Not Bean Bag

We seem to be at the point where there are now two credible possibilities. One is that the Clinton campaign is intentionally pursuing a strategy of using surrogates to hit Obama with racially-charged language or with charges that while not directly tied to race nonetheless play to stereotypes about black men. The other possibility is that the Clinton campaign is extraordinarily unlucky and continually finds its surrogates stumbling on to racially-charged or denigrating language when discussing Obama.

Bob Johnson’s claim that he wasn’t referring to Obama’s admitted youthful drug use is too silly to even repeat. Indeed, the logic of his remarks make no sense if he was referring to Obama’s time as a community organizer.

Let’s review what Johnson said …

And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book –­ when they have been involved.

Now, the clear logic of this statement is that the Clintons were fighting the good fight back when Obama was just off goofing off. Being a community organizer is like the epitome of engaged involvement in community issues. So Johnson’s statement literally makes no sense if it’s a reference to Obama’s time as a community organizer. So Johnson should just shut up or be a man and admit that it was a reference to Obama’s admitted youthful drug use.

And if it’s community organizing, why is it unmentionable?

The pretty obvious aim of Johnson remark was to push an image of Obama as some sort of street hustler.

That said, I continue to think most of the statements from the Clinton’s themselves are being distorted or just made into things they weren’t. Like the ‘fairy tale’ line, for instance. I cannot see any interpretation of these comments that can credibly be said to have any racial subtext whatsoever.

Here’s the full quote from Bill Clinton …

First, it is factually not true that everybody that supported that resolution supported Bush attacking Iraq before the U.N. inspectors withdrew. Chuck Hagel was one of the co-authors of that resolution, the only Republican Senator that always opposed the war, every day, from the get-go.

He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn’t cooperate with the inspectors and he was assured personally by Condi Rice, as many of the other Senators were. So, first, the case is wrong that way.

Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years and never got asked one time, not once, “Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn’t know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you’re now running on off your Web site in 2004 and there’s no difference in your voting record and Hillary’s ever since.”

Give me a break.


This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.

Now, as it happens, I agree with Clinton on point one, at least to a degree. On point two, it’s narrowly accurate but willfully misleading since it ignores the context of the remark. But the ins and outs of Obama’s position on Iraq are a separate issue. To my reading the ‘fairy tale’ line is unambiguously a reference not to Obama but to the claim that Obama always opposed the war. And I do not see how that can be construed as a racially-charged remark or demeaning to Obama as a black man.

I know it sounds like I’ve just said two contradictory things, in least in the context of this controversy. But that’s how it looks to me.