Friday, February 29, 2008 at 11:16 AM
Before I assail him, however, I feel obliged to acknowledge that no one is more worthy of respect and honor as a civil rights leader than Lewis. Because he not only embodies the spirit but also bears the scars of those who marched, and were bloodied and bruised, for the cause.
Of course, this is why every Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter has solicited his support. (Republicans knew they did not have a prayer….) Therefore, it’s no wonder Hillary Clinton beamed with such pride and assurance when she announced last October that she had won the quadrennial Lewis prize.
Then came Iowa and the Obama phenomenon that has turned expectations of Hillary’s coronation as the Democratic nominee into delusions of things past. And none of her fair-weather supporters embodies this disaffection with her candidacy more than Lewis.
More to the point, however, none of them has expressed any personal anguish over their political opportunism. By contrast, Lewis turned his shift from Hillary to Obama into such a national confessional on Wednesday that it may overshadow his legacy as a civil rights pioneer.
Unfortunately, whatever his personal conflicts today, this pathetic confession belittles not only his bravery and sacrifice but that of every other civil rights pioneer as well. And, ironically, his claim that – as a superdelegate – he has a political duty to switch because most of his constituents support Obama smacks of cowardice. In fact, it reeks of Clintonian hypocrisy.
Frankly, I thought only Bill and Hillary had the balls to mask rank political expediency with this kind of sincerity. But I’m not at all surprised that neither of them wanted to hear from Lewis about his conversion. Because they know better than anyone when a politician is just shedding crocodile tears.
Meanwhile, even though he will surely take his Johnny-come-lately support, I hope Obama forces Lewis to sit at the back of his bandwagon – where he can tarry and toil to redeem his political character.
NOTE: If he were not simply following the political winds, Lewis could easily have honored his “passionate” endorsement of Hillary, and still voted for Obama as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention – assuming it even comes to that. There was no reason for him to manufacture this shameful political and emotional conflict.