Rather than simply let the matter fade into oblivion, Geraldine Ferraro has decided to keep the media focused on her comments about Obama. She recently said that Obama’s made a mistake in his reply to her words.
Obama’s reply to her claim (that his position was due to his being a black man) was to say that it is “patently absurd.” Others, coming to the defense of Obama, have claimed that her remark was divisive and some have even suggested that it racist.
What, then, is the mistake that Obama is supposed to have made? According to Ferraro, Obama’s response was intended to hurt Hillary and she accuses him of being divisive.
One obvious reply to Ferraro is that she started it. While two wrongs would not make a right, anyone who says something that is a challenge or contentious would be foolish to not expect a response. When she said that Obama was only where he was because he is black, that is, intentional or not, an attack on him and those who support him. As such, he could hardly let it go without a response. When people claim that Hillary is only where she is because she is a woman or Bill’s wife, she is defended and defends herself. That is to be expected. As such, to be critical of Obama for responding to an attack seems to be patently absurd.
Of course, it could be argued that Ferraro did not start it. She says “And the amazing thing is it’s not something I started, its something they did in reaction to this.”
On one hand, her claim that she did not start it seems false. She made a remark that anyone with a reasonably degree of intelligence and a grain of political savvy would see as an attack. Whether she intended it as an attack or not would not be relevant-she should have known it would be seen as such and hence would trigger a response. The fact that she says that “its something they did in reaction to this” seems rather ironic. It is like punching someone and then saying that you didn’t start the fight that erupted. Rather, it was the other person because they reacted to your punch.
One the other hand, it could be argued that she neither intended nor expected her remarks to cause any conflict and that she honestly believed they were not divisive. Her main defense has been that her claim is true and hence the remark should not be seen as an attack. If so, Obama’s response would be unjustified.
Perhaps she believes this. When people engage in political “reasoning” they are generally not reasoning at all. Mostly people simply rationalize-they believe something because they believe it and thus see it is true. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary. This enables people to judge the same sort of action or claim differently based on the politics of the situation. For example, I’ve seen people launching personal attacks on Obama after claiming, in response to an attack on Hillary, that personal attacks against candidates are wrong.
In regards to the truth, the right thing to do is to accept truth when it is spoken. But, a truthful attack is still an attack and, by the “rules” of politics, it is acceptable to defend against attacks. Hillary defends herself against attacks-even those that are true claims about misdeeds or failings. So does McCain. Obviously, the fact that it is a common one does not make it right. But, Obama cannot be singled out in the matter. It would be unfair to tolerate such defenses by others while saying that Obama is unjust in his response.
As such, whether the claim is true or not, Obama was justified in responding.