Hillary Clinton has been listening to her political advisors again, and I'll bet that Bill is not one of them because she's getting bad advice. Her "Congress as Plantation" remark in a church in Harlem on Martin Luther King Day was hamfisted and insulting. Bill would have been much more nuanced and said something like, "the Republicans run Congress like a company store." Then he could have made his black reference so appealing that all those listening would believe they were in on the same inside joke. Bill grew up in 1950s Arkansas, and the cadence and pitch of black oratory come naturally to him. Hillary grew up in a Chicago suburb and attended private schools. Her attempt at relating to an African American church congregation sounded more like Vivian Leigh than Hattie McDaniels. Something happens to white people when they address a black audience. Their speech becomes more Southern and measured and if they receive a response from the audience, it starts feeling good to them and they believe that they, too, can pontificate like Martin Luther King,Jr. And before you know it, they're talking about plantations and what-not. This manner of speech coming from Mrs. Clinton in that setting can be called only one thing; pandering.
Since it is no secret that Mrs. Clinton is the frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic Party's presidential nomination, she is attempting to position herself to become more palatable to middle America. Thus, last month she announced her co-sponsoring of a bill in Congress with Republican Senator Robert Bennett to criminalize flag burning, even though the Supreme Court has already determined that the symbolic act of burning the flag is free speech protected by the First Amendment. That was then and this is now. A new Supreme Court with a decidedly conservative bent may decide to revisit the issue. If the bill has Hillary's name on it, she may look more patriotic to the yee-haws but ultimately, it won't work. Liberals know who she is and where she came from and so do Conservatives. Her stance in this matter is pure posturing and everyone can see it but her. This insults both the left and the right and though Hillary may well capture the 2008 nomination, I believe she will get rolled like George McGovern in 1972. She is as polarizing a figure as Bush and is perceived as someone who cares more about political power than the issues. The real shame is that this is a perception of her own construction.
So it is also with my hometown Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Bill Frist. Junior is the son of the patriarch of the most powerful black political dynasty the city of Memphis has ever seen. He has been cautious to avoid the sort of rough racial politics his uncles and aunts played in the 70s and 80s. Yet, because he is positioning himself to be acceptable to the conservative voters of East Tennessee, he voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. This from a young man educated at the University of Michigan who inherited his father's congressional seat before he even graduated. This smacks of hypocrisy. I don't think he really believes in his vote, and instead tried to execute a "stealth" vote after the issue was already decided to show conservative voters he was no liberal like Dad. If Congressman Ford, Jr. actually believes that an amendment to the Constitution is needed to prevent gays from marrying, then it is doubly troubling. Regardless of how you feel about Jr.'s controversial family, they were political and civil rights pioneers, and it would be deeply upsetting to know that a person who benefited from the advances in civil rights would attempt to pass a constitutional amendment denying those same rights to others.
I am sick to death of political posturing and the ever increasing influence of the political advisor. It was widely reported and heavily criticized that in one phone conversation between Bill Clinton and his advisor Dick Morris, Morris put one of his call girls on the line to listen in on the President. When Bush was elected, however, Karl Rove went ahead and moved the entire whorehouse into the West Wing. Rove has proven how so much power in the hands of an unelected official can be misused with impunity. My sense is that voters are also tired of the political advisor and yearn for someone to emerge with real convictions and sincere intentions.
Last month, Senator Barack Obama spoke about his political philosophy and leveled a sober critique of the current government in a speech sponsored by the family of the late Senator Robert Kennedy. Ethel Kennedy was so impressed, she was quoted as saying that Obama reminded her of Bobby at that age because of his intelligence and his conviction. Obama is a freshman senator and needs more experience in office, but he seems to be the type of honest and forthright speaker this nation is seeking in a candidate. And in the three years before the next election, perhaps someone will rise from obscurity to capture that national imagination like Jimmy Carter did in 1976. Or a man of the people like West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin could be thrust into the forefront by unpredictable events.
I hope that whoever is the eventual Democratic nominee will get there without pandering or talking down to the American voter. And if there is to be any tampering with the constitution to garner votes, I hope someone will propose to do away with the 22nd Amendment setting Presidential term limits. This bill was forced into law by Republicans who were tired of being clobbered by FDR. Term limits thwart the will of the people by setting an artificial and arbitrary time for the President to retire. This seems to be the antithesis of true Democracy and counter-productive to our society. If we could repeal the 22nd, it would put an end to the problem of lame duckism and allow our chief executive to concentrate on the problems of the nation other than raising money for the next election. What I'm attempting to say is that I believe Bill Clinton is now ready to be President. Why settle for a pandering Hillary when we could have a contrite and polished Bill?