I have often disagreed with the more centrist and moderate positions that President Clinton took while serving in the Oval Office. Apart from those differences I always knew Bill Clinton to be an expert politician with well-honed skills for speaking to the needs and desires of the electorate. Even members of the GOP had to admit he was a master politician.
And then came 2008.
What has happened to the former President is hard to say. But the facts are clear. He has proved to be race baiting when emphatically stating to his audiences made up of mostly white people, that they are somehow different from those that vote for his wife, Hillary Clinton.
“She’s in it for you and she’s in it because of you. People like you have voted for her in every single state in the country.” People like you. The phrase hung in the air and the room quieted. Clinton didn’t say what the people who voted for Obama were like, but the suggestion was that they were somehow different.
Bill Clinton has often been a hindrance to the campaign team of Hillary Clinton and his missteps, which are clumsy and more noticeable given his true abilities, makes the headlines.
His role has come at a cost — to morale among some campaign staff, relations inside the Democratic Party and with African-American leaders, and in the view of some, his own legacy. He has lost considerable credibility with many party leaders, who, as “superdelegates” to the party convention, will be crucial in determining who is the Democratic presidential nominee.
At several moments in the campaign, Mr. Clinton has raised hackles with offhand remarks. He offended some African-Americans when he compared Sen. Obama’s eventual victory in the South Carolina primary to Jesse Jackson’s victory there 20 years earlier. Some black leaders considered that a slight against Sen. Obama’s success.
A few weeks ago, he tried to explain away Sen. Clinton’s remarks about a trip to Bosnia, in which she mistakenly said she faced sniper fire when getting off a plane. Instead of clarifying the matter, Mr. Clinton bungled his explanation of how his wife had made the slip, putting renewed attention on an issue the campaign had wanted to put behind it.
When Bill Clinton makes blunders about race, and then pretends not to know that he has stepped over the line, it is then that it is most obvious that winning at all costs has taken a toll on the long-term image for the former President. And as others note there is a price to be paid.
“I mean, who ‘played the race card’ on President Clinton?” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C Clyburn said, referring to comments made in an interview Clinton gave to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and later denied making. “What does he mean by that unless he is trying to send some kind of signal on race?”
Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, has remained neutral throughout this contest, but he has continually expressed concern about the tactics of the Clinton campaign.
“I am concerned … that the conduct of this campaign could very well make the nomination not worth having,” Clyburn told Fox. ““Our party is much bigger than Bill Clinton. It is much bigger than Sens. Clinton or Obama. It is a party that is here to serve the American people. … And I don’t want to see us conduct a campaign in such a way that it does irreparable harm to our being able to do that. When this campaign is over, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she cannot get elected president if 25 to 30 percent of black people vote for McCain. She is going to have … to have that same 92 percent of black people that Obama [has] now. And if [Obama] is the nominee, he is going to need her help and her husband’s help getting white voters that he is not now getting. And I don’t see how you can go back to these people and get them to vote for the nominee if you have done all these things and said all of these things about him during the campaign … because you are not going to be able to reverse field in the middle of general election.”