The New Republic says what needs to be said about Hillary Clinton's "plantation" analogy on MLK Day:
On Martin Luther King Day, Senator Hillary Clinton, flanked by the Reverend Al Sharpton, told parishioners at the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem that the House of Representatives "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about."
Unfortunately, the church's parishioners, who have presumably never worked on a plantation, didn't quite know what she was talking about (the New York Daily News reports that the comment "got muted response"). Apparently, the Simon Legrees in Congress were a bit confused, too. "I've never run a plantation before," House Speaker Dennis Hastert protested, in a surreal moment during a news conference on lobbying reform the next day. (Republicans have been known to deploy tortured plantation references from time to time themselves: "Since [the Democrats] think it is their job to run the plantation, it shocks them that I'm actually willing to lead the slave rebellion," Newt Gingrich said in 1994.)
But Clinton is sticking to her guns. When the Daily News asked on Tuesday night if she regretted the comment, she said, "Absolutely not. As I have said many times before, Congress is run in a top-down way." The last time we checked, an overly hierarchic corporate management style was not the biggest abomination of slave plantations, but perhaps congressmen have been separated from their families, chained together, forced to work for tobacco farmers, and publicly bought and sold during those mysterious closed-door sessions. And Clinton has been fond of the plantation metaphor for a while now: In a November 2004 interview on CNN, she said, "[T]hey're running the House of Representatives like a fiefdom, with Tom DeLay ... in charge of the plantation." Plantation, fiefdom: We see a rhetorical style developing here. Why doesn't she reach out to Jews, who've sometimes been wary of her, by comparing GOP K Street's intimidation tactics to pogroms in the Pale? And, come to think of it, why haven't any intrepid Democratic candidates seized the opportunity to describe Jack Abramoff's hustling of Indian gaming tribes as a "Trail of Tears"? Oh--because most of them have better taste, that's why.
Meanwhile, NPR brought on a theologian from Emory University to put the racially charged comments of Clinton and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin in perspective. Do you think NPR brings on evangelicals to put offensive comments from Pat Robertson in context?