March 13th, 2008
08:47 PM ET

A fork in the road to history

Geraldine Ferraro’s comments that Barack Obama’s candidacy benefits from his being black has re-launched a new wave of media stories examining the race factor. Newspapers across the country – including in Pennsylvania where the next primary happens – are analyzing whether the Clinton campaign benefits from these types of racial comments which wind up overshadowing the campaign at large.

Some papers dub it the “Archie Bunker strategy”, an attempt to tap into potential prejudices in white ethnic voters by forcing them to focus on Obama’s “blackness.”

Reckless and irresponsible comments have turned this historic race into a divisive and at times ugly campaign, and consequently racial politics has firmly burrowed itself into the election. We are still almost six weeks away from the Pennsylvania primary and given the pattern thus far, Ferraro probably won’t be the last to discuss Obama’s skin color.

So how do the candidates handle these moments? It’s hard to imagine Clinton orchestrated the latest salvo, but should she have spoken out against it more forcefully? Should she be held responsible for divisive comments made by a woman associated with her campaign?

For Obama, does it do him a disservice to respond to all these kinds of statements? Does he risk a backlash by appearing to play the race card himself even though he was attacked?

And what about the Democratic Party itself? Democrats constantly accuse Republicans of playing the politics of fear and division, but they seem to know their way around the block all too well. They love advertising the fact the first black or female nominee will head their ticket, but shouldn’t the path to this remarkable moment strengthen the party and not leave it divided?

– Eric Bloom, 360° Producer

Filed under: Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Julia in TX

    Let's see. We can't discuss his skin color, nor his middle name, and if we catch him "whining" that's a no-no too. Is there anything you news anchors allow on Obama since you have had him perched in his ebony tower for the entire campaign? Are you all blind from the glow you feel radiating from his being? I was at the TX debate and I know Campbell Brown has been drenched in the light. Perhaps you believe his minister and he is, indeed, Jesus Christ.

    I know MY tax dollars won't be going to support his church OR his "retired" minister. He will never, ever get my vote!

    March 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  2. Daniel

    Don't know if anybody has noticed but the Democratic Party has already been destroyed and the Clintonites are quite happy about their accomplishment. Congratulations – as a life long, loyal African American Democrat I've decided to become an independent. White Liberals blow. Hillary Clinton has revealed the behind the scenes racism that exists in them all. Great job guys you've just handed the Presidency to the Republicans for another 8 years. I will not vote for "Hillary the Racist" under any circumstance.

    March 13, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  3. Gretchen

    This "fork in the road" goes back a few years. Read up on the Abolitionists and the Suffragettes or the Civil Rights Movement and the Womens Rights Movement. It is a long and ugly struggle for those of us who have been denied rights in the US. Sometimes we have been united in our struggles. Sometimes we get pitted against each other. Sometimes we just plain disagree on the agenda. It has been a long and winding road all the way here. Don't worry, though. We will get where we are going.

    March 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Seems to me both candidates can dish the dirt. The more attention we pay to it, the worse it will get. Lets get back to the issues.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    March 13, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  5. julie

    I believe the Clinton machine is fueling the race issue. Unfortunately the Democrats could lose this fall because of it. The Clinton campaign appears desperate to do anything...even if it means their party loses in the end...

    March 13, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  6. Regine, Arlington, Virginia

    Eric, as a multi-racial Africian- American with white members in our family and DNA, what part of Senator Obama are the white voters voting against, his white grandparents and mother who raised him or the Kenyan father who walked out on them when he was 2 years old. Most AA have white members in their families or DNA , so to call blacks racist based on who we vote for is ignorant. I didn't vote for Senator Obama because of race I voted for him based on his message. My runner-up candidate was Edwards and in the past I voted for President Clinton twice. Senator Clinton's campaign arrogance is the reason I'll never vote for her, today she wants to apologize for her supports, advisors and husbands mis spoken words, just in time for primaries in PA and NC. The Clinton campaign must think all AA's are stuck on stupid. How could she step to a mic and SHAME ON YOU to anyone and throw Karl Rove's name out, while using his playbook in place of her bible. Remember Her statement," I'm A CHRISTIAN". Well she needs to act like one.
    Actions speak louder than words. After 7 years of the decider, we can't afford 8 years of a divider.
    Please post my comments.

