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January 17, 2006, 9:10 P.M.

Over the top? Senator Hillary Clinton is in the news today for comments she made at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Clinton called the Bush administration "one of the worst" in U.S. history and compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation where dissenting voices are squelched. Clinton also apologized to a group of Hurricane Katrina survivors who were present at the church "on behalf of a government that left you behind, that turned its back on you." Her remarks were, to say the least, well received. The White House, and Republican House and Senate leaders have condemned Clinton for her remarks and for what they called pandering to the African American vote. Unfortunately for them, there is no substantive basis for attacking Clinton. She is right. Most of the people displaced in Louisiana are poor, and most of them are black.

Clinton attacked the administration on several fronts. Corruption and cronyism were also on her list. Clinton said: "We have a culture of corruption, we have cronyism, we have incompetence." She also said: "I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country." When viewed through an objective lens, she may well be correct. The list of foibles and follies is extensive. From the invasion of Iraq to the mounting Federal debt there is no real comparison between this administration and any of its modern predecessors. Put this in the perspective of an administration that has refused to accept or even acknowledge criticism, and there is little hope for redemption.

In her sermon Clinton told her Harlem audience that the House of Representatives "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about." Clinton added that the House “… has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard." Well OK, this part of the speech might have been over the top, but no more so than when Newt Gingrich said that the democrats were running the House “like a plantation” and that he was leading “a slave rebellion.” Why is it different for Ms. Clinton? Well, because it’s Ms. Clinton.

I don’t think there is any way to compare the house to a plantation, but there has certainly not been any room for dissenting opinions or for the minority to effectively be involved in governing. This has not been a function of minority status, but of a raw abuse of power by the majority. Rules have been changed and years of protocol have been abandoned in a congress drunk on power and influence poured out by the likes of Jack Abramoff.

The media seems to be lumping Senator Clinton’s comments into the same group as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s comments about a “Chocolate City.” This minimizes the fact that the truth underlies Clinton’s comments, and deflects the discussion from substance to hype. This deflection serves only to allow the condition to continue without being addressed. This deflection serves only to allow the condition to continue without being addressed.

Nagin’s comments were stupid and unprecedented. To suggest that Senator Clinton didn’t know of the previous use of the analogy by a conservative poster child is to seriously underestimate her. I hope Hillary Clinton sticks to her guns. I hope that she and others keep the heat up on the administration. There is no reason to apologize for telling the truth, even if the rhetoric is a little “over the top.”


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