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Spinal Deficiency Syndrome 

Candidates lose an important part of their anatomy

Something seems to be going around -- and it's not the flu. It's attacking politicians on both sides of the aisle and rendering them speechless. One minute, they'll be flying high, sparring verbally, rolling out plan after plan and traveling from one destination to the next in pursuit of the big prize. They make grand gestures, witty statements and promises faster than an auctioneer. Then, all of a sudden, they get hit with "spinal deficiency syndrome," and they go down faster than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Spinal deficiency syndrome occurs when accusations are made by the press or some other organization about a politician or his/her supporters. Usually, it's an incident or a statement that has been constructed as "controversial" by said groups that brings on SDS. Symptoms include false humility, back-pedaling, exhaustive apologizing and unwillingness by infected politicians to tell people, such as the media, to butt out.

Unfortunately Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain are suffering from a severe case of SDS. Treatments for the affliction include using your spinal cord to stand up for yourself physically, followed by the use of your vocal chords to stand up for yourself verbally. Studies have shown that telling people to mind their own business works wonderfully for elected officials in countries like France, Great Britain and Australia. The disease is curable, even in an incurably nosey country like the United States. A big "fuck-off" would end the ailment, but since we are operating in "polite society," a simple "back off" will do.

The game of musical chairs happening in the Clinton and Obama camps is nauseating. Every week, they dismiss someone for saying or doing something that is not in line with their campaigns. Typically someone has said something constructed as "belligerent," "patently false" or "controversial" by the media. Last week Sen. Clinton dismissed her adviser Geraldine Ferraro from her campaign because she stated, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," suggesting that he had only risen to this level of the political game because of luck and his race. It is always ironic when some whites pretend that being black in America is beneficial. I suspect that if this were true, then those same whites would be claiming their black heritage, just as they so proudly do as it relates to Europe.

But, I love when people like Ferraro expose themselves for the bigots they are because it gives us an opportunity to engage in a critical dialogue about racism and sexism in America, particularly how one functions in relation to the other.

In my mind, Clinton needed to take one of the most powerful women in American politics, shake the shit out of her and keep her on the team instead of bowing to outside pressure from the media and the Obama camp. Dismissing her does not solve the problem, which is much larger and complex. Perhaps using this incident as an opportunity to have a real conversation about race and gender with her advisers and supporters would be better. Instead we get the big dismissal and denouncement, which is symptomatic of spinal deficiency syndrome. Was Ferraro wrong? Hell yes. Should Clinton throw the only other female politician who could possibly understand and advise her on this precarious path to the presidency under the bus? Hell no.

Such was also the case with Sen. Barack Obama, who initially threw the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright under the bus for making controversial statements about the condition of black men in this country and the government's involvement in and responsibility for myriad events, including the 2001 World Trade Center bombings. Obama denounced Wright, his statements and dismissed him from the campaign.

But so what if Wright said something crazy? How many times do we sit through church or mass and hear something crazy? We do not fire the pastor; we talk to him or her. To hold Obama responsible for what a pastor says is ridiculous, and people like Wright are important parts of the black community, like it or not. They offer critiques on society from the perspective of a black man, which is missing from many places -- including the church.

Instead, like Clinton and other species of jellyfish, Obama bended and dismissed him. Luckily, Obama remembered his people and another part of his anatomy (his spine y'all), and delivered a sensational speech about racial reconciliation, which is what he should have done in the first place, instead of following standard political protocol.

Finally, Sen. John McCain must tell people to get out of his face in no uncertain terms. He mistakenly confused the Shiites with the Sunnis and was pounced on by Democrats and the media. But, truthfully, how many people in this country know the difference? I understand that a man in his position should know the difference. But I also understand that a man in his position has earned the right to make a mistake. Instead, his camp issued a statement apologizing for the snafu?

A famous quote (whose origin is often disputed) states, "If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything." As this election continues, let's hope that spinal deficiency syndrome comes to an end.

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