    Obama / Edwards or Webb 08

    March 13, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  7. Tim

    The media has allowed Hillary Clinton to get away with a lot of under handed, smear tactics that are commonly used by the Republicans to assassinate other candidate's character. Her campaign has criticized Obama with comments that have racial overtones in order to frighten white voters into voting for her instead of Obama. It's called racist fear-mongering campaign tactics. Clinton wants white women to fear Obama, the same way they do when they see black men walking near them. They grab their purses and fear for their lives. That's the way Clinton wants them to think when they step inside the voting booth.

    As for the distribution of delegates for the states of Florida and Michigan, they should be split in half (50% goes to Obama / 50% goes to Clinton) without going through the fiasco of doing a second primary election in both states. Both the Democrats and Republicans in both states knew the consequences of moving up their primary election dates. The rules established by the Democratic National Committee were clearly written and everyone knew what would happen if they were broken. But the Republican Governor of Florida along with the Republican-run state legislature wanted to screw up the Democrats' chances of winning the White House by moving the dates up and then blaming Democrats for disenfranchising their own voters because of it. It's plain and simple dirty politics schemed by the Republicans. Most of the voters who did vote in both state primary elections were Republicans anyway, thus trying to stuff the ballot box so the weaker Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, would get the nomination and make it an easy win for McCain in November. Even Rush Limbaugh was encouraging Republicans to vote for Clinton in the Texas primary because he knows McCain has a better chance of beating Clinton than he does Obama. Point the finger of blame to the unethical tactics of the Republican party for trying to rig the Democratic nomination so the weaker candidate faces McCain in November and loses, thus giving the Republicans another four years in the White House.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  8. Cindy

    @ Dorothy
    CNN has had on Obama's pastor and what he has said. I saw it today on the Sit Room with Wolf Blitzer. He also had a panel on and they talked about what the pastor said, Obama's response and each of the guests responded for quite a bit. Maybe you need to pay more attention before you go attacking someone.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:40 pm |
  9. Chuck in Enterprise, AL

    I wonder what MLK would say about all this? I think he would be ashamed at the blatant racial voting that is occuring. He so wanted all people to be able to make up their own minds without regard to race. The racism started the first time the MEDIA mentioned the "black vote."

    This is the first time in my lifetime I believe the media has affected the outcome of a presidential election. What happened to unbiased reporting?

    March 13, 2008 at 9:36 pm |
  10. Mark, Streamwood Il.

    The move by Ferraro really set me on edge, caused me to look back at all the comments made throughout this campaign.

    Wasn't it Hillary Clinton that was the first among the candidates to point out in a debate hosted by CNN that this was an historic campaign, because a black and a woman were the last two remaining Democratic nominees?

    Wasn't it from the Clinton campaign that Bill Clinton really was "the first Black President?

    Weren't there a few gaffs on Bill Clintons part just before South Carolina Primary that cause rumblings in the black community?

    How about the Hispanics?

    The list gets larger the more I think about it.

    I'll be honest. I've liked Obama since I first heard him speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. The guy had an intangeable quality about him that wreaked of political potential. I had often said to friends and co-workers that he "was the Tiger Woods of politics . . . a black man that can make you forget he's black. He is just that good at what he does." This is why I voted him into the Senate, and hoped he would have considered a future bid for the presidency (maybe 2012-2016) once he gained more experience. He decided to run in 2008.

    While not a huge fan of Bill Clinton personally, I thought he did a decent job as president, and secretly I believed it was really Hillary calling the shots. She struck me as a shrewd, tough as nails politician, who knew how to get the job done. I remember as early as 2005 people talking about her running for president and thought it may actually be a good thing, especially after Bush. I watched the way she could polarize any conversation, typically based on red/blue sentimentalities, and pretty much figured by 2006 that she would be the Democratic nominee. I think she figured that too, but something happened on the way to her coronation. The "skinny kid with the funny name" actually came to compete.

    Somewhere along the line he used his magic to wake up people like me, a disinfranchised middle class white male, neither republican nor democrat, who for the first time in his voting life actually felt like voting FOR someone, not against the other guy. Most of the time I didn't bother to vote at all, thinking it really didn't matter. We came out in record numbers . . . Tiger Woods for President became our battle cry . . . and everyone (including you at CNN) scratched their heads in disbelief.

    From there it has steadily gone down hill, because a coronation turned into a campaign, and I am so sick and tired of seeing everything now being twisted into some sort of demographic, groundbreaking historical moment, or social revolution. I got involved because I'm tired and want to believe that my country thinks about me. Tiger Woods . . . err Barrack Obama . . . gave that to me for a brief time, but now it is back to business as usual at his expense.

    I'll probably vote in the general election, and if my suspicians are true, it will be against the one I have come to despise for what she did to my dream.

