I’ve been thinking more about Bill Clinton’s latest hailing of the Johnny Mac/Hillary ticket and implicit bashing of Barack Obama. Chris Matthews as well as bloggers and posters all over the interwebs have pointed out that Bill Clinton has seemingly become unhinged from reality, and while there’s certainly an argument to be made in that regard vis a vis Hillary’s absurdly impossible shot at the nomination at this point, I think there’s more at work here than just “Bill Clinton’s losing it.”
I also think this is not at all the same experience-bashing that Bob regards it to be.
First of all, the context: a VFW hall in North Carolina. This speech was made to appeal to white North Carolinians in advance of the upcoming primary. Again, Bill has been sent out to divide the election in terms of race. And this jab is much more subtle than the Jesse Jackson crack in South Carolina. Here’s how it works: first, it clearly calls into question Obama’s love of his country. Now, where have we heard, in recent memory, someone saying something bad about America? You know, like maybe they don’t love America. Or maybe, even, I don’t know, they damn America.
It’s not the least bit of a stretch to see Bill Clinton appealing to that inner-racist who heard Obama’s speech but who still wonders if Obama really doesn’t agree with his minister. His black minister. You know, the one who doesn’t love America like Johnny Mac and Hillary do.
Or maybe you didn’t even listen to that speech because you’ve already decided Obama is a Muslim Manchurian Candidate who hates America enough to get elected its president and then destroy it.
Either way, this somebody-doesn’t-love-America line works, and it works by playing on Obama’s ethnicity.
But Bill ain’t done. He brings up all this “other stuff that seems to intrude itself on our politics.” So what is all that “other stuff”? According to Howard Wolfson, Bill was talking about negative campaigning.
Sorry, Howard but you’re full of shit. Anyone with a brain and Google knows that you and Mark Penn are the leading negative campaigners in this election year. No, what Bill was talking about, and watch the video so you can see his sly little smile as he says “other stuff”, is the Wright controversy and Obama’s attendant speech to not only clarify his denunciation of Wright’s comments, but also to break open wide the conversation about race and, in a larger way, division in this country.
Obama’s speech is easily half of the “other stuff” that Clinton is so handily dismissing. Obama’s speech, indeed, Obama’s campaign and the existence of Obama himself, have intruded themselves on “our politics.” OUR POLITICS. Bill Clinton’s words, to a VFW hall in North Carolina, after placing John McCain and Hillary Clinton on the same pedestal.
If you think I’m wrong, I would ask you to go back and watch Obama’s speech again, and listen to what he says about the deeply buried, generational attitudes about race and entitlement that have been so pervasive in this nation since its founding.
The Clintons are floating a new tactic in front of 80 VFW members in North Carolina, but the ideas behind the tactic are older than Jim Crow.