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Moseley Braun to Clinton: Butt Out

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Moseley Braun to Clinton: Butt Out
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Is it a warning to Bill Clinton -- or to Barack Obama?

A day after Danny Davis warned Clinton to stay out of the mayor’s race, Carol Moseley Braun -- his former ambassador to New Zealand -- is also cheesed off about Clinton’s plans to campaign for Rahm Emanuel.

“Bill Clinton is an outsider parachuting in to support another outsider. Rahm’s residency status continues to be challenged in court. It’s not yet clear that he will be on the ballot. At the same time former president Clinton risks his legacy and the great respect that he has enjoyed among African Americans by coming to Chicago to endorse Rahm Emanuel who is running for mayor against two black candidates.

“Clinton should remember New Hampshire where he called Barack Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq ‘a fairy tale.’ He was wrong.

“Clinton should remember South Carolina where he played the race card painting Obama as ‘the black candidate.’ Again he was wrong. Bill Clinton will be wrong again if he gets involved in the Chicago mayoral contest. He should stay home and avoid the cold.”

Clinton lives in New York, which is just as cold as Chicago, but no matter -- the message isn’t intended for him. It is intended for Obama. Davis and Moseley Braun are both terrified that Obama -- who has already said Emanuel will make a “terrific” mayor -- will campaign for his former chief of staff. But they also know that Obama would alienate some black voters by endorsing a white candidate. Obama had to work hard to convince black Chicagoans he was a member of their community. If he embraces Emanuel, a lot of folks will feel played.

Clinton and Obama both owe a debt to Moseley Braun. In 1992, a Maryland lawyer named Sandy Newman set up a Chicago registration drive called Project Vote! It aimed to sign up 150,000 African-Americans, who would help the Democratic candidate in the fall. Newman hired Barack Obama to run the campaign. Project Vote succeeded because of the black community’s enthusiasm for Moseley Braun’s candidacy. Clinton won Illinois, and Obama looked like a brilliant political organizer.

As an outsider to Chicago, Bill Clinton is probably wondering why he involved himself in our city’s complicated racial politics. As a Chicagoan who mastered those politics more successfully than any candidate in history, Obama probably knows better than to take sides in this mayoral election.

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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