Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hillary's biggest gaffe involving MLK, LBJ, and Obama

In an interview yesterday with Fox News, Hillary did something so unbelievably stupid. I still can hardly believe it happened. As I am writing this, the video of the interview is unavailable on the Fox News site, but you can see it here. Also, I will be relying on the transcription of portions of the interview that appear on Ben Smith's blog at Politico.com (here and here).

For those that may not know, Hillary has been disdainful in recent days over Obama's lofty, idealistic speeches, basically claiming that he has nothing but words to offer, whereas she offers the experience to get things done.

This topic was addressed in the Fox News interview. The interviewer, Major Garrett, asked Hillary to respond to this quote from Obama:
False Hopes. Dr. King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over the magnificent crowd, the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, sorry guys, false hopes, the dream will die, it can't be done, false hope, we don't need leaders who tell us what we can't do, we need leaders to tell us what we can do and inspire us.
And Hillary gave the following response:
I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do. The president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became a reality in peoples lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished.
Where to start?

First of all, a strong argument can be made that that Hillary was comparing Obama to King (and I will make that argument below). This is so strategically stupid. For months, Hillary polled better among blacks than Obama. This was due in part to Bill's overwhelming popularity among in the nationwide African American community. Given all of that, making reference to her African American opponent in any way which compares him to Martin Luther King, Jr. is plain dumb. You should not do anything that gives anyone a chance to think Obama is like King.

Second, it is even more stupid to then say something that could be interpreted as as saying that King is not really the person who got things done.

Third, it is dumber yet to say something that could be interpreted as saying that it was the white President, not the black leader of the civil rights movement who was assassinated, that did what the black leader could not get done.

Some people have opined that Hillary was comparing Obama to JFK--the president who, according to Hillary, only hoped to do something but never even tried. I believe such an interpretation is wrong, but even if it is correct, it still shows stupidity by Hillary. Whether still deserved or not, JFK is considered by many Democrats as the American political equivalent of a saint. So, if this interpretation is correct, Hillary just called the Democratic party icon a mere talker who did not actually do anything. Now there's a smooth move.

But here's why I think that interpretation is wrong. The interviewer quoted Obama specifically talking about King and the inspiration he gave others. Obama did not mention Kennedy. Obama was clearly invoking King's inspiration and trying to say that he is offering that same kind of hope. In responding to that quote, Hillary then turned around and said that King's inspiration and hope came to fruition only because a white President, LBJ, "actually got it accomplished." In other words, she said that King's words alone did not accomplish anything. Also, she has been arguing that Obama's words of hope and inspiration are nothing more than words, while she has the ability to "actually accomplish" something. Bottom line: Hillary compared Obama to King, and compared herself to LBJ.

The not-so-subtle racial ramifications of this are absolutely staggering. Hillary's words could be interpreted to mean that she thinks the black man who is considered by most people--of all races--to be one of the greatest heroes of racial equality did not really accomplish anything, but instead it was the white man from the south that did the real work. Hillary's words could be interpreted to mean that she thinks Obama, another black man speaking of hope and ideals, cannot really accomplish anything while she, the white woman, can accomplish what Obama merely talks about.

Let's assume that my interpretation is wrong. Let's assume that Hillary did not intend to insult King or compare herself to LBJ. Her statements still show she was a complete dumbass for uttering them. Hillary's statements can EASILY be interpreted to mean what I claim. No one with any sense would have made these statements. They show stupidity and an utter lack of judgment and ability to realize risks and consequences and assess one's own actions. That's not Presidential material folks. Things start to go badly for Hillary, and she does something like this. While she might know what she is going to do "from day one" if she is elected President, this incident tells me that she doesn't have any idea what she will actually face if she gets the office. I mean to say, this was one question from a reporter in a one on one setting, and she blew it. What the hell is she going to do if Al Qaeda decides to test her? [See the previous post.]

Hillary later tried to spin her way out of this mess with an "explanation" at a later event:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a movement -- he was gassed, he was beaten, he was jailed – and he gave a speech that was one of the most beautifully, profoundly important speeches ever delivered in America, the "I have a dream" speech.... And then he worked with President Johnson to get the civil rights law passed, because the dream couldn’t be realized until it was legally permissible for people of all races and colors and background to be recognized as citizens.
Well, darlin,' if that is what you meant all along, why the hell didn't you say that to begin with? Hillary's first response said nothing about King working with LBJ. Her plain words were that LBJ, not King, got the job done. Moreover, this spin does nothing to change the impression that she feels inspiration is overrated and that that is all Obama is offering while she is the only candidate who can get things done. Let me put this another way. She is not in any way offering any insipiration of her own, and her statements show that she feels inspiration is not necessary.

And there's another reason why this "explanation" does not help her. In the early 1960's, King could not have accomplished anything in a legislative sense for the very plain reason that back then there was no freakin' way a black man could even think about being President. However, today, there is a chance for that to happen, and if it does, Obama will then be in a position to manifest the roles of both King and LBJ. So Hillary has just handed on a silver platter some great talking points for Obama. Again, that is just plain stupid.

Do you get it now? Hillary Clinton is nowhere near as smart or ready as she claims.

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