Last night on the History Channel there was the presentation of the documentary "King" narrated by Tom Brokaw. I couldn't help but notice that about half way through the documentary dealing with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while we watched black and white footage of Lyndon Johnson in the White House at a Cabinet meeting Brokaw's narration was telling us that in 1964 it took all of Johnson's considerable powers of persuasion and political skill, as Johnson, in Brokaw's words, cajoled, arm twisted, called in favors, flattered, threatened members of Congress who had opposed it when Kennedy introduced it, to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
What couldn't be ignored on the eve of Obama's inauguration, is that almost one year ago during the South Carolina Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton said exactly the same thing, trying to make the point that it takes a President who has experience to get things done.
Obama accused Clinton of making remarks that diminished the legacy and importance of Martin Luther King -- remarks that were almost verbatim the same remarks about Johnson and the Civil Rights Act made by Tom Brokaw in the King documentary.
Obama's scurrilous and dishonest accusation and his decision to play the race card, also called Clinton's remarks "unfortunate" and implied she had no understanding of King or his contributions.
This needs to be remembered on the day before Obama's inauguration since the news media, and many others are making Obama's taking office as a fulfillment of King's dream. The fact that Obama's accusation was as much of a lie now as it was then,and that the news media jumped all over Clinton for her comment, ( The NY Times accused Clinton of taking the "low road" of racial politics as did the Nation and most television news outlets) should be kept in mind as they fall all over themselves over Obama's African background.
Of course most of them conveniently miss the most salient point of King's dream which was the he dreamed of a day when a person would be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. For the next few days for the news media and some others, that is going out the window.
Given the obvious deep and demonstrable flaws in Obama's character, one wonders whether Obama's election is a fulfillment of King's dream or a distortion of it. And a distortion caused by mass media and PR.
It's certainly not a distortion caused by the majority of the American people who voted for Obama. People who voted for him were justifiably fed up with eight years of Bush and Republican rule that were the root causes of most of the economic meltdown not to mention all the other costly blunders that occurred under Bush. Obama was elected because people were fed up with Bush and rightly so, not because Obama is half black ( it probably needs to be pointed out, if for no other reason than to show how incredibly stupid it is to make an issue of someone's race no matter what the reason, that Obama is half black having a white mother which most people including the media seem to pretend doesn't exist. So does this mean we need another half black President in order to say we had a whole one?)
In many ways making Obama's inauguration an issue of race by the news media is more than a gross distortion of King's dream especially since the race card was played so dishonestly during the primary campaign. But it is also a distortion of the truth because Obama was elected more because he was a Democrat and more because of his promises than his ancestors. While there were many extremely distasteful comments made by people like John Kerry who said during the primary that Obama should be elected because he is black ( reminding people Obama is half black with a white mother if nothing else shows the stupidity of using race as any kind of measuring stick regarding the content or ability of any person) it was the dishonesty of the media during the primaries and the disasters brought about by the Republicans that are responsible for Obama's victory, not race.
After seeing the King documentary last night, one really can't help but remember the rank hypocrisy and gutter politics played in King's name by Obama and his accusations against Clinton, and then the news media's piling on against Clinton for saying the same thing Brokaw said in his acclaimed documentary.
I wonder where Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann would be now if they accused Brokaw, the iconoclastic anchor of NBC news for more than 20 years, and everyone else associated with the King documentary (including the King family) of diminishing the memory and accomplishment of King by saying it took all of Lyndon Johnson's political skills to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Where they would be now is probably one of the 7.2% who are out of work.
It's not a small thing to remember not only because this is Martin Luther King Day, but because those accusations, (in all probability drummed up by Congressman Clyburn and used by Obama) changed the course of the election process. Up until then Pew Research showed that the African American vote was split 49-48 between Obama and Clinton. After Obama accused her of making statements that diminished King's legacy Obama went on to get 90% of the African American vote in every primary from that point on. It was one of the things that made the difference.
As Obama takes the oath of office and the news media proclaims him the first African American President ( because half black with a Kenyan father and a white mother and a background that has no ancestral ties to slavery or racism in America doesn't fit the storyline) it's important to keep all this in mind because King's dream still matters, not just to African Americans but to anyone with asspirations. But when Obama is sworn in, the legitimate question can be asked as to whether or he is someone who has fulfilled King's dream or someone who was able to manipulate it. And the answer in many ways is both.
But once the pomp and circumstance is over the country will quickly get back to the only thing that really matters. Because starting on Wednesday Obama's election will have nothing to do with race but only whether he can deliver, and if he can't, who his ancestors were isn't going to help him. In that sense Obama's election will be prove useful. It's going to put an end to race as something that matters in relation to accomplishing anything that counts in American life once and for all, and that is what King's legacy is all about.