‘Meet the Press’ Panel Marvelously Takes on Clintons’ Race Baiting

As NewsBusters reported Sunday, the mainstream media in general have shied away from truly examining the racist campaign strategy recently being employed by the Clintons in their effort to defeat Barack Obama for the Democrat presidential nomination.

One huge exception is NBC's "Meet the Press," which on Sunday, with the assistance of guests Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, Chuck Todd of NBC News, and Byron York of the National Review, went a long way towards possibly ending this disgraceful race baiting by a man that used to fashion himself as being the first black president.

Regardless of what folks might think of the political leanings of Russert and Dowd in particular, all present and associated with this segment are to be enthusiastically applauded and thanked for going where few media outlets dare (partial transcript follows, video available here, relevant section begins at minute 27:25):

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.

Welcome all. Let's go directly to the results last night. Here it is, South Carolina, and look at these numbers. Barack Obama, a huge win, 55 percent; Hillary Clinton, 27 percent; Edwards, 18. Obama getting nearly 300,000 votes, double the total of Hillary Clinton.

And here's the breakdown by race. Obama got 78 percent of the blacks, Clinton got 19, Edwards 2. Amongst whites, Obama 1-in-4; Clinton, 36; John Edwards actually won the whites. Interesting to note, Obama and Clinton practically tied amongst white men. And look at this age breakdown: Young voters, 18 to 29, it's overwhelmingly Obama, 67; Clinton, 23; Edwards, 10. Over 60: 38, 35, 27, much tighter.

Chuck Todd, what does it mean?

MR. CHUCK TODD: Well, it was a, it was a major victory for Obama and a major rebuke for the Clintons. I mean, particularly President Clinton. He somehow not only drove more African-American support to Obama--I mean, this turnout's massive. Barack Obama's total, vote total, is going to be equal to the entire Democratic electorate in South Carolina from 2004. So it was a massive turnout among African-Americans. But more importantly, he somehow drove white voters to John Edwards. I mean, John Edwards winning the white--I mean, there--it was--yes, John Edwards finished third. But when you're looking at inside those numbers, and, you know, there's been all this talk about whether this primary had become racialized and somehow that Barack Obama was getting pigeon-holed and he was going to be the black candidate for president rather than a candidate for president who happens to be black, Clinton did not benefit by getting the white vote. John Edwards did. And now John Edwards is staying in this race. We're going to have a lot of other Southern primaries coming up. This is--the, the entire way this primary happened, it's a, it's a big rebuke of the Clintons and a big shot in the arm for Obama.

MR. RUSSERT: Another event overnight, Maureen Dowd, in your paper, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the 35th president, John Kennedy, wrote an op/ed piece in The Times endorsing Barack Obama. And this is what she said: "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president--not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans." Barack Obama. Are we going to see Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, town hall? How significant is this?

MS. MAUREEN DOWD: Well, I think this is huge. The Hillary people were obviously trying to get Caroline Kennedy's endorsement, and the fact that she gave it to Obama is very much like the moment that Bill Clinton pushed when he shook JFK's hand at Boy's Nation. Now, JFK probably didn't remember that at all, but the Clinton campaign made that the Arthurian moment, where Galahad took the sword out of the stone. And now Caroline has done that for Obama. But it's a real moment because she is saying, "You are like my father," after decades of politicians pretending to be like, like JFK, and Gary Hart chopping his hand, and, you know, Dan Quayle trying to act like he was JFK. She is giving him the imprimatur, and it's--I think it's huge.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about the issue that--of race, which came up. Jim Clyburn, Byron, the congressman from South Carolina, after the vote came in last night, was reflecting on what had happened. And this is what he said. Let's watch.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I'm not surprised at that at all because I really believe that in the last 48 hours the voters kind of recoiled. They kind of decided that you reject the racial animus that seemed to be developing. And I'm so pleased.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: The voters recoiled. Congressman Clyburn had said earlier in the day that Bill Clinton had been using, in effect, code words that really made black Americans nervous. Those are very strong comments coming from someone who was neutral on this race.

MR. BYRON YORK: You know, I don't think you can overstate the amount of, of anger in--created in Democrats by Bill Clinton's tactics. I mean, they were very, very unhappy with him. I was talking to a Democratic strategist the other day who said, "My wife just got in the car. She's driving to South Carolina to volunteer for Obama." They were that angry at what Clinton had done. And he also said, you know, Clinton is trying to turn him into Jesse Jackson. And sure enough, after Obama wins big, what does Bill Clinton say about it? "Well, you know, Jesse Jackson won here, too." But you know, she--Hillary Clinton was kind of reduced to her core constituency in South Carolina. She had problems with everybody except for white women. Eighty percent of black women voted against her, 80 percent of black men voted against her, and 72 percent of white men voted against her. I mean, she was down to a very small constituency.

