Let's call a spade a spade. Our friend, Bill Clinton, has a race problem. I know all the buzz right now is about Harry Reid and the fact that the good Senator had the audacity to state the obvious. But to me, the much more offensive racially-tinged faux pas revealed by the newly-published tell-all, Game Change, came not from Negro-gate, but instead, straight out of the mouth of the Former First "Black President," Bill Clinton.
The book contends that in attempting to garner the support of the late Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy for his wife's candidacy, President Clinton ultimately bemoaned, "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee." Kennedy, deeply offended by the comment, ultimately endorsed now-President Obama. Once Bill learned that his wife failed to receive the coveted endorsement, he is further reported to have sulked, "The only reason you are endorsing him is because he's Black. Let's just be clear."
Casual political observers might be shocked at these revelations. Over the years, it seemed Bill had earned his preverbal ghetto-pass. From his dark shade wearin' saxophone playin' appearance on Arsenio Hall, to his later-discovered preference for thick women, for many, Clinton seemed to be one of us.
Even Andrew Young infamously declared during the historic Clinton vs. Obama race for the White House that Bill Clinton was in fact, "Blacker than Barack Obama." And though Clinton managed to do considerable damage to his anointed brotha' status -- not to mention Hillary's campaign -- through several perceived slights to then-candidate Obama, the reality is, given his history, neither the latest revelations nor his other campaign antics should be surprising at all.
It wasn't so long ago that Bill Clinton burst on the national scene by positioning himself as a "New" Democrat. Yes, on the surface he seemed to embrace his darker hued brothers and sisters much more heartily than his Republican counterparts, but what made him special was his ability to masterfully walk that tight line of criticizing the right for using racial politics to divide the nation while simultaneously reaching out to those very Democrats attracted to the Republicans precisely because of their race-based political antics.
Remember when Hillary was talking about wooing over those blue-collar, "hard-working White Americans?" Well, that's Bill's specialty. She had reason to brag.
Back in 1992, Bill Clinton put on display his mastery of race-coded political language in much the same way as his two Republican predecessors had successfully done. It was this New Democrat who was also "tough on crime," opposed to "quotas," and touting the promise to "end welfare as we know it." And through these tried and true methods, it was this New Democrat who promised a path towards ending the long-standing Republican political domination of the Solid South.
But it wasn't until Clinton went out of his way to embarrass Jesse Jackson and make Sister Souljah his campaign's version of Willie Horton, did Bill begin to make significant headway with his own brand of racialized politics.
Less we forget, it was Clinton, after accepting an invitation from Jesse Jackson to speak at the National Rainbow Coalition Conference, who chastised the organization sharply for inviting rapper, Sister Soujah to speak the previous day. With Jackson looking like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights just beyond his shoulder, Clinton began to borrow selectively from Souljah's comments in a Washington Post article, and even equated her to self-avowed racist and former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. Clinton's attacks on Jackson and Souljah did not occur by happenstance.
Instead, they were calculated tactics to prove his loyalty to white voters, and those voters got the message. At the time of his criticism of Jackson and Souljah, Clinton was trailing in the polls by about 20 percent, and was dead last in the field behind both Bush, Sr. and Ross Perot. However, following this incident, his support rose significantly as whites, three to one, approved of Clinton's actions. As one blue-color white voter put it at the time, "The day he told off that fucking Jackson is the day he got my vote."
Two weeks later Bill took a television camera crew along with him to a segregated Little Rock Country Club. Then he emboldened his "tough on crime" image by posing for photographs in front of a correctional facility with mostly black convicts standing in the background. And when presented with the opportunity to appear to have mended fences with Jesse Jackson, Clinton chose to publicly snub him by brazenly refusing to shake his hand. In this context, is it any wonder why our friend Bill would equate the future President to a coffee-boy?
Am I saying that Bill Clinton is a racist? No. But it is true that he has proven time and time again that he has no qualms at all with appealing to racial divisions for political gain. That's in-fact what he was trying to do with Ted. By equating Obama to a position of servitude, he was in essence saying, "he's not one of us." Kennedy got the message, thus his umbrage at the suggestion. But to the nation's credit, this time, he wasn't the only one.
Cross-posted from Race-Talk.