Hillary is playing with fire on the race issue. What ground she gained by playing the gender card while denying it, she might lose by playing the race card while denying it.
There is no principle the Clintons pretend to stand for that they will not abandon in pursuit of political power -- power they insist they need to advance those abandon-able principles. So it is with the issue of race.
Until recently, Hillary had employed essentially a two-pronged strategy in her presidential primary campaign. The first was to depict her main opponent, Barack Obama, as an eloquent and gifted speaker but also as a candidate with no experience, no record, no substance and no plan to match his lofty rhetoric. The second, developed out of desperation to staunch her post-Iowa bleeding, was to play the gender card by appealing to women voters through showing her supposedly vulnerable, "human" side.
Now, she has also invoked the race issue, something only a liberal or Democratic candidate would even think about doing. First, she trotted out a well-known African American, Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, to make an unmistakable yet deniable allusion to Obama's self-admitted youthful experimentation with drugs.
On the stump with Clinton in Columbia, S.C., Johnson said, "To me, as an African American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we were so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood -- and I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in the book ... "
This isn't just significant because it's the second time a high-profile Clinton ally used the drug-smear against Obama. It's about more than drugs. It's also a subtle effort to steal black voters from Obama by having a prominent black endorse Hillary's theme that she was actually working on issues important to blacks, while Obama was otherwise predisposed. All the while, Hillary pretends to be an innocent bystander.
Next, Hillary refined her race strategy further by allowing an unspoken racial component to loom large in her awkward reference to the respective contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson to the civil rights movement.
Hillary said that MLK's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This tied in perfectly to Hillary's campaign theme contrasting her supposed experience with Obama's empty, unproven rhetoric.