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Bill Clinton

This Primary Campaign Has Brought Out The Best And Worst In Me

cross-posted to jack and jill politics and daily kos (note: i'm mad verbose. this is long. kick your feet up. get some tea. take your time with this one. I also strongly recommend you check out the comments on Jack and Jill Politics) Last week, after talking with several Hillary Clinton supporters, I had an epiphany: that which I most dislike about the darker sides of her and her campaign is just what some people see in me. It's the worst feeling, to end up displaying traits you deplore, and I'd like to explore it a bit as we move to the general election. I have never been as involved nor as invested in a political campaign as I have been this year. I've traveled to distant states, administered caucuses, knocked on doors, set up mixtapes, installed Internet access, raised and donated funds and rallied my wits and my keyboard in promotion and defense of a candidate I feel represents the best realistic shot at a national wake-up call that's long overdue. Months of cable news and blog coverage later, I know more about superdelegate math, fundraising limits and John King's stupid interactive maps than I ever, ever wanted. I've read entire biographies, full position papers and engaged in heated but productive conversations about deep policy matters on health care, energy, prisons, agriculture and Iraq. I got smarter. Stepping down from the media noise machine has been the greatest gift, and in canvassing for Obama, I learned my most valuable lessons: that people are not as stupid nor as simple as their media portrayals, that it's a lot easier to write off entire blocs of voters from the comfort of my living room and that becoming president of a nation with such diverse people and demands as the USA is just short of impossible. In all that on-the-ground work, I have and will continue to maintain that I've gotten much more out of this process than Obama has out of my work on his behalf. My level of involvement has allowed me to see the impact and power of citizen-initiated action when paired with technology, inspiration and urgent need. I've met some truly amazing people who've sacrificed even more than I. I've grown as a writer, a citizen and a human being. At the other end of the spectrum, however, I have felt driven to lash out in ways that expose the limits of my own ability to communicate. I never set out to hate Hillary Clinton or her supporters. I never thought I'd consider a vote for John McCain. I never thought I'd even jokingly threaten to burn down the city of Denver (sorry yall!). But that's exactly what I felt driven to at many moments during this season. Despite the positive lessons I learned, I have not always been able to take that high road. At the heart of my own anger lay a sense of betrayal, paranoia and a feeling that I was trapped by a family I once held in high esteem and a media that denied the validity of my experience. It began in January, shortly after Obama's Iowa victory. Many of us Obama supporters, especially black folks, were euphoric about his win in that state. On CNN I stated, "I felt like I won," after seeing the results come in. With that one victory, the world shook for a moment, and I could actually see new, previously unimaginable possibilities for the future. Within weeks, however, a troubling pattern began to emerge from the Clinton campaign. It was as if the Iowa loss set off an explosion on a snowy mountain, and a political avalanche was unleashed. Obama was accused of being a potential drug dealer, secret Muslim, "cool black guy" and other derogatory things usually tied to his race. When many of us black folks began pointing out these incidents, we were told that nothing nefarious was afoot, that we must be imagining it. There was little to no mainstream media coverage of what we were seeing. As any one who has been oppressed knows, the only thing worse than the oppression is the denial of that oppression by others, so we at JJP set up the Clinton Attacks Obama wiki in an effort to convince ourselves we weren't crazy and show the world, in a documented fashion, what distressed us. Then came South Carolina. The black vote, which had been reliably behind Clinton, looked certain to move to Obama after his strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Rather than stress the positive Clinton brand (if not results) among black voters, the Clintons decided to minimize the black vote and Obama's pending victory. There were the MLK comments and Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama to Jackson was the statement that finally put the media on to what many of us were seeing. The Clinton's star had fallen tragically and unnecessarily among black people. It was in this environment that Jack & Jill Politics really got traction. Despite having been around since the summer of 2006, our traffic truly began to grow when we started articulating this growing sense of frustration and panic over the "color arousal" tactics and code-word-laden decisions of the Clinton campaign. In many ways, we just happened to be in the right place-time and shared a sense of mission with other black political blogs like African American Political Pundit and Field Negro, among many others. Many new readers came here and found that they were not alone. The feeling was one of relief. It reminded me of finding that one other black kid in the white school. Even if you didn't talk, you could occasionally exchange knowing glances or a head nod when the teacher or a student said something racist. Over the next months, the situation escalated. Geraldine Ferraro called Obama the affirmative action candidate. Clinton campaign officials sowed dangerous seeds of discord between black and Latino constituencies. And of course, there was Reverend Wright. In most of these instances, I saw two battles. One was with a media ill-prepared to moderate a national discussion on race at any point, much less during a presidential election. Most of these organizations were unable to competently guide us through the decision to invade a country, so my expectations of their understanding of the black experience were low, and they met those expectations well. But what came as a shock, yes an actual shock, to me was to witness Hillary Clinton and her campaign, time and again, join in the ugliness. From "he wouldn't have been my pastor" to "he's an out of touch elite" to "he only has two years of experience" to "he's not a muslim as far as I know," I was repeatedly disappointed by the decisions she and her campaign made. Each one seemed designed, not just to win, not just to hurt the other candidate, but to attack the very people who, through the darkest of hours, had stood by the Clinton family in the past. As has been pointed out in the comments and as I've written before, I was so disappointed because this candidate, with all her brand name, money, establishment support and built-in advantages, so often rushed to the gutter for combat strategy. After all this, we began hearing "well, it doesn't matter" and "blacks will vote for Hillary in the end," and that's when I really actually snapped. After that, the issue moved beyond what Hillary was saying to why so many so-called Democratic leaders sat idly by, doing nothing. It moved to black