HILLARY ON RACE….In the Wall Street Journal today, Gerald Seib suggests that it’s not just the black candidate who ought to address the subject of race in the Democratic primary:
As fears of a racial divide move from the wings to center stage for Democrats, it has largely been Sen. Barack Obama who has been called upon to address the subject….Undoubtedly, he’ll have to do so again, in the wake of an appearance at the National Press Club Monday by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., whose commentaries on the state of American society have done as much as anything to bring race out of the campaign’s shadows.
Yet it is Sen. Clinton who now has the greater ability to ease racial tensions within her party. Arguably, she also has the greater need to do so, for her long-term standing.
The rapidly congealing conventional wisdom suggests that Obama is in deep trouble after Jeremiah Wright’s remarks yesterday and needs to disown him completely. This might be true: some of Wright’s comments, especially his impromptu answers to questions about AIDS and Louis Farrakhan, are obviously damaging as hell to Obama’s cause.
But Seib is right: Hillary Clinton could go a long way toward easing the tension that’s threatening to open a very deep breach within the Democratic Party. And she should. It wouldn’t be easy: she’s not a naturally gifted speaker, as Obama and Bill Clinton are, and every word she said would be scrutinized for double meaning and disingenuousness. Still, why shouldn’t the white candidate talk about this too? Defend Wright where he’s defensible and criticize him where he isn’t. Repudiate the ugliness that’s overtaken the campaign — much of it her own doing — and say plainly that it’s unfair to keep pretending that Obama bears responsibility for another person’s words. Take the press to task for focusing on trivia, and the public as well for holding a black preacher to a different standard than white ones like John Hagee, whose comments have been every bit as incendiary as anything Wright has said. Talk as honestly about race from a white perspective as Obama did last month from a black perspective.
It wouldn’t be easy. But then, she wants to president, doesn’t she? That’s not a job where you get to duck the tough issues.