Ferraro Quits Clinton Job After Obama Comments Throughout the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, issues of race and gender have arisen in controversial ways. The latest: Geraldine Ferraro's comment to a California newspaper that "(i)f Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." She subsequently quit her position with the Clinton campaign.
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Ferraro Quits Clinton Job After Obama Comments

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Ferraro Quits Clinton Job After Obama Comments

Ferraro Quits Clinton Job After Obama Comments

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Geraldine Ferraro is resigning from her fundraising position with Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign because of comments she made about Senator Barack Obama. Ferraro, the 1984 vive presidential nominee, suggested in a recent interview that Obama would not be where he is in the presidential race if he were not black. Obama said this statement was an attempt to divide America with, quote, "slice and dice politics," and he called on Senator Clinton to denounce this statement.

Yesterday, Clinton said she did not agree with Ferraro's remarks. Ferraro said her comments were misinterpreted. Here she is on ABC's "Good Morning America."

(Soundbite of show "Good Morning America")

Ms. GERALDINE FERRARO (Democratic Politician; Former New York Representative): I was celebrating the fact that the black community in this country has come out with a pride in a historic candidacy and has shown itself at the polls. You'd think he'd say, yes, thank you for doing that. That's the kind of thing that we want to say thank you to the community. Instead, I'm charged with being a racist.

NORRIS: This is just the latest example of how race and gender issues are complicating the Democratic race for the White House.

For more on this we spoke earlier today to a household of divided Democrats. Christopher Edley and Maria Echaveste are married, they both teach law at U.C. Berkeley and they both worked in the Clinton White House. But their political allegiances are split this year. Chris Edley is an adviser to Barack Obama; Maria Echaveste is advising Hillary Clinton. I asked each of them about Ferraro's comments.

Professor MARIA ECHAVESTE (Law, U.C. Berkeley; Adviser, Clinton Campaign): Well, I think two things. One is that she diminished herself. Basically she says that I was selected as a vice presidential nominee because I was a woman, it had nothing to do with qualification, and I found that just appalling. And so she crossed the line because, in some way, she left the impression that somehow Sen. Obama has reached this particular point solely because he's black, and that's just so unacceptable.

NORRIS: Chris?

Professor CHRISTOPHER EDLEY (Law, U.C. Berkeley; Adviser, Obama Campaign): It's also incorrect. First, I just have to get it off my chest because my heart is pounding. Barack did not call her a racist. I don't think anybody on the campaign that I know of has called her a racist. I think that it's undoubtedly the case that his race, like Hillary's gender, has been a political plus and a political minus. I think if this year has taught us anything it's that we need to revisit a lot of the conventional wisdom about the way race can play in American politics.

Prof. ECHAVESTE: And gender, too.

Prof. EDLEY: And gender, too. And gender, too.

NORRIS: Are you two agreeing?

Prof. ECHAVESTE: Well, actually, partly. There are a lot of people out there who I think are voting happily for Barack Obama in part because he's black. It's part of the equation because it's affirming about what the country is in the same way that there are a lot of voters out there who look at Hillary Clinton and say isn't it terrific there is a person here with the qualities, with the skills and she's a woman? So there is a part of me that thinks that it's being taken out of context. And what it shows, basically, is that race is really tricky. It is, to paraphrase my husband, harder than rocket science. Well, simply I just…

Prof. EDLEY: People…

Prof. ECHAVESTE: Go ahead.

Prof. EDLEY: No, I was just going to say, people of her stature, people in her position - that's to say, Ms. Ferraro - she should know better than to even raise this issue of race. But, still, she should…

NORRIS: Why should she know better? Why not put it on the table and talk about it? How will you ever deal with it and get pass it if you don't talk about it?

Prof. EDLEY: Well, I think it's one thing for people who are just analysts to do it - people who are journalists, if you will. It's another thing for people who are political figures who take upon themselves to try to help shape our political discourse. This is such a sensitive issue and so dangerous that I believe in this year everybody needs to be hyper-careful, hypersensitive about saying anything, doing anything that will be interpreted in a way that injects race or gender into the equation.

NORRIS: Just a quick question, a direct question looking forward. Because race and gender may be unavoidable in a contest between these two candidates on the Democratic side, will a continued or protracted battle between these two candidates - if these issues continue to come up - be a good thing or a bad thing for the party because I've heard people make both arguments?

Prof. ECHAVESTE: Well, I guess I would say, if the sort of race-gender flare-ups that happened are not particularly useful - you know, you have periods of law where you're sort of talking about the issues and that's actually really great. I think that the protracted struggle may actually be good because it sustains a level of engagement of the public and therefore suggest to me that people are going to be - continue to be engaged and are not going to abandon the process come November. So I'm not sure.

NORRIS: Chris?

Prof. EDLEY: I think that from now on out, the protracted discussion is mostly bad on many levels for the party and mostly bad principally because the way in which they are continuing to wage battle. The way in which they're doing it is driving a wedge between different elements of the party that's going to be very difficult to overcome.

NORRIS: We'll have to leave it at that. But I have a feeling this conversation between the two of you will continue.

Prof. EDLEY: Hmm. For sure.

Prof. ECHAVESTE: Absolutely.

NORRIS: Thank you very much.

Prof. EDLEY: Thanks, Michele. Take care.

Prof. ECHAVESTE: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: Husband and wife, Christopher Edley and Maria Echaveste, both of U.C. Berkeley Law School. Mr. Edley advises the Obama campaign; Mrs. Echaveste advises the Clinton campaign.

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