Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan and his mother was a white woman from Kansas. Bill Richardson’s father was a white banker from California and his mother was a Mexican, named María Luisa López-Collada Márquez. Barack Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. Bill Richardson spent part of his childhood in Mexico City.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that Bill Richardson feels a certain kinship with Barack Obama. Nor should it surprise anyone that Gov. Richardson might take offense at the sight of Howard Ickes going around telling superdelegates that Obama can’t win because he attends a black church (which, in fairness, is what the Rev. Wright flap really amounts to).

Bill Clinton should have thought about these things before he let the campaign go into the racial gutter. I understand that he is outraged because:

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never [endorse Obama].”

But maybe Richardson’s broken promises are a result of a broken heart. I don’t think he would lightly break his word. I can imagine that Richardson is picturing a situation where he, rather than Obama, was leading in the delegate race and Howard Ickes was saying that he can’t win because his mother was a Mexican. If you think the situations are not comparable, they’re still more alike than not. Remember, it was Hillary Clinton herself that made it a point to implicitly criticize Obama for attending his church when she said that she would not. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter went out and said the same thing, even after he was attacked for his choice of church in his recent successful primary election.

In the end, most pundits hailed the campaign as an issue-driven race with few attacks based on any particular candidate’s religious and ethnic background. They did occur, though, particularly on the last Sunday before the primary, when flyers were distributed at Catholic churches in several neighborhoods, claiming that Nutter had left Catholicism and become a Baptist for political reasons, and that Brady had greatly exaggerated the extent of his church attendance.

The same flyer claimed that Knox was the only practicing Catholic in the race.

Nutter’s response at the time?

Nutter called his closest rival, Tom Knox, a white millionaire businessman and a churchgoing Catholic, a “low life” and “scumbag” and accused him of being behind the flyers. The racial subtext was not hard to see.

Disgust doesn’t even begin to describe my
estimation of Nutter’s hypocrisy. Somehow, I doubt Gov. Richardson is impressed either. Which is why Bill Clinton’s sense of betrayal rings so hollow. And he isn’t winning any friends with performances like the one he gave at the California Democratic Convention.

In fact, before his speech Clinton had one of his famous meltdowns Sunday, blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process.

“It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended,” one superdelegate said.

According to those at the meeting, Clinton – who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes – was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.

But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

“It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

When delegate Binah – still stunned from her encounter with Clinton – got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day – there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened.

I keep hearing the Clintonistas saying that Clinton only trails by one percentage point and 110 delegates. That’s some pretty fuzzy math because Real Clear Politics had Obama ahead by 2.6 percentage points and 164 delegates (131, if you include supers). I don’t think making shit up and wishful thinking is helping us in Iraq and I don’t think it is helping Bill Clinton make his case. He is their own worst enemy. Maybe Bill Richardson did promise five times not to endorse Obama. But he shouldn’t have had to ask that the Clintons not attack their opponent for the church that he attends. Sometimes a broken heart is worse than a broken promise.

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