superdelegates who not only bucked the overwhelming will of their constituencies, but did so in the face of clear, undeniable and unnecessary racially charged tactics that undermined not just Obama but, as rikyrah has so perfectly put it, "any black candidate who wants a shot at national politics outside a gerrymandered district." Most importantly, it became a test of the relationship between black voters and a Democratic party which for decades could rely on this demographic's loyalty beyond all others, despite the spotty record of actual results. Hillary and Obama were the actors, but the play was much, much bigger than them. Once this bridge was crossed, I fell into a heightened state of battle, and I saw everything through this lens. I became obsessed and I often became nasty. I found a community at JJP that often felt exactly as I did, and we supported each other in our justified outrage and incredulity. So the name-calling escalated: Ice Queen, Borg Queen, Tonya Harding, and beyond. Many of these terms were used in jest. All were used out of frustration and a sense of absurd, tragic comedy. As Hillary escalated her claims and false calculations (Michigan, Florida, popular vote, sniper fire, Obama voters as delusional), there was very little room left for me to escalate on top of that. I was fueled by anger and sometimes hate. Proud of me Yoda would not have been. Here's what I didn't realize. All the while I and many Obama supporters here were going through our trauma, many, but not all, Hillary supporters experienced their own version of the same. While I haven't found evidence of Obama or his campaign being involved, it is clear that the media handled gender about as ignorantly and dangerously as it handled race. How else can you explain the comparisons to Hillary as your wife in probate court or a nagging mother? Why else would it be acceptable to compare Obama's "weakness" in military aggression to his "feminine" ways? The hard part is that a) Hillary has often used the reality of sexism to shield herself from legitimate attacks, and b) by pretending this was a "horse race" for so long I believe the media helped her candidacy far more than it hurt it. She was given multiple stays of execution though she mathematically lost back in March. Still, that doesn't mean the illegitimate media attacks didn't exist and broadly. Many supporters saw the attacks on Hillary as more than that. They were saw them as attacks on women, and so, many women who might have been on the fence or only tepid Clinton supporters rushed to her in defense of themselves and their daughters, mothers and sisters. They may have seen the desperation in many of her tactics, but they also saw themselves under siege and could excuse much of that behavior as necessary to wage this worthy battle. (True, all of these supporters didn't rush to Michelle Obama's defense as she's been dragged through the fire, but again, we're not all perfect, and that's not an excuse). I spent hours and days even, researching all the race-baiting and ugliness going on in the media and among Clinton folks, but I never bothered to try to find out what was driving some of Hillary's staunchest supporters. That's not quite right. I found some justifications, but the most visible ones were easy to eliminate. I don't give any weight to "Obama is a muslim who will give all our money to Africa" or "Obama stole this from Hillary" wing of Clinton supporters. But I did completely miss the experience of Clinton-supporting women who wretched at the statements of Chris Matthews and others. In hindsight, this was a failure on my part. Here's a video that describes some of the incidents I know I missed: I love the part of this job that involves policy research and genuine arguments about the future. I love the biting and satirical edge many of the posts here use. I love the raw honesty that lives here for a people who are too often told their experience doesn't matter. However, I know from experience that I caused collateral damage with the tone of many of my personality-driven posts and that my own failure to try understanding the experience of those I disagreed with did me few favors. The sad part is that I had the model right there in front of me in two forms. The first was my own experience in canvassing, where you just can't start screaming at somebody when you're on their property. The second model is Obama himself. He has largely conducted himself and his campaign with admirable grace throughout even the hottest moments in this contest. I should have just asked, "What would Obama do?" So that's the situation I find myself in now, wondering and watching, "what would Obama do?" And I see the same steady, confident and open attitude that drew me to his candidacy in the first place. His people are talking to Clinton people (because "we shouldn't negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate"), and discussions are under way about debt retirement, campaign staffing and even cabinet positions. I don't know how much credibility I have among the most intractable of Clinton supporters, but I know that my own inflammatory attacks against Clinton are useless and probably counterproductive at this point. I know that I'm interested in having this conversation beyond the group of people who already know where I'm coming from because it's those conversations that will help the healing process even if forgiveness is hard or impossible to come by. This post is not a blanket apology for what this blog has become and my part in it. That's not at all what I'm saying. What we have here has grown into a truly amazing community of people fired up about much more than Obama, and I wouldn't change that for anything. I'll always call out wrong where I see it, and I'm not saying a simple kiss and make-up will undo the damage that has been wrought. As CPL mentioned in a recent post, I think both the Clintons need to make a Herculean effort to begin the healing process. Whether by attacking MoveOn.org or dismissing the votes of entire caucus states or her remarks about RFK's assassination, the damage resulting from many of their tactics will not simply disappear without effort. As Ricky Ricardo would say, "they got some 'splainin to do," and I know I'll never look at them the same. However, I think Obama and all of his supporters also have work to do, not in wiping the slate clean with Hillary Clinton but in really trying to understand the experience of reasonable Hillary supporters who felt they had to defend her because they were defending something much larger than her. As with all things large, we can start small. I started by talking to actual Clinton supporters I knew, and I urge any pro-Obama folk out there to do the same. I've been making small changes to this post based on some comments from the Jack & Jill Politics fam, and I wanted to add one other point. If we are to actually succeed in changing this country, beyond the election of this particular politician, we (all people) need to at least try to see the world from the perspective of those we disagree with. Often such attempts will not be rewarded, but the attempt will reach some and, if nothing else, it will give us confidence that we've done everything possible to move forward. I'm trying again to be the change I want to see. Forever fired up! - Baratunde aka Jack Turner

