New Orleans How many decades have the Clintons been in public life? Four going on five, right? We’re talking about almost fifty years navigating the public forum. How many times do you imagine that the President, the Senator, the Secretary of State, and just plain Mr. and Mrs. Clinton have had to walk through, around, and among protestors of one stripe or another? It’s got to be hundreds, right? It’s the nature of public life in a democracy both here and abroad. It goes with the job.
But, what have we now?
Early in the campaign former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was crisp and dismissive to a small group of Black Lives Matter interlocutors, hard-handling them for not being as “realistic” and incremental as she believed appropriate. Subsequently, she has wised up a bit as the elections have cascaded one after another and the critical block of African-American voters has been the tipping point in her emergence as the leading contender in the Democratic presidential primaries. She now seeks to distance herself from President Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime bill, though I have not seen her retreat from the devastation that President Clinton forced on low income families as he ended “welfare as we know it,” and substituted it with little or nothing allowing states to gut the program so that only 20% of eligible now received TANF benefits and do so with stiff work requirements and fixed end dates for support.
In Philadelphia though the “big dog” ripped the leash off at a rally when confronted by Black Lives Matter protestors, baring his teeth and engaging in intemperate back and forth. Facing the firestorm this mess has now injected into Hillary’s campaign he now says, and listen carefully to his quote, “I almost want to apologize.”
Just like the Souljah spat by Bill Clinton as he campaigned in his own race years ago, I’m worried about all of this. Bill Clinton has been a toe-the-line and restrained campaigner for months. The storyline has been that he was on a short leash, but come on, man, this is former President Bill Clinton, perhaps the best natural politician of our generation. This is a former multi-termed governor from Arkansas, two-term President, and world traveler. No one is going to convince me that Clinton is not the total professional and disciplined to the nth degree.
How are we to believe this was a slip, and not strategy? Is the big dog trying to send a dog whistle messenger to the ears of the white working class that is voting for Trump and Cruz and aligning disturbingly with what pollsters and political scientists are finding are deeply racism resentments? If he had just slipped over his tongue and lost his temper, in the aftermath the campaign would have never allowed him to use the word, “almost,” to cut the heart out of any potential apology to defuse this mess.
This is the troubling and ugly aspect of Clintonesque campaigning. The sense of entitlement that knows no bounds. The belief that they “own” the black vote and the right to steamroll anyone and everyone who is in the way.
Once again, they calculate that there is no place for all of us to go except home and away from the polls. Was President Clinton trying to soften up the Trump-Cruz base for the general election because we’re all sliced, diced, counted, and stored away for later?
I can’t be sure, but I “almost” believe this was all deliberate. And, I totally believe it’s wrong.