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Absurdity in all its splendor

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The newspapers are buzzing this morning with Hillary Clinton's desperate efforts to apologize for comments her husband made on the weekend. Former President Bill Clinton said that black voters in South Carolina had only voted for Democratic leadership hopeful Barack Obama because, wait for it, he's black.Hillary was forced to suggest her husband slipped up, and that he could be suffering from sleep deprivation. Why would Mrs. Clinton devote so much energy to disowning her husband's comments? Sheldon Alberts wonderfull written account of it today in the National Post notes that Clinton's campaign is worried that by making these comments, the former president had "pushed the issue of race to the forefront of the Democratic contest."Wuh? With a truly viable African-American candidate vying to lead one of the two mainstream political parties in the U.S., perhaps it's safe to say that race has been, and will continue to be, an issue in this leadership campaign and, perhaps, a subsequent presidential campaign. If race and gender weren't genuine issues that confound the U.S. electorate, an African-American or a woman might have been elected president already.What is most disturbing about Clinton's apology is that it seems to suggest that she believes her husband was suggesting that black voters were being simple-minded, even stupid, about choosing an African American candidate over a better qualified woman just because he was African American. If that's true, the apology was as bad as his original statement. That in an of itself is hardly surprising; it was Mrs. Clinton who suggested earlier in the race that former President Lyndon B. Johnson had done more for the civil rights movement than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It might be an issue worthy of debate, but in the heat of a political race, Clinton surely showed she does not understand the meaning of the word tact.Such is the inherent aburdity of issues such as race and gender. In Canada, I believe these issues are reasonably well contained, despite our equally pathetic record of electing women and minorities. In the last Manitoba general election, for example, the NDP elected a record number of women candidates. NDP strategists suggested this was an election where "women stepped up and elected women" to the legislature. I don't remember anyone suggesting that the NDP believed women voters were lacking in intelligence or discretion by voting for female role models.I think it's reasonable to assume that black voters would be attracted to a legitimate black candidate as a role model, just as women tend to support strong women candidates as role models. While Obama drew more than 80 per cent of African American voters in the South Carolina primary, Mrs. Clinton drew the majority of women. So there.And we certainly know that white voters tend to favor white candidates. Just look at any legislature in this country for the evidence.As an early prediction, I'll suggest that Obama will triumph over Clinton. Which is too bad in a way. Four years of President Hillary and the unruly first husband would make for fantastic copy.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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