Monday, January 14, 2008

Obama Needs a History Lesson about Hillary and King

Obama Needs a History Lesson about Hillary and King
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The Obama camp did it again. They manufactured yet another issue out of a non issue when they pounded Hillary Clinton for supposedly defiling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by minimizing his role in the civil rights struggle. Here’s Hillary’s terrible sin per the Obama campaign crowd. She said that Dr. King’s dream was realized when President Lyndon Johnson shoved the 1964 Civil Rights Bill through Congress. This was anything but a put down of King.

Hillary paid tribute to King for laying the groundwork for the civil rights bill and gave justifiable credit to Johnson for ramming the bill through a bickering, divided and very recalcitrant Congress. Her point was that presidents that have their public policy priorities screwed on right can make changes, monumental changes, for good.

If Hillary could be faulted for anything it’s that she didn’t go far enough. If Johnson hadn’t forcefully intervened and jawboned, prodded, arm twisted, and embarrassed the slew of wavering and hostile Congressmen to the bill into supporting the bill, or at least tempering their opposition to it, King’s dream would have remained just that, an empty dream. King recognized that. In a Playboy interview in 1965, he said this about Johnson: “He has demonstrated his wisdom and commitment in coming to grips with the problem (racial discrimination). My impression is that he will remain a strong president for civil rights.” History amply proved that, and Johnson despite his Vietnam War tumble from historical grace, still is regarded as the president that did more for civil rights than any other president.

But I’d go even further still. King gets much deserved praise and is much honored for igniting the national fervor for civil rights and galvanizing thousands to put their bodies on the line in the civil rights battles. Yet, there’s an ugly side and often forgotten note to that. The street marches and demonstrations also stirred the first tremors of white backlash. The George Wallace surge in the North, the open hostility of many Northern whites to housing and school integration, and the Republican reawakening in the South was a direct outcropping of the civil rights push. This stiffened the spines of Southern Democrats and conservative Northern Republicans who dug their heels in and flatly opposed the bill, piled amendment after crippling amendment onto the bill initially, and employed every legal and parliamentary dodge and stall tactic they could dredge up to delay a vote on it, if not to kill it outright.

King could do nothing about this. JFK who introduced the bill couldn’t do anything about it either. He was at his wits end after months and months of Congressional ducking and dodging on the bill about how to get it moving. By the time Johnson took office, following JFK’s murder, the bill was still born in Congress. There was every chance that it could be shelved. However, Johnson would have none of that. He was a Southerner and he knew the mood and temper of the South. From his decades in the Senate he knew where the political skeletons were buried and how to rattle them. He did what King and Kennedy didn’t have a prayer of doing, he got the sympathetic ear of enough Southerners to take some of the steam out of their vehement opposition to the bill.

The rest of course is history. The Civil Rights Bill, not King’s marches and demonstrations, broke the back of legal segregation in America and became the watchword for progressive, visionary social legislation for decades to come.
King and all the top civil rights leaders knew that history had been made with the passage of the bill, and that the man that played the towering role in making that history was LBJ A t the signing ceremony for the bill, King and the other civil rights leaders beamed when Johnson handed them the pens after the signing. They effusively praised him for his tireless effort.

Hillary’s statement was a simple, honest, and respectful nod to Johnson for his indispensable part in making civil rights a legal fact and reality in America. This was the same nod that King and the civil rights leaders made more than four decades ago to him.

This is a nod that the Hillary haters have forgotten or deliberately distorted in their clinical obsession to smash mouth every Hillary utterance. This is a history lesson that Hillary got right about King and Johnson, and one that the Obama campaign flunked badly.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February, 2008).


EADGBE said...

Obama didn't comment at all on Hillary's comments about MLK and LBJ.

Hillary and Bill are the racists. They're the folks who brought up race.

eadgbe said...

Find me a quote from Obama being critical of Hillary of her comments before his announcement in Las Vegas yesterday.

EADGBE said...

Read this news report. Meanwhile the BET founder has accused of Obama of being a drug dealer. Hmm. Nice. What the heck is that about? A Hillary surrogate stereotyping Obama as a hood? I don't think Hillary has denounced the statement.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was a put down and it did not insult Dr. King in any way. It is too bad that people take one small thing and run with it. What she is trying to say is that ONE person can make a change. King started the change and Johnson had the courage to back him up...pretty simple to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree what Robert Johnson said did not make any sense either...voters need to be given more credit by both sides.

eadgbe said...

This is typical of the Clinton Crime Syndicate: Politics of personal destruction, i.e. accuse your opponent of that which you do yourself.

Anonymous said...

Earl, I think Obama is very educated and astute regarding MLK history, and the broader African American history . Let’s be realistic, Bill & Hillary Clinton are calculating every word spoken, both knowing what impacts those words have negatively.

