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Ferraro Keeps Getting it Right: Obama Should Apologize to Her

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A justly defiant Geraldine Ferraro just keeps getting it right. She told NBC that if anyone should apologize for playing the race card, it's Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. She flatly and rightly blasted Obama for virtually calling her a racist for merely saying what Ray Charles (may he rest in peace) could see and that's that the media has employed a blatant, no grotesque, double standard when it comes to tiptoeing around any criticism no matter how slight and muffled of the hyper-thinskinned Obama.

Yet let rival Hillary Clinton (or God forbid, hubby Bill) even breathe the R word about Obama and the screeches from the clinically obsessive Hate Hillary Clubbers are swift and loud.

Ferraro bore the full brunt of their noisy howls and the double standard when she dared intimate that the media and much of the public has turned like Lot's wife into a stone mute on race with Obama while unleashing a 24/7 barrage of sometimes thinly veiled and other times outrageous sexist innuendos, wisecracks, taunts and ridicule of Clinton. As Ferraro correctly noted, if you scratched out gender from the cracks at Hillary and penciled in race and made the same veiled and not so veiled racial digs at Obama, the howls of protest would be heard on the Moon.

A textbook case was the Martin Luther King, Jr. versus Lyndon Baines Johnson flap a couple of months ago. Clinton in an innocent and, in fact, praiseworthy and totally factual statement said that Johnson played the major role in getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress. Oh, boy! Clinton was: take your pick: A. a maligner of Dr. King B. a slanderer of the civil rights movement C. a closet bigot. When Clinton fought back the by now all-too-predictable pattern from the Obama camp kicked in. First self-righteous indignation, followed by deliberate distortion of her actual statement, followed by personal attack and slander, and then the capper, plausible deniability that Obama never made an issue of it in the first place.

But here's the bigger problem with all this. The great strength of the Obama campaign has rested squarely on his pitch that he's the post-civil rights guy, with a broad based, issue driven, non-racial appeal. That's the front door, image-enhancing spin. The back door, under-the-table pitch is to subtly play race at every turn. Whether it's getting Oprah to nakedly and blatantly rev up blacks on the campaign trail, or hint to black audiences about his poverty and civil rights work, or to cast a different cadence of speech when he's talking to black groups, or most importantly to snatch at every chance to turn even the slightest reference to race by Clinton or anyone in her camp, such as Ferraro, into a federal case.

This tired act is wearing thin and thankfully a few that have not totally abandoned all sense of reason are seeing through this melodrama. In an editorial, "Obama and the Race Card," the Wall Street Journal got it right. It blistered Obama for the wrong headed, and self-serving dictum that if anybody white dares bring up race they automatically will be branded as the second coming of David Duke (my characterization). Yet, it's totally permissible a la the Lyndon Johnson blast at Clinton for the Obama campaign to bring up race when and wherever it's deemed in their interest.

The even bigger problem with all of this is that this shows beginning warning signs of backfiring. That was plainly evident in the Mississippi primary. Obama would have gone down to a crushing defeat if it wasn't for the black vote. His on-the-surface hope and change message fell flat on its face with white voters. He won exclusively with the black vote (90 percent). Clinton got the overwhelming bulk of the white vote. The racial polarization was in the Democratic primary! If Obama is the eventual Democratic nominee, it isn't political rocket science stuff to figure out how he'd fare in the general election in the state if he had to depend on the black vote alone.

Now back to Ferraro. She didn't just ask for an apology from Obama for virtually calling her a racist, she also warned that if the Obama camp persists in this shell game on race, that he risks alienating many Democrats that could and would raise money and votes for him if he is the eventual nominee. She included herself in that category. It may already be too late on that score. Race is just too good and too juicy a plum to abandon when it serves a campaign purpose. In other words, Geraldine, while you certainly deserve an apology from Obama, don't hold your breath waiting for it.

New America Media National Political Affairs Writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back (Middle Passage Press, July 2008).