As we have seen all over the news, politicians are having trouble complimenting Barak Obama without accidentally stumbling into racial stereotypes when calling him "bright, articulate and clean," assuming this is unusual for someone black. We have seen this from the President and a Democratic Challenger. It is understandable that any one black could be noticeably upset for the assumption that these qualities separate Obama from most African Americans.
Someone could point out that Clinton and Carter were bright and articulate for Southerners. In fact, you could almost understand the words coming from their mouths (actually some people did point this out). One could also point out that for a Connecticut born Ivy Leaguer, George W. Bush is surprisingly inarticulate. Stereotypes have long been a part of the American landscape and political process.
However, I don't think this surprise by other politicians that Obama is bright and articulate and clean is a slight against his race. The truly surprising thing to everyone is that a politician, in fact a Senator at that... is bright, clean and articulate.
Maybe that is what they are meaning. I know I am surprised by all these qualities coming from a politician.