Former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said that Barack Obama is leading in this year’s Democratic campaign “because he is black," and a man. “He happens to be very lucky to be who he is," Ferraro, who is on Hillary Clinton's finance committee, told the Torrance, Calif., Daily Breeze last week. Tuesday she stood by her remarks, adding “they’re attacking me because I’m white.”
Obama said Ferraro’s comments were “divisive,” and “patently absurd.” (CNN.com) Clinton said it is “regrettable” when supporters on either side “say things that kind of veer into the personal.” (Los Angeles Times, free registration) Obama won Mississippi’s primary, in the latest in a series of racially polarized contests in the Deep South. (The Wall Street Journal)
What the commentators said
“Can anyone seriously claim that it’s an asset to be an African American in a U.S. presidential race?” said Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo. Being black has helped Obama solidify support among African Americans — but they're just 13% of the population. Women make up more than half, and Clinton clearly has a “big advantage among women voters.” Plus, she gets everyone who won’t vote for a black man. Ferraro is just plain wrong — if anything, Obama’s lucky that race isn’t an “eliminating factor.”
Tell that to the reporters who have given Obama a “virtual free ride” out of “sheer terror of being branded racist,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson in The Huffington Post. The Obama campaign was right to give aide Samantha Power “a swift boot” for calling Clinton a “monster,” but that was an unnecessary, nasty “personal” attack. Ferraro merely had the “guts to tell the truth.” She “ought to get a merit badge.”
And maybe John McCain should give it to her, said Ed Morrissey in the Hot Air blog. If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, McCain and the GOP would inevitably be accused of “race-baiting” and “crypto-racial attacks” when they take on Obama,. They’ll have some cover now that a Democrat has attacked first. The thing is, Clinton’s support comes from “the same kind of identity politics” — she wouldn’t even be a senator if she weren’t “Bill Clinton’s wife.” Poor Democrats — they’ve “gone all-in for identity politics at the expense of both” candidates.
The “identity politics” are only one part of “what's driving everyone a little crazy,” said Christopher Beam in Slate’s Trailhead blog. Ferraro is probably “correct that Obama’s race has a lot to do with it (just as Clinton’s gender has a lot to do with her appeal to women).” But the ugliness that has “turned surrogates on both sides into gaffe machines” stems from “frustration”: “Clinton’s people” think it's “unfair” that their “tough,” “hyper-competent woman” is being beaten by “a phenomenon,” and “Obama’s people feel like they’re on the right side of history.”