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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Eyes on the prize

At first blush, it had all the makings of the traditional Democratic circular firing squad.

Hillary Clinton accusing Barack Obama of working for a "slumlord," Obama firing back that Clinton was sitting on the Wal-Mart board while he was community organizing in Chicago.

Those carefully culled resume selections -- coming on top of the exchange over whether Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson played a greater role in passing civil rights legislation -- left me fearful that the Democrats ability to destroy themselves was rearing its head.

Then came what may have been the best light moment of any debate:

Obama was also asked whether he agreed with a statement by African American author Toni Morrison about Bill Clinton that "this is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime."

Obama paused for several moments, then responded: "Well, I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African American community, and still does. And I think that's well earned." He went on to add: "I would have to, you know, investigate more of Bill's dancing abilities, you know, and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was in fact a brother."

Clinton responded well:
"Well, I'm sure that can be arranged."
It's a fairly safe bet that with the albatross known as the Bush years on his shoulders, the eventual GOP nominee is coming after Clinton and Obama with lots more than Tony Rezko and Wal-Mart. The Monica-plus 10 anniversary stories and the hideous 'Barack is a Muslim' e-mail are simply at the top of the GOP dirty tricks bag.

Still, I find myself wishing for a bit more civility. Democrats were devoid of ideas for quite awhile and trashing Ronald Reagan is not the way to win over disgruntled Republicans, whether you agreed with the Reagan years or not. (He certainly looks better in comparison to the current occupant of the Oval Office.)

At the same time, as someone once wrote, "it takes a village" -- much like the village that combined the inspiration of Dr. King and the legislative arm-twisting ability of LBJ (not to mention the assassination of John F. Kennedy) to achieve the 1963 Civil Rights Act.

Lee Atwater, the late South Carolinian who honed modern day GOP black political arts, knew the only way George H.W. Bush could beat Michael Dukakis was to pump up that former Massachusetts governor's negatives. It's a safe bet the GOP's oppo research team has been working overtime on both Clinton and Obama.

Taking a few shots at each other probably doesn't come close to what the GOP nominee has in store for them. Better to get some of that stuff out there now.

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