Why Krugman Is Wrong

In his column today he suggests that two Clinton "gaffes" are inventions of the media and/or the Obama campaign. Only when wrested from context is that in any way plausible. In context, the response to what the Clintons were saying both times is perfectly understandable - and the Clinton implication ugly.

The reason the RFK remark was so tone-deaf, the reason it didn't resonate in the same way the two times that Clinton said it before ... is that, at this late stage in a six month primary process, the only way for Clinton to win is for something quite dramatic to take Obama out of the race. It's in that context that mentioning an assassination is so offensive - and triply so because of longstanding genuine fear for Obama's safety which no one wants to give oxygen to, for fear that some nutcase might feel empowered.

Now, even if all this was completely unintentional - and we should see this as just a very unfortunate slip of the tongue - the apology made it an issue. She owed an apology to Obama but more so to Michelle Obama, a woman who has to live with this fear all the time. And yet Clinton could only apologize to the Kennedys. This tells us a great deal about someone's character. Clinton has no class and no grace and a narcissist's understanding of others' pain.

And the second issue: Clinton's earlier invocation of Lyndon Johnson in order to minimize Obama's potential as an MLK figure.

Again, Krugman doesn't get it. What was offensive about this is not that Johnson wasn't essential. It was the condescension it implied. First, why is Clinton the senior figure here - the Senator against the activist? Both she and Obama are Senators, both junior ones in their respective states. Obama is not running as an activist; he's running to be Johnson. By putting Obama in the MLK box and herself in the Johnson box, Clinton is doing what so many whites do with black rivals: assume a reflexive ownership of power and responsibility. Why shouldn't Obama be both a King and a Johnson? Or Clinton be both for that matter? The model etched in Clinton's head - and it is part and parcel of her entire worldview with respect to minorities - is: you vote for us, we'll take care of you. And "we" is always white and straight and connected. Obama represents an end to those categories, which is why Clinton gets her strongest support from those most resistant to any diminution in established (i.e. white) power. Pat Buchanan gets what she appeals to, even if Krugman doesn't.

I've been open to an Obama-Clinton ticket; but the more you see of the Clintons, the more you realize that getting rid of them - and the assumptions they represent - is part of what this entire campaign has come to be about.