro said it wouldn’t be racist either.

  4. jpool says:

    No, but it would be dumbass, condescending and lame. Oh, right, also racist. I don’t know or care whether Ferrarro herself is a racist.

    Because if there’s one thing Americans as a people are doing, it is falling over themselves to elect Black men to public office.

  5. Doug says:

    “falling over themselves to elect Black men to public office”

    Spitzer certainly did his part.

  6. wfschneider says:

    Anyone who is following this election and claims not to think about the effects – positive and negative – of Obama’s race is either very very naive or is lying. It is not condescending to say that the fact that Obama is African-American influenced some of the people who voted for him and some who didn’t. What is disturbing to me is that by calling Bill Clinton’s or Ferrarro’s comments racist, it dilutes that charge when in fact racist comments are made – and I have no doubt they will be in the general election if Obama is the nominee.

  7. Timothy Burke says:

    In general, wf, how would you characterize someone saying, “The only reason that guy is where he is today is that he’s black?” Let’s stipulate that we’re talking about a person who has indeed benefitted in some fashion from institutional attempts to promote diversity, or from classic affirmative action.

    For me, that’s always a racist statement unless I agree 100% that the person we’re talking about is utterly devoid of talent or merit. Even then, frankly, I think it’s both prudent AND ethical to keep that opinion to myself. To say it brashly means I’m trying to make a general point about race, affirmative action and merit, it seems to me. How often do we say something publically about another individual’s lack of merit, and mean only to speak about that individual and no one else? Particularly someone who we are supposed to share a cause or a professional responsibility with. Because there are a lot of people who occupy positions of authority and responsibility who seem to me to lack merit. In some ways, the genuinely meritocratic figure who has risen alone on talent is the odd person out.

    If Ferraro meant to make a comment that was hard-hittingly honest about how a person’s identity is a precondition of their political position, then honesty would demand that she make the comment about Hilary Clinton as well. If Obama is no more than his racial identity, then Hilary Clinton is little more than a woman whose present political status is a result of having been the spouse of a powerful male politician. That’s if, you’ll note. If Clinton is more than just a wife who leveraged her marriage into political power, then Obama is more than a politician with a racial base.

    In fact, I think the striking political fact about Obama is how relatively little his race had mattered until the Clinton campaign worked hard to make it matter. I think Obama’s core appeal is as an insurgent, reformist, independent-skewed candidate. He has more in common with Ross Perot and John Anderson in some respects than he does with Jesse Jackson. Certainly Obama is benefitting from the African-American vote, but Hilary Clinton is benefitting in a similar way from the votes of older middle-class women. Neither candidate is reducible to that political base. Clinton is drawing working-class white men (the so-called “Reagan Democrats”): that has nothing to do with her gender. Obama is drawing educated urban liberals and independents: nothing to do with his race.

    I think Ferraro is therefore factually, empirically wrong before we even get into her underlying motivations for saying what she’s saying.

    Additionally, since when was an election campaign a time for campaign staff and supporters to sit back and do a bit of descriptive musing about the underlying political dynamics of this year’s election? When you’re a supporter, if you speak in public, you’re trying to say what you think helps your candidate. So yes, I also do think she’s practicing dog-whistle politics, as was Ed Rendell, and I think it’s contemptible. I don’t believe it’s an accident. The Clinton campaign has learned from the Republican political machine: if you’re going to do oppo research, dirty tricks, dog-whistling and so on, make sure you push it off to the margins of your operations. Heck, I don’t think you even need to actually ask someone to do it. It’s enough to have your loyalists and to do a bit of sighing, “Will no one rid me of this cursed priest?”

  8. Psyche says:

    Imagine two statements:

    Statement 1:
    “Joe is a terrible manager. He’s nasty to his subordinates, he’s never prepared for meetings, and he takes credit for the work of others. The only reason he rose so high was because of affirmative action.”

    Statement 2:
    “Joe seems like a great manager, but you know how affirmative action works around here. All those unqualified people get promoted so we can hit our diversity targets.”

