What happened
The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama turned their focus to the struggling economy and away from race after a testy exchange over the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King showed signs of turning off Democratic voters. (San Francisco Chronicle)

What the commentators said
“It is unfair, and wonderful, that Clinton has been castigated for her insensitivity,” said George Will in The Washington Post (free registration), “in uttering the incontestable truth that President Lyndon Johnson, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., was indispensable to enactment of the civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965.” The beauty of it is that a Clinton has been targeted by the liberal “indignation industry,” and Hillary is now “floundering around, drowning like a dinosaur in a tar pit,” trying to prove she’s a good, sensitive “multicultural role model.”

The Clintons aren’t above using racial tactics, said Mark Davis in The Dallas Morning News. “Heaven knows their advocacy for women's rights did not restrain them from savaging the ladies whose testimony threatened” Bill. But the “hotheaded, ill-informed demagoguery” suggesting that Hillary “offended Dr. King’s legacy” only cheapens this “historic opportunity to engage in serious dialogue about race and gender as a woman and an African-American climb closer to the White House than either has ever been.”

Both campaigns should be ashamed, said Georgie Anne Geyer in Yahoo! News. The “unseemly picture of progressives trying to advance” their campaigns by taking giant steps backward on the issue of race and gender is heartbreaking. “The campaign as a whole, which had until now introduced Barack Obama as something very new in American history, suddenly disappoints us with traces of something very old.”