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The Geraldine Ferraro furor: Will it have legs?

March 11, 2008 |  3:25 pm

Aides to Barack Obama campaign are doing their best to claim Geraldine Ferraro's scalp (figuratively speaking) in the wake of her racially tinged, dismissive comment about their candidate's success in the Democratic presidential contest.

The flap built somewhat slowly. Ferraro -- the first, and only, woman to secure a spot on one of the major parties' White House ticket -- opined in a story published Friday in the Daily Breeze of Torrance that "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

That "position" would be running slightly ahead of Ferraro's choice for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

As is often the case with inflammatory statements, Ferraro's quote wasn't even played that high in the story; it ran in the 11th paragraph. And on Friday, the Obama campaign was otherwise occupied -- dealing with the uproar created when one of his foreign policy advisors, Samantha Power, had called Clinton "a monster" while talking with a reporter.

Ferraro's statement began attracting widespread notice today. The Obama campaign homed in on it this morning when another of his advisors, Susan Rice, said on MSNBC that the comment was "outrageous and offensive." Rice went on to say Ferraro's words ...

were "far worse" than the monster characterization, and she urged Clinton to "really repudiate" the comment.

Obama's chief advisor, David Axelrod, raised the stakes this afternoon in a conference call the campaign set up with reporters. He called for Ferraro to be bounced as a member of Clinton's finance committee.

"The bottom line is this: When you wink and nod at offensive statements, you're really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes," Axelrod said.

So far, there's no indication that the Clinton campaign will force Ferraro -- obviously, a person with far more heft within the party than Power -- to take a walk.

This is all Clinton herself had to say today when asked about the brouhaha: "Well, I don't agree with [Ferraro's remark], and I think it's important that we try to stay focused on issues that matter to the American people. And both of us [Clinton and Obama] have had supporters and staff members who've gone over the line, and we have to rein them in and try to keep this on the issues. There are big differences between us on the issues -- let's stay focused on that."

And Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams issued a statement that, in essence, tried to turn the tables on the Obama campaign.

Williams' only reference to Ferraro was to concede that "supporters from both campaigns will get overzealous."

The statement, which you can read here, focuses on taking Obama and his staff to task.

Ferraro, for her part, has been lying low. And she may catch a break -- although her comment has made news, it's taken a backseat to the spotlight on the sex life of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

(UPDATE: Tonight Ferraro appeared on Fox News and appeared to hold her ground. "First of all," she said, "let me say I'm sorry people thought it was racist." Later she added, "What I find is offensive is that every time somebody says something about the campaign, you're accused of being racist."

(Ferraro, who accused Obama campaign manager Axelrod of organizing the protests against her recent statements, also repeated a remark she said she's made possibly 500 times over the years: "If in 1984 my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would never have been the nominee for VP.”)

-- Don Frederick

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