Clinton Clobbered in South Carolina, Will Media Blame Race Baiting?

Have the recent race baiting antics of the Clintons left you wondering whether the former first couple has lost its collective mind, especially now that this tactic seems to be at least partially responsible for Barack Obama's landslide victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary?

Or, like most conservatives, do you believe that nothing this pair ever does is spontaneous and without advanced political calculus, and that South Carolina went exactly as Bill and Hill planned?

For those undecided, a conversation I had on Friday with a very liberal albeit astute friend of mine might shed some light.

As the subject of the current presidential race surfaced, my friend indicated that he was supporting Hillary. Knowing him to be very concerned about civil rights, I asked why he wasn't backing Obama.

His answer? Prior to New Hampshire, he was. However, he "learned" from that primary that Obama isn't electable because Americans clearly aren't ready for a black president.

What led him to such a conclusion?

Well, the "errant polling data" in New Hampshire, of course, and the supposition that white folks might tell someone on the phone that they're voting for Obama, but can't pull the trigger come Election Day.

As a result, since he desperately wants a Democrat in the White House, although he likes Obama significantly more than Hillary, he thinks she represents the Great Left Hope.

It goes without saying I pointed out to him the unfortunate irony of her also being the Great White Hope in this instance, and that by his actions, he was participating in the very racism he finds so deplorable.

Sadly, it appears the Machiavelli in him carries a lot more weight than his inner-Harriet Beecher Stowe.

How many other Democrats around the country have come to a similar conclusion, and what does this mean for the campaign moving forward?

Maybe more important, if this is indeed the case, doesn't it offer up the possibility that the Clintons manufactured this entire controversy in order to stir up racist feelings in white Democrats to improve Hillary's chances of victory?

Before you answer, consider what happened last Sunday at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem.

You don't really believe Bill accidentally fell asleep while Martin Luther King III spoke glowingly about his deceased father, do you?

Don't kid yourself. Bill knew exactly what he was doing, and that this would act to further divide Democrats along racial lines, for if this nomination process indeed becomes a battle between blacks and whites, the Clintons must believe this will stoke supposedly buried racist feelings in enough voters to secure Hillary's eventual coronation.

Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris agrees (emphasis added):

By challenging Obama for the black vote - by promising to go door to door in South Carolina in minority neighborhoods, for example - Bill is highlighting the question: Will Obama carry the black vote? Of course, he will. He leads, 4 to 1, among African-Americans now.

But by making that the central question, Obama's South Carolina victory will be hailed as proof that he won the African-American vote. Such block voting will trigger the white backlash Sen. Clinton needs to win.

Once whites see blacks voting en masse for a black man, they will figure that it is a racial game and line up for Hillary. Already, she carries white voters by 2 to 1.

The Clintons can well afford to lose South Carolina as long as the election is not seen as a bellwether of how the South will vote but as an indication of how African-Americans will go. It's a small price to pay for the racial polarization they need to win.

Disgraceful? Certainly. But, ingenious nevertheless.

Of course, this strategy would fail miserably if America's press would point it out. But, for the most part, they haven't.

Nor have they discussed at any great length the extraordinary hypocrisy of supposed civil rights leaders such as the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton not speaking out strongly against the Clintons' racial attacks on Obama. You would expect this to be a hot press topic during this campaign, and that any black leader would be grilled about such a precarious position on virtually a daily basis.

Alas, such isn't the case, for although the media will assist the Clintons - knowingly or not - in expanding this racial divide, mainstream press members have largely avoided analyzing how it might indeed be intentional, and that it might actually help them.

To be sure, there has been a great deal of Clinton bashing by the media of late, mostly about the former president acting as Hillary's attack dog, as well as his disgraceful rants at reporters.

However, although the issue of the former first couple injecting race into the campaign has been raised, it has by no means been examined as thoroughly as it should be given its seriousness.

On Sunday's "This Week," former Clinton aide and current host George Stephanopoulos actually said:

Let's try to speculate on what's going on inside the Clinton camp right now, or the Clinton suite right now. If you look back at the last several primaries and caucuses, Bill Clinton was no question an asset in New Hampshire. Pretty clear he was an asset also in Nevada. It may have backfired here. They may have taken it too far, not playing the race card, but as Jake [Weisberg] suggested, this is just too much for a former president.