    And in the end, the Democratic Party, and you CNN (along with the other news channels) will lose as the millions like me stop caring again.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  11. Fay, CA

    The current problems in the Democratic party only illustrates how far we have to go in terms of dealing with racial issues. Some of the comments over the past few days on the 360 blog regarding the Ferraro/Obama/Clinton controversy have been very depressing to read–it doesn't appear that we are any closer to understanding each other. The candidates should take the high road and not allow race to prevent them from focusing on the other important issues this country faces–having said that, race is one of those important issues, but the more the Democrats continue to stir things up within the party, the more likely that people will be turned off and possibly hand the White House over to the Republicans once again.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:24 pm |
  12. dorothy

    Why don't any of you at CNN air all the racist crap Obama's minister of 20 years is putting out right now...are you so anti-Clinton you don't want this to aired..FoxNews is not afraid...they air it almost every night...he needs to answer some of these things..

    March 13, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  13. Jo

    I don't put anything past the Clintons. They will play the race card, the religion card, the gender card, or any other card that suits their immediate purpose. I think they orchestrated this whole thing with Ms Ferraro, including the round of apologies to African Americans. Poor Ms. Ferraro probably had no clue that she would be tossed overboard.

    The Clintons are shrewd pit-vipers that would rather destroy the Democratic Party than lose to Obama.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  14. Mary

    Senator Oboma has stated in his campaign he was the first black student on the Harvard Law Review and his first real job was a civil rights attorney. He seemed proud of these accomplishments as he should be so why does he come down on anyone who acknowledges his race. His age, race or gender cannot be changed even if he wanted it to be.
    He can not have it both ways or he is a hypocrite.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  15. Theo DiPassional

    All this arm-flailing in the Democratic nomination race is driven by the completely provincial prospective people working within a campaign
    and the media that covers it. The general public understands that both Obama and Clinton are fighting to win a nomination. No less should be expected of them. What kind of things would we be saying if somebody who felt he or she was fit to be President of the United States and Leader of the Free World caved in and bowed out because "the other guy's people"–or the media and its endless parade of pundits–say he or she should. The people in the campaigns and the media should get some perspective on this.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  16. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Let's just hope if either won of them is elected, that the next 4 years won't be spent untangling inappropriate slams day in and day out.
    There's a lot of work to be done and at some point they will have to stop the he said, she said battle of insults. Being the President is a huge job. There comes a point, when issues of whether you're a woman or a black can't be allowed to overshadow the duties of the Presidency.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  17. Tammy

    Because this is a first, a woman and African American as front runners for the party ticket, there is no road map on how this will go with Americans or what should be done. There's an open page, and unfortunately instead of uniting those who have traditionally been disenfranchised in the political process (women and African Americans) it's caused tremendous divisions, ugly back biting even among voters, and a backlash against the media if they breathe the wrong way in someone's eyes. I had more hope that Americans were bigger than the ugliness that has separated us for so long. Sadly, those who have been discriminated against seem to be the ones causing the most uproar and creating more chaos among voters. I really wish the candidates would prove they are bigger people and stay above the fray, but they seem to be getting embroiled in it as well. What is so ironic is that the white male in this race appears to have the least bigoted statements coming from his camp and supporters right now. While the dems allow race and gender differences to eat them alive, John McCain stands to benefit from this whole debacle. The democrats have a chance to make history. However, their own pride and self-interests look like they'll assure the Republicans of another four years in the White House. Honestly, I don't want the idiot courts of race and gender fighting running this nation, and that seems to be what we're going to get with the democratic party. When will the DNC stop all this childish nonsense from both camps? Or are they looking to self-destruct the party once more in a run for the White House?

    March 13, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  18. Cindy

    Why should Hillary be held accountable for what someone else says? She can't totally control every word that comes out of peoples mouths that are behind her campaign. Ferraro may help Hillary out but she doesn't work for her. Therefore Ferraro can say what ever she pleases. Besides didn't Hillary say she didn't agree with what was said?

    If Hillary is held accountable for Ferraro's words then Obama needs to be held accountable for his pastors words also! What is good for the goose is good for the gander!

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  19. spencer

    What if???? 90% of white voted for Hillary, would that be racist I beleive it would. The African Americans can do this with Obama and its not racist, wrong it is very racist. I think you people in the Media are getting it wrong delicate subject or not. I do not agree with it. The man is a racist. I will vote Hillary and if no nomination for her, then I won't vote in the fall for anyone. But I would never vote Republican. Let Obama win with just the African American vote. Thank you.......... Please print this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 13, 2008 at 9:04 pm |