Reflections on Race and the Presidential Election
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Senator Barack Obama says that in reversing his pledge to take public financing in presidential campaign, he hopes to make campaign reform stronger after he's raised half a billion dollars and won, of course. Maybe that's how former presidents of the Harvard Law Review say, we had to destroy the village to save it. Senator Obama's reversal raises fair questions about the sincerity of his campaign promises and even about the decency of spending so much money, maybe six times what his opponent will have, at a time when thousands of Americans are losing their homes and the price of food is becoming difficult to afford. But Senator Obama made some remarks at a fundraiser last night - if he needs any more fundraisers - in Jacksonville, Florida, that may be overlooked in a debate over public financing. The audio was available today on the CNN website.
Senator Obama said that Republicans are quote, "going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced, and he's got a funny name. And did, I mention, he's black." Senator Obama's opponent in the general election is John McCain, not a small band of jerks on the internet. To my knowledge, Senator McCain has never mentioned Senator Obama's race, much less in the tone Senator Obama implied. What has John McCain ever done or said to merit the charge that he's going to make Senator Obama's race an issue? In fact, the McCains had to endure a whispering campaign about their multi-racial family during the 2000 South Carolina primary.
Senator Obama won more than 17 million primary votes this year, most of them, by the way, from people of a different race. He has written two bestselling books about his life. Right now, he is quite likely the best-known, most popular man in America, even in a country in which survey says some people don't know who the president is or can't find New Mexico on a map. How many people can there be who truly don't know that Senator Obama is black - or care. No doubt, Senator Obama has to bravely bear up under bigoted insults in his life, but not from John McCain. Can someone raise questions about the experience of a candidate who's only been a U.S. senator for four years and does not have a prodigious legislative record without being stained as a bigot? The results of this year's primaries and today's public opinion polls might suggest it is politically more injurious to insinuate that someone is a bigot than it is to make an issue of their race. Millions of Americans hope the country can go through this year's historic presidential campaign without anyone playing the race card, but they'll have to watch both sides of the table.
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