    Both are saying that “Joe” only got where he is today because of his skin color. But while the first starts with the contention that Joe, as an individual, is unqualified for his position and attempts to explain how he nevertheless got there, the second suggests that Joe, by virtue of his skin color, deserves extra scrutiny because people who are like him are frequently unqualified for their positions, and insinuates that therefore Joe himself is also unqualified.

    I’m dubious about both conversations, simply because I don’t believe the effects of affirmative action are particularly strong or pervasive within our society, especially as compared to those of racial prejudice, but I would be inclined to give the first speaker the benefit of the doubt, especially if her critique of Joe seems well-founded in reality.

    The second statement, however, is absolutely racist. Absent any substantive critiques of Joe as an individual, it instead attempts to smear Joe by invoking negative stereotypes about “those sort of people.” Moreover, it sets an almost impossible bar for a member of a minority to to clear. How to you show that you’re qualified if both your past achievements and current reputation are suspect?

    If you’re still dubious, consider substituting “the good old boy’s network” for affirmative action in the two statements. The first one still feels plausible – I could well imagine it coming up in a conversation. I can’t imagine someone making the second statement, though. People just don’t go through life with that level of suspicion regarding their impressions of others, except towards specific groups they find suspect.

    Now, I can’t find a full transcript of Ferraro’s statements online, so perhaps it was prefaced by a strong, well-reasoned critique of Obama’s qualifications to be president, and she is simply trying to explain how someone so manifestly unqualified came so far. This seems unlikely. And certainly her widely-quoted statement strikes me as much more similar to the second statement above than the first – a suggestion that he needs to be held to an even higher level of scrutiny because he is a black man, with a smarmy insinuation that there simply are no qualified black men out there. Racist.

  9. Timothy Burke says:

    Right. Let’s look at it this way: by Ferraro’s reasoning, is it actually possible for any black candidate to run for President and not succeed because of his blackness? In one of her comments, she has said that if the candidate in question were a black woman, then yes, race would have nothing to do with her success. But by inference, she doesn’t believe that a black man could run for President and succeed without his blackness being the primary or even solitary reason for his success. Ferraro hasn’t even tried to put on the standard fig leaf here, which is to acknowledge that Obama might have other qualifications, skills, and so on, or have other reasons for drawing support. It’s only that his campaign is “historic”, e.g., that voters want to see a black man win the Presidency. I think this really is a racist Catch-22: in Ferraro’s depiction, no black man can run without his blackness being the reason for his success. I don’t see how she’s left any room for a description of a successful black Presidential candidate whose race is largely incidental.

  10. wfschneider says:

    The orginal article – not there is much to it – can be found at Set out below is the relevant part:

    When the subject turned to Obama, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Ferraro’s comments took on a decidedly bitter edge.

    “I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama’s campaign – to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against,” she said. “For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It’s been a very sexist media. Some just don’t like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

    “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” she continued. “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. And the country is caught up in the concept.” Ferraro does not buy the notion of Obama as the great reconciler.

    “I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he’s going to be able to put an end to partisanship,” Ferraro said, clearly annoyed. “Dear God! Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship – that’s the way our country is.”

    It does not seem to me that Ferrarro is saying that any black man running would have done as well as Obama, but rather that for Obama, in this particular Democratic primary, Obama’s race is a net plus. And I think she is probably right. If he were a less attractive candidate it wouldn’t be.

    To say that Ferrarro is implying that Obama is leading the race for the Democratic nomination because of “affirmative action” is ludicrous.

    Ferrarro made her statement in a telephone interview with a regional California newspaper. That doesn’t seem to me a very good way to send a racist signal to Mississippi or Pennsylvania voters. Bringing the comment to the attention of the national press and calling it racist before the Mississippi primary (athough I suspect it was intended to help in Pennsaylvania) does seem to me a way to use it for political advantage.

    I am pleased that Obama in his comment said that he didn’t think comment was racist, just devisive. I think he means that. But it was his campaign that highlighted it so that it could be viewed as devisive. It’s a political campaign and using Ferrarro’s comments is not unfair – calling the comments or Ferrarro herself racist is.

  11. Timothy Burke says:

    Take a look at what she’s been saying since. Not to mention the fact that Ferraro made almost identical remarks about Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign.

