Sharpton and Jackson are dueling over who will be the nation's best-paid race hustler, a lucrative occupation. For example: According to The Wall Street Journal, the owners of the Word Network, which is devoted to running black church services, pay Sharpton and Jackson roughly $10,000 per protest to demonstrate at the headquarters of cable operators that don't yet carry Word. A Sharpton-led protest in March 2002 prompted a St. Louis operator to begin carrying the cable network.
The cynicism of the Sharpton campaign is an open book. Typically, presidential candidates stay in cheap accommodations. Sharpton's campaign, in contrast, is an excuse to live high. According to the New York Post, Sharpton has stayed at the nation's swankest hotels, including a visit at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, which soaked up 5 percent of the cash Sharpton had raised in the third quarter fund-raising period. When appearing at black churches, Sharpton collects a "love offering" -- that goes directly into his own pocket.
Sharpton counts on other candidates and the moderators at the debates being too timid to challenge him on his checkered past and questionable practices, so he can pass himself as respectable. In an exception, Tom Brokaw recently asked Sharpton if he would apologize for his role in the Brawley case. Sharpton had a defamation judgment against him in the case, but he stood by his smear and responded with a fusillade of obfuscation that eventually wore Brokaw down.
Sharpton will no doubt win his own private presidential race. He will emerge from this campaign as the nation's foremost "civil rights leader." Owned by Sharpton, however, that title is not worth having.