Thursday, March 13, 2008

With Clinton, Democrats Would Be Nominating a Closeted Republican!

EXPOSED! Former First Lady's Lines of Attack on Democratic Front-Runner Are Coming Directly From the Republican National Committee's Campaign Playbook; Ex-Veep Nominee Ferraro's Racially-Charged Attack on Obama Is Revealed to be an Almost Word-for-Word Repeat of Her 1988 Blast at Jesse Jackson

Presidential candidates U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) ...

Presidential candidates (left to right) Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama John McCain meet onstage between back-to-back Republican and Democratic debates at Saint Anselem's College in Manchester, New Hampshire in January. While McCain has wrapped up the GOP nomination, the battle between Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nod is becoming bitter -- and increasingly racially-charged. But now, it turns out that Clinton is a closet Republican: The former first lady is employing lines of attack against Obama that are coming directly from the Republican National Committee. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

By Skeeter Sanders

As the battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination becomes increasingly bitter and racially-charged, the New York senator is employing lines of attack against the Illinois senator that are coming directly from the campaign playbook of the Republican National Committee.

Her campaign's tactics have infuriated Obama's supporters, especially African American voters, to the point that they've turned their backs on the former first lady in droves at the ballot box -- a rebellion that has Democratic leaders deeply worried for their party's chances of recapturing the White House in November.

Meanwhile, controversial comments against Obama by 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro -- for which she defiantly refuses to apologize -- have been revealed to be an almost word-for-word repeat of a similarly racially-charged remark the former New York congresswoman made in 1988 against another African-American presidential candidate: Jesse Jackson.

Obama Wins Mississippi Primary By a Landslide

The new controversies come just days after Obama swept to a landslide victory over Clinton in Tuesday's Mississippi primary, with 61 percent of the vote, compared with Clinton's 37 percent. The Illinois senator captured 17 of Mississippi's 33 pledged delegates up for grabs, which will be allocated proportionally.

But in a Deep South state that perhaps is the most racially polarized in the nation, Mississippi's Democratic voters were sharply divided among racial lines, exit polls indicated. As has been the case in many other primary states, Obama won overwhelming support from African-American voters. They went for him over Clinton 91-9 percent.

The Magnolia State has a larger proportion of African-Americans (36 percent, according to the 2000 census) than any other state in the country. And black voters make up nearly 70 percent of the state's registered Democrats.

But as in other states across the Deep South, Mississippi white voters overwhelmingly backed the New York senator, supporting her over Obama 72 percent to 21 percent, with only young white voters under 30 going for Obama.

Clinton's 'Kitchen Sink' Strategy Against Obama Has GOP's Fingerprints All Over It

According to The Hill, the Washington-based newspaper that covers Congress, the former first lady has employed talking points against Obama developed by the RNC over the past year, while the Republicans, in turn, are using lines of attack developed by the Clinton campaign to "soften up" Obama for a possible general-election match-up against GOP nominee-elect John McCain.

Not to be outdone, Obama has also borrowed a page from the GOP playbook against Clinton, raising implicit questions about her ethics. Obama’s campaign manager accused Clinton in January of being willing “to do or say anything to win an election,” repeating a similar statement by Republican national chairman Mike Duncan.

But it's Clinton who's taken the more negative approach, according to The Hill, and is freely tapping the GOP's opposition research department -- much to the satisfaction of Republican officials who have battled her for years.

“There appears to be bipartisan agreement that Barack Obama is not prepared to be commander in chief,” Danny Diaz, the Republican National Committee’s communications director, told the newspaper.

Clinton's GOP-Written Attack Lines Date Back to November

As her poll numbers began to fall behind Obama's in the weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Clinton tore a page out of the Republicans' opposition-research book in November by ridiculing Obama’s claim that the four years in which he lived as a child in Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim nation -- gave him a unique perspective on U.S. foreign policy -- particularly toward the Islamic world.

(Obama's remark may be what triggered a smear campaign against the Illinois senator, which falsely accused him of being a Muslim himself and of having ties to Islamic extremists. Obama is, in fact a Christian; a member of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, although some of his paternal relatives in Kenya are Muslims).

Clinton's attack on Obama's assertion bore such a striking resemblance to a memorandum issued by the Republican National Committee that NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell, covering the Clinton campaign, remarked that Clinton had “mimicked the latest Republican attack line.”

During a February debate in Los Angeles, Clinton accused Obama of being a "do-nothing" chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations European Affairs subcommittee. It now turns out that this particular line of attack came directly from a GOP research memorandum issued in January that noted that Obama “held zero hearings as chairman of the Subcommittee on European Affairs.”

Clinton and the Republicans have also sounded remarkably similar critiques of Obama for not commenting on the Iraq war -- which the Illinois senator has said for months on the campaign trail that he has opposed from the start -- until nearly a year after he was sworn in to his Senate seat. The GOP blasted Obama on this a year ago, with the Clinton campaign picking up the baton just this week.

And in May of last year, the GOP sharply criticized Obama for the number of times he voted “present” to avoid casting controversial votes in the Illinois state Senate. Clinton began pressing that attack line in January and has been using it frequently ever since.

Defiant Ferraro Refuses to Apologize -- And Fires New Volley at Obama

The increasingly bitter battle between Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nomination took a potentially dangerous turn this week when Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, in an interview with a suburban Los Angeles-area newspaper, remarked that Obama "would not be where he is" if he were white.

Ferraro, an outspoken advocate for women's rights and a staunch supporter of Clinton, told the Daily Breeze of the Los Angeles-area suburb of Torrance, California that, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman [of any color], he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Ferraro's comment, published last Friday, was almost instantly picked up by political bloggers and cable news shows across the country. The Obama campaign held a conference call on Monday to denounce the remark, and Obama surrogates urged Clinton to repudiate it.

