"You might be first, but I'm the firstest!"

Everybody wants to be first. It's an American tradition.

Right now, there are a lot of "firsts" going around, and the Democratic Party seems to be engaged in a historic struggle over not so much who is first, but over who has the right (an entitlement, as it were) to be first. Technically, Barack Obama is actually first in terms of the numbers of states he's won, the number of votes cast, as well as the number of delegates. Yet according to Hillary Clinton's calculations, the fact that he is technically first only means that he should be allowed the number two spot on "her" ticket. That's because she is more entitled.

As to why she is more entitled, it seems to have something to do with experience. Not Senate experience (as both of them have that), but vicarious experience -- something which is gleaned not by service in the Senate, but by having been married to a president. According to this logic, Laura Bush would more "experienced" than, say, Rudy Giuliani. Neither has served in the Senate, but only Laura Bush has been married to a president. And like Hillary, she was also married for years to a governor! You can't say that about a mayor!

But that argument probably wouldn't be well received by Hillary or her supporters, who consider her first first ladyship to be a historic first. She was the first first lady to..... to, um, er, try and fail to implement socialized medicine! And she was the first first lady to like really care about people and stuff. You know, the children? And she was also the first first lady whose husband cheated on her and publicly denied it, then got impeached, and later disbarred. She endured all of that. These are all unique qualifications.

Oh, and she probably considers herself the first first lady to be a woman first lady feminist. Or something. That's definitely considered an entitlement. She's not just a woman. Obama, of course, is "just" (maybe literally and barely just) black, and while having a black president would be a first, having a woman president would be firster.

Maybe even firstest!

Arguments over the role of race and gender have flared up repeatedly throughout the contest between Obama, who would be the nation's first black president, and Clinton, who would be its first female one.

Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton supporter and fundraiser Geraldine Ferraro gave up her honorary position with Clinton's campaign after she said in an interview last week that Obama would not have made it this far if he were white. Obama said Ferraro's remarks were "ridiculous" and "wrong-headed."

This marked a new first. The first time a former first lady in second place has ever apologized for the following remark by the first lady woman to run for vice president in history:
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.
Now, while Ferraro might very well have a point, God forbid that anyone might make a similar remark about Ferraro's historic first. I mean, she went from Congresswoman to the number two spot on the Democratic ticket, without a stint in the Senate, and without even running in the 1984 presidential campaign, yet they bypassed number two candidate Gary Hart, and the number three Jesse Jackson to put her on the ticket. This drew criticism, but apparently Mondale was "determined to establish a precedent":
Aides later said that Mondale was determined to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate, considering San Francisco Mayor (Later U.S. Senator) Dianne Feinstein and Governor of Kentucky Martha Layne Collins, who were also female; Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American; and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, a Hispanic, as other finalists for the nomination. [2] Unsuccessful nomination candidate Jackson derided Mondale's vice-presidential screening process as a "P.R. parade of personalities", however he praised Mondale for his choice.

Others however preferred Senator Lloyd Bentsen because he would appeal to more conservative Southern voters. Nomination rival Gary Hart had also been lobbying for the vice-presidential spot on the ticket once it became apparent that Mondale had clinched the majority of delegates; Hart's supporters claimed he would do better than Mondale against President Reagan, an argument undercut by a June 1984 Gallup poll that showed both men nine points behind the president.

Ferraro, as Catholic, came under fire from the Roman Catholic Church for being pro-choice on abortion, in opposition to Church doctrine. Further controversy erupted over statements regarding the release of her husband's tax returns.

Release of tax returns? God, not that again! When will all these sexist men stop demanding the release of female candidates' husbands' tax returns? I mean, whose money is it, anyway?

I'm wondering. Might the 1984 ticket have set some kind of Democratic Party precedent along the lines of "women are entitled first, while blacks are entitled second"?

It also turned out that Ferraro's recent remark was not a first, as she'd said the same thing in 1988:

If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race...
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Where do these people get off anyway, being in races because they're black? It's not as if women would ever do such a thing.

I'll say this for the Ferraro remarks. At least she didn't bring up the issue of how real estate deals involving questionable ethics can result in a lost halo.

Too many firsts.

But speaking of firsts, I found a vintage hit piece once cranked out by the VRWC organs at Newsmax which lists so many firsts that it's positively mind-boggling. [I'm quoting it in full not just because I'm a Clinton nostalgia freak, but because I sometimes worry that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy's memory is succumbing to a form of Vast Right Wing Alzheimer's.]

....disbarment would merely be the latest in a long list of White House precedents.

