In reaction to the Sean Wilentz article in TNR, (which asserted that the Clintons have become victims of reverse "race baiting"), and in response to my previous post on that essay, a wise friend shared these insights with me via email. With permission, and under the sobriquet, Swabian Prince, I am very pleased to present this powerful analysis:

While Sean Wilentz makes some plausible points about the rather shameless non-innocence of the Obama people, in other areas the argument is tissue-thin. How can he seriously expect us to believe that Billy Shaheen’s remarks were “innocent”? Just on his say so? And I myself read the interview with Mark Penn, in which he WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to use the word “cocaine.” And the explanation of WJC’s comparison to Jesse Jackson is pathetic. In short, I don’t find any of his exonerations at all persuasive. The Clintons are not more ethical than their opponents, just more clumsy. No pair has more richly deserved the fate that now apparently awaits them. (Though even defeat will not mean the end of them. She will stay in the Senate forever. And I fully expect them to pull for McCain, if they can find a way to do so, so that she will have a second chance at the top slot.)

Where he is right is about the political use of the tactic of accusing others, preemptively, of “race-baiting.” But which party invented that tactic and specializes in its use? As far as I’m concerned, this is chickens coming home to roost. At one point Wilentz says that the Obama campaign was prepared to launch the anti-race-baiting even before the primaries began. True enough. But good Lord, EVERY Democratic campaign of any prominence is prepared to launch an anti-race-baiting campaign 24 hours a day. That is their bread and butter.

Wilentz does not mention the other form of identity politics in which the Clinton campaign has indulged itself with a dishonesty that rivals anything they are accusing Obama of. I’m talking about gender. For a perfect example of it—a pellucid example—see the quotation from Hillary in this [Jennifer Rubin post in Commentary]. The parallels are pretty exact. Just as Obama is running as the History-Making black candidate who is also post-racial (see David Hollinger’s embarrassing piece in the CHE), so Hillary is the History-Making woman candidate who is running strictly on her competence. Yeah right.

What we’re having right now is one of those “totems in collision” moments on the left, when two different articles of political correctness come into conflict. Generally, whenever race and gender come into collision that way, race wins. That was one of the many lessons of the OJ trial, and for that matter, the Clarence Thomas controversy. But of course, as the example of OJ suggests, the rest of us have to suffer from this. To Sean Wilentz I say, join the club. Now you know how it feels to be on the receiving end of the tactics your party has perfected.
~~Swabian Prince