But in a series of follow-up media interviews Wednesday, Ferraro fiercely defended her remarks and defiantly refused to apologize, telling the Daily Breeze, "Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up."

Racism, Ferraro said, " works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

In an interview with The New York Times, Ferraro insisted, "I will not be discriminated against because I'm white. If they think they're going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don't know me!"

Later Wednesday, Ferraro told Fox News Channel's Bill Hemmer that Obama should not attack her comments about his race because he needs her to raise money for him if he wins the Democratic Party nomination.

When told by Hemmer that people could make the same case that Clinton has benefited from being a woman just as Obama has benefited from being black, Ferraro shot back that being black is easier than being a woman when running for office, citing the late former New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's 1972 run for the White House as an example.

"Sexism is a bigger problem," Ferraro argued. "It's OK to be sexist in some people's minds. It's not OK to be racist."

Obama Blasts Ferraro's 'Divisive' Remarks

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, Obama told the Allentown Morning Call that Ferraro's remarks were divisive.

"I think that anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd," Obama told the newspaper. "I would expect that the same way those comments don't have a place in my campaign, they shouldn't have a place in Senator Clinton's."

Later in the day, Obama told reporters at a Chicago news conference that he thought Ferraro's remarks were "wrong-headed" and ridiculed "The notion that it is a great advantage to me to be an African American named Barack Obama and pursue the presidency"

It's not a view, he said, "that has been commonly shared by the general public."

Ferraro has held one fundraiser for Clinton. She said the Clinton campaign cannot fire her because she is not an adviser. "It's impossible [for the Clinton campaign] to fire somebody who's not involved with it," she said. Nonetheless, Ferraro notified Clinton by letter Wednesday that she would no longer serve on Clinton's finance committee as an honorary New York Leadership Council chair.

In a statement, Clinton distanced herself from Ferraro's initial remark. "I do not agree with that, and you know it's regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides say things that veer off into the personal," Clinton said. "We ought to keep this focused on the issues. That's what this campaign should be about."

Obama Isn't the First Black Candidate Ferraro's Insulted

It turns out, however, that this isn't the first time that Ferraro -- who, as former Vice President Walter Mondale's running mate, ended up buried in a 49-state landslide by Ronald Reagan -- has made racially-insensitive remarks about an African-American presidential candidate.

Ferraro, now 72 and a principal with a government lobbying and strategic communications firm, said virtually the same thing against the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mondale's chief rival for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination and who sought the party's top spot again four years later.

In a interview with The Washington Post published on April 15, 1988, Ferraro said that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

Asked by the Post for his reaction to Ferraro's remarks, Jackson responded with a remark that might sound eerily familiar to an Obama supporter 20 years later: "We campaigned across the South . . . without a single catcall or boo. It was not until we got North to New York that we began to hear this from [then-New York City Mayor Ed] Koch, President Reagan and then Mrs. Ferraro . . . . Some people are making hysteria while I'm making history."

Clinton Makes Extraordinary Apology at Black Publishers' Meeting

For her part, the New York senator, in an extraordinary act of contrition, struck several apologetic notes at a Wednesday evening forum sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a group of more than 200 African-American community newspapers across the country.

Her biggest apology came in response to a question about comments by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, after the South Carolina primary, which Obama won handily. The former president compared Obama's victory to those of Jackson when he ran for president in 1984 and 1988, a comment many black voters viewed as belittling Obama's success -- and drew scathing criticism of Clinton by this blogger on January 28.

"I want to put that in context. You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive," the former first lady said. "We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama."

"Anyone who has followed my husband's public life or my public life know very well where we have stood and what we have stood for and who we have stood with," she said, acknowledging that whoever wins the nomination will have to heal the wounds of a bruising, historic contest.

"Once one of us has the nomination there will be a great effort to unify the Democratic party and we will do so, because, remember I have a lot of supporters who have voted for me in very large numbers and I would expect them to support Senator Obama if he were the nominee," she said.

The Clintons have long enjoyed overwhelming support from black voters, but arguments over the role of race and gender have flared up repeatedly throughout the contest between Obama, who would be the nation's first black president, and Clinton, who would be its first female one.

Ferraro Familiar to New Yorkers as Having a Quick Temper

Ferraro is well known to New Yorkers as having a quick temper -- which showed during the 1984 campaign. Mondale -- who was booted out of office along with President Jimmy Carter four years earlier by Reagan -- was already far behind in his quest to unseat Reagan when Ferraro joined the ticket, and her credibility was quickly undermined by a controversy over disclosure of the tax returns of her husband, John Zaccaro, a New York real-estate agent.

In July 1984, Ferraro said she would release both her own and her husband's tax returns, in keeping with financial-disclosure laws. Yet a month later, she backtracked and said she would release only her own returns -- which tiggered questions about Zaccaro's finances.

Farraro, feeling the heat, backtracked again, saying her husband would release "a financial — a tax statement" on August 20. But she must not have consulted her husband, because Zaccaro initially refused, triggering a chorus of questions: Where is Zaccaro's money coming from? Rumors soon surfaced of alleged Zaccaro links to the Mob.

To Farraro's astonishment, news quickly surfaced that when she was a baby, both her parents had been under federal criminal indictment for gambling. The charges were dropped when her father, an Italian immigrant, died in 1943, when she was eight years old.

But the stories only added fuel to the rumors. Ferraro exploded, accusing the media of playing to old stereotypes of Italian-Americans. Nonetheless, the controversy led to an investigation of Zaccaro by the Manhattan district attorney.

Zaccaro was subsequently indicted by a grand jury on charges of scheming to fraudulently obtain financing for a multi-million-dollar real-estate deal. Zaccaro pleaded guilty.

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Volume III, Number 19
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.