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A (narrow) Defense Of Clinton

Marc Ambinder shares a bit of a pool report in which a Dallas TV station asked Hillary Clinton about comments made by a supporter named Adelfa Callejo, who reportedly said that black politicians never help Hispanics once they get into office and that "Obama’s problem is that he happens to be black." Callejo appears to be a fairly well-known attorney, at least locally. She also appears to be 84 years old.

According to the pool report, Clinton was asked whether she would "reject and denounce" Callejo's comments, whether she still wanted Callejo's support, and how it was she could criticize Obama for not rejecting Louis Farrakhan's support if she was unwilling to reject Callejo's. Clinton replied with variations on "I want us to be judged on our merits," "I want people to look beyond race and gender," "You can't take any of that as anything other than personal opinion," and "I don't see any comparison at all" with the Farrakhan situation.

For what it's worth, neither do I. I thought the semantic hoops Barack Obama was expected to jump through on Farrakhan were idiotic (do you denounce him? a little or a lot? do you reject his support, too? are you willing to denounce and reject?), but Farrakhan is, after all, a public figure whose odious views on a number of subjects are well known.

Adelfa Callejo, by contrast, is a name I--and in all likelihood, Hillary Clinton and anyone reading this blog--never heard before now. Is she a bigot? Maybe. Or maybe not. She's 84 years old, for goodness' sake. Not every word out of her mouth should be taken as a deep reflection of her underlying character. And, regardless, if we're going to enter a phase where the political media expects candidates to reject the support not only of every controversial public figure who supports them (a ludicrous enough expectation on its own), but of every single anonymous voter who might have something unpleasant to say now and then, we're not going to have time to talk about anything else.

--Christopher Orr

Update: Two additional details from Anne Kornblut at The Washington Post's The Trail:

First, the Clinton campaign did later ammend her comments: "Senator Clinton was unaware of these remarks until this afternoon when she was asked about them on a local newscast. After confirming that they were accurately portrayed, Senator Clinton of course denounces and rejects them." This seems like a reasonable statement, though it will of course only embolden gotcha-seeking reporters to find further controversial supporters to make the candidates reject.

Second, Callejo has made racially inflammatory statements in the past--in 1997 she was quoted in The New York Times saying "the black American is the racist against the Hispanics and whites"--so it looks as though it wasn't just the accumulated years talking.