Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hillary Clinton not guilty of racism; Guilty only of being a 1

The most recent poltical tempest-in-a-teapot involves Hillary Clinton's statement that "Dr King’s dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.” Having seen Hillary Clinton this Sunday on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, I think she means to stress that it is hard work and wonkishness that actually get things done in government (rather than that MLK didn't do much, which she clearly doesn't really believe -- or, at least, seemed very convincing as she talked about how she didn't believe it.) Sen. Clinton's tactic on Meet the Press was to emphasize that she has more years of experience than Obama and to stress how hard she has worked in the Senate. This is a typical E1 line of reasoning. Russert kept trying to get her to say something negative about Obama (or even better, something racist) but she would not. Russert asked a question about Sen. Clinton having said she was a workhorse as opposed to a showhorse; he asked whether she was implying that Obama was a showhorse. She said no (I couldn't tell whether the truth was no or yes, but I didn't get the feeling she considered him a real workhorse like herself.) She said that within the culture of the Congress, Senators are considered either workhorses or showhorses, depending on whether they spend their time writing legislation, attending committee meetings, etc. or whether they spend their time going on talk shows. She said people expected her to be a showhorse (because she was famous and former First Lady), but she came to the Senate ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work (and she implied that everyone was pleasantly surprised.)

So this is how most 1's do, stress how hard they work. Hillary doesn't go on and on about how she works hard and others don't and either it's not fair or the others are morally wrong (which is how some 1's do), but it seems that she's chosen to position herself as a harder worker than Obama (sort of a Substance vs. Style comparison. And, of course, IF he's a 3, this makes perfect sense.) Another thing 1's often do is discuss principle; I didn't see Sen. Clinton do that, but I suspect that's because her principles and Sen. Obama's are really similar; if she wins the nomination, I would expect to hear about principle in the general election campaign. Tonight there will be the first debate between just Clinton, Obama and Edwards; it will also be the first Democratic debate I watch this election season and of course I will be on the lookout for any signs of Obama's Enneagram type.

To veer away from the Enneagram a bit and focus more on just politics, I am dismayed at the way race has entered the discussion in the past week. Questions on the table are: why did Clinton imply that MLK didn't do much but Lyndon Johnson did? Did Bill Clinton imply that Obama's White House hopes are a fairy tale? Was Bob Johnson wrong to refer to Obama's admitted youthful drug use?

I was lucky enough to be sent the YouTube video of Bill Clinton's supposed "rant" against Obama before I heard that it was supposedly "racially insensitive." I say lucky because I was able to see it fresh. My thoughts were that it wasn't a rant; that it was a collection of organized, thorough, convincing points spoken in an angry tone! It didn't seem to me to have anything to do with race. And yet, by the next day, Donna Brazile was saying B. Clinton's remarks were racially offensive. (I do admit that it would have been insulting had Bill Clinton referred to Obama as a "kid," which was one of Brazile's points, but I don't think he DID call Obama a "kid." If he did, please include a link to it, or a quotation, in the comments section below.) Bill Clinton's remarks have nothing to do with race; they are all about Obama running on a platform of having opposed the war since 2002, but in fact, he has not consistently opposed the war throughout those years. Here, judge for yourself: Bill Clinton on YouTube.

Obama has been quoted as saying that H. Clinton's remarks on MLK and LBJ are "unfortunate." (So does Edwards but I don't care about him; I am trying to decide between the other two.) Here's what Obama needs to do. DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM THIS. I mean, distance yourself from people who read racist remarks where none were intended. Even better, come out and say that the remarks don't seem racist. This will go a long way. It will not hurt you with black voters to do so. It will not hurt you with white voters. It will make you look high-minded. It will allow people to feel like maybe we're getting beyond some of this. On the other hand, if Obama buys into this AT ALL, many white people will start to feel threatened. Why? Because people don't like to feel like they can't say something negative about a black person without being accused of saying that negative thing BECAUSE that person is black. I feel like Obama is in a position to possibly win this election if he's able to come off as above this. It is no secret that the Republicans cannot find a really compelling candidate that they can all agree on, while most Democrats like both Clinton and Obama, and would be happy to vote for either. It's also no secret that many Republicans are not very happy with President Bush. I think Obama might be more liked by independents and Republicans than H. Clinton is, and the possibility is there of taking some votes from lots of independents and some Republicans. You know who is even more tired of identity politics than I am? The Republicans. America wants to like Obama. We haven't yet seen any reason NOT to like Obama. And I think many Americans (including some Republicans) feel embarassed by how America has been looking lately (because of President Bush, the common perception that we'll invade any country we feel like, the weakening of the dollar, among other reasons) and are looking for a way to show that America and the Bush administration's policies are not one and the same. I think there's the feeling that voting for an African American as our president would send the message to the rest of the world (many of whom are not white) that we are not so bad (while voting for a female president, while arguably even more progressive a step, might show part of the world that we're the secular devils they knew we were all along.) Unfortunately, having to hear comments unrelated to race called racist for four years is a reason not to vote for Obama, even if he's not the one making the comments. I want a president who is willing to give the other person's comments the benefit of the doubt when they seem generally well-intentioned. It will be interesting to see what Obama says on this issue in tonight's debate.

Back to the Enneagram: There has been some speculation that Obama might be a 9 rather than a 3 (or a 1.) I kind of hope so. History is usually kind to 9 presidents (Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan.) Ford, for example, was chosen because he was popular with members of Congress in both parties, and because it was thought that his presence would be healing (and I think it was.) I think our country could use some healing now.

Also? Tim Russert came off as kind of a jerk.


Cindi said...

This is like Don Imus all over again, not in the sense that Clinton's remarks were actually insanely offensive (though Imus' were), but in the sense that it is far, far easier to find people's reactions to the remark on news sources than the remark itself.

Mary Beth said...

Yes, I forgot to mention in this post WHY Tim Russert came off as a jerk. One reason is that he showed a brief snippet of the Bill Clinton clip, then asserted that the clip was Bill Clinton saying Obama's campaign was a fairy tale; I (having already seen the clip)knew that wasn't what it was about and of course Hillary said that's not what it's about. I do not understand how it's in Russert's interest to try to pass off a clip as something it's not. I mean, I guess it's in his interest in the sense that it's sensational and it's garnered attention; but I guess I consider it lying. I guess I'm kind of shocked that Tim Russert feels the need to mischaracterize the clip for... very little advantage, if any. I really don't understand it.

Cindi said...

Is is possible that he (or those researching for him) misunderstood the context? I know when I worked in news, the turn around time was intense. We didn't have time to look at things beyond a very superficial level before putting it on the air. Otherwise, the other stations would scoop us.

Mary Beth said...

Well, for one thing, the clip is 3 minutes long, and he didn't have time to show the whole thing, and he wanted to ask Hillary C. about the reaction to it, so I guess even if he did realize that the comments about it were kinda unprovoked/out in left field, he figured it wouldn't be much of a question to say now here's a clip that doesn't say what Donna Brazile and that other guy think it does, now here's what they say, now answer the question. I guess he figured Clinton herself could be the one to point out that problem.

Incidentally, I did see the debate and have more enneagram material to write about. Oh wait! I need to write that handout today!

Cindi said...

Are you going to put out a question or discussion topic of the day today? Isn't that something we said we'd do in coordination with the class?