Video: Olbermann on Ferraro uproar

By Keith Olbermann Anchor, 'Countdown'
msnbc.com
updated 3/12/2008 9:46:01 PM ET 2008-03-13T01:46:01
SPECIAL COMMENT

By way of necessary preface, President and Sen. Clinton, and the senator’s mother, and the senator’s brother, were of immeasurable support to me at the moments when these very commentaries were the focus of the most surprise, the most uncertainty, and the most anger. My gratitude to them is abiding.

Also, I am not here endorsing Sen. Obama’s nomination, nor suggesting it is inevitable.

Thus I have fought with myself over whether or not to say anything.

Senator, as it has reached its apex in their tone-deaf, arrogant and insensitive reaction to the remarks of Geraldine Ferraro, your own advisers are slowly killing your chances to become president.

Senator, their words, and your own, are now slowly killing the chances for any Democrat to become president.

In your tepid response to this Ferraro disaster, you may sincerely think you are disenthralling an enchanted media and righting an unfair advance bestowed on Sen. Obama.

You may think the matter has closed with Rep. Ferraro’s bitter, almost threatening resignation.

But in fact, Senator, you are now campaigning as if Barack Obama were the Democrat and you were the Republican.

As Shakespeare wrote, Senator, that way madness lies.

You have missed a critical opportunity to do what was right.

No matter what Ms. Ferraro now claims, no one took her comments out of context.    

She had made them on at least three separate occasions, then twice more on television this morning.

Just hours ago, on NBC Nightly News, she denied she had made the remarks in an interview; only at a paid political speech.

In fact, the first time she spoke them, was 10 days before the California newspaper published them, not in a speech, but in a radio interview.

On Feb. 26, “If Barack Obama were a white man, would we be talking about this, as a potential real problem for Hillary? If he were a woman of any color, would he be in this position that he’s in? Absolutely not.”

The context was inescapable.


Two minutes earlier, a member of Sen. Clinton’s Finance Committee, one of her “Hill-Raisers,” had bemoaned the change in allegiance by superdelegate John Lewis from Clinton to Obama, and the endorsement of Obama by Sen. Dodd.

“I look at these guys doing it,” she had said, “and I have to tell you, it’s the guys sticking together.”

A minute after the “color” remarks, she was describing herself as having been chosen for the 1984 Democratic ticket purely as a woman politician, purely to make history.

She was, in turn, making a blind accusation of sexism and dismissing Sen. Obama’s candidacy as nothing more than an Equal Opportunity stunt.

The next day she repeated her comments to a reporter from the newspaper in Torrance, Calif.

“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.”

And when this despicable statement, ugly in its overtones, laughable in its weak grip of facts and moronic in the historical context, when it floats outward from the Clinton campaign like a poison cloud, what do the advisers have their candidate do?

Do they have Sen. Clinton herself compare the remark to Al Campanis talking on Nightline on Jackie Robinson day about how blacks lacked the necessities to become baseball executives, while she points out that Barack Obama has not gotten his 1,600 delegates as part of some kind of affirmative action plan?

Do they have Sen. Clinton note that her own brief period in elected office is as irrelevant to the issue of judgment as is Sen. Obama’s while she points out that FDR had served only six years as a governor and state senator before he became president?

Or that Teddy Roosevelt had four-and-a-half years before the White House?

Or that Woodrow Wilson had two years and six weeks?

Or Richard Nixon, 14, and Calvin Coolidge, 25?

Do these advisers have Sen. Clinton invoke Samantha Power, gone by sunrise after she used the word “monster” and have Sen. Clinton say, “This is how I police my campaign, and this is what I stand for,” while she fires former Congresswoman Ferraro from any role in the campaign?

No.

Somebody tells her that simply disagreeing with and rejecting the remarks is sufficient.

And that she should then call them “regrettable,” a word that should make any Democrat retch.

And that she should then try to twist them, first into some pox-on-both-your-houses plea to "stick to the issues," and then to let her campaign manager try to bend them beyond all recognition, into Sen. Obama’s fault.

And thus these advisers give Congresswoman Ferraro nearly a week in which to send Sen. Clinton’s campaign back into the vocabulary ... of David Duke.

“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 works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white.

“How’s that?”

How’s that?

Apart from sounding exactly like Rush Limbaugh attacking the black football quarterback Donovan McNabb?

Apart from sounding exactly like what Ms. Ferraro said about another campaign, nearly 20 years ago?

“President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don’t ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his ‘radical’ views, ‘if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn’t be in the race.’”

So, apart from sounding like insidious racism that is at least two decades old?

Apart from rendering ridiculous Sen. Clinton’s shell-game about choosing Obama as vice president?

Apart from this evening’s resignation letter?

“I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign.

“The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you.”

Apart from all that?

Well. It sounds as if those advisers want their campaign to be associated with those words, and the cheap, ignorant, vile racism that underlies every syllable.

And Geraldine Ferraro has just gone free-lance.

Sen. Clinton:This is not a campaign strategy. This is a suicide pact.

This week alone, your so-called strategists have declared that Sen. Obama has not yet crossed the “commander-in-chief threshold.”

But he might be your choice to be vice president, even though a quarter of the previous sixteen vice presidents have become commander-in-chief during the greatest kind of crisis this nation can face: a mid-term succession.

But you’d only pick him if he crosses that threshold by the time of the convention.

But if he does cross that threshold by the time of the convention, he will only have done so sufficiently enough to become vice president, not president.

Senator, if the serpentine logic of your so-called advisers were not bad enough ...

Now, thanks to Geraldine Ferraro, and your campaign’s initial refusal to break with her, and your new relationship with her, now more disturbing still is her claim that she can now “speak for herself” about her vision of Sen. Obama as some kind of embodiment of a quota.

If you were to seek Obama as a vice president, it would be, to Ms. Ferraro, some kind of social engineering gesture, some kind of racial make-good.

Do you not see, Senator?

To Sen. Clinton’s supporters, to her admirers, to her friends for whom she is first choice, and to her friends for whom she is second choice, she is still letting herself be perceived as standing next to, and standing by, racial divisiveness and blindness.

And worst yet, after what President Clinton said during the South Carolina primary, comparing the Obama and Jesse Jackson campaigns; a disturbing, but only borderline remark.

After what some in the black community have perceived as a racial undertone to the “3 A.M.” ad, a disturbing but only borderline interpretation ...

And after that moment’s hesitation in her own answer on 60 Minutes about Obama’s religion; a disturbing, but only borderline vagueness ...

After those precedents, there are those who see a pattern, false or true.

After those precedents, there are those who see an intent, false or true.

After those precedents, there are those who see the Clinton campaign’s anything-but-benign neglect of this Ferraro catastrophe, falsely or truly, as a desire to hear the kind of casual prejudice that still haunts this society voiced and to not distance the campaign from it.

To not distance you from it, Senator!

To not distance you from that which you as a woman, and Sen. Obama as an African-American, should both know and feel with the deepest of personal pain!

Which you should both fight with all you have!

Which you should both ensure has no place in this contest!

This, Sen. Clinton, is your campaign, and it is your name.

Grab the reins back from whoever has led you to this precipice, before it is too late.

Voluntarily or inadvertently, you are still awash in this filth.

Your only reaction has been to disagree, reject, and to call it regrettable.

Her only reaction has been to brand herself as the victim, resign from your committee and insist she will continue to speak.

Unless you say something definitive, Senator, the former congresswoman is speaking with your approval.

You must remedy this.

And you must reject and denounce Geraldine Ferraro.

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