THE BLOG
02/13/2008 07:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Clinton's New Campaign Manager is Black (But Shhh! Don't Tell Anyone)

Talk about irony. As I was sitting in a studio with
award-winning Latina journalist Maria Hinojosa
preparing to appear on CNN for a discussion regarding
black and Latino voters, it was announced on-air that
Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, who had
made history as the first Latina to helm a major
presidential campaign, was stepping down. Taking her
place would be Maggie Williams, Clinton's former White
House Chief of Staff. Maggie Williams happens to be
black, only you may not know that because most major
news outlets didn't mention it.

At first I thought I simply missed it. Surely with all
of the talk of racial tension on the campaign trail (a
story that the media has covered at length) along with
the story of the Clinton campaign's increasing
disconnect with black voters and the Obama campaign's
alleged disconnect with Latino voters, someone would
have mentioned it. But a quick review of some of the
major news outlets' online coverage of the story here and here
shows that not many did. A few television outlets
compensated by showing a picture of both Doyle and
Williams thereby allowing viewers to fill in the
blank, which actually made the absence of any mention
of their race all the more obvious-and amusing.

So what gives? Is it that Williams's race is really
irrelevant and therefore media outlets were simply
doing the right and journalistically responsible thing
by shying away from mentioning it? Or was this an
example of political correctness actually torpedoing a
good-and newsworthy-story?

To be clear, Maggie Williams is much more than a black
political operative. She is one of the most well
respected operatives to operate, not just in so-called
"Hillaryland," but in Clintonland period, which in a
world that includes both Paul Begala and James
Carville is saying an awful lot. While many outlets
noted that she previously served as Sen. Clinton's
Chief of Staff in the White House, they neglected to
mention she also once led the former president's
Harlem Office. In a nutshell, she's got the goods. But
it is also no secret that in recent months, the
Clinton campaign has lost some of its famed luster
among black voters. At this point with Obama capturing
approximately 90% of the black vote in the most recent
primary contests, the campaign has probably given up
all hope of seriously competing for black votes as
long as candidate Obama is around, although they'd
never admit that publicly. But instead, after some
racially tinged stumbles, including former President
Clinton's dismissive assessment of Obama's South
Carolina win, the campaign has to look ahead to the
general election when some major fence-mending and
wound-healing will need to take place should Clinton
become the nominee.

With John McCain the likely GOP candidate, someone
known for his appeal to Independent voters, Clinton
will need to rely on her traditional Democratic base
of support more than ever. That includes black voters.

Which brings me back to Williams. As qualified as she
is, Williams represents a powerful symbol for the
campaign. While much has been made of Clinton's strong
support among female voters, particularly older women,
much of that support has come largely from white
women. It is worth noting that this support has
elicited its own share of racially charged melodrama,
such as when feminist icon Gloria Steinem, attempting
to defend Clinton's candidacy, seemed to argue in a
New York Times Op-ed that women have it tougher than black men-a sentiment
she later clarified as not representative of what she
intended to convey. Williams's high profile presence
could do a lot to bridge some of this divide.
The other reason the issue of race is worth noting
here, is because Latino voters are another group that
likely GOP nominee McCain has traditionally done
better with than most Republicans, and increasingly,
their Democratic partisanship is not a given. This is
one key reason why so much media speculation in recent
weeks has focused on whether or not Obama will be able
to successfully compete for Latino voters in a general
election. Yet now that Doyle is no longer in the
Clinton campaign's driver seat -- a historic appointment
that was heralded by Latina magazine -- an argument could
be made that the Clinton campaign's recent round of
staff musical chairs could tarnish the campaign's
image with the Latino community just a bit and perhaps already has.

The point is the issue of race is not relevant to
every story. But it was relevant to this one, which is
why it's too bad that no one covered it.