Crossing the Kennedys

Looks like Bill Clinton did again: he starts strong and then undergoes a personality meltdown. Now, poor Hillary is counting on him, and he is becoming a liability with his overheated campaign style especially in South Carolina. One can imagine that a man would become protective of his wife, especially in the vortex of presidential politics. It is sort of old fashion chivalry, which may be out of date but it’s still kind of nice.

But what Bill has done is rather detestable. Senator Obama has deliberately put himself forth as a transitional candidate, transitional in term of generation and also more importantly above race. He is not Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, but is above racial politics, focusing instead on a national agenda. Obama was so successful that he carried the nearly all white Iowa and a good number of white counties in New Hampshire. So what Bill did was to raise the racial issue, slyly but intentionally, in order to help segment the election by race. Surely the Clintons would lose South Carolina where African Americans make up about half the Democratic vote, but they were playing for higher stakes.

By raising the racial issue, by reminding whites that Obama was black, they believed they can do better across the nation in other primaries. They just could not avoid playing the race card. Up to now, large segments of the African American community saw Bill and Hillary as closely allied to their interests… Novelist Toni Morrison even said that Bill was the ” first black president,” a reference to his poor white background with a single mother rearing. How Morrison came to that conclusion is more difficult to follow than her confusing novels. But there it was for ten years—another urban legend.However, even she has fallen in line now for Obama.Et tu Morrison?

But Billary has become so hardened by political controversy since Arkansas that they have become like their enemies. They have Roved Democratic politics on their own. Their people spread rumors about Obama and drugs, Obama and Moslem schools, even Obama and his sexual proclivities. Does America really need that sort of politics? Even if Billary wins the nomination, they have lost a considerable of whatever moral authority they had restored over the decade.

They are right—there are more whites than blacks in the USA, but do they have to disgrace white Americans on the one issue we are so vulnerable to? And they even did it on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Billary, unfortunately, proves that too many blacks are right, that all whites, deep down, harbor racism; after all, if the only black president (or white guy) does, can any of these white liberals be free of that cancer.

Perhaps that is why Caroline Kennedy and her uncle Ted Kennedy have decided to support Obama. She said poignantly that he reminded her of her father in regard to his ability to inspire. Teddy apparently tried to get Billary to tone down the rhetoric in South Carolina, and Bill yelled at him. Not a smart move. So now the most beloved Democratic president of modern times is being pressed into service for Obama. They apparently had just had enough.

Politics ain’t beanbag, my friends. Sometimes the bare-knuckle is just too much, and sometimes seems to be now. Suddenly, the Republicans are beginning to look better.

Michael P. Riccards is Executive Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. Crossing the Kennedys