Saturday, August 02, 2008

Running while black

By Libby Spencer

Bob Herbert's column on the so-called race card is being widely cited today with great approval. Creature has the quotes so I won't repeat them. I have to say I'm not as bowled over by the column as most people seem to be but I think Herbert does summarize the problem of "running while black" well.

Obama has to dance on the edge of the knife in this campaign. I see a lot of progressives complaining that he's not hitting back hard enough against McCain's smear tactics. But if he hits too hard he risks (a) being accused of breaking his own pledge for a civil campaign and (b) being seen as "the angry black man." If he appears too confident, they accuse him of being uppity. If he appears too humble, they'll accuse him of being too weak to lead. He's undeniably caught up in damned if he does, damned if he doesn't loop.

For what it's worth, I think he's making the right decision to hold back on confronting the smears with similar tactics -- at this point. It's early. Most voters aren't paying attention and won't be until mid-September at the earliest and momentum is everything in politics. You build the big 'Mo too soon and you run the real risk of burning out before you get to the finish line.

However, come September, I think he'll have plenty of archived footage of McCain contradicting himself and then I think he should definitely run the kind of hard hitting ads the progressive community is clamouring for now.

(Modified version cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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