Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bill's Jesse Jackson comments and the need for Hillary supporters to get tin foil hats

Introduction

On the morning of January 26--the day of the South Carolina primary--Bill Clinton was interviewed in a parking lot. The transcript of the entire interview can be found here. This post will focus on the following exchange:
David Wright: What does it say about Barack Obama that it takes two of you to beat him?

BC: [Laughs] That’s just bait, too. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ‘84 and ‘88. And he ran a good campaign, and Senator Obama's run a good campaign here. He’s run a good campaign everywhere, he’s got a, he is a good candidate, with a good organization.
Those comments certainly caused a stir. Hillary supporters have tried various ways to defend the comments and explain them away. Quite frankly, some of their efforts are just sad. This post will examine Bill's statements in detail.

Possible meaning of the statements

The Hillary campaign has said these statements were not racial in nature. Obama has said he did not think Bill was trying to inject racism into the campaign via these statements. Others have said that they see no racism in the statements.

Well, assuming, arguendo, that there was no racial intent, the statements can easily be interpreted to have a racist meaning. I maintain that is the most likely interpretation, and even if Bill did not intend to convey a racist message, he damn well should have been smart enough to know that such a interpretation could easily be made.

Here is how the statements can be interpreted.
  • The Democratic electorate in South Carolina is at least 50% black.
  • Jesse Jackson is black.
  • Barack Obama is black.
  • Jesse Jackson won twice in South Carolina, yet failed to win the nomination.
  • So what if the black candidate in 2008 won? A black candidate won before in basically a black state and did not come close to winning the election.
  • The results in South Carolina don't matter because this is basically "a black thing" and no other state primary will be like that.
Keep in mind that I am saying this is only one interpretation. I will accept for the purposes of this discussion that other interpretations are possible.

For instance, maybe Bill simply meant that just because someone wins in South Carolina does not mean that person will win the nomination. That interpretation certainly has nothing to do with race, and it is factual. However, if that was Bill's intended meaning, he could have used a far more recent and relevant example. In 2004, John Edwards won the South Carolina primary, and yet he did not come close to winning the nomination, as Kerry wrapped that up early. Citing Edwards rather than Jackson would have been far more relevant because 1) Edwards's victory was in the immediately previous election, and 2) at that time Edwards was still in the 2008 campaign. Thus, Bill could have made the point while clearly not making any racial statements AND could have taken a good clean shot against one of Hillary's opponents. Instead, he cited an example from over 20 years ago regarding a person who, frankly, has not been a prominent part of the national political scene for quite a while. Al Sharpton has been far more prominent in that regard than Jesse Jackson.

So why mention Jesse Jackson? Can someone assign any reason other than race? I'm not saying there is no other reason. I just want someone to explain one.

I have seen comments elsewhere on the web from people who say they don't see anything possibly inappropriate with Bill's statements. Those people are at best clueless. Seriously.

Of course, the big question is why would Bill say something like this in the first place? Ah, but before answering that question, we simply must talk about the efforts of Hillary supporters to prove nothing actually happened.

These people have lost their damn minds.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

This whole matter was set in motion by a video clip which showed only the question and answer which appear at the beginning of this post. You can see this initial video here.

Hill's Shills went to work on the wide world interweb quickly. There were comments on many sites claiming that the media had edited the initial video to twist what Bill said. Here's one of those comments:
I am outraged by this story. I saw the ORGINAL clip of the reporters question. He FIRST asked Bill whether Obama could win as a black candidate…then added the second part of the question. The media CUT the first part, then accused Bill of injecting ‘race’ (with Jesse Jackson) into this response. These tactics are increasingly alarming to me and show that the media is not only deliberately trying to “spin” again Bill Clinton, they are stealing the election from the American people. People need to stand up to this — it is WRONG!
(caps in original). This story was then repeated by Rep. Kendrick Meeks, a Florida Congressman who has endorsed Hillary. Meeks was interviewed on CNN on January 28, 2008.
CHETRY: We appreciate it. Well, we also have with us, Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek. He is endorsing Senator Clinton for president and he joins me here this morning.

