After Iowa, I felt good about Barack Obama and his campaign, even though my candidate lost. I loved his speech that night, and believed he was good for the progressive side of American politics. But after the last week, Obama's victory in South Carolina tastes like thin, salt-less gruel to this hopeful Democrat. It nourishes no one except the hard-core partisans, and its audacity - to use the favorite word du jour - was evident only in its cynical partnership with the rabidly anti-Clinton, race-baiting media.
It was a great political victory with a terribly sour after-taste, as Craig Crawford notes this morning:
The Obama camp was smart to gin up any plausible rationale for sidelining or ridiculing the former president. For the most part, he is an asset for his wife, the New York senator.
It was certainly brilliant for Obama’s team to enlist the aid of the news media in stirring up racial resentment against the Clintons – going back to New Hampshire when reporters and pundits promoted the bogus notion that Obama lost the state because of racism. That still unproven charge had to help Obama’s forces get the attention of African-American voters in South Carolina.
But it was sad to see so many in the news media become tools for one campaign’s agenda.
When you watch the likes of conservatives Joe Scarborough, Bill Bennett, Byron York, Andy Sullivan, George Will and Peggy Noonan "worry" about how the racial divide will split the Democratic Party, a slow burning rise of bile burns the throat. Digby:
So, this ugly race is over and it looks like all the racial talk was overblown and overplayed. The voters, once again, made their voices heard and the politicians will have to heed them.
I would hope that the media will take a little breather as well. Watching the concern trolling about Democratic racial divisiveness among people like Peggy Noonan, Joe Scarborough and Bill Bennett is enough to make me sick and should give progressives pause. As I wrote last night, I don't think this helps Senator Obama any more than it helps Clinton.
Twice now, the Obama camp has been too smug and too clever by half - early on, they enjoyed the vicious and openly sexist campaign against Hillary Clinton, until the "likeable enough" backlash cost them in New Hampshire and forced an on-air apology from Chris Matthews. In South Carolina, they cleverly played the race card - and I mean cleverly with all the sincerity of a reporter who once covered the mean streets of Bronx politics. They demonized Bill Clinton (who did a pretty good job of helping out, it must be said) and assisted in making the Clinton campaign seem racist - even though not a single racist statement has ever been attributed to either the Clintons themselves or to any of their bungling surrogates. They allowed the media to claim that the use of the word "fairytale" and any mention of Obama's youthful drug use was racially-tinged, even if the words came from black men who'd fought all their lives for civil rights. Why? Because they know the villagers (as Digby calls them) hate the Clintons, and always have. Lance Mannion:
The story is arising out of the same old prejudice against the Clintons. The bullshit about Hillary being so goddamn ambitious, as if no other politician in American history ever actually wanted to an election, is a legacy. It was Bill who was originally the ambitious one, the one who would do anything to win, like read polls and find out what voters wanted and then give it to them, the snake!
If they'd thought of it they'd have begun calling her Slick Hilly a long time ago.
They, of course, are the insiders' insiders of the Washington Insider establishment, the royalists and their journalist toadies, who have always been appalled by the Clintons' presumption.
For me (and I suspect for many other Democrats who feel silenced by the sexist anti-Clinton media onslaught), Barack Obama wasn't knocked off his pedestal by Bill and Hillary Clinton. He climbed down himself, with David Axelrod holding his hand. And he'll never reclaim that lofty position again.
Sadly, many normally sane observers bought into the national media lines. Hell, even Al Giordano - who claims he's pretty "hardboiled about politics" but fairly melts under the chosen one's gaze - actually says, "Obama became inoculated against the most powerful plays in the Clinton playbook." What plays, Al? What playbook? You actually think the Clintons took billionaire Bob Johnson aside and said "hey Bob, can you slyly inject race into this contest by appearing to clumsily refer to Obama's drug use?" It's patently absurd, and guys like Giordano and Bob Herbert at the Times - who used a single anonymous comment from an unattributed blog to cry racism this week in a shockingly juvenile column - ought to know better. So should the Josh Marshalls of the world, who actually have the temerity to claim that President Clinton's comparision of Obama and Jesse Jackson as pioneers to African-Americans was a racist ploy. Hey Josh, my second presidential vote went to Jesse Jackson, pal. The man was a pioneer. Inoculated? As if the Republicans won't dig up the very dirt the Obama campaign itself sent out regarding a racial divide that didn't actually exist?
The morning after Iowa, I felt pretty good about the future of the Democratic Party. This morning, I need a shower to wash away the slime of Obama's not-very-subtle partnership with the sickening race-baiting media.
Sour grapes, you suggest? Hell yeah. Not at the primary win, but at the sheer dishonesty openly employed by the Obama campaign and its media enablers. And there are millions and millions like me - Democrats who once thought they could happily vote for Barack Obama as a decent second choice. If it comes to it, I'll still pull the lever against any Republican, but I'll know what I'm getting now.
UPDATE: Once again, Barack Obama is singularly ungracious in victory.
UPDATE II: Big Tent Democrat, always a cynic (though an Obama supporter), absolutely nails it over at TalkLeft:
Regarding the Media coverage of this primary season it now seems clear that there is a new rule that objectivity and appearances thereof are out the window. Certainly at NBC this is true. From the far right commentators like Joe Scarborough to the liberal newscaster Keith Olbermann and Establishment columnists like Eugene Robinson and Margaret Carlson any pretense of not openly rooting against the Clintons has now been discarded. NBC's performance last night was unlike any other I have seen outside of Fox News. Olbermann, who likes to trash Fox, properly in my view, should pause for a moment and consider how much his broadcast last night resembled Fox.
But Barack Obama has an opportunity here to make these new rules, as they pertain to him, lasting. And so does the progressive blogosphere. I have long stated that Obama is a Media Darling, and indeed it is one of the main reasons I tepidly support him for the nomination.
He then lists a bunch of rules that basically boil down to: any criticism of Barack Obama is now to be considered "vaguely racist."
UPDATE III: It's incredible to me how supposedly liberal commentators are eager to smear Jesse Jackson, and ignore his record as Presidential pioneer. Do they forget that in 1988 - the famed "Year of Jackson" proclaimed by Times political writer R.W. Apple - Jesse Jackson won 11 primaries and caucuses, and racked up seven million votes? He won a majority of Hispanic votes in New York, and 14 percent of the white vote nationally. He was the first crossover black candidate for President, and he seriously challenged Michael Dukakis from the left. Yet according to Josh Marshall and this poorly-informed DailyKos diarist, the invocation of his name by President Clinton (who is close to Jackson) is some kind of racist smear against Obama. It would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.
UPDATE IV: Jesse Jackson weighs in.