[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/30/art.obama.clinton.gi.jpg caption="Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are statistically tied in Gallup's national tracking poll."]
President, Center for the Advancement of Women
Presidential politics is a rough game, intensified by the instantaneousness of the information age. Not for the faint-hearted. Thus, it’s hard to understand why Sen. Barack Obama didn’t unequivocally disavow Rev. Jeremiah Wright a month ago,leaving ambiguous the lines along which this minister influenced his perspective on race in America.
Mr. Obama had the perfect opportunity to make a clean break with the incendiary “black liberation” theologian, when he gave his widely-televised speech at Constitution Hall on the state of race relations. Instead, he chose to explain him and even grant him kinship as a cantankerous “uncle.”
Mr. Obama finally renounced his pastor, after the commotion triggered by Rev. Wright’s bizarre and stereotype-reinforcing minstrel performance. Sen. Obama’s belated outrage will likely generate public skepticism and add credence to the reverend’s characterization that he says, “what he has to say as a politician.”
Perplexingly, Mr. Obama missed another opportunity. While he emphatically declared that Rev. Wright’s messages are “antithetical to our campaign,” Americans are still awaiting to know what his presidency will be about on the issues of our daily lives, if he wins the nomination.
Sens. Obama and Clinton have failed to harness the distractions of their surrogates, allowing them to fill in the gaps on sensitive social issues they're not addressing.
In Ms. Clinton’s case - most prominently, strategist Mark Penn and her husband. Instead of a constructive, beyond-the-slogans debate about race, gender and class and how their presidencies will to lead to greater unity - which Americans want to hear - valuable campaign time is given to damage control, undermining their credibility and stoking the fires of cynicism about all politicians.
All Americans and the future direction of our nation are shortchanged. Especially shortchanged are the issues about which women want answers - pay equality, domestic violence, affordable healthcare, educational opportunities, reproductive rights - not on their websites, but spoken as plainly and directly as they do when they defend threats to their political ambitions.
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