What did Hillary say that was so wrong?


So Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have put their spat over race behind them. That’s good, but it still leaves me with a question that I guess only a Clueless White Guy could ask: What was that all about?

Maybe it’s that when it was all brewing I was too busy with the GOP primary to take notice. It seemed to happen late last week, when I was trying to get our endorsement of John McCain decided, written, elaborated upon, discussed in multimedia, and put on the Sunday page.

That’s got to be it. There’s got to be something I just missed entirely. That’s why I find myself still asking, What did Hillary Clinton say that was so wrong? (And note that I’m not even getting into Bill Clinton saying Sen. Obama
was peddling "fairy tales." Supposedly, that was taken by some as
racially insensitive also. But Mr. Clinton say
anything about anybody’s race? He did say "fairy," but it
seems that would offend a whole other demographic group, and then only
if it was really, really willing to stretch to be offended.)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but did this controversy not erupt when the senator from New York said:

    "Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson
passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done."

And did it not only deepen when she said:

    “Sen. Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. to criticize me. Basically compared himself to two of
our greatest heroes. He basically said that President Kennedy and Dr.
King had made great speeches and that speeches were important. Well, no
one denies that. But if all there is (is) a speech, then it doesn’t
change anything.”

This was deemed offensive by some, and the nature of the offense was racial, apparently because Dr. Martin Luther King was mentioned. Or maybe because Sen. Obama is black, or not, depending on who’s keeping score.

Where did the offense lie? Haven’t all great, inspirational leaders been followed by more prosaic types who did much to make the dream a reality? Did Moses not have his Joshua? Did Jesus — whose sudden execution essentially left his movement, at first, in shambles — not have his St. Paul? And do any of us think that, because he essentially invented the idea of a "church" as something Gentiles could join, that St. Paul was greater than Jesus? I would hope not.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t MLK, in the most famous passage of one of his most inspirational speeches, compare himself to Moses? And was that comparison not specifically with regard to the fact that, while he had led the movement right up to the border, someone else might have to lead it into the Promised Land? ("I may not get there with you.")

Or did I miss something? It’s highly possible that I did, which is why I’m asking. I’ve looked at several stories on this subject, but it’s certain that I haven’t read them all.

But if I didn’t miss something, then I think Sen. Clinton caught a lot of grief she didn’t deserve. She might be called all sorts of things, by those who are inclined to criticize her — overbearing, perhaps. Condescending, maybe. But racist? I don’t think so.

By the way, that was what I didn’t like about the Ariail cartoon that I showed you in sketch form yesterday: I thought it was way unfair to Mrs. Clinton. Of course, it is in the essential nature of caricature to exaggerate, and even to offend. But I thought the Ariail cartoon we actually used made the same point (with which I disagree, but what Robert wants to say is Robert’s business), and since it left out the emotional hand grenade of the lawn jockey, it did so in a way more likely to be clearly understood. But it’s hard to be sure about such things, which is why I asked y’all about it.


18 thoughts on “What did Hillary say that was so wrong?

  1. alison weil

    what you “miss” was a pattern — in as close to chronological order as I can recall-
    Iowa: two Clinton field captains caught/fired for apssing the muslim e mails along
    New Hampshire: Bill Shaheen comments
    Around the same time: Bob Kerrey Comments;
    Joe Wilson comments
    Fast forward this week: Andrew Cuomo comments, Charles Rangel comments and then the granddaddy: Bob Johnson comments
    Bill Clinton on Charlie Rose – beginning to stoke the flames —
    Bill Clinton goes on talk radio istensibly to quell the controvery and oops accidentally keeps it alive —
    Somewhere in their Hillary makes the MLK remark – and in typical fashion (and to Obama’s credit he said that she mis spoke) instead of just clearing in up – as she can never admit/own up to an error even a minor one – it blows up more —
    This week – Clinton acolyte Richard Cohen starts Farrakhan connection buzz– which is quickly quelled by major US Jewish leaders-
    You want more??
    Clinton advisor (check The Page for exact ref) during this growing agitation calls Obama the “cool black friend” whites want to have…
    Aother Clinton advisor says (can’t recall exact quote but was from New Yorker Mag) that Hispanics (browns) historically cannot trust Blacks —
    ok- that should be enough —
    It wasn’t the one sentence – it was the pattern, the planting the seeds, the insinuation and intimidation, the avalache of coincidences and the inability to take back or correct a single mis step —
    And after the “truce” Monday night – Bill Clinton with a list of 80 slights he thinks Obama campaign made goes on black talk radio “tour” —
    The Clinton’s do all this – charge the atmosphere — almost lethally for all – and then act as if they are on lookers
    That is the problem

  2. weldon VII

    Thank you, Alison.
    Brad, can’t you see that the second quote you posted from Hillary Clinton basically calls Martin Luther King a hero but then accuses him of changing (and thus accomplishing) nothing?
    Taken together with the first quote, isn’t the subliminal message that it took a white man (LBJ) to get something done?
    And yet, isn’t it true that even taken together, the quotes leave Mrs. Clinton the chance to say she didn’t mean what her words imply to me, thus leaving her the chance to play the accused rather than the accuser?
    And all this from the woman whose husband has been called “the first black president.”
    Whatever books on politics the Clintons didn’t write, they’ve both read at least twice. They know all the political high roads, all the political low roads, and how to switch from one to the other and back again without missing a step. They know when to deny, when obfuscate, and when to say nothing at all.
    And nothing, but nothing, that either of them does in public ever lacks for being calculated.

