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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Did David Brooks Diss Martin Luther King, Jr.?

In a November 21, 2008 column, NY Times columnist David Brooks made the following statement:

"Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. "
During the primary campaign, Hillary Clinton made an almost identical comment:
"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.... It took a president to get it done."
Hillary's comment created a firestorm of controversy. The New York Times described Hillary's statement as "a comment that Obama supporters and some other people viewed as minimizing Dr. King’s work." The New York Times further reported on the media hostility, as well:
"In a combative exchange on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” during a campaign swing through South Carolina, Mrs. Clinton was confronted by the program’s host, Tim Russert, over her remark and the unflattering news coverage that depicted her as insensitive toward Dr. King."
That same NY Times article reported Barack Obama's criticism of the remark:

“Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn’t make the statement,” Mr. Obama said. “I haven’t remarked on it, and she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous.”
Another NY Times article reported that Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina "was rethinking his neutral stance in his state’s presidential primary out of disappointment at comments by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton that he saw as diminishing the historic role of civil rights activists."

“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics,” said Mr. Clyburn, who was shaped by his searing experiences as a youth in the segregated South and his own activism in those days. “It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”
Did David Brooks insult Dr. King's work? Was he insensitive? Should he be forced to backtrack and write a retraction? Where is the media firestorm?

The answer, of course, is that no retraction is needed by Brooks, and none was needed by Hillary, because the nearly identical statements were true. Yet during the primaries, the Obama campaign, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, was all too willing to twist Hillary's statements out of context to feed the charge that Hillary was stoking racism. It was a controversy created out of nothing to achieve a political advantage. It was what Michael Steele calls playing "the race card in reverse beautifully."

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