Old Lessons For Obama

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, April 19, 2008

In this year's contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama has been taken to school by Hillary Clinton and the Republican right wing. The New York senator and her GOP allies are giving him lessons in politics' dark side. Whether he's learning anything remains to be seen.

Obama's experience, however, should be instructive for young people drawn to politics by his candidacy, especially those thinking of following in his footsteps.

Consider what Hillary & Co. have taught thus far:

Lesson One: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

A story told once before: In 1960, when I was a junior in college, Hubert Humphrey visited Howard University during his campaign in the D.C. Democratic primary. He was also running against John F. Kennedy in the West Virginia primary, where the Massachusetts senator's Catholicism was being assailed.

A government major, I asked Humphrey how he felt about the attacks against Kennedy's faith. Humphrey, not missing a beat, said that although he was seeking victory, he didn't want to win with anti-Catholic votes.

To Humphrey, an enemy of his friend was his enemy, too.

Not so with today's Clinton-conservative lash-up.

Granted, Hillary Clinton has philosophical differences with the putative Republican presidential nominee, John McCain; far-right-wingers Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh; and the conservative talking heads on Fox TV. But they and Clinton have a common enemy: Obama. Their allegiance to the goal of bringing him down makes them compatriots.

To discredit Obama, Clinton plugs McCain's commander-in-chief qualifications.

She and McCain, working from similar talking points, do a tag-team number on Obama, labeling the Democratic Party front-runner "out of touch" and "elitist."

Buchanan, who proclaims that "reverse discrimination is pandemic," goes into overtime branding Obama as a left-wing zealot while praising Clinton as a paragon of Middle American virtues.

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