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Wag the Blog: Clinton, Obama and Race

A truce has (apparently) been called between Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) after several days of increasingly strong rhetoric over racial issues.

It all began when Clinton -- seeking to drive home her message that experience gets results -- said that it "took a president" -- Lyndon Johnson -- to pass the Civil Rights bill of 1964 -- a bill that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for in a series of speeches, marches and non-violent protests.

Those statements rubbed some black Americans the wrong way -- including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). Clyburn and other Clinton critics said they worried that Clinton was attempting to diminish the accomplishments of the nation's heroic Civil Rights leaders.

After largely remaining silent on the issue, Obama called the remark "unfortunate" on Sunday -- moments after Clinton had appeared on Meet the Press and accused the Illinois Senator's campaign of "deliberately distorting" her comments.

Comments made later on Sunday by Clinton supporter -- and Black Entertainment Television founder -- Bob Johnson, which seemed to be a not-so-veiled reference to Obama's past drug use, threw even more fuel on the blaze.

Sensing that the issue was reaching critical mass, Obama on Monday evening called for an end to the back and forth over the issue. Obama said that he didn't want the campaign "to degenerate into so much tit-for-tat, back-and-forth that we lose sight of why all of us are doing this."

Soon after, Clinton released a statement of her own. "We differ on a lot of things," she said. "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."

Usually in politics when both sides call for a truce on a particularly hot-button issues, it's because neither thinks it ultimately helps their chances at the nomination.

Is that what happened here? For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to know whether Obama, Clinton or neither candidate "won" this exchange and what impact it will have (if any) on their respective candidacies going forward.

The most thoughtful/insightful responses will be featured in a post of their own later this week. The comments sections awaits.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 15, 2008; 12:33 PM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
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