For Clinton and Obama, the Virtues of Distractions

For both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama it has been a rough week. A long time Clinton aide slung the dirtiest mud of all in this mudslinging season, and the country learned that one of Obama’s best friends is (arguably) a racist. But for both candidates things could be worse.
Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, has apparently built a career on inflammatory rhetoric. Despite living in a country where African Americans have sat on the Supreme Court, and become Secretaries of State, generals, doctors, lawyers, etc., Wright calls this nation “the USKKKA.” That’s not very nice—especially for Obama who doesn’t see his path to the White House as being paved on race baiting, fear mongering, or the politics of victimization. Obama’s lines of defense—I didn’t hear some of his more radical ideas; I don’t agree with all of his radical ideas, but you don’t disown your strange uncle; some whites are racists, too—ring a little hollow. How could Obama have been such an active member of his church, and had such a close relationship with the man—you don’t call just anybody your uncle—and Obama not know how radical Wright’s beliefs were? Also, it is easier to make the argument that you don’t disown your real uncle than it is to argue that you can’t disown someone who is like an uncle (a point Hillary Clinton was happy to make). Finally, while there are white racists in this country, if one of them was a spiritual adviser to Clinton or McCain, that candidate would hardly get a free pass for saying “Well, yeah, but it’s not that big a deal because there are African American racists, too.”
Barack Obama does not see America the way his long time pastor does, or surely Obama would think he had no chance of winning the presidency. Thus, it is an unfortunate time for the Illinois senator. He is trying to weigh his “audacity of hope,” a cool line that he got from Wright parenthetically, vs. loyalty vs. ambition vs. truth vs. politics. What a conundrum.
Fortunately for his campaign, the media has begun to move on, thanks in part to a key endorsement Obama received from former Democratic candidate Bill Richardson. Richardson is a Latino, and if he can pull part of this important demographic from Sen. Clinton then her situation is even more precarious than before.
Longtime Clinton aide James Carville responded by comparing Richardson to Judas. It is interesting that Carville has not been repudiated by the Clintons given that aides on both sides have been cut loose for much milder rhetoric. But Carville’s typically over the top attack on a perceived Clinton enemy has actually served Hillary Clinton well. By making himself the center of attention, Carville has obscured a more embarrassing story for Clinton. As a former Cabinet member under Bill Clinton, Richardson joins a significant list of Democratic politicians who have worked closely with Team Clinton, and now don’t want them back in the White House. Does it make you wonder why that is?