THE BLOG

Clinton Owes Obama An Apology

Mar 26, 2008 | Updated May 25, 2011

I've had it with the Clintons.

The past few months I've tried to defend Bill and Hillary Clinton against some of the more unreasonable attacks from their critics. Just last weekend on CNN's Ballot Bowl, I defended Bill Clinton when critics accused of him of questioning Barack Obama's patriotism. The critics may have misinterpreted Clinton's remarks, I said, giving the former president the benefit of the doubt.

I've also defended Barack Obama in recent weeks against unreasonable charges directed at him because of his association with his church and his pastor. It seems obvious to me that Barack Obama loves his country and is not an anti-white bigot.

Maybe I'm too close to the two Democrats to be against either one. I went to law school with Barack Obama and worked in the Clinton White House, so I have connections and allegiances to both candidates. That's why I've never understood the rabid Hillary haters or the angry Obama opponents. To me, all three candidates -- including John McCain -- are good and decent Americans who have served their country with distinction.

I wish Hillary Clinton would acknowledge that fact too. In the past few weeks, I've been increasingly disturbed by the gratuitously negative tone of the Clinton campaign.

First, during an interview with 60 Minutes host Steve Croft, Sen. Clinton cleverly stoked the rumors that Obama might be a closet Muslim. "No, there is nothing to base that on," she told Croft. But then she slyly added, "As far as I know."

Next, she all but endorsed McCain over Obama for president. "I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House," she said. "I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

Then came the Jeremiah Wright story. Based on the previous tactics used by her campaign, I did not expect Clinton to say much of anything about the Wright story. As Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." And after all, the Clintons have relied on the support of controversial black pastors, include Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to save their own hides several times in the past.

But as time went by, and the Wright story lingered on, it seemed Clinton was perfectly willing to let the uninformed public get the misimpression that Barack Obama is moonlighting as an anti-American black nationalist racist. She knows better, and she ought to be ashamed for not speaking up on his behalf.

Just last month, in one of the many near-death experiences that forced her into a moment of vulnerable humility, Senator Clinton told a debate audience in Austin, Texas that she was proud to sit beside Barack Obama. "No matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored. I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored," she said to applause. For a moment, it seemed the Democratic contest might become civil but competitive. For a moment.

Then on Tuesday of this week, apparently dissatisfied that the Jeremiah Wright story had failed to derail Obama's campaign, Clinton broke her silence on the issue and told a newspaper in Pennsylvania (188 delegates) that Rev. Wright "would not have been my pastor."

She repeated her criticism at a press conference later in the day. "You know, we don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend," she said.

She ought to be ashamed. A month ago she stoked the fears that Obama might be a Muslim and now she plays on the fears of Pennsylvanians that the Illinois senator is a radical black Christian. I would expect that kind of nonsensical fear mongering from a Republican, but I'm disappointed when it comes from a fellow Democrat.

Even John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has acknowledged that Clinton and Obama are both honorable Americans. When a conservative radio host attacked Obama at a Cincinnati McCain rally last month, the Arizona senator stood up for his Democratic opponents and apologized for the attack. "I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton," he said and promised to "treat them with respect." That was much classier than Hillary Clinton's comments on Jeremiah Wright.

As a New Yorker, I have been proud of Hillary Clinton's service in the Senate, and I harbor no ill will toward her. If she somehow manages to wrangle the nomination from Obama, I will actively support her general election campaign. But I cannot remain silent any longer while my own senator destroys the Democratic Party, and her own reputation, in a desperate and degrading effort to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

It's time for Senator Clinton to act like a leader that I know she can be. Hilary Clinton not only needs to defend Barack Obama, she needs to apologize to him.