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Is Barack Obama the Best Candidate to Advocate for African Americans?

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OK, now that I've got your attention, I can talk about Elizabeth Edwards. First off, I like her, I really really like her. I thought she was the best thing about John Edwards last time around. She's smart, sassy, warm and provides excellent strategic direction to Edwards on a host of issues that mean something to me. And she seems brave as hell. Tell me I have incurable cancer and I think you would find me in a fetal position for a good portion of every day.

But I must confess that this morning I find myself questioning her. And then questioning myself that I am questioning her. Allow me to explain.

In her Salon.com interview, Edwards took on Hillary in what the The New York Post called a "broad-sided" attack. Hillary is "just not as vocal a women's advocate as I would like to see. John is." Her comment begs quite a big question. Actually a number of questions.

Can a man be a more effective advocate for women than a woman? Can a white person be a more effective advocate for African Americans than an African American? Can a straight person be a more effective advocate for gay and lesbian people than a gay person?

Here's what I can tell you. I know that there are straight people who are very, very effective in advocating for gay and lesbian Americans. Conversely, I know gay men and lesbians who are not comfortable with their own sexual orientation and say or do things that set us back. I know women who don't see sexism when it smacks them in the head and men who are staunch feminists.

Having said that, there is no substitute for the experience of living life as a minority. Nothing. And, one look at Hillary's credentials, her own path to success, how she transformed the power and identity of the office of the First Lady and her historic run for the presidency and there is just simply no question. She will go down in history (like her or not) as one of the most powerful advocates for women in America. Ever.

Something else to think about. If Mrs. Edwards had criticized Senator Obama and said (which she did NOT) Obama is just not as vocal an advocate for African Americans as I would like to see. John is., would all hell have broken loose? Yes, I think so. I believe that Senator Obama and the African American community would have torn Elizabeth Edwards to shreds.

Hillary's camp did not comment on the Edwards' quotes. She probably thinks she is running against her husband. And of course she is right about that. But somebody should ought to say something. Not just me.