    As far as how to disseminate such remarks, unfortunately, you could argue that my blog post (and thousands like it) are precisely how you disseminate such remarks, and moreover, that the Clinton campaign knows it. This is precisely how you do dirty tricks and dogwhistling. You say something in an obscure place (and by the way, the Daily Breeze article was a reporter writing down something that Ferraro had said in several interviews and radio appearances prior to the article appearing), wait for someone to pick up on it, and then it disseminates via many people being outraged. Voila! Your hands are clean.

    If that’s right, by the way, it was never intended for voters in Mississippi, which was a lost cause. It was aimed squarely at Pennsylvania.

  12. wfschneider says:

    Let’s suppose you are correct and Ferrarro (and B. Clinton and Rendell) is guilty of racist comments (and by implication probably a racist herself) – who are these Penssylvania voters who by virtue of such comments would become disinclined to vote for Obama? It seems to me that the voters to whom such comments would appeal, if the implication of them is what you assert, would never vote for Obama anyway.

  13. Timothy Burke says:

    Arguably they might have voted for him if they hadn’t been forcibly reminded of Obama’s blackness. It isn’t just that Ferraro is trying to invoke Obama as black, but that she’s doing so through a classic trope of working-class and lower-middle-class resentment of affirmative action. That’s really what this argument is all about, that the dog-whistling is intended to construct a frame around Obama, and once that’s accomplished, it won’t be going away quickly in the fall if he’s the nominee. Clinton supporters sometimes reply that the Republicans were going to do that anyway, so might as well get it over with. That doesn’t speak well for them, but I also think there’s a difference between doing it now and seeing it done by Republicans in August-September in terms of possible impact. I also think in some ways that it’s a more powerful frame if it is done by Democrat political leaders than Republican ones–especially because McCain has some degree of obligation to appear reluctant to do dirty tricks (rather like Obama) because of his appeal to independents, who tend to have extremely negative responses to dirty campaigns.

    I think if you go back to late last year, or January of this year, you’ll see what it was like when Obama was commonly framed as having transcended race, a figure more like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. As long as that frame held, I think it’s entirely possible that there are votes that he could get which will switch the other way if there’s a successful attempt to tag him as a black recipient of affirmative action. Which is what I think the Clinton campaign is counting on, and what I think is so reprehensible about what they’re doing.

  14. wfschneider says:

    Let me preface this comment by saying that I think Ferrarro’s comments were stupid politically, but not racist. It seems to me that race became an issue, or directly more of an issue, after New Hampshire, starting with the criticism of B. Clinton’s “fairy tale” comment and H. Clinton’s MLK/LBJ comment. Obama’s supporters labeled both “racist.” And it was the Obama campaign that highlighted them as was the case with Ferrarro’s comments. One could argue that the “fairy tale” and “JFK/LBJ” contretemps were created to try to insure a very high turnout of Obama’s black supporters in S.C. Allegedly that coincided with some pretty strong arm twisting of H. Clinton’s black super delegates by Obama supporters.
    From my point of view, calling the “fairy tale” and “MLK/LBJ” comments racist is even more of a stretch than calling Ferrarro’s comments racist. But in all three cases I think some Obama supporters have seen an advantage in doing so.

  15. Timothy Burke says:

    Let me ask you something. What would be your analysis of the Willie Horton ad that was run against Michael Dukakis?

  16. wfschneider says:

    I thought it was despicable and I also thought it was racist. I thought the same about the ad that was run at the end of the Harold Ford U. S. Senate race in Tennessee.

  17. nord says:

    identity politics .. glad I don’t live it. Willie Horton? If the story doesn’t make your blood boil, then you are not electable to any office higher than town council in Berkeley or Cambridge. But, ahhhh, Willie was black, his victims, white, therefore identity police stop the story right there and call a foul.

    Is there so little sympathy to the victims that their death while tragic, is best forgetten, lest someone somewhere (lots of people, lots of where?) use it to justify racist speech, action or policies?

    This identity politics makes the coverage of issues that intersect with race so challenging for the mainstream liberal media. Lots of murders in Philadelphia … publicize it too much and you’re playing to a stereotype, too little, and you’re ignoring the problem … not enough Charles Meyers’ out there to cover the problem in a identity-positive way.

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