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Jewish World Review August 19, 2002/ 11 Elul, 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Georgia voters should retire McKinney, raise the bar | Some people mix their metaphors. Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney confuses her clichés. Apparently desperate in the final hours before tomorrow's Democratic primary, McKinney has accused her opponent, former state Judge Denise Majette, of racial profiling.

Given that both women are African-American -- and few are more infamous than McKinney for milking the race card -- McKinney's last-gasp bloviating is something like the pot calling the kettle black. Except the pot is calling the kettle white, or at least ecru.

McKinney tossed down her race ace at an Aug. 13 forum and was rewarded with the expected applause and amen chorus. She was prompted to let loose the dogs of racial rhetoric by a leaked Majette campaign memo that recommended sending black campaign workers into mostly black neighborhoods. The memo called for working the streets in a "posse, in T-shirts, probably no white folks if it is a black neighborhood."

Scandalous. Let's see, if you're a black candidate running for office in a black-majority district, should you send in your white workers or your black ones? Here's what McKinney's campaign manager Bill Banks said:

"I can't believe Majette's campaign looks at the color of your skin the minute you walk in her door. That's disgraceful, and that's not what Georgia is about."

Now let's call in an impartial expert, Clark Atlanta University political science professor William Boone: "One would expect Majette's people" to send black campaign workers into African-American neighborhoods. "It's legitimate."

Glad we got that settled. Of course, McKinney's racial-profiling rant was consistent with the rest of her campaign. In ads she has accused Majette of having "sold us out," and has called Majette "Tomette" in a wildly clever play on "Uncle Tom."

McKinney's clear attempt to paint Majette as the "white" candidate, whatever that means, is the definition of racist. It is also an act of desperation, such that one is tempted to join Majette's applause section, if not collapse into rapturous glossolalia.

The Georgia congresswoman should be desperate. Her campaign is in trouble and her re-election far from assured. Even Georgia's Democratic Sen. Zell Miller has turned against her, endorsing Majette. McKinney needs to be replaced.

Not necessarily because of her voting record, or because of her financial ties to certain Arab individuals sympathetic to Islamist terrorist groups. Or because some of those individuals' donations showed up, no doubt coincidentally, last Sept. 11.

And finally, not even because of her bizarre claim that President Bush knew of the terrorist attacks in advance and permitted them so that his pals could enrich themselves through war profits.

No, the reason McKinney needs to go is because these are serious times for serious people. As never before, we need temperate voices and cool heads in Washington. We need keen intellects and educated minds to weigh decisions that could mean life or death to millions and dictate the unforeseeable future.

McKinney's volatile, explosive, rabble-rousing style and her race-baiting, conspiracy-spouting hysterics may have been effective campaign strategies in the Georgia of 1992 when she was first elected. Her political antics may have kept her in headlines and animated a Georgia church pew or two, but we can no longer afford her ilk. Histrionics and pantomime are pastimes of peace times, and we enjoy no such luxury now.

Majette by comparison is a stateswoman -- restrained, well-educated and dignified. She earned history and law degrees from Yale and Duke universities, respectively. She was an adjunct law professor at Wake Forest University, and clerked and assisted several judges before she become a judge herself. She also served as an assistant attorney general. (Oh, and she has enough sense to suppose that white workers in black neighborhoods might send the wrong message.)

Let's hope Georgia voters -- black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Arab and otherwise -- recognize that racial division is a political ploy that serves no one. And candidates who rely on race-baiting to get elected probably have nothing else to offer.

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