Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

The Hillary Clinton/MLK Dustup
John McWhorter asks the essential question about it in the WSJ:

...Why would a white person running for president in 2008 dismiss the legacy of King near his birthday, which is celebrated as a national holiday, and right before a primary in a state with a large black vote?

But, first, Clinton's entire quote, from Media Matters. It's apparently been truncated by a number of media outlets to exclude the bit about Kennedy:

I would, and I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality. The power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said, "We are going to do it," and actually got it accomplished.

Back in the WSJ, McWhorter makes sense of the furor that followed:

Yet there she was on "Meet the Press" Sunday, having to defend herself for simply saying that while King laid the groundwork (which she acknowledged), another part of the civil rights revolution was Lyndon B. Johnson's masterful stewardship of the relevant legislation through Congress. She was arguing that she is more experienced in getting laws passed in Washington than is Barack Obama -- which is true.

Why do people like op-ed columnist Bob Herbert, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn and countless black bloggers hear a grievous insult in her simple observation? The outcry is so disproportionate to the stimulus that one can barely help suspecting something outright irregular.

I think of a study published last year in the Journal of Black Psychology. It documented that the extent to which black Americans perceive their lives to be affected by racism correlates with symptoms of general paranoia disconnected from racial issues.

To be able to hold in one's mind the notion that Mrs. Clinton would attack King suggests a bone-deep hypersensitivity that overrides sequential reasoning. "We have to be very, very careful how we speak about that era," Rep. Clyburn explains.

But why so very, very careful? What effect does it have on anyone's life if that era is occasionally discussed in less than perfectly genuflective phraseology? Is the Klan waiting behind a hill? Will a black man working at an insurance company in Cleveland have a breakdown because someone didn't give King precisely enough credit in a quick statement?

There is a willful frailty, a lack of self-confidence, in this kind of thinking. It suggests someone almost searching for things to claim injury about, donning the mantle of the noble victim in order to assuage a bruised ego.

Posted by aalkon at January 16, 2008 11:57 AM


For the life of me, I heard these comments live and saw her on MTP and I still don't know exactly what the hell she was trying to convey with those remarks. If anyone out there gets it, please enlighten this confused dinosaur.
The only thing I can think is that she was trying to say that it takes a back-room dealing senator to actually put together a deal like this and a president to sign it, but MLK was just a rabble-rouser. Since she's a sneaky senator, shes much more effective than an MLK??? Is that it? Because if it is, she is so incredibly wrong and delusional it's laughable.
I was barely six years old when MLK was killed. He wasn't a perfect man, but he was a great man. I lived in Detroit and we were having a whole lot of social unrest resulting in riots over the early and mid sixties, which was difficult for a kid growing up with so many black friends and neighbors. MLK was in a way, one of our late founding fathers because his dream of a colorblind nation were as important a part of the cultural conscience makeup of this country as the Bill of Rights and other high minded ideas that the founding fathers came up with. He just happened to come along many years later.

Hillary Clinton cannot ever compare her Wicked Bitch of the west persona to a man like that ever. She has done almost nothing since she has been in congress. Can you think of one bill with the name Clinton on it? Can you think of any one cause she has taken up and done any good for? She is nothing but a domineering opportunist. I can totally understand blacks being offended if she is trying to compare herslf with someone like that.

Posted by: Bikerken at January 16, 2008 2:18 AM

The point she was trying to make was that King was the heart and soul of the civil rights movement--and that Johnson was the brain that pushed the important legislation through the House and Senate. She was comparing herself to Johnson, not to King.

Not a wise comparison, IMHO, since it was also Johnson who pushed through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and proceeded to lose the Vietnam War--nevertheless, it's just another example of the hyteria that surrounds even the most innocuous statements that come out of Hillary's mouth, like the ridiculous scrutiny given to her tearing up in New Hampshire.


Posted by: Speedy at January 16, 2008 3:29 AM

"it's just another example of the hyteria that surrounds even the most innocuous statements"

Nowadays, one isn't supposed to even address controversial topics.

There's a politician in Austria who recently pointed out that, were Mohammed alive today, he would be considered a child molester for marrying a little girl. Whatever her intent in saying this, her statement is, in the end, an indisputable fact.

The press is willfully misquoting her ("Ms. XXX calls Mohammed a child molester"), and getting itself all into a tizzy.

Mention any issue guarded by the PC-cattle, and expect to see senseless upset...

