Clinton's Civil Rights Lesson

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The New York Times

Clinton's Civil Rights Lesson

by
Sarah Wheaton

DOVER, N.H. - As they barnstorm through New Hampshire, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband are often introduced by supporters who once backed another candidate but converted to her cause.0108 01

Today, in Dover, Francine Torge, a former John Edwards supporter, said this while introducing Mrs. Clinton: "Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated. And Lyndon Baines Johnson was the one who actually" passed the civil rights legislation.

The comment, an apparent reference to Senator Barack Obama, is particularly striking given documented fears among blacks that Mr. Obama will be assassinated if elected.

Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman said: "We were not aware that this person was going to make those comments and disapprove of them completely. They were totally inappropriate."

Mrs. Clinton's expression did not change noticeably when Ms. Torge made the comment.

Only a few hours later, she brought up the civil rights legislation herself in remarks to a Fox News correspondent.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have been in a running feud arising from her suggestion at Saturday's debate that he was raising "false hope."

Mr. Obama responded that Mr. Kennedy did not decide going to the moon was a false hope and that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not see ending segregation as such.

"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," Mrs. Clinton said when asked about Mr. Obama's rejoinder by Fox's Major Garrett after her speech in Dover. "It took a president to get it done."

The Obama campaign declined to comment on either of those remarks.

Later, during an appearance in Salem, Mrs. Clinton refined her remarks on Fox:

"You know, today Senator Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize me. He basically compared himself to our greatest heroes because they gave great speeches.

"President Kennedy was in Congress for 14 years. He was a war hero. He was a man of great accomplishments and readiness to be president. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement. He was gassed. He was beaten. He was jailed. And he gave a speech that was one of the most beautifully, profoundly important speeches ever written in America, the "I have a dream" speech.

"And then he worked with President Johnson to get the civil rights laws passed, because the dream couldn't be realized until finally it was legally permissible for people of all colors and backgrounds and races and ethnicities to be accepted as citizens.

"I'm running for president because I believe that there is not a contradiction between experience and change."

© 2007 The New York Times

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