WASHINGTON -- I, for one, shall not join the raucous mob in pursuing this unfortunate man, Eliot SpRitzer. In the 1990s I spent quite enough time guffawing over the libidinous giddiness of a well-known elected official, and all it got me was an utterly unwarranted reputation for being puritanical and discourteous to the late 20th century's living embodiment of Abraham Lincoln. So I shall make no jokes about Mr. SpRitzer.
In passing, however, allow me to file my observation that he does not seem to be a very happy man. His treatment of past opponents and defendants suggests as much, and even the transcribed conversation of his procuress gives hints that the fallen governor of New York may want to enroll in an anger management program. The procuress, a Miss Temeka Rachelle Lewis, reports that Mr. SpRitzer "would ask you [his highly-paid escort] to do things that, like, you might not think were safe." Come to think of it, he might also enroll in a course on sexual hygiene.
Both political parties seem to have sexually obsessed politicians. The Democrats have SpRitzer and Clinton (Bill, not Hillary), the Republicans an obscure congressman or two and the repellent Senator Larry Craig, he being the lavatorian caught playing footsie in a Minneapolis public lavatory. He refuses to resign or show any remorse whatsoever. Apparently, this is the political strategy Craig and various defendants -- the adulterous mayor of Detroit is another -- learned from President Clinton's response to the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Doubtless, we shall see more of this uncivic insolence in the years ahead. Yet if both parties have their Casanovas, other news this week makes clear that the Democratic Party has a surprising number of racial bigots and in high places. Geraldine Ferraro's outburst comes to mind. Moreover, the Clinton campaign's handling of it is still more evidence of the racial prejudice within the party's ranks.
Responding to Senator Barack Obama's status as frontrunner in the Democratic nominating process, Ferraro declared, "If Obama were a white man, he would not be in this position....He happens to be very lucky who he is." Ferraro is a Clinton supporter. She serves on the campaign's finance committee. Her indelicacy provoked top Obama adviser David Axelrod to denounce it as part of an "insidious pattern," which it assuredly is. Remember Bill Clinton's display of racial bigotry in the South Carolina primary? There he betrayed an apparently deep vein of prejudice, equating Obama's racially untroubled campaign with earlier racially obsessed campaigns waged by the race hustler Jesse Jackson. For the edification of those of us who have had to endure the Democrats' boasts to superior tolerance, Clinton was brazenly playing the race card with a constituency that was not supposed to exist in his party, the white bigots.
Ferraro, who it is now reported attributed victories by presidential candidate Jackson in 1988 to race, has refused to even acknowledge the prejudice of her statement. In fact, she has gone on to say, "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white." And she concluded sarcastically, "How's that?"
This playing to racial prejudice is not just the practice of Ferraro and Bill Clinton. Key strategists in the Clinton campaign have been quick to make race an issue in the Democratic presidential race. When Obama's people criticized Ferraro's insensitive explanation for Obama's victories, Clinton campaign manager Margaret Williams hypothesized that the criticism was raised to encourage blacks to vote for Obama in the impending Mississippi primary.
Now is this not a pretty picture, the Democratic Party torn by racial animosity? Yet it might have been predicted. Though in the 1960s the Democrats were far ahead of the Republicans in advancing civil rights and tolerance, at some point, perhaps in the 1970s, certainly in the 1980s, unscrupulous Democrats began to exploit racial divisions. In fact, they have exploited assumed racial divisions long after race was an issue in this country. They attributed poverty, crime rates, and other problems to race when they were the result of family breakdown or educational disadvantages. They began to use race, and gender too for that matter, as the means by which they could get elected. In so doing, they came to need racially indignant constituencies, and now the Democrats are at each others' throats over race and gender. Welcome to the world of identity politics. Meanwhile, over in the Republican Party, no such incendiary issues are being cultivated and Senator John McCain is looking more presidential by the day.
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