Taking the High Road

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 15, 2008 2:50PM

Barack Obama took the first step in cooling off the war of words between his campaign and Hillary Clinton's. "I've been a little concerned about the tenor of the campaign," Obama said in a press conference called yesterday evening in Nevada. "We've got too much at stake at this time in our history to be engaging in this kind of silliness," Obama said. "I suspect that other candidates may feel the same way."

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Acknowledging the differences between himself and the Democratic front-runners, Obama defended the Clintons and their work on civil-rights issues:
I think that Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have historically and consistently been on the right side of civil rights issues. I think that they care about the African-American community and that they care about all Americans and that they want to see equal rights and equal justice in this country…. That is something that I'm convinced of and I want to make sure that the American people understand that that's my assessment.
Hillary Clinton quickly followed suit, issuing a statement about an hour later that said,
We differ on a lot of things. And it is critical to have the right kind of discussion on where we stand. But when it comes to civil rights and our commitment to diversity, when it comes to our heroes - President John F. Kennedy and Dr. King – Senator Obama and I are on the same side.... And in that spirit, let's come together, because I want more than anything else to ensure that our family stays together on the front lines of the struggle to expand rights for all Americans.

The two campaigns had been caught in an increasingly divisive intra-party fight over statements by Hillary Clinton that some perceived as downplaying Martin Luther King's role in passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act:

I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the President before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became a real in people's lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished.
The tensions between the two campaigns escalated over the weekend, with Clinton saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the Obama campaign was "deliberately distorting" what she said, and Obama accusing her of making "an ill-advised statement about Dr. King." The tiff between the two candidates had threatened to tarnish Obama's image as a candidate of national reconciliation, potentially splitting the Democratic party over the course of the campaign.

Image via Stijn Vogels