Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Personal Aside: All is Forgiven, Dearest: Bills Noble Sacrifice for His Wife.
With Hillary Clinton back in the race, it is clear that Bill Clintons gutsy stratagem has won. It was a noble one for a formerly straying husband determined to make amends to his wife by laying down his reputation for her benefit. Highly criticized by an emotional and adolescent mainstream media who assume a black candidate must be treated more tenderly than anyone else, it was a magnificent gesture of husbandly self-sacrifice to a wife who had been humiliated.
By a few strokes, slick Willie changed the definition of his wifes opponent who was on the way to more than nomination but canonization. Before Clinton took up the cudgel, Barack Obama was as non-controversial and as white-appearing as the Pillsbury doughboy plus the pillar of rectitude, the non-confrontational unifier of the nation who caused even Brian Williams of NBC to complain that it was insuperably difficult for the media to criticize him because he is so likeable. (I dont know why I wrote even Brian Williams because that pretty boy lightweight male model is about as substantial as Ted Baxter, the preening, ego-driven anchor on TVs old Mary Tyler Moore Show a good looking fop who beyond being an intern for Jimmy Carter has nothing to recommend him beyond good looks. But I digress, do I not? ).
Clinton did what a politician, certainly a retired president abhors, change his image in history and endure recriminations for it. It is just about the only thing Bill Clinton who was impeached in disgrace has left. His reputation has been sterling with the Democratic party, especially with its highly emotional, choir-singing and handclapping black constituency as this nations first black president. He sacrificed this for herHillary, to make up for his transgressions. How? With her losing badly, he made a surgical strike on Obama. He didnt concentrate on a notable Obama weakness which he could by exploiting two thoughtless Obama rejections of important symbols which conveyed lack of patriotism refusal to wear the lapel flag, refusal to place hand on heart during playing of the national anthem showing a tin ear for the presidency where the first goal must be to protect the nation rather than to think of it as only one cog in a global ocean of humanity. No coming from him this would have enhanced Obama.
Instead Clinton deftly allowed the nation to portray Obama as he wished not to be viewed, as a black candidate for president. Is that racist? Well to the Obama fans it is since they are the true proto-racists in this contest, elevating their candidate beyond his attainments but by pure mark of his race and insisting that any mention of it be verboten as an insult. It would interfere with his image as the uber-non-racial savior of humanity.
Understanding this game, Bill Clintons strategy was as brilliant as it was courageous a strike. . First he caught national attention by pitting himself against Obama to accentuate news coverage. Here was real news. Up to then, he had gone around making noises as a former president and extolling his wife. Now a definitively liberal ex-president takes a hefty swing at Obama and the liberal media for collaborating on a fairy tale concerning Hillarys support for the Iraq resolution. That caught public attention. In the general national playbook a nicey-nice white liberal Democrat is not expected to attack a black Democrat. But now on all the TV screens of the land you had an angry ex-president touting a hand mike, stalking around like a furious Phil Donahue, quoting Obama and the media and saying in good old English: Give me a break! That hadnt occurred with ex-presidents since Harry Truman blistered Ike in the off-year elections of 1954 which caused this nation to blink.
Getting huge national attention more than he would normally with an average campaign appearance was Bill Clintons first goal. With the second he delivered a powerful frontal blow. Thanks to the compliant media, Obama with his 97% straight liberal voting record in the Senate, greater than Ted Kennedys, was voting liberal boilerplateblack liberal boilerplate if you pleaseand getting away with it as a so-called man of independence. The posture was a grimacing fraud. Obama had not moved an inch from affirmative action, had voted against Bushs judges and yet here he was, the paragon above all distinctions, particularly race. Well, Bill Clinton would make the distinction. How did he do it? Not by hurling imprecations or insults.
In the face of the media which were touting Obamas likelihood of carrying South Carolina as a triumph of independence over stereotypes, Bill Clinton remarked mildly that Jesse Jackson had carried South Carolina as well. Period. End of statement. BOOM! BAM! Liberals screamed at horrendous racism: comparing Obama to Jackson. By doing so they spread the identification of the split produced by the contentious frenetic black preacher who specialized in rhyming heroic couplets and who has driven more whites out of the Democratic party than any other recent polarizing figure who, modestly it can be said, has set race relations back a generation by tying his speeches to extortion of business and the rewarding of his sons as a pretext for not demonstrating against the beverage. Obamas handlers must have groaned at the media outrage.
Now the denouement. With Obama forces reeling, demagogic, scandalous and thoroughly disreputable hustler Al Sharpton took the bait. He demanded that Bill Clinton come on his radio show. Bill Clinton was only too happy to oblige. By the time he finishedmeeting Sharptons demagoguery with sweet evennessthe nation was starting to think of Obama as a black candidate for president. Not good, not bad, just identifying him correctly with a lineage of rascals from which he should quickly disengage. Was this unfair? Of course not. What had been unfair was the media conspiracy that made Obama out to be above even consideration of race leaving his opponents crawling on their bellies so as not to attack him from a basis that might be twisted, by a compliant pro-Obama media, against them.
The result of Bill Clintons strategy was that while Obama carried South Carolina with its heavy black vote in the Democratic primary, the Messiah received only 25% of the white vote. Democrats began to see that for all his walking on water and placing his hand on the Liberty bell so as to heal its crack, Obama could be regarded as just another black candidate: no different than Shirley Chisholm, Harold Ford, Jesse Jackson or anyone else unless he made true to his promise to be beyond the partisan boilerplate to which his voting record attests. Now Obama is going to have to take care that he is not just parroting those black oracular stereotypes who went beforebut if he will be what he says he is, so behave as an individual
Obama was relegated to human being status from that time on. Bill Clinton was scorned by all the Brian Williams and some unthinking Fox commentators as wellbut they missed the point and miss it now. It was the most brilliant stratagem I have seen in fifty years since faced with another problem of a brilliant Democratic presidential candidate who was running circles around him, Dwight Eisenhower brought his opponents campaign to a halt by announcing: I shall go to Korea. The distinction between 5-star general-diplomat and a mere governor was imperishable.
If Hillary does indeed make the nomination (which I doubt given the math) but even if she does not, she will have every obligation to look at him tenderly when they are alone and whisper:
All is forgiven, dearest.