  3. Gordon Hirsch

    Brad … Is this a rhetorical question, or just fodder for bloggers?
    Considering your passion for politics, surely you are not so naive as to believe that anything Hillary (or Obama) says is “innocent?” Or without specific intent?
    Hillary’s offense lies in the implication that a black cannot succeed without the help of a white; that a black leader needs the support of a white president to be effective in bringing about change — all in the context of attacking an opponent whose platform is built on “change.”
    Insensitive doesn’t come close to describing the offense intended. … “Calculated” is beyond understatement, weldon.

  4. bud

    Hillay did not imply any of the crap being spouted by those who want to use anything to slam her. Her statement that MLK’s vision required a person of some political power, LBJ, to make it a reality is simply a matter of fact. It doesn’t minimize the importance of MLK and it certainly is not any sort of racial attack on Obama. This is nothing but yet another right-wing tactic to “swift-boat” another Democratic candidate. Shame on you Gordon for buying into the Rush Limbaugh smear think.
    In the meantime Mike Huckabee (not a surrogate mind you) states that he wants to re-write the United States constitution to conform to the bible, thus making the U.S. a theocracy. Now that’s some big news that should be reported. Instead, the corporate media is focused on this phantom racial non-story that is utterly without merit. Brad is 100% correct on this one.

  5. Sandra

    Brad—-Let me share something with you that are merely FACTS ABOUT THIS COUNTRY. It ISN’T necessary that I give you an account of my candidate. However, I assess through process of elimination.
    What good did Clinton’s EXPERIENCE serve us when she voted to give President Bush a blank check to wage war on Iraq? Few decisions in history have proved so predictably wrong-headed. As the most engaged First Lady in history and as a U.S. Senator, she should have known better. Yet Clinton never even read the National Intelligence Estimates that assessed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as odious but not an imminent threat to the United States.
    While Clinton is certainly a strong candidate for president, she remains fundamentally a tragic figure in American politics. The victim of one of the most relentlessly vicious and sexist smear campaigns unleashed in recent memory, Clinton retreated into her own interior fortress. Sympathizing with her plight, that’s no reason to give her a vote on January 26. In the next four years, we need to tear down the fortress walls and begin the hard work of rediscovering what it really means to be American. As a nation, we long to regain the courage of our convictions, to renew our faith in American ideals.
    Even though the statement Clinton made about MLK is certainly the TOPIC of your concern, there are other issues that are paramount as to WHY Clinton perhaps made THAT statement. I hope AMERICA assess the predicament we’re in and TRY, with a concerted effort, to elect a LEADER to repair OUR country.

  6. Richard L. Wolfe

    Brad, The under current here is unless you are a left wing wacko who sits in a corner looking at your belly and pondering what the meaning of “is” is then you don’t have the intellectual prowess necessary to understand the problem. The left has a sliding scale for their moronic statements that is politically correct when they make them but offensive if someone on the right makes them. If any republican candidate had said what Hillary said it would have been racially insensitive and it would have dogged them until the end of the campaign. The best thing to do is simply ignore them the way the voters should ignore them in November. If, Bud doesn’t stop drinking all that kool aid he is going to be to drunk to blog soon.

  7. JimT

    As one can see plainly from some of the previous posts to this thread, offense is often in the eye of the beholder. Hillary’s lifetime of public service for human rights notwithstanding, we have in one moment gone from hearing what she said to knowing what she implied. Anybody who thinks Hillary Clinton is a racist or that she would be stupid enough to play the race card just hasn’t given this much thought.
    I read George Will’s extremely negative editorial this morning in which he said Hillary somehow deserves this “unfair, and wonderful” criticism because she is a liberal, and being overly sensitive is something liberals love to do. He clearly is overlooking those conservatives on the right whose overly sensitive ideology turns innocent people into monsters. Scientists who want to rescue unused embryos from being washed down the drain by using them to cure diseases are baby murderers. People who call for common sense controls on assault weapons are terrorist supporters or agents of the “Red Chinese.” And on and on and on….
    I hope Mr. Will understands that, while this issue is hurting the candidate he so obviously hates, it likely will hurt whatever Republican candidate he will love in the future. If Obama becomes the Democratic candidate, and I believe he will, it is clear that almost any criticism against him can in a nanosecond of unwillingness to listen, be turned into something racial. We’ll find out then how wonderful he thinks it is.