Posted by: bradley13 at January 16, 2008 4:05 AM

Speaking as an outside observer this whole thing is hysterical. And somewhat tragic.

The US - world super-power as well as one of it's biggest bullies - is looking likely to elect an affirmative action president.

God help us all.

Posted by: gwallan at January 16, 2008 4:55 AM

Wait for it.....

Amy, how dare you bring this up? Even mentioning it is racist. (Tounge in cheek)

Posted by: Scott at January 16, 2008 5:41 AM

McWhorter is one of the more sensible voices on race issues, and the real problems blacks face (vis a vis Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson hysteria to gin up the masses). More of his work here:

Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at January 16, 2008 6:58 AM

One of the things that I find odd/interesting in all of this is that before this incident, the black candidate was not running as a "black candidate" (i.e., he wasn't making a big deal of his blackness or "black issues" in the demagogic Sharpton-Jackson mode) and was receiving relatively tepid support among the black community, while Clinton had pretty solid support. Last night 70% of black voters in Michigan voted "Undecided" rather than vote in for Clinton in the primary. Hillary should have been more savvy about racial issues - or, given that she knows these politics well - she figured she could win the primary by subtly making race an issue (something Obama probably wanted to avoid).

Posted by: justin case at January 16, 2008 7:29 AM

Whoops - "win the primary" should be "win the nomination".

Posted by: justin case at January 16, 2008 7:30 AM

Look, this whole thing can be summed up neatly.

Democrats to Blacks: "Shut up and get to the back of the bus."

Posted by: brian Author Profile Page at January 16, 2008 7:59 AM

The most dangerous part of that passage is "it took a president to get it done." She's all about that. Amy is frequently chastised her for calling presidents and other politicians "leaders", and this is why: Hillary Clinton listens closely when you say that. She's ready to believe that the presidency is the decisive authority that makes the world work correctly.

OK, she doesn't really believe that, but she knows that you do, so she's going to take advantage.

We're in America: Politicians are not leaders.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 2:27 PM

Quote from Hillary via Kaus from a recent debate in Vegas: "We've got to do more to give families the tools and the support that they should have."

See? See? She really believes it can't happen for you on this planet until the government decides to give you something... Without government, families are doomed... Doomed.

I hate that woman.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 4:08 PM

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 4:40 PM

Amy is frequently chastised her for calling presidents and other politicians "leaders"

Who would do such a thing to our gracious blog-hostess?

We're in America: Politicians are not leaders.

What are they, then?

Posted by: justin case at January 16, 2008 5:38 PM

> Who would do such a thing

Me. I can get you the cites if you want.

(Also, that was supposed to be "chastised here" not "her".)

> What are they, then?

Hired help... "Public servants", in forgotten parlance. Americans don't do bended knees. We know where we're going with our lives, and if a public functionary can help us get there at an acceptable price, great. But we should never pretend that they're going to show us the way... Quite the reverse.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 5:57 PM

I live in Dallas, and blacks here often call for "dialog" on race issues. In such dialogs, I've invariably encountered Whites who won't tell Blacks what they really think is true --- and Blacks who like it that way.

We are a very long way from having an honest discussion about race in this country. This sorry incident only makes the fact more obvious.

Posted by: Jeff at January 16, 2008 6:32 PM

People have been earnestly chirping over "an honest discussion about race" for as long as I've been alive.... It's a phrase that everyone with energy about color can use, no matter what direction they come from, no matter how fast they're moving. It's like Conspiracy Theory 101 for non-majors. When you use that phrase, you get to pretend that there are all these subterranean forces at work in the hearts of others. And like a teenager whining about hypocrisy, you get to pretend that you --and maybe a couple of selected friends-- see right through the charade and know the underlying truth, man.... So when the discussion does finally come, you'll be at the podium with Powerpoint presentation, and not one of the rubes out on the conference room floor.

Could anything be more mundane than "an honest discussion about race"? The reason that discussion doesn't happen is that sensible folks have better things to do with their time.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 7:11 PM

Me. I can get you the cites if you want.

I know, one example is the previous post, which is why I thought the passive voice was funny.

We are a very long way from having an honest discussion about race in this country.

I agree. I actually think it is no small part of why lots of people respond so positively to Obama that he simply doesn't make race a big deal - it's hard not to think even if he loses, he has done America, and its race issues, some real good.

