Bill Clinton’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Unplugged
The man they once called ‘the first black President of the United States,’ is suddenly under fire from African-Americans in this country. Frankly, its for no good reason and serves as a reminder of how one comment taken out of context in today’s volatile media climate can get incredibly misinterpreted.
First, lets see what Bill Clinton actually said: “It is wrong that Sen. Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn’t know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in '04 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war. And you took that speech you’re now running on off your Web site in 2004. And there’s no difference in your voting record and Hillary’s ever since. Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.
It is very clear that Clinton is talking about Obama’s record on the Iraq War and how the media has, or has not, fully questioned him on this issue. Clinton makes no mention of Obama’s calls for ‘change’ or his candidacy as a fairy tale. Nor does he ever suggest that it is a fairy tale that an African-American can be elected and serve as President.
Yet, the following are some examples of what followed:
Bob Herbert, in Saturday’s NY Times: “So there was the former president chastising the press for the way it was covering the Obama campaign and saying of Mr. Obama’s effort: The whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” When did Bill Clinton challenge Obama’s effort in that statement above? Herbert is completely misapplying Clinton’s quote. Bob Herbert is a smart and knowledgeable reporter and he should know better.
Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones: “It’s very unfortunate that the president would make a statement like that,” he said of Bill Clinton’s criticism of Obama, and added that the African-American community had “saved his presidency” after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Does this mean that since Barack Obama is African-American that Clinton doesn’t have the right to question his record? That makes no sense.Congressman Jim Clyburn, the very influential representative from South Carolina, told reporters that he was considering an endorsement of Obama in response to what he considered a lack of respect in the Clinton’s approach to Obama.
Here’s a statement from Donna Brazile, the one-time Gore campaign manager and democratic operative: “For him to go after Obama, using a ‘fairy tale,’ calling him as he did last week, it’s an insult. And I will tell you, as an African-American, I find his tone and his words to be very depressing.”What does race have to do with Bill Clinton’s comment? In reality, absolutely nothing. If Bill Clinton was talking about Obama’s character, about his message or about his electability then the critics would have footing to stand on. But he wasn’t talking about any of the above.
It's sad to see how race has injected its ugly face into this campaign, especially in one filled with thoughts of optimism. There are times when the inappropriate words by one should be condemned by others. The Don Imus comments from last year were a good example of that. Then there are times when the words of one get misapplied by others for no good reason. No matter what you think of Bill Clinton, he wasn’t playing the race card.
Some in the media have gone on to suggest that Obama lost in New Hampshire because people lied to pollsters and deep down would not vote for a minority candidate. The media does not like to be wrong and rather than admit a large error in how they covered the primary, it is far more convenient to blame lying closeted-racist voters - even though there is no evidence to suggest that was the explanation to Senator Clinton’s win.
Amid this backdrop of racial tensions within the party, Clinton’s comments are now being exploited and misinterpreted. It’s a real shame. A primary that was captivating America and causing record turnout in the polls is in serious danger of spiraling downward into a race-based cauldron. On Tuesday, both campaigns announced a truce on this issue. Let us hope that it lasts.