Now, thanks for being with us Congressman. Are people getting tired of, because there has been some criticism, even from those who are supporting the Clintons like Charlie Rangel, who even said that, "The focus has got to get back on Hillary. It has to be about her election to win. It's become too much about his role."

Is the former president's tone taking away from what he's trying to do for his wife?

KENDRICK MEEK, (D) FLORIDA: You know, it's interesting. The first time we've actually had a leading female candidate, leading African-American candidate and the first time, a former commander-in- chief is now a spouse to one of those candidates.

I also think it's important, even on the last clip talking about the response to Barack Obama's win. I was actually with the president in South Carolina. I've been traveling with him over several days. He was asked a question about historic voting in the state of South Carolina and that was at 10:00 a.m. in the morning. We just left breakfast. We didn't even have any exit polls at that time. So some of it is the reporting of how events actually took place but I think...
There's just one little problem with this story, namely that it is a fairy tale. In response to this claim of media manipulation, on January 28 at 1:19 PM, ABC News published the entire transcript from the parking lot interview, and the "first part of the question" was not in the transcript. That did not matter to Hill's Shills, as they trumpeted that surely the transcript had also been edited. "Where was the full video?" they demanded. So, on January 29 ABC News released the entire video, and guess what? The "first part of the question" was not there!

Hill's Shills were still not satisfied, as many of them insisted still that the video had been edited. If you want to see a complete example of this delusional behavior, check out this discussion thread. Faced with the transcript and the video, the person who started the thread kept asking why anyone would believe an ABC News reporter instead of Congressman Meeks, over and over and over...According to him, the entire media is out to get Hillary, so no one in the media is to be believe. Others asked the very reasonable question "Why should we believe Meeks?" There was no direct, substantive answer.

In that discussion, several people raised a very good point, namely that if the video and the transcript had been altered, if in fact there had been a "first part of the question," why then had neither Bill nor Hillary said anything about it? Given their conduct in this campaign, it is beyond belief that they would not say anything about this if in fact the media had altered either the video or the transcript. Indeed, the talking points distributed to Hillary supporters said nothing about any misrepresentation or alteration by the media. See for yourself:
Wasn’t former President Bill Clinton playing the race card when he sought to downplay Barack Obama’s victory in South Carolina by comparing him to Jesse Jackson?

* No.

* Look, President Bill Clinton has spent his entire public and private life repairing the breach in this country.

* Both his Presidency and his post-presidency career have focused on unity, not division.

* So I reject the premise of the question.

* We need to focus on the challenges facing this country – the state of our economy, the continuing war in Iraq, the need for universal health care.

* And those challenges require a President who can come to the office ready to lead on day one, Hillary Clinton.
So, there has been no official claim by Hillary or Bill that his statements were manipulated by the media. There has been no official claim by Hillary or Bill that there was a "first part of the question." And yet Hill's Shills had no response to this point. Instead they just kept repeating the same sad claims. Anyone considering making a financial contribution to Hillary might consider instead 1) buying mass quantities of tin foil and distributing it to Hillary supporters, and 2) printing out this web page and providing copies along with the tin foil.

Conclusion

The actual tangible evidence shows that there has been no alteration or manipulation of either the video of the event or the transcript. Bill's statements can easily be interpreted to have a racial meaning. Indeed, I think that is the most reasonable interpretation. Why? For starters, as explained above, if the point was to show that winning the South Carolina primary does not mean the winner gets the nomination, John Edwards in 2004 would have been a much better example. Second, as the transcript and video show, there was nothing asked which would have necessarily prompted any reference to Jesse Jackson. Third, if someone has another interpretation, feel free to state it. In any event, the overwhelming evidence is that Bill simply brought up Jesse Jackson for no reason prompted by any of the questions asked of him. Given all of these facts, what reason is there for these statements other than racial? Again, I'm not saying there is no other reason. I am saying I would like someone to explain some other reason.

And even if there is another reasonable explanation, Bill--just like Hillary was in making her MLK/LBJ/JFK comments--was amazingly stupid in making his statements.

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