Hillary On Working Class Whites In 1995: "Screw 'Em"

cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics Barack Obama is rubber. Hillary Clinton is glue. Everything she says about him bounces back and sticks to her. Everything. From Huffington Post:
In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David. Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach. "Screw 'em," she told her husband. "You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them." ...those who were at the event say the 1995 episode fits into her larger political viewpoint. As Harry Boyte, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Democracy and Citizenship who was at the retreat, told The Huffington Post: "[Hillary Clinton] sees herself as the champion of the oppressed, but there is always a kind of good guy versus bad guy mentality. The comment before that was that 'the Reagan Democrats are our enemies and they weren't on our side,' and she was agreeing with that comment. She said we should write them off: screw them."
There you have it. Screw them. Screw those people with values. Screw those hunters. Screw those church-goers. Screw those people whose hypothetical offense I am exploiting for short-term political gain. It doesn't matter why they might be frustrated. She doesn't try to explain it. She writes them off. That's just cold. She's so full of excrement, this one. The article continues, explaining that after her comments, Bill Clinton stepped in to explain (I've highlighted a few sections for later focus):
I know how you feel. I understand Hillary's sense of outrage. It makes me mad too. Sure, we lost our base in the South; our boys voted for Gingrich. But let me tell you something. I know these boys. I grew up with them. Hardworking, poor, white boys, who feel left out, feel that our reforms always come at their expense. Think about it, every progressive advance our country has made since the Civil War has been on their backs. They're the ones asked to pay the price of progress. Now, we are the party of progress, but let me tell you, until we find a way to include these boys in our programs, until we stop making them pay the whole price of liberty for others, we are never going to unite our party, never really going to have change that sticks.
The HuffPo author seems to think that the above "is remarkably similar to what Obama was trying to convey in his now controversial remarks about small town America." He's wrong. I bolded a few sections above which caused me to pause. Bill goes far beyond anything Obama was trying to say. Bill says that "our reforms" came at "their expense" and amazingly claims that they've paid the whole price of liberty for others. What a paternalistic nincompoop. I'm sure poor Southern white men have suffered the neglect of a corporate-driven system that overlooks them. All poor people have. I'm sure it was painful for many white supremacists in this group to watch women and blacks start working and voting. But to somehow claim that this group paid the whole price of "liberty for others" is stunning. How magnificently twisted of you Mr. Clinton. Here I am thinking that the liberation of any is the liberation of all, that a society which begins to value the least of us can finally truly value each of us. Here I am thinking that the "liberty of others" might have been fought for and paid for in blood by those very "others" through marching and lynchings and state-sponsored terrorism, but apparently it was all due to hardworking, poor, white boys. This sounds similar to Hillary's "it took a president to get it done" comment which sparked so much ugliness in this campaign back in January. It's never the oppressed working hard, fighting and dying for their freedom. It's always somebody else. Thanks for the clarification, Bill. Now kindly, take your opportunistic, back-stabbing, kamikaze wife and your patriarchal, historically revisionist ass, and shut the fuck up.

