Hillary channels Brenda Lee over Ferraro contretemps

I’m sorry … so sorry … Please accept my apology…

Hillary Clinton backpedaled faster than ever before last night after accepting Geraldine Ferraro’s resignation from her campaign. She spent a significant portion of her speech last night apologizing for Ferraro’s odd series of escalating gaffes on Barack Obama’s race and its benefit to him in the campaign. After initially giving a weak response, Hillary now says she “repudiates” Ferraro’s comments (via Memeorandum and TMV):

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton did something Wednesday night that she almost never does. She apologized. And once she started, she didn’t seem able to stop.

The New York senator, who is in a tight race with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, struck several sorry notes at an evening forum sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a group of more than 200 black community newspapers across the country.

Her biggest apology came in response to a question about comments by her husband, Bill Clinton, after the South Carolina primary, which Obama won handily. Bill Clinton said Jesse Jackson also won South Carolina when he ran for president in 1984 and 1988, a comment many viewed as belittling Obama’s success.

“I want to put that in context. You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive,” Hillary Clinton said. “We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama.” …

Of Ferraro’s comment, Hillary Clinton told her audience: “I certainly do repudiate it and I regret deeply that it was said. Obviously she doesn’t speak for the campaign, she doesn’t speak for any of my positions, and she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee.”

This doesn’t quite make it, although it comes close. Once again, we see the high-wire political apology in play — I’m sorry some took offense. She apparently got better as the speech progressed, “repudiating” Ferraro’s analysis and offering “deep regret”. The reference to the “very large” committee sounds like a weasel phrase intended to limit Hillary’s responsibility for the actions of her surrogates. Is it so large that Hillary has people on there she doesn’t want, or is Hillary merely bragging about the size of her campaign.

Clearly, though, Hillary has thrown Ferraro under the bus now, but the damage has been done. Ferraro’s comments have amplified the identity-politics polarization that Bill Clinton started in South Carolina, and the timing couldn’t be better for Hillary. The primaries now go through states with high proportions of white working-class Democratic voters such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and Kentucky. Hillary may repudiate Ferraro, but she will benefit from her comments.

Hillary spoke of the need for healing after the end of the primary process as well, saying that she hoped her supporters would back Obama if he won the nomination as well as the reverse. The former has a moderate possibility of happening, but the latter looks increasingly unlikely. The bitterness of this campaign will not dissipate in the thin air of Denver.

Update: As Ligneus reminds me, Brenda Lee, not Peggy Lee. For those who don’t know the reference, here’s a YouTube tribute to the song from someone who apparently either couldn’t find enough Brenda Lee pictures or really loves the radio in the dashboard:

Update: Shaun Mullen at TMV believes this to be orchestrated by Hillary, and he makes a compelling argument:

Clinton is a monster who will tacitly approve any comment short of using the N-word that focuses unwanted attention on Obama. And she will employ any tactic necessary no matter how obscene or divisive in her lust for a nomination that seems to slip further from her slimy grasp with every passing day. …

And you know what? Clinton’s monster mash just might work. She could conceivably slither her way to the nomination and then on to the promised land that eluded Ferraro and Walter Mondale 24 years ago through attacks that arouse the racist underbelly of American society followed by belated apologies. … The beauty of this ugliness is that each time it is unleashed it is incumbent on Obama to fire back. And each time he fires back the focus shifts away from his message and what the campaign should be all about to his blackness.

Qui bono? That’s the question one has to ask, especially with Hillary heading into the Rust Belt primaries.