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Geraldine Ferraro sparks controversy with remark on Obama

March 11, 2008 |  9:35 am

Comments that trailblazing Democrat Geraldine Ferraro -- now a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton -- made in advance of a weekend appearance in Southern California are rippling across the political scene today, the latest example of a surrogate causing headaches for the candidate they're supposed to be helping.

Ferraro didn't call Barack Obama, Clinton's rival in the battle royale for the Democratic presidential nomination, a "monster." But in an interview with the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Ferraro broached Obama's race in a way that diminished what the Illinois senator has accomplished.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she said for an article aptly headlined "Geraldine Ferraro lets her emotions do the talking."

She went on: "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Well, of course, all successful national politicians happen to be "very lucky" to be who they are. A certain current president benefited from being the son of a former White House occupant. And a certain current contender wasn't hurt by being the wife ...

of an ex-president.

Ferraro's "analysis" also overlooks Obama's skills as an orator and the talent he's shown in assembling a first-rate political team that has outmaneuvered Clinton and her strategists in a number of key ways.

But what will gall many the most about Ferraro's take on Obama is that were it not for her gender, she would not be in a position where Clinton sought her out to be a high-profile member of her finance team or reporters seek her out for comment.

Ferraro, 72, had been in the House less than six years when Walter Mondale chose her as his running mate in the 1984 presidential campaign. Outside of her New York district and Capitol Hill, few had heard of her. She was picked because Mondale wanted to break a barrier -- selecting the first (and, so far, only) woman for a major-party presidential ticket.

The Clinton camp has distanced itself from Ferraro's remark. "We disagree with her," chief spokesman Howard Wolfson told Politico.

But it will be interesting to watch whether pressure builds for the campaign to sever its ties with Ferraro.

-- Don Frederick

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