Bill Clinton Is Incredible, Now Lying About Lies

cross-posted to JJP That's just meta. When I was in Philly for Obama last week, a friend made a pretty insightful statement. "When people say they hate Hillary Clinton, you don't know if it's a Republican or Democrat saying it." That wasn't always the case, but I keep finding myself asking, "was the vast right wing conspiracy right about these people being serial liars?" There's no way out for Bill Clinton on this one. This is Bill explaining the actions of Democratic Primary Spoiler Hillary Clinton's Bosnia deception. From ABC's blog
President Clinton's described his wife's experience, saying, "There was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it - what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Did y'all see all that. Oh, they blew it up. Let me just tell you." Clinton then criticized the press, saying, “You woulda thought, you know, that she'd robbed a bank the way they carried on about this. And some of them, when they're 60, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11:00 at night, too." President Clinton's version of the story has several inaccuracies. Hillary Clinton actually made the exaggerated comments numerous times, including at an event in Dubuque, Iowa on Dec. 29th, in Waco, TX on Feb. 29th, and twice -- bright and early in the morning -- on March 17. Sen. Clinton did not apologize, as Mr. Clinton asserted. His wife did say she had made a mistake and said that she had misspoken when describing the Bosnia incident. Sen. Clinton also wasn't as quick with her apology as President Clinton may remember either. In fact, it took a week for her to eventually correct herself, first talking to the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board on March 24 and again the following day in Greensboro, N.C. President Clinton also indicated that his wife's trip took place in 1996 – when it fact it took place in 1995. President Clinton then later in the evening told the story again in Jasper, Ind., saying the press was treating his wife like the Mata Hari. "She took a terrible beating in the press for a few days because she was exhausted at 11 o'clock at night and she started talking about Bosnia and she misstated the circumstances under which she landed in Bosnia. Did you all see all that? And oh, they acted like she was practically Mata Hari - like she was making up all this stuff."
There's just no defense at all. No misinterpretation possible. He's absolutely destroyed whatever credibility he reconstituted after leaving office. For shame. Saying she robbed a bank is not far off from the truth. She robbed people who actually were in combat of their experience. She made up a combat story of her own. It's called valor theft. Now please go away. I'm so tired of this.

Dear Bill and Hillary, Please Stop Yer Bitchin

cross-posted to jack & jill politics I'm neither happy about nor proud of my newly-distasteful opinion of former President Bill Clinton. I've written previously about this sad transition, so I won't repeat all that. What I will say is that, like Hillary, Bill had other choices available to him during this campaign, and he has chosen the low road all too often. He's also getting caught more easily in 2008 than ever was possible 10 years ago. Let's look at these two different Bill Clintons revealed within four days of each other. March 26th, Bill Clinton says:
“If a politician doesn’t wanna get beat up, he shouldn’t run for office,” he said. “If a politician doesn’t wanna get beat up, he shouldn’t run for office. If a football player doesn’t want to get tackled or want the risk of an a occasional clip he shouldn’t put the pads on.”
Tell that to your wife, dude! She's done nothing but whine and complain throughout this entire season since her dominating lead started to slip. She talks about how hard it is and tears up. She complains about the boys club, about how guys are piling on. She moans about how this state and that state don't count, about how caucuses are unfair. She rips the media at every opportunity, complaining of sexism and unfair coverage. She had the nerve to argue that getting to speak first in a debate is somehow a problem! Just stop yer bitchin! Saddle up, and fight, but stop bitchin about every little thing all the damn time. As an Obama supporter, I've done my fair share of complaining (especially about racial issues), but my candidate has not. He doesn't threaten press people and dismiss contests he's lost and rally black people the way she relies on women to rescue her. He just keeps on campaigning. This past weekend, another Bill Clinton emerged in California:
The Bill Clinton who met privately with California's superdelegates at last weekend's state convention was a far cry from the congenial former president who afterward publicly urged fellow Democrats to "chill out" over the race between his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama. In fact, before his speech Clinton had one of his famous meltdowns Sunday, blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process. "It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended," one superdelegate said. According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage. But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama. It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade. "Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted. The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out. "It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns." When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting. At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity. "It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to 'chill out,' " one delegate told us. "We couldn't help but think he was also talking to himself." When delegate Binah - still stunned from her encounter with Clinton - got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day - there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened. Still, word of Clinton's blast shot all the way back to the New Mexico state Capitol, where Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley reiterated Tuesday that his boss had never "promised or guaranteed" Bill and Hillary his endorsement.
I hate to see the Clintons self-destruct like this, but I'm glad it's happening now, before they end up in the White House again. Can you imagine, I mean really imagine what four years of these people will be like? They will accept no responsibility for any wrongdoing, for any mistakes. It's always, always someone else's fault. Ready on Day One, to pass the buck. Obama will bring scandal and disappointment to be sure, but it will be different scandal and new disappointments. I prefer that over the sniveling Clintons any day.