Diatribes of Jay

This blog has essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to social problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

17 January 2008

Nixon and Bush in Female Form?

Two days ago I wrote a post blaming the media for the flap about race in the Democratic primary contest. I thought there was nothing there but an attempt to fill slow news days. I was wrong.

Last night Mark Shields, the perennial Democratic pundit on the Lehrer News Hour, reported a darker view. He said that six leading Democratic analysts, not aligned with any campaign, believe Hillary Clinton is playing the race card. She is trying to get voters to support her because she is all white, while Senator Obama is of mixed race.

It was not just Shields’ report of experts’ views that convinced me. Consistent conduct of Hillary and her supporters leads to the same conclusion. By their acts ye shall know them.

First Hillary herself belittled the contribution of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the cause of civil rights and racial equality. It took, she said, the legislative skill of Lyndon Johnson as president to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and start the long process of making Dr. King’s dream come true.

While that statement has a germ of truth, it neglects a larger truth. Without Dr. King, the dream would never have entered our national consciousness. It was he who dreamed the dream, gave the speech, brought the dream to life with courage on the streets, and let the rest of us see it. It was he who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get hardened pols like Johnson to see it, too. And four years later, it was Dr. King who gave his life for the cause, becoming our first secular American saint.

Anyway, why make the comparison if not to bring up race? Could Hillary seriously compare herself with Lyndon Johnson?

Before becoming president, Johnson served twelve years in the House, twelve years in the Senate—six of them as Senate majority leader—and nearly three years as Vice President. Two historians consider him the most effective Senate majority leader in history. For Hillary to compare herself with Johnson, even by implication, would be a far more egregious lie than the four myths that Hillary has spun so assiduously to inflate her résumé.

Soon afterward, Robert Johnson, former CEO of BET, made oblique reference to Obama’s confessed drug use while a youth. He did so while stumping for Hillary at her own rally. Later he tried to explain that remark away, but his explanation fell flat. What he was really doing was raising the same sort of nameless fear of crime, as associated with race, that Dubya's father used in the famous Willie Horton ad to defeat Mike Dukakis in 1988.

The last straw came last night. News broke that Clinton supporters have gone to court to prevent maids, busboys, and waiters—mostly Latinos—in Las Vegas’ casinos from having the right to caucus where they work.

Yes, you read that right. Folks who call themselves Democrats are seeking to disenfranchise low-income, minority voters just as Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales’ legions have sought to do for the last eight years.

Hillary’s campaign did not file the lawsuit. But her supporters did. And her own husband reportedly approved of it. In his inimitable Orwellian logic, Bill called it a quest for equality.

As James Bond once said, “Once is coincidence. Twice is happenstance. Three times is enemy action.”

These three consistent stories all show what the Clintons or their supporters are prepared to do to slake their boundless ambition. They will turn to the Dark Side to win the caucuses in a single, small state. Their tactics are all of a piece with Hillary’s true motivation for approving the war in Iraq. For her it is all about ambition. The ends justify the means—any means.

Hillary is exploiting, or at least failing to condemn, modern variants of the Willie Horton ad and the politics of racial division and disenfranchisement used by Nixon, Reagan, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove and both Bushes.

I never thought I would see the day when a leading Democrat took advantage of these despicable and divisive tactics. But that day has come. All who call themselves progressives and believe in the cause for which Dr. King gave his life should take note.

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  • At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 10:14:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Of course this is a Clinton strategy, but the media are still to blame. Your first article was spot on.

    Many of these political reporters know exactly what the Clintons are doing, yet they serve as perpetrators of this great crime.

    There's no holding the Clintons accountable because they want to win, but perhaps a media backlash can stop the media from carrying out their dirty deeds.

  • At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 10:22:00 AM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    I agree that the media hyped the story before the lawsuit in Nevada made clear the extent of Hillary’s supporters’ Rove-like tactics. But a story that big had to be told.

    As for the lawsuit, it will fail. No court in the land is going to tell a political party how to run its caucuses—far less in the middle of a primary campaign. Its true purpose is to suppress turnout at the caucuses on the Las Vegas Strip by confusing voters are where the caucuses will be held and whether they might be doing something wrong.

    It is Rove at his most diabolical.


  • At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 10:31:00 AM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    Sorry for the typo: "are" in the second-to-last line of the previous comment should read "as to."


  • At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 11:16:00 AM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    After further reflection, I disagree with Sagereader in one more respect. He/she wrote “There’s no holding the Clintons accountable because they want to win . . .”

    I don’t know whether they Clintons will be held accountable for their supporters’ Rove-like tactics—which only plausible deniability separates from their own. The voters will decide that. But the Clintons should be held accountable, especially by Democrats.

    What once distinguished the U.S. (and still distinguishes Britain) from places like Russia, Cuba, Zimbabwe and now (regrettably) Kenya is that we Anglo-Americans care as much about how things are done as what is done. For us, process matters—or at least it used to.

    What’s wrong with Guantánamo is not that we’ve got some dangerous people confined there for the duration of the conflict. It’s that we’ve got a lot of innocent people confined there, too, and our process for deciding who is who is not fair, effective, or consistent with our traditions.

    In a separate post, I’ve written how Karl Rove’s approach to gaining and keeping political power is a firm step toward the gulags. So far the tactics of the Clinton supporters are only a baby step, but it’s in the same direction.

    If we Americans don’t wake up soon and understand how much process matters, we’ll end up one day in a place that feels a lot like Russia or Cuba.

    That’s one of the most important reasons why Obama has to win. He taught constitutional law for years, and he understands how important these obscure issues of process are. Fair process is the essence of our liberty.



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