The Barack Obama campaign disappointed me for the first time in the last week. It had to do with Geraldine Ferraro.
Ferraro, as you no doubt have heard, came out about a week ago with some comments that Obama would not be in the place he is if he were a white man or a woman of any color. I am not sure if I agree 100% with her statement. In fact, I think if he were a woman - maybe even a woman of color - than his campaign would even be more tranformative than it is already. However, I do not think her statement is outlandish at all. Part of Obama's appeal - and not most of his appeal, but part of it - is the historic-ness of his candidancy, and part of that has to do with his race(s).
The statement was not racist. I don't even think it was race-baiting. It was a cranky old woman stating something that was pretty much, in my view, a simple fact: part of Obama's success does come as a result of his race. Now, if he were a white man, with the same charisma, the same message of hope, the same guts, would he be that successful? I don't know. Probably. But is it wrong, is it demeaning, is it condescending, to say that his success was partly due to his race? I don't think it was.
I admit I might be missing something, and I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I will say this: the media's reaction, as well as the reaction of a lot of people on the left, to the Ferraro comments was the first time all campaign that I've been really disappointed in the Obama campaign. Their takedown of Ferraro - who, let's not forget, is a trailblazer - was politics-as-usual. Her attack could have been part of the kitchen-sink strategy, but I doubt it; it was an old lady being honest. It certainly was not racist. The left's spin on this and inventing meanings for the words smacks of defensiveness.
I like Obama's personal general statement - that the comments were divisive (they were) and ridiculous (some of them were) and not racist.
But to say they are offensive and racist (Axelrod used the word "offensive," but plenty have, quite ridiculously, said "racist"), well, that's going too far. Axelrod shouldn't have gone for Ferraro's head on this one. It made the whole race thing bigger than it was, and was the sort of slice-and-dice politics that Obama usual does so well to criticize, not participate in. Attack ideas, not people.
He says it himself (paraphrasing): "this is the only country where a guy with a funny name and a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas can be a candidate for President." I agree that Ferraro's comments were not politically savvy, and that I hope none of Obama's supporters come out and blatantly say that Hillary Clinton wouldn't be where she was if she weren't the President's wife, even though it's true. But to come out and say they are racist and offensive is just too much.
So, I do disagree with Ferraro's basic point that this couldn't have happened if Obama were a woman. And I would hate to think that this comment was done calculatedly to use race as a wedge issue in the campaign, even though that might be the case. But racist? No. This is why our country is so afraid to talk about race. But I don't disagree that Obama's position as a biracial guy with roots in midwestern white, Hawaiian west, Africa, Immigration, etc, led partially to his success. Again, Obama certainly hasn't veered from this image of himself.
I want the Obama candidancy to mean an escape from trying to add meaning to people's comments that isn't there. When Obama came out and said that Reagan was a politician of ideas, Hillary tried to twist his words and make them into something they weren't. Now, Obama's campaign director seems to be doing the same to Ferraro.
That all being said, I hope the Rev. Wright stuff doesn't get worse. I don't understand judging someone by their pastor's views - this, perhaps, is racist, considering most of the message I heard was one of black pride - and hopefully the "story" stops where it is with Obama's swift condemnation of the comments.