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Obama Calls for Censure of Ferraro

Updated 5:34 p.m.
By Peter Slevin
FAIRLESS HILL, Penn. -- Barack Obama called on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to censure former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro for saying that Sen. Barack Obama would not be doing so well in the Democratic contest if he were a woman or a white man.

Obama called Ferraro's commentary "divisive" and "patently absurd."

"I don't think Geraldine Ferraro's comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party. They are divisive," Obama told the Allentown Morning Call on Tuesday afternoon.

"I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. And I would expect that the same way those comments don't have a place in my campaign they shouldn't have a place in Senator Clinton's either."

Earlier in the day, Obama's campaign held a conference call to address Ferraro's comments. "Any and all remarks that diminish Senator Obama's candidacy because of his race are completely out of line," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), an Obama supporter, told reporters on the call. She called on Clinton "to change the tone of her campaign."

David Axelrod, Obama's top political strategist, called former New York represenative Ferraro's comments to a California newspaper "offensive" and said Clinton should dismiss her from any role in the campaign.

"When you wink and nod at offensive statements, you're really telling your supporters that anything goes," Axelrod said as Obama prepared to campaign in Pennsylvania. "She ought to be removed from those positions. There's no other way to send a serious signal that you want to police the tone of this campaign."

Ferraro, a Clinton finance committee member, triggered the reaction when, in an interview with the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., she said: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position....And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Last week, it was an Obama adviser who tripped up in a newspaper interview. Harvard professor Samatha Power, a key unpaid foreign policy adviser, resigned from the campaign and apologized after she called Clinton a "monster" who was "stooping to anything" to win the nomination.

The Obama campaign condemned Power's comments while praising her previous service to Obama's candidacy.

Axelrod pointed to the Power episode Tuesday and called on the Clinton campaign to set a similar example. He noted previous occasions where a Clinton surrogate made comments that some people found offensive, and said the Ferraro comment is "part of a growing and disturbing problem."

"We have been very firm in dealing with that," Axelrod maintained. "They have not."

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 11, 2008; 5:34 PM ET
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