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Friday, August 01, 2008

Barack Obama Chief Strategist Admits 'Dollar Bill' Remark Partially Referred To Ethnicity

There has been a tense back and forth going on between the John McCain campaign and the Barack Obama campaign about comments Obama made about not looking the same as other presidents on the dollar bill. Obama strategist now admits he did refer to race.
Recent Background.

In Springfield, Missouri, Barack Obama said, "So nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He's risky. That's essentially the argument they're making."

That comment started a firestorm of media reports with the campaigns accusing each other of "playing the race card".

Almost immediately, the McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, sent a statement to reporters saying, "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong."

That drew heated denials from the Obama campaign on a couple of occasions, first being from his spokesman Robert Gibbs who denied that Obama was referring to race at all.

He went on to assert, "There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene. It is not about race."

Another campaign spokesman for Obama, Bill Burton, confirmed that and claimed that Obama was not suggesting that McCain was using the race card, but that they were "using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign."

Burton also maintains that the McCain campaign was "misinterpreting" both the "tenor and the meaning" of Obama's words.

He concluded by stating, "I think they should probably be a little less paranoid about parsing every word we say and a little more focused on actually addressing the challenges that Americans expect the president of the United States to take on."

John McCain then told CNN on Thursday that he thought his campaign manager, Davis, was accurate in his assessment and that the claim of Obama bringing the race issue into the spotlight was legitimate.

McCain's exact words were, "I'm sorry to say that it is. It's legitimate. And there's no place in this campaign for that. There's no place for it and we shouldn't be doing it."

When McCain was asked about the Obama campaign's denials, McCain answered, "I'll let the American people judge."

Todays News.

Today, ABC News points out that Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, appeared on Good Morning America this morning and acknowledged that Obama's "dollar" bill remark was, at least in part, a reference to his ethnic background.

When pressed to explain the comment, Axelrod told "GMA" it meant, "He's not from central casting when it comes to candidates for president of the United States. He's new to Washington. Yes, he's African-American."

Steve Schmidt, who is a McCain campaign aide explains why the McCain campaign jumped on that particular remark so fiercely by saying their goal is to pre-empt what they believe is Obama's effort to paint any conventional campaign attacks as race-based.

Obama's aim, in the view of the McCain camp: "to delegitimize any line of attack against him," said McCain aide Steve Schmidt. He said he saw that potential trap being sprung when Obama predicted in Missouri Wednesday that the GOP nominee would attack the Democrat because he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

"I don't [care] whether it helps or hurts us," Schmidt said. "A lie unresponded to becomes the truth."
Howard Wolfson, Clinton confidante, weighs in by stating, "I think the McCain camp watched our primary on the Democratic side very carefully and they know that any accusation of racial divisiveness can be very, very harmful for a candidate's prospects They heard something that Senator Obama said and they felt they had to respond quickly to make sure that nobody got the impression that they were engaged in those kind of racial politics."

There has been no word from the Obama campaign about the differences in Gibbs' answers and those that Axelrod spoke about this morning.

Barack Obama has spoken up about it and once again, the comments from his chief strategists on "Good Morning America" are contradictory to Obama's own words on the subject:

"I was in union, Missouri which is 98 percent white - a rural, conservative. and what I said was what I think everybody knows, which is that I don't look like I came out of central casting when it comes to presidential candidates. But that I think that what people are really concerned about, what they're looking for is fundamental change on the economy, things that are going to help their families live out the American dream.

'There was nobody there who thought at all that I was trying to inject race in this. What this has become I think is a typical pattern from the McCain campaign, whether it's Paris Hilton or Britney or this phoney allegation that I wouldn't visit troops. They seem to be focused on a negative campaign what I think our campaign wants to do is focus on the issues that matter to American families."

It is quite possible that the different members of the campaign have simply gotten their wires crossed on what the official stance would be about the "dollar bill" comment. It wouldn't be the first time that has happened, it usually happens in all campaigns and has happened within the McCain campaign this election season as well.

What the variety of links, to a slew of media outlets, and the constant barrage over the last few days has made abundantly clear to all I have seen discussing this issue, is this- Race is going to be a factor in this election whether it should be or should not be and that the Obama campaign seems to be the one that is trying to insert it at every opportunity.

Previously related post:

John McCain Campaign: Obama Has Played The Race Card