Don’t Excuse Geraldine Ferraro
Why is there a double standard for liberals when it comes to racist remarks? Ruben Navarette, Jr. thinks the only thing worse than Ferraro's gaffe is how easily it has gone over with the press.
March 15, 2008 - 12:30 am
Surely you’ve noticed that, when it comes to people saying idiotic and racist things, the liberal media and the PC crowd maintain a double standard.
If the offender is a white male conservative from the South, they’ll hang him out to dry. Just ask Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, who was forced from his post as Senate Majority Leader after making insensitive remarks at a birthday party for South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, a former segregationist.
But, as we have learned, if the offender happens to be a liberal white woman who, say, 24 years ago, made history as the first female vice presidential nominee for a major political party, the whole story could burn out in the course of a few news cycles.
Before we rush to let bygones be bygones and absolve Geraldine Ferraro for her racially insensitive remarks about Barack Obama, let’s be clear about what exactly was offensive. A vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, Ferraro told the Torrance (CA) Daily Breeze: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”
The next day, it got worse. In another interview with the same newspaper, Ferraro complained: “Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let’s address reality and the problems we’re facing in this world, you’re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up.”
Ferraro didn’t shut up, although she should have. The hole was already deep enough. She could have put down her shovel. Instead, she managed to do two things at once – go on the offensive and play the victim. It’s not easy to snarl and whimper simultaneously, but she pulled it off.
“Racism works in two different directions,” Ferraro told the newspaper. “I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”
Not good, Gerry. With such inflammatory and idiotic comments — you quickly went from embarrassing the Clinton campaign to embarrassing yourself.
Obama himself called Ferraro’s comments “patently absurd” and mocked the idea that a black man running for president — let alone one with a name like Barack Obama — enjoyed some sort of natural advantage that led to smooth sailing.
That was being charitable. What Ferraro said came across as bitter, envious and incredibly foolish.
Eventually, under pressure, she resigned as from Clinton’s national finance committee. Defiant to the end, Ferraro sent Hillary Clinton a letter explaining that she was leaving “so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself.” She also charged that the Obama campaign was attacking her as a way of getting at Clinton.
Unbelievable. Ferraro refused to take any responsibility for what she said, or the ruckus it caused. Everyone makes mistakes, but she compounded hers by refusing to own up to them.
Let me help you with that, Ms. Ferraro. The reason that so many people cringed at what you had to say, and why Hillary Clinton immediately distanced herself from your remarks, is because you were way out of line. Not to mention out of step with the country and the times.
You’d have to be blind — or awfully petty — not to acknowledge Barack Obama’s vast skill set and massive inspirational appeal to voters across the demographic spectrum. A word like “lucky” doesn’t begin to cover it what this fellow has going for him or explain all that he has accomplished.
Think of it this way, Ms. Ferraro: If you had, in 1984, been able to match his appeal, you might well have become vice president and perhaps, after that, president. And, as such, you’d have already broken what Hillary Clinton tells us is the world’s highest and hardest glass ceiling.
You should be so lucky.
Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer and a regular contributor to CNN.com.