Fire former Democratic VP candidate and Hillary Clinton advisor Geraldine Ferraro? She ought to get a merit badge pinned on her for having the guts to tell the truth. Ferraro got it right on both counts when she said that race has made a difference with Barack Obama. He has gotten a virtual free ride from much of the media. His paper thin voting record, lack of experience, zig zag stances on foreign policy issues, Republican lite positions on health care and the sub prime housing crisis, repeated subtle going negative against Hillary Clinton while giving himself a plausible deniability out and insuring that Clinton gets dumped on when she hits back has been blatantly obvious. The media and much of the public have kept hands off him in part out of sheer terror of being branded racist and in part out of hatred for Clinton. And that's the other thing that Ferraro got right. She flatly called the media sexist and said that many Americans, she really said America, has a huge problem with a woman running for president.
The Obama camp screamed bloody murder at Ferraro's brave and very accurate remarks. They went through tortured gyrations in demanding that Clinton fire Ferraro by comparing her to the justly released Obama aide Samantha Power. There is no comparison. Power should have gotten a swift boot for her personal, slanderous and mud sling name call of Clinton as a "monster." Ferraro did not engage in personal name calling against Obama but rather made a blunt political comparison between the double standard treatment Clinton's campaign has gotten versus Obama's.
That double standard should rankle anyone who believes in at least some fair play in what's arguably the dirtiest business around, namely American politics. But that's been a moot point when it comes to dealing with Clinton. From the instant she tossed her hat in the presidential ring back in January 2007 she's had to deal with a relentless barrage of gender tinged wisecracks and outright insults on the campaign trail. At one rally, hecklers yelled to her to iron their shirts. Other gender taunts and slurs were even less flattering. Radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners in one of his nationally syndicated shows, "Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?" Clinton has been taunted in some online websites with fake ads for toilet brushes labeled, "First Cleaning Lady" and a Clinton nutcracker was also for sale. It cracked nuts between her legs. Hillary Clinton's hairdos, ankles and even her cleavage did not stir any sustained protests or outrage from either men or women.
A female in the White House would shatter the frozen in time mindset that the first lady isn't the president but the emotional helpmate to the president. That notion, though, is still a foreign concept to many men. In February, the Associated Press and Yahoo News found that 40 percent of Republicans said they would be reluctant to vote for a woman. A much smaller percentage said they would be reluctant to vote for a black.
More than three decades before Clinton made her run for the White House, then New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm the only other woman to make a spirited run for the presidency as a Democrat quipped that "Of my two 'handicaps' being female put more obstacles in my path than being black. I've always met more discrimination being a woman than being black." Chisholm got a frosty reception from the male members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Thirty six years and nine presidential elections later some things haven't changed as Ferraro noted for a woman that seeks the highest office in the land.
The politically correct view is that Clinton's entrance into and drive for the presidency will permanently alter the hostile mindset of many men that a woman is not equipped to hold the highest office. That's been the biggest myth of all. In Democratic primaries in January and February Obama held his own or surpassed Hillary's vote total with white men. He did it in some of the most traditional bastions of white male voter resistance to backing a black candidate in elections past.
The votes he got from the men didn't necessarily mean that these men were enthusiastic backers of Obama. It likely meant that when it was a head to head contest between a man and a woman, they backed the man. Many liked Obama's message of change, but there were undoubtedly other men that simply didn't like Clinton, or rather the thought of a woman in the highest office. As Ferraro accurately put it lots of men fit that bill.
Clinton will be under intense pressure to dump Ferraro. She should mightily resist it. After all, no one should lose their job for telling the truth.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).