Not playing the race card? What campaign has Stephanopoulos been watching the last two weeks?

Over at CBS, although Hillary was Bob Schieffer's guest on "Face the Nation," the race issue was hardly broached.

To be fair, over at NBC, Tim Russert's panel on "Meet the Press" - comprised of Maureen Dowd from the New York Times, Byron York of National Review, and Chuck Todd of NBC News - did a very strong analysis concerning this matter Sunday, and are to be commended.

It remains to be seen whether or not other media outlets and press members delve into this subject like Russert, or continue to gloss over it like Stephanopoulos and Schieffer.

To be sure, media members might be afraid that if they really did their jobs, and explored the possibility that the racial attacks on Obama by the Clintons were indeed designed to incite a temporary race war in the nation, the former first couple would be exposed as race baiters potentially interfering with her candidacy, while completely obliterating his presidential legacy.

But would the press be concerned about raising this issue if a similar situation was occurring within the GOP?

Imagine if you will Condoleezza Rice as one of the contenders, and Mitt Romney or John McCain making racially insensitive remarks about her. Wouldn't media members be strongly suggesting, on likely an hourly basis, that this was a campaign strategy, and that Romney and/or McCain were appealing to racist Republicans?

On a scale from one to ten, with ten being a metaphysical certitude, the answer is probably "Eleven," right?

Well, shouldn't this be fully explored and analyzed if Democrats do it? Why aren't more media, even as press members strike out against Bill's recent antics, focusing on the possibility that this race baiting isn't accidental gaffes, but a coordinated campaign strategy?

Are the press only protecting the Clintons by evading such an examination, or are they also afraid of suggesting that there are actually racist liberals and moderates?

After all, whenever a Democrat says anything that appears to be racially insensitive, media are quick to defend him or her. If you don't believe me, just ask Joe Biden.

As such, maybe they're avoiding a serious discussion on this issue not just to protect the Clintons, but also to keep alive the illusion that the only racists in America are Republicans.

Whatever the reason, given how close this race is and the likelihood that it's going to continue for several months, it makes one wonder just how the media are going to evade this subject if the race card continues to be thrown.

Maybe they'll just continue to berate Bill for his behavior rather than actually address what's at the heart of it. This way they appear to not be condoning racism without actually informing the citizenry of how it's being used to advance the political ambitions of the former first couple.

This might be well and good for the consciences of those that know exactly what the Clintons' race strategy is, but it's far from demonstrating journalistic integrity, political impartiality, or, for that matter, morality.

Nor is it in any way good for the nation, as who knows what's going to come from the racial divide the Clintons are expanding.

To drive home the point, consider my liberal friend that's decided to vote for Hillary exclusively because of this race factor, and the number of people around the country that will vote for her for the same reason, or because their inner-racist has indeed gotten the better of them.

Is this likely to help close the racial divide in our nation, or set us back another couple of decades?

Will black people feel that their dream of finally getting one of their own in the White House was not only squashed by a white man, but also by a former president and his wife who purposely used race as a means of defeating a black candidate?

Additionally, if the media continue to largely ignore the issue, will black America see the press as having aided and abetted the Clinton strategy if Hillary ends up being the nominee?

And what of the larger picture? If you honestly separate what this means on Election Day 2008 from what it does for race relations in the future, which is more important?

Isn't this a question that media members should be asking?

In their search for the most recent hot campaign story, shouldn't the press examine how racist attacks on a black senator and presidential candidate by a former president and his wife are going to impact the nation as a whole and not just the upcoming elections?

Or, is winning back the White House so important to America's media that they too are willing to sacrifice race relations in this country in order to achieve victory?

If the answer to this question is "No," then even the most left-leaning press members must follow in Russert's footsteps by immediately exposing the Clinton strategy, and doing their darnedest to stop this race baiting in its tracks before the nation experiences irreparable harm.

After all, they wouldn't be hiding their disgust if a Republican candidate and his or her surrogates were doing what the Clintons are doing.

For the sake of the nation, they shouldn't be hiding their disgust now.

Race Issues Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential Double Standards ABC CBS NBC Face the Nation Meet the Press This Week Dick Morris
Noel Sheppard's picture