Clinton's remarkable record will also show that he is:

The first elected president in U.S. history to be impeached -- Dec. 19, 1998.,

The first president to be found guilty of a crime while still in office. (Leaking the private correspondence of Kathleen Willey in violation of the Privacy Act),

The first U.S. president to be publicly accused of forcible rape -- by Juanita Broaddrick, Feb. 24, 1999.,

The first U.S. president to approve the sale of sophisticated weapons technology to a hostile power while its emmisaries contributed to his campaign.,

The first president to be accused by multiple witnesses, including one under oath before a federal grand jury, of using cocaine while he was the chief law enforcement officer of his state.,

The first U.S. president to be accused of sexual assault on White House property -- by Kathleen Willey, March 15, 1998.,

The first U.S. president to order a paramilitary operation where a network television camera crew was punched, kicked, and forced to the ground at gunpoint to prevent them from broadcasting live video coverage. (Elian Gonzalez's abduction -- April 22, 2000),

The first sitting president to be the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit -- filed by Paula Jones, May 8, 1994.,

The first sitting president to be held in contempt of court for lying under oath and fined by a federal judge (in the Jones lawsuit).,

The first U.S. president to order an armored assault on a church, resulting in the deaths of 55 members of the congregation along with 25 of their children. (Waco -- April 19, ,1993),

The first U.S. presidential candidate to accept financial support from a KGB spy. (Aldrich Ames -- $7,000, 1991, 92),

The first sitting U.S. president to be named in a federal criminal referral as a possible witness to and beneficiary of fraudulant financial activity. (Whitewater),

The first president to consult with Congress about combat troop deployment while simultaneously receiving oral sex -- according to Monica Lewinsky and Rep. Sonny Callahan. (Starr Report -- Sept. 1998),

The first U.S. president to have two senior administration officials die violently under mysterious circumstances while they were being pressed for testimony on assorted White House scandals. (Vince Foster, Ron Brown),

The first U.S. president to have a major cooperating federal witness against him die in prison while waiting to give prosecutors the testimony they later admitted would have led to first family indictments. (James McDougal),

The first U.S. president to launch unprovoked missile attacks on two sovereign nations. (Sudan, Afghanistan -- Aug. 20, 1998),

With more than six months of the Clinton administration left, other equally impressive presidential firsts cannot be far off.
Actually, the Clintons may have saved the best for last. The worst scandal of all (in which Hillary's family played a notorious role) was of course Pardongate, and it occurred just days before the Clintons vacated the White House.

While "should'ves" are largely irrelevant, for the record I thought Hillary should have been the first first lady ever to have earned a pardon herself. But then, I'm very forgiving.

And aren't we all supposed to be forgiving? Hillary's so forgiving that it's another one of her firsts. She's not only the first first lady to forgive the first philandering president in history to be impeached and disbarred, there's serious talk about her putting him on the Supreme Court!

Now there's another very serious first! Imagine!

The first first lady's former philandering husband to be put on the same court which ordered him disbarred!

Considering the precedents, I'd say the Clintons are a first family with an endless thirst for more firsts.

MORE: Michael Weiss quotes Ferraro's later "clarification" in which she abased herself by admitting that she was chosen as a woman, and not because of her qualifications to be vice president:

...in 1984 if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would have never been chosen as a vice presidential candidate... It had nothing to do with my qualification.
I suppose she means that being chosen that way is a good thing.

By implication, Ferraro appears to be suggesting that that if Hillary were a man, she would never be in her position.

What position is that? Being in second place to a black man who's there because of his position, but being "entitled" to be in first place because of her position?

The logic is so thoroughly impenetrable that it has a certain beauty to it.

MORE: Let's assume that both "sides" of the identity politics argument are right, and that Obama is entitled to the nomination because he's black, while Hillary is entitled to it because she's a woman. Isn't that ignoring the additional factor that Obama is ahead in the vote?

I mean, all things being equal, the claim that feminism trumps race might make sense if that's the position of the Democratic Party. But aren't the voters saying otherwise? Even if we assume that all voters are voting according to the rules of identity politics (and all votes for Obama are because he's black, while all votes for Hillary are because she's a woman), if it's all about entitlement and if feminism trumps race, then why bother with all this voting?

MORE: The "offer" to Obama notwithstanding, Nancy Pelosi says the Clinton campaign administration has effectively ruled out the possibility of any Clinton Obama unity ticket:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi dismissed talk of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket. She was answering a question about that possibility from a New England Cable Network reporter. TPM has the video.

She said: "I think that the Clinton administration has fairly ruled that out by proclaiming that Senator McCain would be a better Commander in Chief than Obama."

The Clinton administration?


Things must be moving along faster than I thought.

posted by Eric on 03.13.08 at 09:31 AM


Just as a point of order, I'm pretty sure Jefferson was accused of rape, and it was pretty common in that era for broadsheets alleging rape, pimping, murder, etc. against candidates and incumbents to be posted prominently.

Phelps   ·  March 13, 2008 11:28 AM

Having seen a gazillion war movies since the 40s I've learned that there are two positions one never wants to take -first (they get shot in the chest) and last (they get shot in the back).

Don L   ·  March 13, 2008 6:40 PM

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