I've argued previously, that African Americans soured on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential campaign in part because it appeared that Clinton and her surrogates attempted to use race and racial fear to influence the election. Clinton supporters like Geraldine Ferraro, Bob Johnson, and Bill Clinton made either direct references to Obama's race during the campaign and/or invoked sentiments meant to play on racial stereotypes.
On Monday, Christopher Hitchens, citing John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's new campaign book Game Change, detailed more troubling claims about the Clintons:
"After his wife's third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Bill Clinton telephoned Sen. Edward Kennedy in pursuit of an endorsement and, according to Kennedy's own account as given to a friend, said of then-Sen. Barack Obama: A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."
"After Obama so handily won the South Carolina primary in January 2008, drawing more than half the state's white voters under the age of 30, Bill Clinton's comment to a reporter was: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here." Answering Obama's question—"Now, why would he say that?"—the authors conclude:
Clinton was comparing Obama to Jackson to diminish the former's victory, and to accomplish the blackening that Obama's advisers suspected was his objective all along. (The Jackson comparison circulated in Clintonworld the night before, in an email from Bill's former White House aide Sidney Blumenthal, which prophesied, "After Feb 5, Obama may prove to be a lesser version of Jackson.")"
"Mention of Blumenthal brings me to the next point of shock in the narrative, where by mid-May 2008 the Clinton campaign is foundering hopelessly and beginning to rely on the desperate pitch to "superdelegates." Two things then happen: Bill Clinton plays the race card even more crudely, and Sidney Blumenthal claims that Michelle Obama has been caught on tape using the word whitey. To cite Heilemann and Halperin again:
Blumenthal was obsessed with the "whitey tape," and so were the Clintons, who not only believed that it existed but felt that there was a chance it might emerge in time to save Hillary. "They've got a tape, they've got a tape," she told her aides excitedly."
At the outset, let's be clear: Hitchens is not an objective or necessarily fair critic. As Charles Taylor notes in Salon:
""I would not testify against anyone but Clinton, and only in his Senate trial." Having been denied that opportunity, he has presented us with "No One Left to Lie To," the star turn he didn't get on the witness stand. And as the book builds up to the rhetorical flourishes of its conclusion ("It took no time to make up my mind that I wouldn't protect Clinton's lies, or help pass them along. I wasn't going to be the last one left to lie to"), we can hear music swelling, see the spotlights focusing, take in the camera rolling -- "I'm ready for my close-up now, Justice Rehnquist." The issues Hitchens is writing about are big. It's his ethics that got small."
LA Times, it's apparently true. The main issue remains: Does it Matter?
Republicans would probabaly say yes, then mention the hypocrisy of Democrats and Liberals who admonish the Right for racial insensitivity but appear incapable of heaping the same scorn for similar (if not worse) acts on the Left.
Democrats? Democrats are on the whole silent about racial insensitivity claims against the Clintons. Ben Smith of Politico reports:
"What’s notable about the highly publicized release of “Game Change,” however, is the virtual silence from the Clinton camp. The lack of public outrage [Hull emphasis] seems to mark the sputtering end of what was once known as the Clinton political machine and underlines a fact that onetime Clinton loyalists acknowledge: The book’s primary sources about the former candidate and current secretary of state are her own former staffers and intimates.
As a result, there is no campaign of veteran Clintonites spinning the press corps and trying to pre-emptively discredit the book’s scathing depiction of Hillary Clinton as a rudderless candidate and a cheerleader for vicious tactics against eventual winner Barack Obama. There is no team of Clinton proxies going on cable television to denounce authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann as scurrilous and unworthy of belief. This time, Bill and Hillary Clinton are virtually alone. "
first Black President." And the Clintons have long been popular with African Americans. But from Bill's "sister soulja" moment, to welfare reform, to the 2008 election, I think the attitude toward the Clinton's has . . . uhm . . cooled (Mammy? Really? You don't think, Dr. Harris-Lacewell, that's a little over the top?). There has indeed been a lack of public outcry, particularly in the Black community, over the elegations in Game Change, and to all of the Clinton's shenanigans since they took the national stage. I suppose this is currently due, in large part, to Obama's prominence: The Clintons and their baggage are old news.
There're other factors at play here, including Liberals' hypocrisy on issues of race. We hold the Right to a much tougher standard on race issues than we hold for ourselves. Conservatives don't help matters by making themselves the bad guy so often. In other words, if you've been caught stealing several times, you may be accused of stealing thereafter more often than someone who hasn't been caught stealing as often. Conservatives are accused of racism more often than Liberals because for the past forty years or so, they have made more racist claims, race baited, and gave comfort to more overtly racist groups than Liberals have. Consequently, they are viewed more harshly when they conform to the preconceived notions we've developed for them. Similarly, Liberals have recently been accused of socialism despite the facts of policy and ideology, because we have more often been associated with socialism in the past.
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