Why didn’t Hillary mention MLK in New Hampshire? Additionally, Bill Clinton started this ordeal with the “rolling of the dice comments” the Clinton machine has been on a negative, devious, crafty, and demeaning charge since. Is this Hillary’s campaign or Bill’s?

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... can't forget the "spadework" comment by Hillary on the Today Show with Matt Lauer: "When they say to themselves, "Okay. I have a choice between a truly inspirational speaker who has not done the kind of spadework with the sort of, uh, experience that, uhhh, another candidate has --"


rikyrah said...

Dr. Hutchinson,

You have been nothing but a Clinton Shill from DAY ONE. You have written nothing but Anti-Obama hit pieces.

There is a Clinton Attacks Obama Wiki - At it, there is an INCIDENTS Page . It's up to NINETEEN NOW.

Why don't you take a look.

I've lost all respect I had for you because of your disingenuousness regarding Barack Obama. If you had just admitted that you were shilling for Clinton, I could respect you. But, you pretend like you're not, and have written nothing but hit pieces on Obama.

Anonymous said...

You attack Obama like
like Hitler attacked the
You have a problem.
You hate blacks
and being black.

onthebrink said...

Whether or not you have an anti-Obama agenda is not the question here for me. It's your stating, as if it were "fact" in your opening, that all this sprang from the Obama camp, without backing it up with any evidence.

You're a journalist. Prove your statement. Show me/us what led you to that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

You suffering from dementia,
and your narrow minded inaccurateness
proves it with your cesspool of excreted foul garbage articles.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Hillary's comment on Johnson was racist. But her claim that Obama and she are no different on Iraq is quite untrue. He has opposed the war consistently -- she -- well you know.
Her current positions on most domestic issues look as good as Obama's or better -- but because she is less than candid about her record, for example, I and many others do not trust her. I do trust Obama. I trust him to develop ethical policies at home and abroad.

Anonymous said...

The actual statement has to be combined with all the other statements she has directed to wards Obama. Before I get to this I will say I don' think it was racist, but it is very dismissive of the true impact of the people, all people. Politicians, in a representative democracy do what the people want them to do, and a president really deserves no praise when all he is doing is his job. Hillary comment was a jab at MLk, because if you lok at the history of her comments towards Obama, you would see she has accused him of being a dreamer, a great talker, a great personality, a fairytale, according to her husband, so she was basically saying, in my opinion, that talk and mobilizing don't get you anywhere, it's the politicians. If that is not dismissive to the average citizen I don't know what is. Anyone who would vote for a politician with that kind of attitude deserves to be dependent for life. She was calling MLk a inspirer, just like Obama, but was basically saying he didn't do anything. She knew what she was saying. There is no other reason to even use MLk, when she could have said Johnson signed the civil right legislation and left it at that. Now I'm not a supporter of Obama, Hillary, or any dem, but I know a jab when I hear one. It was not racist, but it was dimissive and shows her true thoughts about the average citizen who puts her in office. I wonder will she publically say, "the U.S troops fought the world war II, but it took the President to sign the legislation to send them there. She would never say it, because there is no reason to state the obvious, unless you have a secret agenda. Anyone that can't understand this is blinded. Now, when the republican say something, I expect Mr. Hutchinson to say, "don't inject race into the equation." I hope this ends the you're a selllout crap, if you vote republican, cause I wil use this against all Black dems who try to play that card. LOL!

Anonymous said...

You support the illegal invasion, you support Hillary over Obama, when they have the same damn agenda and are of the same party, why?


MustangSallie said...

I like Hillary and Obama. I don't know all of Obama's track record with blacks, but I do know the Clintons -- it ain't bad. I'm happy the both called an end to their "bitter squabbling." They are NOT the enemy.


patforobama said...

You're so sad defending good old boy politics against a candidate of color. You're so very very sad.
Oh, and you're dead wrong too. Hillary is just another slimey political machine.

Anonymous said...


eadgbe said...

Here's a link to a Wall St Journal column which highlights the current effort of the Clintons to disenfranchise Las Vegas strip workers from the Nevada caucuses. And I thought the Clintons wanted minorities to vote.

Sarah Mo said...

I am by no means a Hilary Clinton fan. If it came down to Hilary and Obama, my vote would go to Obama. However, I do agree, for the most part, with Dr. Hutchinson's assessment of this situation. I do not believe that Hilary's intent was to diminish MLK's role in the Civil Rights Movement. Rather, I think she was trying to point out the momentous change that can occur when grassroots activism ("the people) partner themselves with the administration and Washington law makers.

My one critique of Dr. Hutchinson's blog would be that he cites Obama & Co. for "flunking" the history course... I think that Obama tried his best not to make a mountain out of a molehill here.. I think the media is to blame for their attempt to incite a "race riot"

Check out Jon Stewart's comments on this by watching the Wed. January 16, 2008 episode of the Daily Show. You can view Stewart's comments on "The Race Card" by clicking here:

(Didn't have time to proofread, so forgive any typos!)

Anonymous said...

