Sunday, February 24, 2008
Clinton Defends Husband on Racial Issues
By BETH FOUHY
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly defended her husband's record on civil rights Saturday at a forum in which she acknowledged "painful moments" in a presidential contest pitting the first woman candidate against a pioneering black contender.
At the annual State of the Black Union conference hosted by PBS's Tavis Smiley, Clinton pushed back hard on the notion that Bill Clinton had inflamed racial tensions while campaigning for her in the run-up to South Carolina's primary last month.
The former president — once so popular among black voters he was dubbed the first black president by novelist Toni Morrison — harshly criticized Barack Obama in South Carolina, producing a backlash among blacks that helped lead to his wife's crushing defeat there.
After that primary, the former president angered many by suggesting Obama had won the state simply because he was a black candidate campaigning in a state with a large number of black voters. Since then, Clinton has badly lost the black vote to Obama in every primary or caucus — including Louisiana's earlier this month.
Obama won Louisiana's primary by a margin of 57 percent to 36 percent — one of 11 straight victories over Clinton since Super Tuesday Feb. 5.
Questioned by Smiley about her husband's efforts in South Carolina, the former first lady said many of the 5,000 people attending Saturday's conference were personally acquainted with the former president and that they "know his heart."
She noted that the former president has made racial reconciliation a key part of his public life. Whether Clinton would apologize on behalf of America for slavery was a question that bubbled throughout a 1998 trip to Africa. He did not, but rather discussed — in a carefully calibrated approach — the wounds that slavery caused. Clinton did formally apologize to the Tuskegee, Ala., men left untreated for syphilis in a federal study exposed 25 years earlier.
"Most of my African-American friends and advisors don't believe that we should get into what was essentially a press story about whether there should be an apology for slavery in America," he said in a magazine interview a few days before the trip. "They think that that's what the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendment was; they think that's what the civil rights legislation was, and they think we need to be looking toward the future."
Speaking broadly of Bill Clinton on matters of race, she said: "My husband mended, so as to avoid ending, affirmative action. My husband had in his White House, Cabinet, and his administration, many of you I see here. We know that when he was president, we had a rising tide and we lifted more people out of poverty than at any time in America's recent history."
Yeah, OK. Whatever Hill. I don't believe that the Clintons are racists but they are desperate and will do anything to win and that is not endearing.