  8. Brad Warthen

    I see Sen. Clinton’s statement in the context of her main selling point: She maintains that Obama may be an inspirational figure, but that changes get made by the more prosaic people who are willing to get grubby down in the trenches.
    Not many folks would deliberately compare themselves to LBJ, but it fits with the Clinton sales pitch.
    Yes, Gordon, I understand that other folks are sensitive when MLK gets mentioned. But just because I know other people will feel a certain way, based in experience, doesn’t mean it makes sense to me. The “pragmatist vs. dreamer” dichotomy fits the facts here a lot better than “black vs. white.”

  9. Rodney Whitehead

    Brad, I resent you bringing Jesus and religion into this discussion. We need to take religion and morals out of the political debate and that’s why we don’t need a candidate that was once a preacher running for president. Please refrain from bringing up illusions to religious situations when it comes to politics in the future. I was even offended when you mentioned that the most famous modern day black leader was a preacher. Preachers (and one-time preachers) need to stay in the pulpit and we should discount any other record of leadership they have had.

  10. bud

    Wow Brad. I’m speechless. You hit the nail right on the head.
    But there could be something else to this. I’m not sure the Obama camp really made all that big of a deal out of this. Perhaps a few staffers got carried away for a time. But the right-wing spin machine seems to have worked quietly to keep this minor dispute going in order to make the whole democratic party look bad. That would certainly fit with their smarmy brand of politics.

  11. weldon VII

    Brad, how can you not connect the dots from Rose law firm to the missing files to what Hillary said last week and eternity? Gordon mentioned the word “naive,” but that doesn’t go far enough. You’re being a wide-eyed four-year-old.
    No, JimT, she’s not a racist. She’s a selfist. Whatever gets in her way she belittles however she might. And if that doesn’t work, she’ll start shooting for the knees. It’s the Clinton way: whatever it takes to win, no matter what it takes, because the end justifies the means, and the end is the Clintons.

  12. Gordon Hirsch

    Dream on, guys. Why do you get so starry-eyed with a female candidate? Do you not believe she can bite like the other dogs? … I’ll buy that Hillary’s a pragmatist, but only because she can cut you, then put a band-aid on the boo-boo while Bill reads you bedtime stories.
    There’s no way in this world to say LBJ and MLK in the same sentence without invoking racial comparisons. And, to boot, the context was civil rights. Do you honestly believe she was making lofty reference to the failures of idealism? I take it back. That’s not naive. That’s just plain stupid.

  13. bud

    Hillary Clinton is certainly not a racist, period. That’s the whole upshot of this dispute. She’s been investigated far more thouroughly than any other candidate on either side of the aisle. While Bill and she occupied the White House tremendous progress was made in all areas of governance but none more so than in civil rights. Sure she has ambition and sure that may at times lead to some questionable statements. Given the incredible amount of scrutiny this woman has endured for the past 35 years it’s remarkable that not one instance of real scandal has actually stuck, not one.
    As for you Gordon, you’re a complete idiot if you believe all the spin propagated by the right-wing spin machine. They pull this crap every election cycle and idiots like you lap it up like some sort of puppy dog. The slate of candidates on the GOP side is filled with scandal-laden ambition hounds. Each has received far less scrutiny than Hillary. Even so they come across as far less ethical when the facts are actually presented.
    So go ahead, call me stupid if you like. If that makes you feel like a real man call me other names as well. I plan to vote for the one candidate who has proven she can bring about positive results from the White House. And her name is Hillary Clinton.

  14. Lee Muller

    I must have missed Hillary’s speech where she apologized for working for the Communist Party USA, the Black Panthers, organizing a disruption of a jury trial, and calling for the socialist overthrow of America.
    Can her supporters please post here admission of guilt and begging forgiveness?

  15. Carlos Williams

    I think you are a little naive or pretending to be. Hilary knew exactly what she was saying . It was a play on words or putting a spin on things as many politicians do. I’m not a registered Democrat but I do support many of the parties beliefs and issues. I have supported Bill Clinton and thought of him as a brilliant politician. The things that both he and Hilary have done in the last few days are pretty distgusting. To the untrained eye you might think, “What the hell are these people talking about?”. I’ve been around the block a few times and I can see exactly what’s going on. I see an attempt to be divisive and create controversy to get the White vote. Hilary did this in a very sly manner so as not to seem guilty of anything. It’s the choice of words and the context in which they are said that make the difference. I’m hearing that she was trying to make LBJ out to be some sort of civil rights saviour. The same talk you hear about Abraham Lincoln, as if he was a caring person who cared about freeing slaves. LBJ was just a pencil pusher who had no choice but to do something to keep the peace. Very dissapointed in the Clintons. The people that fall for this are idiots. I will be supporting Obama and Edwards only, from now on.

  16. Lee Muller

    At least the scales are falling from the eyes of many Democrats, allowing them to see the Clintons for the corrupt, power-hungry monsters that they always have been.


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