…three Republican members of the Senate Committee for the Judiciary – the people holding up President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee – are up for re-election: Chuck Grassley (Iowa) Mike Lee (Utah) David Vitter (Louisiana)
But it’s hard to believe she’s serious about fighting for racial justice unless you pretend her 2008 campaign against Obama never happened. If you remember that period, there’s good reason to believe today’s promises are nothing more than lip-service to a community she sees as key to winning the nomination.
Clinton is now attacking Bernie Sanders for having criticized Obama, trying to take advantage of Black folks’ desire to defend the president. But it was Clinton herself who waged an incredibly nasty campaign of attacks and smears against Obama, going far beyond mere policy disagreements. A quick trip down memory lane reveals that Clinton has a history of employing race in a divisive, cynical manner.
Based on what happened the last time Hillary Clinton ran for President, we should expect that at some point Black people will get thrown under the bus again, especially if it helps Clinton gain or maintain power.
Painting Obama As Not ‘Fundamentally American’
Throughout the 2008 election season, racist and bigoted smears about Barack Obama circulated online, and bubbled up into mainstream conversation about the campaign in the traditional news media. Two of the most prominent lies about Obama, which persist to this day, were that he is secretly a Muslim (playing on fear-mongering and bigotry about Islam), and that he was not really born in America. Both of these ideas paint Obama as “other” and outside the mainstream, drawing their potency from fears about Black people gaining power. People generally associate these memes with the right wing. But the truth is that for the entire Democratic primary, not only did Hillary Clinton’s campaign do nothing to push back against the racist fear-mongering about Obama, it actually fed this atmosphere and helped it grow. It was a part of their strategy from early in the campaign.
Back in March of 2007, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist Mark Penn wrote a campaign memo that proposed painting Barack Obama as un-American or “other”:
“His roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values … Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century … Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t.“
In December of 2007, Billy Shaheen, the co-chair of Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign, raised the issue of Obama’s drug use as a young man, and the possibility that Obama could be attacked as a drug dealer. He said he was talking about how Republicans would attack Obama, but his statements had the effect of injecting racist stereotypes into the campaign: “It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’ There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks.” It is a tried and true tactic: floating an idea to which you claim to not personally ascribe, with the effect of getting the idea to circulate.
The next day, Clinton privately apologized to Obama for Shaheen’s comments and claimed she had nothing to do with them. Obama didn’t accept the apology because he believed Clinton’s campaign was circulating emails claiming he was a Muslim. According to Reggie Love, Obama’s personal assistant at the time: “The candidate [Obama] very respectfully told her the apology was kind, but largely meaningless, given the emails it was rumored her camp had been sending out labeling him as a Muslim.”
In February 2008, the Drudge Report posted a picture of Obama in traditional Kenyan/Somali clothes (including a turban, which helped reinforce the “secret Muslim” smear). Drudge said the picture was circulated by the Clinton campaign. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager called it “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.” Initially, the Clinton campaign did not deny having sent the photo, instead playing dumb about the possible impact of the photo and attacking Obama over it: “If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.”
Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a member of Congress and Clinton surrogate, when asked about the circulation of the photo, implied that Barack Obama is native to Kenya: “I have no shame, or no problem, with people looking at Barack Obama in his native clothing, the clothing of his country … if we’re supporting a woman or an African American for president, we ought to be able to support their ability to wear the clothing of their nation.”
Continue to read the full article at the link above.
Barack Obama has maintained an uncanny ability to avoid being blamed for the situation the US finds itself in. Partly this is due to the superficial approach of small-l liberals, for whom an eloquent speech and a crocodile tear are enough to forgive any number of crimes. Partly it is the persistence of lesser-evilism. Obama benefited greatly from not being Bush. Then he was attacked throughout his presidency by a range of racist Republican nutters who simultaneously denounced him as a communist and a new Hitler. Now he benefits from the inevitable comparison with Trump and Clinton.
This serves only to highlight the bankruptcy of lesser-evilism. Obama’s likely successor will be Hillary Clinton, a candidate so unpopular it took the miracle of Donald Trump for her to be electable. It’s hard to see how she will be as successful a salesperson for poverty and war as Obama has been.
Obama leaves behind a United States even more plagued by poverty and inequality. He leaves an empire soaked in the blood of yet more victims.
Black Lives Matter, the advocacy group for black interests, has gotten the attention of the Democratic presidential candidates, who are reportedly scrambling to reach out to the movement. Even heavy favorite Hillary Clinton is getting in on it, addressing the movement in a Q&A session on Facebook, where she checked most of the right boxes.
DeRay McKesson, one of the movement’s leaders, wrote on Twitter that the post was “solid.” But he also noted that she had two days to work on it, and did not attend the liberal forum Netroots Nation, unlike her challengers Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, who flailed in front of activists from Black Lives Matter.
McKesson is right to be suspicious. Hillary Clinton’s record on race is not great. If she wishes to earn some trust on issues of racial justice, a good place to start would be with the distinctly racist undertones of her 2008 campaign against Barack Obama.
As the first primaries got underway in 2008, and Obama began to slowly pull ahead, the Clinton camp resorted to increasingly blatant race- and Muslim-baiting. It started in February, when Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, endorsed Obama in a sermon. In a debate a couple days later, moderator Tim Russert repeatedly pressed Obama on the issue, who responded with repeated reassurances that he did not ask for the endorsement, did not accept it, and in fact was not a deranged anti-Semite. That wasn’t enough for Clinton, who demanded that Obama “denounce” Farrakhan, which he did.
About the same time, a picture of Obama in traditional Somali garb (from an official trip) then appeared on the Drudge Report, and Matt Drudge claimed he got it from the Clinton campaign. After stonewalling on the origin question, the campaign later claimed it had nothing to do with it. A Clinton flack then went on MSNBC and argued that Obama should not be ashamed to appear in “his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.”
Later, a media firestorm blew up when it was discovered that Obama’s Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright once delivered a sermon containing the words “God damn America.” In response, Obama gave a deft, nuanced speech on racial issues, but Clinton kept the issue alive by insisting she would have long ago denounced the man.
Everyone loves Michelle Obama. In Southside With You (in theaters August 26), a movie about the Obamas’ first date, producer and star Tika Sumpter introduces us to someone with whom America is less familiar: Michelle Robinson.