Friday, January 25, 2008

The Spat Over Race: Barack and Hillary

As for Obama and Clinton, racially tinged remarks were slipped into their stump speeches like so many stale bread crumbs. On Friday, the New York senator praised New York Rep. Charles Rangel as a man who rise to power without "leapfrogging" — a term that any thinking member of her predominantly black audience understood to apply to the precocious Obama.

The Illinois senator, following a strategic template that his top adviser, David Axelrod, has deployed to elect other young black politicians, waited until as late as possible in the campaign to start overtly identifying with the black community. He did so in South Carolina, where blacks make up half or more of the Democratic electorate.

"I need you to grab Cousin Pookie to vote," Obama said, playfully breaking out the black vernacular in Kingstree, S.C., on Thursday. "I need you to get Ray-Ray to vote."

David Smith, 36, a black voter backing Obama, shook his head in disgust as he discussed the spat over race while awaiting for Obama to speak in Sumpter, S.C.

"They both ought to knock it off," he said of Obama and Clinton. "It's not becoming of a past or future president."

A black man who identified himself as a pastor told Bill Clinton at an event in Kingstree, S.C., that black voters should rally behind his wife to keep Republicans out of the White House. Of white Americans, he said: "They're not ready for a black president."

Several black audience members nodded and said, "That's right."

"I have to tell you I hope you're not right," Bill Clinton responded.

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