August 6th, 2008
02:01 PM ET

Bill Clinton desperate to get his black card back

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/06/art.bill.jpg
Roland Martin
AC360° Contributor

Poor, Bill.

Stuck in no man's land, no longer able to stand before adoring crowds of African Americans who would welcome him as the "nation's first black president" with thunderous applause and all kinds of pats on the back, he clearly is having issues dealing with the new world order.

Almost two months after Sen. Barack Obama captured the Democratic presidential nomination, the former president is at a loss, trying to figure out what happened along the way. And his chief complaint? That the Obama camp accused him of being a racist.

Never mind that the Obama camp – loaded with white male advisers – was so afraid to bring up race that it wasn't funny. What Bill doesn't understand is that it was the masses of black people who know what it feels like to be marginalized, and they saw that with some of Clinton's comments.

In an interview with ABC's Kate Snow, Clinton desperately wants his black mojo back, and when she asked him a question about regrets in the campaign, he immediately threw out, "I am not a racist."

See, no place gave Bill Clinton as much comfort than the black community. When he was facing the end of his presidency, he called on black folks like no other, using the love and affection we have always had to get him through the darks of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He relied on black support to keep his poll numbers high. And we all know it.

But what Bill knows – and we know – is that you don't have to be a racist to use race as a tool in a political campaign. An inference here, a comparison there, and you can send the right signal at the right time, to the right people.

Bill, and the legions of Clinton supporters and former campaign aides, are quick to act as if the comments made by African Americans – the regular folk – simply didn't exist. But what they also fail to grasp is that they did offend older African Americans like Rep. James Clyburn, and Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, and others who were always in the corner of the Clintons.

It's clear that what Bill can't stand is these blacks didn't sit down and shut up. They recoiled at what they heard, and didn't offer the Clintons cover.

For instance, in a piece on Politico.com, Clinton aides say that it was an affront to read stories about the Clintons using race when so many black women were at the top of her hierarchy.

But that's a lie.

Sure, Maggie Williams was hired to run the campaign, but AFTER Patti Solis Doyle was fired. Other women had some influence in the campaign – Minyon Moore and Tina Flournoy are to name a couple – but insiders, fundraisers and longtime Clinton supporters have said that her inner circle was devoid of many black voices. Telling Essence or other black media outlets who your "black team" is one thing, but did you tell the New York Times the same thing?

There is nothing that Obama can do to salvage the reputation of Bill Clinton before African Americans. Bill lost that on his own, and he's going to have to get it on his own.

And the Clintons need to stop living in la-la land, listening to the same folks sooth Bill's bruised ego. They thought they would win the nomination and then blacks would fall in line.

But in this new world order, when a (young) generation of black folks don't see Bill as the Great Messiah and really don't have a love affair with his eight years, he needs to recognize that a lot has changed.

Bill, you clearly have issues with what took place, and sure, you can be mad. But denying you're angry doesn't help.

You need to own up to what you did and stop passing the buck. That's what true leaders do.

Editor's Note: Roland Martin's essay originally appeared on Essence.com

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Raw Politics • Roland S. Martin
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Jim

    The way the Clintons were painted as being racists was outrageous. In the long run this will hurt the African-American community. A white candidate with political aspirations would be better off in the long run focusing on Mexican-American issues. That is the reality and that will be the result. Simply put: The African-American community lacks "pay-back" potential for non African-American candidates.

    August 7, 2008 at 8:50 am |
  2. Bob Smith

    It is like anything else with anyone else, you cannot talk about someone being fat but someone fat can talk about being fat. It's the same for being black. Sorry folks, that's just the way it is!!

    August 7, 2008 at 5:24 am |
  3. Godfrey Effoe Jr

    The deficit of the United States of America stands at $ 482 billion dollars. Eight years ago, when Bill Clinton was leaving the White House – the story was different. Under President William Jefferson Clinton the economy growth averaged 4.0; the economy grew for a consecutive 116 months, a record number of jobs for Americans and affordable gas prices. Today the story is different: gas is not affordable, unemployment rate is high and the economy is in bad shape. Although many will not want to credit Clinton with anything good these days, when he talks about the economy, you don’t get any preaching. He breaks it down for you in a way that your economics teacher doesn’t do it – better than any politician. So all of a sudden, in a bad economy, America’s best economic president’s legacy has to be salvaged by Barack Obama. Roland, Barack Obama doesn’t have to do anything for Bill Clinton’s legacy. When we go to the gas station or look for decent paying jobs for months and not find any, we are reminded that Bill Clinton’s legacy is in tact.

    Roland Martin, like many others, keeps mentioning comments made by Bill Clinton were of a racists tone. And all of a sudden his work for the Black community, seem not to matter any more. Why should Bill Clinton who devoted himself to civil rights and the plight of African Americans not feel offended by the racists tag? Why should he not talk about it? Most of Rep. James Clyburn’s appearances on television were so anti-Clinton. On many occasions he spoke about Bill Clinton’s behavior when it was uncalled for. His attitude towards the Clintons should leave them indifferent. Clyburn’s treatment of the Clintons always left me wondering what his real intentions were. But I guess Clyburn has a right to be annoyed in a way that Bill Clinton should not. While the comments of South Carolina may not have come out as he wanted, everyone in the media forgets that Bill also said that Obama ran a good campaign in the same statement.
    The Obama campaign has won the democratic primaries against the Clintons. During the primaries Obama, was able, with some good speeches, to energize some Americans. He has promised to change Washington for the good of every American, and like Gore, he would make the mistake that that new America would not include Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton, for the Clintons represent that part of Washington which we have to do away with. Let’s wait and November will tell us. As of now, Bill still remains who he is- the last president who left a booming economy and the global citizen with a lot more for Africa/ Third World countries. Just ask Rwandans what they think of Bill Clinton. They will not forget the genocide but they sure will have a lot to say about his works on AIDS and Agriculture.
    Godfrey Elali Effoe Junior (Baltimore)

    August 7, 2008 at 2:46 am |
  4. Gloria

    I am appalled by so many negative comments about this article by Roland Martin! These comments show that either these people have very short memories or haven't been following the campaign very closely. This is the year 2008 and there are still some people who are warped in time– in the Clinton era of the 90s. What does Bill Clinton having been " a great president" have to do with his wife Hillary's quest for the Democratic nomination? Face it! She is not "entitled" to be the next president, and, most importantly, she lost! And it is already so obvious that she and her husband are very angry. And how could Obama even think of her as his VP choice when both Clintons have said over and over again that Obama is not fit to be president? And I am sure that the Republicans already have tapes of all the disparaging remarks the Clintons made against Obama in the primary race and are just waiting to use them if she is chosen to be Obama's VP choice. To the Clintons: Get over it and work hard to get Obama elected. The Clinton loyalists: Get over it and concentrate on the issues. A reminder: Hillary's and Obama's stances on most of the main issues are either the same or very similar. Your other choice is to vote for another Republican to occupy the White House for the next 4 and possibly 8 years.

    August 7, 2008 at 2:31 am |
  5. bk

    Obama can't hold a candle to Clinton and never will. Everyone benefited when Clinton was in office. Obama was installed by the DNC and the super delegates. We will speak in Nov. and there will be no caucauses to bully people and call them a racist. The primary was a travasty and is continuing into the general.

    August 7, 2008 at 12:02 am |
  6. Holli

    Love AC360 and all of the journalist and commentators that make the show and this site so unique.

    August 6, 2008 at 11:36 pm |
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