- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

If Bill Clinton was the “black” president, what does that make Hillary Clinton? If Hillary wins the 2008 run for the presidency, what does the protocol call for: First Gentleman; or simply First Man? If Barack Obama succeeds in anesthetizing voters to his black and white roots, will pundits resort to the Norman Lear mindset and start calling him a “zebra”?

The wildly successful Norman Lear, whose sitcoms stereotyped blacks and protestants, Jews and functional illiterates, women and motherhood, and turned social conservatism on its red-state head, made an awful lot of Americans laugh. Bill Clinton, who was among the laughing, thought Mr. Lear’s Noo Yawk state of political correctness had a social consciousness and said so in 1999, when he awarded the TV producer the National Medal of Arts: “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.”

The complexion of the race for 2008 is a horse of an altogether different color.

Hillary makes nervous Nellies out of the Big Boys, who are used to running against guys named Brownback and McCain, and Clinton and Biden. And the Big Boys are ever-so familiar with the Jacksons and Sharptons, and egg on the Newts and Huckabees to do their thing.

But what now with a popular Italian American named Rudy Giuliani? A Christian with a Muslim-sounding name? A Mormon with respectable political roots? A girl who finally is having successive good hair days?

What’s a mainstream presidential candidate to do to distance himself from the other runners?

Joe Biden, who has been in the running ever since his first Senate re-election, opted for white armor and a nasty swipe. Asked during a recent interview with the New York Observer about the Obama candidacy, Mr. Biden opened wide his already big mouth: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

I mean, that’s racist, man. And no less offensive than Trent Lott’s foot-in-mouth remarks of a few years back. More offensive than the “here come da judge” commentaries by blacks about Clarence Thomas. No less derogatory than the racist lines written for Archie Bunker and George Jefferson.

The Big Boys are laughing because Biden the Articulate wasn’t trying to be humorous. He was being vicious, because it also matters what he didn’t say — that Mr. Obama is a man of substance and thought or anything else along those lines. He backhanded the man.

I don’t know Barack Obama, but he’s no Jesse Jackson (I know that much because I was a media volunteer on Jesse’s first run for the White House). And since I don’t know Joe Biden either, I can’t say whether he is or isn’t a racist. But I can say this: What Joe Biden said is racist and offensive.

The 2008 race is like no other in American history, so voters must pay closer attention to not only what’s being reflected in the mirror but who’s holding it. Who are they, and who and what do they represent?

Reflect, for instance, on that 11th-hour anti-Harold Ford ad in the Tennessee Senate race. It was created by radioactive operatives who either signed off on it or waved it off. It was a campaign ad that showed a blond white woman — a blond white woman (wink, wink) — asking a “mainstream African-American who is articulate, and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” to dial her number anytime.

I mean, that’s racist, man.

Now come Mitt the Mormon, Rudy the Italian American and Hillary the Clinton. America has delivered the presidency to lots of military veterans and loudmouths. America has had a Catholic president, Jack Kennedy — although assassins’ bullets and a fateful night in Chappaquiddick laid all three, including Bobby and Teddy’s prospects, to rest. But just as America has had no black president, America has not had a Mormon president, an Italian American president or a woman president.

There are plenty of storybooks to be written about the 2008 race — the Democratic candidacies of Barack Obama, who has already made history, and Hillary Clinton, the history maker who stood by her man, have already ensured as much. American voters, however, prefer Big Boys when it comes to running the White House. (Bill Clinton is a modern-day exception, of course; he hasn’t owned up to his black ancestry.)

At this juncture, Barack Obama is still jockeying to seek permission to join the pack. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a huge advantage because she has been running with the Big Boys all her adult life, perhaps explaining why it took the former first lady so long to get her hair thing together — even during post-feminist times.

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