Posted by: justin case at January 16, 2008 7:16 PM

My cynical side (all 360 degrees of it) tells me Obama is popular with some because they can use him to assuage their sneaking suspicions of their own racist heart. They can then tell themselves "I'm not actually alarmed by inner city black thugs, why, I voted for Obama!"
I dunno, maybe that's going too far. But otherwise he's such a idea vacuum what else could it be?

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at January 16, 2008 8:40 PM

Could anything be more mundane than "an honest discussion about race"?

Where I'm at, racial set-asides are a huge local political issue. 'Mundane' would be precisely the wrong word for it.

The reason that discussion doesn't happen is that sensible folks have better things to do with their time.

Good point. Let's leave political governance to someone else....not.

Posted by: Jeff at January 16, 2008 8:50 PM

Riiiiight.... And just like that, "discussion" moves to "governance."

Compulsory compassion! You'll have the government herd us into the Marriott ballroom. We'll be in rows of those long, skinny, shaky tables under weirdly-colored cloth that you get at conferences. Each seat (3.42" of foam under textured vinyl) sits behind a shabby ballpoint and a small, ten-page notepad, both with the hotel name on them. Bad coffee will be served. You, at the dais with your laser pointer and your Powerpoint slides and your fabulous insights, will tell the rest of us when we're being sufficiently "political". If people say things that aren't sufficiently "honest," you'll call forth a team of goons from the back of the room to assist us in being frank. Or in being receptive... Whatever.

I'd be even snottier and more sarcastic about this, but Amy's already got it covered. Go read her post of Jan14 regarding Ezra Levant. And this is the theme of the Goldberg book. Follow the links and watch the videos...

...if you want to.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 9:14 PM

But otherwise he's such a idea vacuum what else could it be?

This gets repeated a lot, but it's not true. It isn't what gets the big media coverage, and it's not the focus of his high-profile speeches, but his policies (FWIW, it's basic, middle of the road liberal stuff) are at least as well-developed as the other two prominent Democrats. He's also done smart work in the Senate on wonky, but important issues like nuclear arms proliferation. With Republicans no less. The man does not strike me as a fool - and he does strike me as far more decent than Hillary and less smarmy than Edwards. The Dems could do far worse.

watch the videos...

Am I the only person who loathes the proliferation of online video (at least for expressing ideas)? There's tons of stuff I simply won't sit through in video form that I would read if printed. It's annoying to sit there and watch stuff that I could read in a quarter of the time.

I will say that if he wants to trade in serious thoughts as opposed to partisan drivel, Jonah could have picked a better title. But publishing is a business, and being provocative sells. Interesting note, is that I believe the original subtitle ended with Hillary Clinton."

Posted by: justin case at January 16, 2008 10:16 PM

> a huge local political
> issue

No, seriously, I hate this shit.

First because of the presumption, outlined above, that you or anyone else will know when people are being sufficiently "honest." Why are you so sure that people can't say what they want? How do you know they aren't being sensibly discrete in the expression of personal matters with the others in their lives? I have many friends, a number of former lovers, and even some present employers of color. Should I pull them aside and say "Sir/Ma'am, it's time we had an honest discussion about race!"? If I did that, would it be okay if they laughed at me, or took me out with a left cross? Because that's what I'd do to them....

The second reason's a little less personal, and more to do with the weird presumptions of our times.

One of my favorite Hollywood movies in the last twenty years was "Sixth Sense." The plot device faked me out of my shoes, and some of the horror elements were disorienting enough (e.g., "That woman in our kitchen's not my mother, and somebody's beaten her up!") that I bought a second ticket the next day to make sure the telling had been done with straightforward, trustworthy arithmetic; it had.

Director Shyamalan was regarded as a wunderkind for a time. It was theorized that foreign birth had given him psychedelic sensitivities lost to American filmmakers, who're raised in a numbing froth of commercial imagery.

This brilliant critique broke the spell. It explicated the silly conceit of the film, that therapy is the answer to all problems in life and death.

I'd spent the 1990's bitching about America's senseless taste for psychotherapeutic chatter on every message board I could find, and had probably ruined a few servings of tira misu for women on dates by obsessing about it. But with just a little spicy Hollywood sauce on the dish, Shyamalan had fed me a full serving... Not with a foreign or novel way of looking at things, but by reflecting (perhaps unconsciously) America's most pedestrian enchantments. And it's a fascination I regard as both girlish and juvenile. ("Share your feelings! Take what's in your heart and give it to others, no matter what!")

And it announces itself loudly when people yearn for "an honest discussion about race." Maybe your view of what's going on in Dallas is correct, though it doesn't jibe with my experience in Houston. But Texans aren't known as pussies. If they've got something to say to someone, they'll be very clear.

