If you think the networks were asleep at the switch, consider how the print media covered this brazen appeal to racial tensions. Quite simply, they just didn't want to mention the "plantation" or "worst president in history" remarks.
USA Today skipped it. The Los Angeles Times skipped it for three days before allowing one article, despite mentioning Pat Robertson's remarks on Ariel Sharon's stroke in stories on three different days. The Washington Post mentioned the remarks on page A-6 in a story headlined "White House Disputes Gore on NSA Spying." The New York Times skipped a day and then put the remark carefully into one sentence in the fourth paragraph of a story about how Hillary was delicately building a political network, while sharpening her tone against Republicans. Time and Newsweek just printed the quote, and U.S. News didn't even do that.
Cable television chewed the story over for a good day or two. The Democrats quickly caught up with a balancing spin: evidence that Newt Gingrich and other Republicans have certainly used the "plantation" metaphor against Democrats, often in reference to their firm grip on 90 percent or more of the black vote. This is a slippery defense, and the Democrats and CNN (redundant, I realize) know it. Context is everything. Mrs. Clinton used the metaphor in front of a foot-stomping Sharpton-assembled Harlem audience. It was designed to stir racial animus. It was a brazen attempt at pandering to Al Sharpton's radical constituency. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Tom DeLay have ever stooped this low. I dare anyone to prove me wrong.
What this episode reveals is that all the media's blather about Hillary "moving to the center" will go out the window the moment she hits the campaign trail. The left-wing fringe of MoveOn.org, Howard Dean and Sharpton are in control of the Democratic Party. She needs that base. She must appeal to that base, and she'll do it through shrillness.
So how can she pull it off -- hard left and centrist? She'll succeed if, and only if, the news media choose to ignore the former, and focus on the latter. The Sharpton episode demonstrates how that's to be done.
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