In the Arena

On Ferraro

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Mickey Kaus is on to something here… but not very much. Obama’s Kansan-Kenyan heritage is obviously a plus for many voters–especially younger voters–and people like me, who (a) who see American racial eclecticism as a great national strength and (b) think a President named Barack Obama would have a real advantage in dealing with the rest of the world (and more credibility delivering tough messages to assorted global miscreants than the current President does).

But to say that Obama got to where he is because of his race like saying that Halle Berry got to where she is because of hers. First, he is, without question, the best public speaker the Democratic Party has produced since John F. Kennedy. Second, he has shown an ability to remain cool and quick and very smart under pressure–his more recent performances in debates attest to that. Third, he is offering a less obnoxious sort of politics, an attempt to transcend the witless hyperpartisanship of the past twenty or so years while holding onto his basic principles. Obama’s age and sensibility–and talent–have a lot more to do with his success than his race.

In fact, what Ferraro was really doing here–whether she was consciously aware of it or not–was to raise the specter of affirmative action in a state whose white working-class population has a history of being sensitive to such appeals. Mickey alludes to this sort of politics by linking to the famous, scurrilous Jesse Helms North Carolina Senate campaignad. I’d add that Pennsylvania was also the site of Jimmy Carter’s famous support for “ethnic purity” in working-class neighborhoods, when he was in a tough primary battle against Scoop Jackson, back in 1976.

Ferraro compounded her malicious foolishness by blaming the Obama campaign for making this an issue during an absurd, near-incomprehensible performance on the NBC evening news last night. She should take a deep breath, apologize to Obama and then go away.