PS- If Shyamalan ever made another film worth watching, nobody's mentioned it. From what we read in reviews, his metaphysical/religious presumptions are a big part of the problem.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 11:02 PM

Justin, your dislike of the title presumes he doesn't make the case. From what I've heard he's very convincing.

"Partisan" isn't a bad word. Partisan ideas aren't necessarily drivel. Slavery used to be an intensely partisan topic.

Posted by: Crid at January 16, 2008 11:07 PM

I can kinda see the point about the dishonesty when we talk about race. For example, Obama belongs to a church that is about as racist as a church can get. Have any of you read their website? Have you heard his pastor talk. It is essentially the church of the black panthers. I have heard people start to talk about it on the radio today and I have seen some discussion on blogs, but the fact is, that if he were a white man, he would be compared to David Duke. His church preaches black separatism, non conformism to 'white society' and many other little things that would make him a member of the clan if he were white. Not exactly what MLK's dream was.
Another example of dishonesty is the 'N' word. How ridiculous is it that we give a word such power that we don't dare say it? I don't believe for one damned second that blacks are that offended when they hear the word nigger. It's the context that matters. But they use this 'THAT OFFENDS ME' tool as a way to avoid the debate in any way. They will call each other nigger a hundrred times in a day and then feign the greatest offence when a non-black says it. It's simply a phoney way to vent hate onto non-blacks. Obama is nothing like MLK, he has belonged to an organization for 20 years now that is not based on religion, it is based on racial anger. Trust me, when the teachings of his church come out if he wins the nomination, and that is when they will, he won't be able to beat George Bush if he ran again because there are too many people in this country that are fed up with racial seperatists.

Posted by: Bikerken at January 17, 2008 1:26 AM

Justin, your dislike of the title presumes he doesn't make the case. From what I've heard he's very convincing.

"Partisan" isn't a bad word. Partisan ideas aren't necessarily drivel. Slavery used to be an intensely partisan topic.

I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a good case; Goldberg's a bright guy. But when you choose a title that could grace a Coulter book, you predispose the people you presumably wish to engage and challenge to not take your work seriously. There's nothing wrong with an honest partisan argument, but there are plenty of books that are partisan hit-pieces whose intent is simply to smear the author's political opponents without being fair or honest. Jonah's title (and cover!) makes his book sound like the latter, regardless of its content. Which means it will sell well to his NRO readership, but will be less likely to be read outside of it. If it's a good book, that's a shame.

Speaking of good books, thanks for the recommendation of Postrel's book. It's one I'll be tormenting my more orthodox liberal friends with for a while.

Posted by: justin case at January 17, 2008 7:06 AM

The problem isn't that she's attacking King; the problem is that she's dismissing the role he played -- the crucial role. As if LBJ would have done a goddamn thing were it not for King's civil disobedience. I have to respecfully disagree. I found it extremely racist.

Clinton is pathethic. The experience argument she gives is as pathetic as her crocodile tears. The woman is cold and calculating but this time she let something slip and she's got her buddies trying to make us believe no she didn't really say what you thought you heard.

Whatever you think of Obama, King deserved more respect than that.

Posted by: Donna at January 17, 2008 7:40 AM

> you predispose the people
> you presumably wish to engage
> and challenge to not take
> your work seriously.

Core question: Is it possible for liberals to be fascist? If the answer is yes, then why would anyone be so grievously offended?

They're not offended, they're oblivious and cocooned. Nothing means more to modern liberals than the presumption that they're actually the good guys, no matter what. If they can't maintain that presumption throughout any discourse and impulsively call those who disagree with them 'bigots!' or something, then they don't want to participate. They're holding their breath, they're turning blue.

I firmly believe that liberals build their worldview out of this need for convenience. Morality is always messy in the middle, so they want to take sides against what is indisputably evil. Their politics are nourished first with low-hanging fruit ("Vivisection of retarded babies is wrong!") Twenty years later, they're graduating college and thinking that anyone who wants to argue with them is a storm trooper. (Is anything more convenient than judging a book by its cover?)

Goldberg apparently demonstrates that fascist movements in history came from the progressive left as often as the right. (The Nazis were health fanatics). I'm looking forward to reading it.

Posted by: Crid at January 17, 2008 11:57 AM

Posted by: Partner Rumble at January 17, 2008 9:36 PM

Leave a comment