MR. RUSSERT: Ron Walters, a professor at University of Maryland, made this observation the other day on NPR, and I want to share it with everyone. "The only way that Obama is going to be elected is try to neutralize race. And when you're talking about Bill Clinton in so far as they try to blacken Barack Obama, what they do is play on the divisiveness of the racial sector. The objective of the Clinton campaign is to make him blacker, which is to say--which is to call out his blackness and, therefore, to complicate his constituency which is predominantly white."

And then Bob Herbert, Maureen, of your paper weighed in with these very powerful, forceful words, "It's legitimate to ask, given the destructive developments of the last few weeks, whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive. The electorate seems more polarized now than it was just a few weeks ago, and the Clintons have seemed positively gleeful in that atmosphere. It makes one wonder whether they have any understanding or regard for the corrosive long-term effects--on their party and the nation--of pitting people bitterly and unnecessarily against one another. What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation's need for healing and unifying? These are questions that need to be answered. Stay tuned."

Two black voices in academia and in journalism with very stern words for the--Bill and Hillary Clinton.

MS. DOWD: Well, it was an astonishing spectacle of seeing a so-called first black president trying to destroy a would-be first black president. I mean, we've never seen anything like this, and it was very personal between Obama and Clinton. And I think that, in the end, Hillary gave up a good narrative for her, which is that she had carved out her own identity and that it wasn't going to be the Bickersons back in the White House, and you just saw the Clintons. And, and Mitt Romney was right, you, you visualized her in the Oval, him in the East Wing rambling around looking for mischief. And it was, you know, it was a very seamy--Phil Gaily, who's the editorial page editor of the St. Petersburg Times, said watching Clinton in South Carolina is like watching a mad dog slobber. It was about him. And, you know, as The Onion said, you know, The Onion headline was, "Screw It, I'm Running for President by Bill Clinton."

MR. RUSSERT: Well, Barack Obama in his editorial board session with the Nevada paper did say that Ronald Reagan was a transformative president, unlike Bill Clinton...

MS. DOWD: Exactly.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and Richard Nixon. And that clearly...

MS. DOWD: And that got Bill doing. Yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Chuck Todd, ranking Democrats, they endorsed Obama. And yet, someone like Tom Daschle, the former majority leader, said this, "I think it's not presidential, it's not in keeping with the image of a former president." Pat Leahy, Obama supporter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. castigated the former president for what he called the "glib cheap shots." He's "not helping anyone and certainly not helping the Democratic Party." John Kerry, the Democratic standard bearer in '04, said this in a radio interview with the National Journal.


SEN. JOHN KERRY: Being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it's been over the top.

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT: That seems to be so personal, so direct, ranking Democrats, Obama supporters, but nonetheless, taking on Bill Clinton, a two-term Democratic president.

MR. TODD: Yeah, there's a few things going on here, particularly with congressional Democrats, that I think we shouldn't overlook is that Bill Clinton never had a great relationship with congressional Democrats, and there certainly is a, is a battle for control of the Democratic Party that I, I feel like you see play out in, in Clinton and Obama. I--it was not an accident that Daschle, and you've seen a lot of senators start to gravitate toward Obama, that there's some old personal feelings, I think, that have come up. I mean, certainly the John Kerry remark, there's something there that I think he feels like he didn't get the same kind of help in 2004 and this and that. But, you know, it does feel like, though, that what Bill Clinton is doing is he read a poll, and he said, "OK, when am--how am I going to get her to 51 percent. OK. We've got to figure out how to drive white men away from Barack Obama. We've got to figure out how to drive Latinos away from Barack Obama." That's what works on February 5th. And, you know, he may not ever say that, but it feels like it's a very tactical thing that they've done, and I think that's what, you know, is going to offend the Beltway corridor, the Amtrak corridor, and, and you're seeing a lot of, sort of, the New York and Washington Democrats who are probably going to keep coming out against Clinton on this and start...

MR. RUSSERT: Maureen, you wrote on Wednesday, "It's odd that the first woman with a shot at becoming president is so openly dependent on her husband to drag her over the finish line."

MS. DOWD: I know. We're seeing all these astonishing things in this race, and it worked in Nevada and New Hampshire for--I think Bill Clinton helped her there. But, in this case, I just think it raised the deja vu of the Clintons will drag anyone down to their own level and trash anyone to make up for what is missing in them or what they have done wrong. During impeachment, you know, they were trashing the founding fathers. Bill Clinton's lawyers actually filed a brief saying, "Well, Alexander Hamilton had a tawdry affair, and he wasn't kicked out of office." So it's a very debilitating dynamic, you know, to drag everyone down to their level, especially when you have this alternative of optimism and hope. And they were willing to put a dagger in the heart of hope. I mean, Obama should just beat them over the head every day with the idea that Bill Clinton said he represented false hope. Because the only way they can beat him is to beat down hope and inspiration and bringing young voters and expanding the party, and they want to kill all that. And that is not a good, you know, situation for them.

Bravo and brava!

Will other media outlets follow suit?

We can only hope.

Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential NBC New York Times Meet the Press National Review Byron York Chuck Todd
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