Kathleen Parker

Senator Hillary Clinton - she of the Rodham charm - has thrown it down.

She's unofficially, but inferentially, in the presidential race for 2008.

Not that anyone believed otherwise. But the beyond-all-doubt moment occurred this week when she evoked slavery and plantation life during a speech before a mostly black audience celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King's birthday.

How else to interpret that bit of race-baiting?

After playing center field the past couple of years, trying to sound mainstream on issues such as abortion and the war, she apparently felt the need to remind her base that they're still on the same page.

Clinton was speaking at a Harlem church Monday when she now-famously said that the U.S. House of Representatives "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about. It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

The latter part of her comment is substantively true, but she revealed more about herself than she did about Republicans with her plantation reference. She's a panderer, all right, but she won't be the first female black president.

Unlike her husband, who was tagged "America's first black president," Hillary Clinton ain't got "all that" - that soul thang that her husband has in, um, diamonds.

When Clinton said, "and you know what I'm talking about," what she was thinking, of course, was, "and you know wuddumsayin?" She wisely censored herself, but her slightly stuttered body English suggested juuuuuust a hint of ebonics. A little roll here, a little hand there. Oy vey, I've still got muscle cramps from cringing.

Watching Clinton's soul-sister moment was like watching a whiffed high-five, embarrassing as watching middle-aged white guys playing air guitar. Stop it.

No one's asked yet why Senator Clinton felt compelled to critique the House, which is not really her bailiwick. That said, it is largely true that House Republicans have marginalized House Democrats. That's a legitimate criticism, but political maneuvering among elected, paid officials doesn't quite equate with slavery.

Feeling left out of the power loop doesn't quite rise to the level of splitting up families and selling human beings.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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