Gaffegate: Surely, we can have better
Instead of focusing on how Hillary Clinton has won five out of the last seven primaries, the mainstream media are obsessing on a game of “her gaffes-are-worse-than-his-gaffes.” Whatever happened to the story line that a nation that is over 53-percent female would provide the Democratic Party with its best shot at electing a woman to the Oval Office?
And where are the substantive discussions of the social and health issues such as: poverty, health insurance, child- and elder-care, equal-pay-for-equal-work or the cancers that plague women more than men? Apparently, race and Gaffegate are more important than gender.
So far, in the Democrat primaries, over 90-percent of black voters have voted for the black candidate. Where are the white and Latina women who vastly outnumber blacks of both genders? Has the women’s movement gone, ah… tummy up?
Those of us who marched in the South for Dr. King in the 1960s, hoped the Great Society legislation would provide a “hand-up” rather than a “hand-out” for millions. We hoped the Great Society would lead us to a post-racial, post-gender, America. Instead, LBJ’s Great Society may have done some people more harm than good.
So says, former U.S. Senator Zell Miller (Democrat of Georgia), “The social programs created in the 1960s were designed to compensate the victims of poverty rather than solve the problems that cause it. They gave poor people just enough in the way of Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, and housing subsidies to keep and sustain them in poverty instead of giving them the skills and opportunities they needed to break out of their poverty.”
Writing in Commentary, Harvard sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan (later, the Democratic U.S. Senator from New York) wrote that conceptual difficulties with the War on Poverty were causing a deterioration of the family in the black community that would undermine urban tranquility. A rash of race riots, such as the Watts Riot that virtually destroyed the south-central district of Los Angeles in 1965, underscored what the two Democrats were saying.
Hopefully, the race for the Democratic nomination will return to the substantive issues that need resolution and not continue into the abyss of your-gaffes-are-worse-than-my-gaffes. Tired by a long race, all the candidates are prone to off-the-cuff gaffes.
While Obama supporters can claim that Senator Clinton misremembered her time in war-torn Bosnia, it can be said that many of her critics have never ventured into a war zone or exposed themselves voluntarily to be in harm’s way. The Obama camp can infer that Clinton was alluding to their candidate’s possible assassination when she mentioned that Robert F. Kennedy was still contending for the Democratic nomination into June of 1968; however, Senator Clinton was simply stating a fact.
Hillary can turn the gaffe game around on Senator Obama by mentioning that Obama said Clinton did well in Kentucky because Kentucky is a neighboring state to her former home State of Arkansas. Huh? Recently, Obama told an Oregon audience, “I’ve been in 57 states. I think one left to go.” Double Huh? Or, when Obama said, because of the war in Iraq, we don’t have enough Arabic-language speakers to send to Afghanistan. (Arabic isn’t spoken in Afghanistan.) Triple Huh? Or, Obama’s failure to understand that lack of preparation and preconditions led JFK, following the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev Summit in Vienna, to tell James Reston of The New York Times, “He [Khrushchev] beat the hell out of me.” Quadruple Huh?
In July, 1989, in Moscow, Sergei Khrushchev told me JFK’s weak performance in Vienna encouraged his father to erect the Berlin Wall. Presidential historian, Michael R. Beschloss, says, "Kennedy’s Cuba language was vague enough to have contributed to Mr. Khrushchev’s belief that he could get away with putting missiles on the island.”
Again, at the end of a long day of campaigning, it’s easy to forget geography, culture and history. Hopefully, the candidates will not play the gaffe game all the way to Denver in August.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is a former assistant professor of history and political science at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2008. William Hamilton.