Yesterday, James Taranto had this observation about Bull Clinton trying to tie Barack Obama to race-based looter Jesse Jackson. Emphasis mine:
Best of the Web Today – January 28, 2008
By JAMES TARANTO
Hillary Clinton had her head handed to her by Barack Obama in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, and her husband was quick to minimize the loss, Jake Tapper of ABC News reports:
*** QUOTE ***
Said Bill Clinton [Saturday] in Columbia, SC: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here.”
This was in response to a question from ABC News’ David Wright about it taking “two Clintons to beat” Obama. Jackson had not been mentioned.
Boy, I can’t understand why anyone would think the Clintons are running a race-baiting campaign to paint Obama as “the black candidate.”
*** END QUOTE ***
Yet while Tapper and many other observers are put off by Mr. Clinton’s evident appeal to racial prejudice, Jackson himself professes not to be, according to the New York Times:
*** QUOTE ***
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said late Sunday that he was not offended by comments on Saturday by former President Bill Clinton, who brought up Mr. Jackson’s name in response to a question about Senator Barack Obama.
Mr. Clinton had noted that Mr. Jackson had won South Carolina in the Democratic contests in 1984 and 1988. Pundits and many in the blogosphere interpreted Mr. Clinton’s mention of Mr. Jackson as an attempt to diminish Mr. Obama . . . because Mr. Jackson had not gone on to win the Democratic nomination.
But Mr. Jackson said he did not see it that way.
“I don’t read anything negative into Clinton’s observation,” Mr. Jackson said in a phone conversation late Sunday night. . . . Still, Mr. Jackson said that he had spoken to Mr. Obama on Saturday night and to Mr. Clinton a few days earlier and that he had appealed to both to “take it to a higher ground.”
*** END QUOTE ***
In Mr. Clinton’s defense, it may be said that Obama has some things in common with Jackson as a presidential candidate. Like Jackson (at least in South Carolina), he won an overwhelming number of black votes–78%, according to CNN exit polls–presumably in part because of ethnic pride. As for the white vote, one can argue that Obama’s glass is half empty (less than 1 in 4 whites went for him) or half full (Obama’s 24% was much better than the estimated 5% to 10% Jackson got in the 1988 caucuses, according to the New York Times ). Also, in this columnist’s opinion, Obama, like Jackson, is too liberal and too inexperienced to make an ideal president.
Given all this, and given that Jackson himself is taking the high road, shouldn’t we refrain from making a big deal of Mr. Clinton’s remark?
Absolutely not. Jackson is impossibly compromised in this matter, because at the root of Mr. Clinton’s comment is the recognition that Jackson stands for something loathsome–something that Obama has repudiated.
Jesse Jackson is not a racial healer but an ambulance chaser. He has made his career exploiting black insecurity and white guilt, seizing on racial disputes and misunderstandings to profit financially and enhance his own status. If racial disharmony disappeared tomorrow, Jackson would be out of a job.
In this sense–the sense that is most important to Jackson’s political identity–Obama is Jackson’s opposite. He has emerged as a national political figure, and a plausible prospective president, by calling for unity, not by seeking to take advantage of division.
When Mr. Clinton likens Obama to Jackson, the clear message to white voters is that a black candidate cannot be better than Jackson, cannot be relied upon to put the interests of the country above those of his race or himself. This is a truly bigoted notion–and it is one that Jackson cannot protest, for to protest it would be to acknowledge the truth about himself.