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January 21, 2008

He Had A Dream, Not A Fairy Tale

Atlanta's mayor, Shirley Franklin, had a bone to pick with Bill Clinton. Rather than do it quietly, she decided to make her point at today's rally honoring Martin Luther King, with Bill Clinton in the front row -- and got a rousing ovation for it:

With former President Bill Clinton standing not 20 feet in front of her, Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin took what appeared to be a political shot at the former president's comments about Barack Obama's candidacy.

Speaking at the 40th annual MLK commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Franklin said the country is on the "cusp of turning the impossible into reality. Yes this is reality, not fantasy or fairy tales."

Clinton, in supporting his wife Hillary's bid for the Democratic nomination, recently took heat for using the term "fairy tale" to describe Obama's depiction of his stance on the war.

That statement got the entire audience on its feet, cheering. Well, almost the entire audience. Bill sat in his chair giving golf claps. Later, when he spoke, he declined to spar back, saying that Franklin "took care of the political stuff."

Clinton should have known better than to argue about fairy tales, and he certainly should have expected some blowback today. It's true that he specifically referred to Obama's narrative on his position on the Iraq war, but words and phrases matter -- something Clinton knows well enough. He made a wise choice to let it go Perhaps he has listened to the Democrats advising him to take the opportunity to keep his mouth shut.

Franklin made another trenchant observation. In an election year where major-party candidates include "a former first lady, a Mormon, a Baptist preacher, and yes, a black man," perhaps we have just about reached that promised land King assured us we would reach on the night before his murder forty years ago. We can hope that if we do elect any of them, it's because of who they are and not what they are.


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