Black folks and Bill Clinton

By Kimberly Wilson
web posted December 1998

One of the more frequent comments made during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal is that black people are solidly in the President's corner. Polls show as many as 85 per cent of us support Bill Clinton. I'm one who's not so sure about that. Polls are not are the final word. I don't recall anyone calling my friends or me to ask our opinions. Jesse Jackson and the Congressional Black Caucus will surely defend Clinton to the bitter end, but many blacks are wondering why. Why should black congressmen - or any Black American - be passionate about Bill Clinton's tarnished presidency?

It is said Bill Clinton has a better relationship with blacks than any president since JFK. People say he "cares" about black people and feels our "pain." Does he really? I think not. If you look beyond emotionalism or Democratic fervor, there really isn't much to Clinton's supposed deep feelings. We have been his shield and prop throughout his presidency. Looking at the facts, it's obvious Clinton has used black people with shameless ease.

Remember Lani Guinier? When opposition to her appointment to head the Justice Department's civil rights division arose in Congress, Clinton quickly dumped his "good friend" of more than twenty years. Remember Jocelyn Elders, the former surgeon general? She was sent packing for talking about sex acts that seem rather tame compared to the allegations about the President's behavior. Clinton also dumped Mike Espy, the hapless former agriculture secretary, like a piece of radioactive ore when Espy got into legal trouble. What about "first friend" Vernon Jordan? The President involved his superlawyer buddy in what looks like an attempt to bribe Monica Lewinsky into silence with a job in New York. During his Martha's Vineyard vacation last year, the President and Jordan were inseparable. After Jordan's testimony and the release of the Starr Report, however, Jordan seems disowned.

Saddest of all is Betty Currie. Currie, the President's kindhearted secretary, was used as a ruse for Clinton's trysts with Monica Lewinsky. Much to her dismay, she found herself sneaking Lewinsky into the Oval Office, pleading with Secret Service agents not to record Lewinsky's visits on the White House visitation log and delivering and retrieving gifts and messages like a o-between for two teenagers. On the top of all this, Currie had to tolerate what looks like a not-so-subtle attempt by the President to mold her grand jury testimony to fit his. Betty Currie served the President faithfully for years, and she is one of the few black people to see him every day. I don't think she profited by it.

Forgetting about the President's black friends, one must also consider the cynical way he uses black events in general. Remember his "vivid memories" of black churches burning in Arkansas? While Clinton cannot remember his many sexual encounters with a White House intern, he vividly recalled church burnings that never actually happened. Remember his remarks on the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech? The President spoke of "weeping uncontrollably" at the power and beauty of MLK's words. These emotions came from a 17-year-old white male? Let's not forget Clinton's much-praised and publicized trip to Africa. He wrapped himself in kente cloth, took pictures with African children and promised friendship and economic aid. He later turned around and bombed Khartoum - the capital of the African country of Sudan - two days after the Starr Report came out.

Some argue that the whole Clinton/Lewinsky scandal happened because the mean old Republicans are out to get Bill Clinton. The argument says he's being persecuted just like Dr. King, Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell. Toni Morrison, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beloved, takes this to a ridiculous level. She claims Clinton "is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who ever could be elected in our children's lifetime... Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working class, saxophone playing, McDonalds and junk-food loving boy from Arkansas." With all due respect to Morrison, this is total nonsense. If she were white, I'd call her remarks a racist insult.

Bill Clinton has got to go. His continued presence in the White House endangers the American Rule of Law. Our parents and grandparents hoped, prayed, fought and sometimes died for equal protection under the law. If we discard the law in favor of one man we unravel the whole fabric of law. In real life, in jails and penitentiaries across America there are blacks sitting behind bars for crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice.

There are those who support Clinton largely out of nostalgia. They see in him a return to JFK's Camelot. Take a second look, however, and you'll see that Clinton and his administration is nothing more than a trailer park imitation unworthy of our time or support.

Kimberly Wilson is a writer and commentator and an associate of the African American leadership network Project 21. Published by The National Center for Public Policy.




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