Geraldine Ferraro said that Barack Obama wouldn't be where he is today if he wasn't black.
Was that supposed to be some kind of secret? I mean, hasn't Obama himself written extensively about how race shaped his life? Made him the man he is today? Would we really be so excited about him if he'd done a Freaky Friday with John Edwards in the 1970s? I doubt it. Yes, he'd still possess a brilliant mind and a gift for oratory, but his life experiences would've been completely different. His ability to bring together opposing viewpoints might've never emerged. He would've never had the transformative experience of visiting Kenya after his father's death. And he wouldn't have been the "skinny kid with a funny name" who captured America's attention in 2004.
In other words, Barack Obama wouldn't be where he is today if he wasn't black.
And so the Obama camp's response to Ferraro's "divisive" comments has been a tad disingenuous. But worse -- much worse, it's been a squandered political opportunity. Obama still needs to convince nervous Democrats that he can handle a street fight with John McCain. A fight that, at present, might be billed as "The Brainiac vs. The Maniac," thanks to some people's image of Obama as a chai-sipping, mani/pedi-loving Harvard man, and some people's image of McCain as, well...a total psychopath. When you're up against a guy who spent five years getting his limbs broken in a pool of his own filth, running away from a point that you've made yourself in paperback isn't the best way to look tough.
So if I were David Axelrod, I'd fire up the nearest edit bay and flood Pennsylvania's airwaves with an ad that went something like this:
(Start with a nasty frame-grab of Ferraro and Clinton). "Hillary Clinton's best friend, Geraldine Ferraro, says Barack Obama wouldn't be where he is today if he wasn't black." (Cut to Ferraro giving the finger to a group of black Girl Scouts). "We couldn't agree more. Barack Obama's life as a man of mixed race taught him to respect people of all colors, faiths, and points of view." (Cut to Obama clearing brush on his ranch). "It also instilled a great love for America as the land of opportunity. A land where people from different backgrounds could come together and achieve the impossible. Barack Obama is proud of being black." (Cut to a beautiful Obama family portrait). He even fathered two black babies -- twice as many as John McCain. Don't the working families of Pennsylvania deserve a president who's proud of his heritage -- and proud of America? (Cut to a smiling Obama). "Barack Obama...you're damn right he's black."
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not defending Ferraro. I think it was a stupid thing to say, especially for someone who would've never been her party's vice presidential nominee if she hadn't been a woman. She's thrown her beloved Hillary off message, and her refusal to apologize promises to keep the story alive for another day or two. She even had the chutzpah to warn Obama not to "antagonize" people like her, lest he become the nominee and need her fundraising muscle. Don't "antagonize" her? Who is she, Sonny Corleone? And when did she become the "must-have" fundraiser, anyway? Politically speaking, she's about as relevant as the top-loading VCR in my garage.
Still, Team Obama should give the public a little more credit. After all, a good 80-90% of us have figured out by now that their candidate is, in fact, black. Deep down in our heart of hearts, we know that none of this would be happening if he wasn't that skinny kid with a funny name. It's part of what makes him different. It's part of why we like him. And no matter what Geraldine Ferraro says, it's nothing to be ashamed of.