The intensity of the race-based debate surrounding the two leading Democratic presidential candidates seemed poised to get worse, not better. The tone and volume of the dispute was not only driving a wedge in the party, it seemed like the kind of clash that could do lasting damage.
Fortunately, before matters got out of control, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton decided yesterday that it was time to take the high road. Obama got this started yesterday afternoon with a press conference in Nevada.
“I’ve been a little concerned about the tenor of the campaign over the last few days,” Obama told reporters in Reno, Nevada, after speaking to about 2,500 people at a rally. “We share the same goals, we are all Democrats, we all believe in civil rights, we all believe in equal rights.”
“I think that (former President) Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have historically and consistently been on the right side of civil rights issues,” he added. “I think they care about the African American community and they care about all Americans and they want to see equal rights and equal justice in this country.”
Obama added, “I may disagree with Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards on how to get there, but we share the same goals.... They are good people. They are patriots.... I don’t want the campaign at this stage to degenerate to so much tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, that we lose sight of why we are doing this. We’ve got too much at stake at this time in our history to be engaging in this kind of silliness.”
Shortly thereafter, Clinton followed suit with a very encouraging statement. “Over this past week, there has been a lot of discussion and back and forth - much of which I know does not reflect what is in our hearts. And at this moment, I believe we must seek common ground," Clinton said, adding, “[W]hen it comes to civil rights and our commitment to diversity, when it comes to our heroes - President John F. Kennedy and Dr. King – Senator Obama and I are on the same side."
Good for both of them. I suspect the temptation to fan the flames and raise the temperature was great, but this was, without a doubt, the right way to go.