After becoming for a time the center of the attention devoted to the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Wednesday Geraldine Ferraro stepped down from her position as a member of Hillary Clinton‘s finance committee.
Ferraro, a former congresswoman who was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1984, had touched off the controversy when remarks about Barack Obama that she made to the Daily Breeze, a small California newspaper, came to national attention earlier this week. Ferraro told the paper:
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
Ferraro attempted to defend herself, but succeeded only in digging herself a deeper hole. In a follow-up to the original interview, she said, “Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let’s address reality and the problems we’re facing in this world, you’re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”
And the Clinton campaign did itself no favors with its response — it said it disagreed with Ferraro, but did not fire her — which was interpreted by many observers as tacit approval. Pundits, bloggers and the Obama campaign relentlessly castigated the Clinton campaign for its approach. Speaking about Ferraro’s remarks, and other related controversies, David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, said, “All this is part of an insidious pattern that needs to be addressed” and asked “whether [Clinton's] trying to send a signal to her supporters that anything goes.”
When Ferraro did finally resign, she explained her decision in a letter to Clinton:
Dear Hillary —
I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign.
The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you.
I won’t let that happen.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren.
You have my deep admiration and respect.