SENATOR Barack Obama's campaign may have made a fatal blunder by focusing on alleged insensitive remarks by Senator Hillary Clinton about Martin Luther King and whether President Lyndon Johnson achieved more on civil rights.
As a Clinton supporter I was scratching my head wondering what on earth was offensive about pointing out that without Johnson providing the political muscle, King's extraordinary vision of equality for African Americans would never have been realized.
For a week or so, however, the argument raged on the airwaves about whether or not Clinton was deliberately sending a mixed message in order to bring up Obama's race as a campaign issue.
I think the record of the Clintons stands for itself when it comes to helping minorities, so much so that African American writer Toni Morrison once memorably described Bill Clinton as the first black president.
Anyone who has witnessed either the former president or first lady among black crowds will testify to the extraordinary affection and goodwill there is towards them.
It is hard to twist that record into something approaching racism, but that is precisely what the Obama people appeared to try to do after Hillary's remarks, and other remarks by Bill questioning Obama's record on the Iraq war.
The Obama camp made a basic mistake. The beauty of the Obama candidacy was that he appeared to be a candidate who broke all the moulds and was accessible across the racial and ethnic divides.
After the attacks on the Clintons we witnessed an immediate polarizing in the polls, with blacks flocking to his side and Clinton taking white and Latino votes. The Nevada caucuses showed that Clinton is much more likely to benefit from such a scenario.
Politics ain't beanbag, and Obama has got to expect that he will come under fire from the Clintons and John Edwards and anyone else who does not want to see him become the Democratic nominee. Playing the race card however, is not the way to combat the heat.
Obama is being helped to do so by a compliant media which makes no attempt to disguise their affection for him and their distaste for the Clintons.
Allegations of intimidation by rank and file union members in Las Vegas last weekend from union bosses who backed Obama were barely investigated in the mainstream media. Imagine that happening if it was Clinton that the Culinary Union had backed?
When I was in New Hampshire that final fateful weekend before Clinton clawed back from certain defeat in the primary there, the love affair between Obama and the media clouded the latter's judgment to the extent that every one of the so-called "experts" called it wrong.
Yet it was evident that the Clinton crowds were just as enthused as the Obama ones and that Clinton, unlike Obama, was taking the time to answer every question asked instead of delivering inspirational remarks and taking no questions.
The Clintons will always seek to outwork, outthink and outmaneuver any presidential challenger, which is what appears to be happening now with Obama.
You can take on the Clintons on policy and how they used power when they were in the White House, but you cannot get away with hinting they are racist.
The incident shows that the Illinois senator is woefully short of real political experience. The notion that you require none, being pushed by his campaign, is truly fantastical. Would you entrust major surgery to a surgeon who had never done an operation?
Despite what you read in the newspapers, experience is actually a vital and needed commodity in politics. We see now that President George W. Bush did not have enough, especially in foreign affairs when he took over the Oval Office.
Obama has a Kumbaya message that we can all come together in perfect harmony someday in the U.S. That plays well with many, but it the kind of harmless sentiment that goes with naivety and inexperience.
Do you really expect that in Washington, D.C., where protagonists use impeachment, personal attacks and foul tactics, will suddenly become a kinder, gentler place, taking cue from the Obama message? Little wonder some of his opponents have taken to calling him Obambi.