Clinton plays the race card

While publicly claiming she disagrees with racist statements by former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic contender Hillary Clinton refuses to remove Ferraro from her fundraising role with the campaign, sticking with a race card strategy that shows how increasingly bitter her “win at any cost” strategy has become.

Clinton’s refusal to fire Ferraro for claiming frontrunner Barack Obama is only in his position because he is black has brought anger from the African-American community that once embraced the Clintons and invoked the ire of liberal activists and bloggers around the country.

At MSNBC, news show host Keith Olbermann told listeners Tuesday that he will have one of his hard-hitting, biting commentaries on Clinton’s campaign tactics on Wednesday’s broadcast.

Olbermann called Clinton’s actions “unacceptable” and “unbelievable.” Newsweek writer Howard Finneman, appearing on Olbermann’s show, said Clinton has clearly “broadened her kitchen sink” attack strategy to play the race card and has escalated the level of nastiness in an already dirty campaign.

“Okay, I’m convinced. Geraldine Ferraro is a bona fide racist,” writes Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, publisher of The Daily Kos, quoting from a 1988 Washington Post article that notes:

Former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his ‘radical’ views, “if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn’t be in the race.”

“So forget about chalking this up to dementia,” Zuniga concludes.

Still, Clinton refuses to fire Ferraro.

Reports Peter Jackson of The Associated Press:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she disagrees with Geraldine Ferraro, one of her fundraisers and the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate, for saying that Barack Obama “would not be in this position” if he were white instead of black.

In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Clinton said she regretted Ferraro’s remarks. The Obama campaign has called on the New York senator to denounce the comments and remove Ferraro from her unpaid position with the campaign.

Last week, Ferraro told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif.: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) 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.”

She also faulted a “very sexist media” in the historic race between a man bidding to be the first black president and a former first lady seeking to become the first female president.

In the AP interview, Clinton said, “I do not agree with that,” and later added, “It’s regrettable that any of our supporters — on both sides, because we both have this experience — say things that kind of veer off into the personal.”

“We ought to keep this on the issues. There are differences between us” on approaches to issues such as health care and energy.

Ferraro is a former New York congresswoman and was Walter Mondale’s running mate when he was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1984. She has endorsed Clinton and raised money for her campaign.

Obama called Ferraro’s comments “patently absurd.”

“I don’t think Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party. They are divisive. I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd,” he told the Allentown Morning Call.

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said Ferraro should be removed from her position with the Clinton campaign because of her comments.

“The bottom line is this, when you wink and nod at offensive statements, you’re really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes,” Axelrod said in a conference call with reporters.

A defiant Ferraro dismissed the criticism in an interview with Fox News.

“I have to tell you that what I find is offensive is that everytime somebody says something about the campaign, you’re accused of being racist.”

She also said she was the vice presidential nominee 24 years ago because of her sex, saying if her name was “Gerard Ferraro” she wouldn’t have been on the ballot.

Adds the French news agency AFP:

Ferraro, who sits on Clinton’s finance committee and has spoken at her rallies, sparked the firestorm when she was quoted by a California newspaper as saying: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.”

Obama, the first African-American with a viable shot at the White House, called the remark by the Democrats’ 1984 vice presidential nominee “patently absurd.”

“I don’t think that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party,” he told Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call.

His campaign clamored for Ferraro’s head, noting the swift resignation of an Obama aide last week after her remark that Clinton was a “monster” sparked howls of outrage from the New York senator’s team.

Obama’s top strategist David Axelrod said the comments were part of an “insidious pattern that needs to be addressed,” bringing up previous racially tinged rows between the two camps.

But Clinton said only that she did “not agree” with Ferraro’s portrayal of Obama as the privileged recipient of affirmative action, and found it “regrettable” that supporters might resort to personal attacks.

“We ought to keep this focused on the issues. That’s what this campaign should be about,” she said while stumping in Pennsylvania ahead of the state’s crunch primary on April 22.

Ferraro was the first woman on a major presidential ticket when she ran with Democratic nominee Walter Mondale in 1984. Republican Ronald Reagan won reelection in a landslide.

Speaking on Fox News, she refused to apologize, accused the Obama campaign of waging a hate campaign against her, and reiterated that the candidate’s political success was “in large measure because he is black.”

“I said this (Obama’s) is one of the best campaigns. I speak about his star quality. I talk about how exciting it is to have two campaigns, but you know, the truth is the truth is the truth,” Ferraro added.