A Race Riot is what Mr. Hutchinson started with his accessment of the situation.

Wattree said...

What Hillary was clearly trying to do was play down Obama's eloquence and charisma (MLK), and promote the value of experience in office (LBJ). She was saying, sure Obama is eloquent and has charisma (MLK), but I have the experience. And when Obama brought up Reagan, he was saying, Yeah, but charisma (Reagan--even when it's misguided--goes a long way in pushing an agenda. And he was correct. History will show that our most successful presidents--Lincoln, FDR, JFK, and yes, Ronald Reagan, and Clinton--were those with the capacity to inspire the American people. He wasn't saying that Ronald Reagan was a good president, but his charisma allowed him to control the political debate.

Taking these two arguments into consideration, and granting that they are both valid, I'd say that Obama would make the better president. The reason for that is, Obama has eloquence, charisma, and good judgment. After all, while Hillary was being trounced by the Republicans when she tried to promote her healthcare plan when Bill was in the White House, when Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he was able to enlist Republicans to help him get his healthcare plan passed.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dr. Hutchinson.

Well argued.

Eminently sound.

Anonymous said...


Wattree said...

Dr. Hutchinson,

I've already commented on this issue, but thought I'd come back and comment on some of the comments I've seen here.

I'm an unabashed Obama supporter that reads your blog religiously. While I don't always agree with your point of view on every issue, I've always know you to be a thought provoking commentator on our times.

While I appreaciate the strong support that our brothers and sisters are showing here for Senator Obama, I'm find myself quite concerned over some of the intolerant comments I see posted on this issue.

Our people have got to understand that if we want the Black community to remain a viable force on the world stage, we've got to be open to all points of view. None of us corner the market on truth, so if we close our minds to opposing views, we run the risk of locking out new sources of knowledge.

If we truly want to remain strong, we require the product of every Black mind, since truth is much quite often less a blanket, than it is a quilt.

I learned long ago, that being right, doesn't require making my brother worng. Sometimes we're both right--we simply have to maintain the civility to carefully examine our points of view.

I look forward to reading your next article, good brother.


Anonymous said...

Another brainwashed idiot!

Wattree said...

Another brainwashed idiot? Naw brother, I'm just a man with sense enough to know that everybody who disagrees with me ain't a fool--and the fact that you don't seem to know that speaks volumes about you're level of intelligence. But perhaps you know that--that's why you're signed in as anonymous:


Hillary managed to pull her carcass out of the fire in the New Hampshire Primary. But her 39 to 36percent victory over Senator Obama seems rather shallow when you consider that she was seen as the presumptive Commander-in-Chief in waiting just prior to the Iowa caucuses. In just a few short weeks Hillary has gone from the anointed one to a woman who was, literally, brought to tears over concern for her political career—and those very tears points out an issue that begs to be examined.

If Hillary's tears were genuine (and that's a big IF), we need to ask ourselves whether or not she has the emotional strength to handle the job of President of the United States. If she breaks down into tears under the stress of simply running for the job, what can we expect from her under the awesome responsibility of actually doing the job? Some may say that's a cheap shot that's only being leveled at her because she's a woman, but actually, it's a sword that cuts both ways. If Barack Obama would have broken down under similar circumstances, his candidacy would have been over. So when we're discussing the most powerful job in the world, we can't think in terms of whether the candidate is a man or a woman, we must look at their character, strength, and stability alone—and that's exactly what my question seeks to address.

The fact is, we know very little about Hillary Clinton, other than she's married to Bill. She projects the image of a strong and independent woman, but how independent is she? Truly independent women are indeed something to behold, because they rely solely on their own resources under tremendous odds. No old boys club for them–it's just one women against the world. But Hillary seems to fall short in that regard–she tends to have no problem at all with embracing her husband's accomplishments as her own. With all of her talk about experience, for example—it's not her experience, it's her husband's. The only experience she has is that she slept next to power for eight years. If you take that experience away, Obama is more experienced, hands down. Hillary's claim of vast experience is completely analogous to if Mamie Eisenhower suggested that she was qualified to take over as commander of the allied command simply because she was married to General Eisenhower.

Of course, I'm being facetious--but only slightly. Because the point is, just as Mamie Eisenhower would be basing her claim on her marital status, Hillary Clinton actually seems to consider the office of the president community property. One can see it in her irrational anger towards Senator Obama. She seems to look upon the senator as a young interloper seeking to take away something that is rightfully hers. That's why she can't resist attacking him every chance she gets. Even when she became "tearful", she just couldn't resist implying that Barack didn't know what he was doing: "Some of us know what we will do day one, and other's haven't thought it through." How does she know what Obama has "thought through", and what makes her such an expert on the presidency—other than she slept with one?"

While Hillary tearfully claimed that her primary reason for wanting to become president was so she could bring change, and move the country in a different direction, her combative, calculating , and mean-spirited behavior clearly belies such altruistic motives. Everything she's done since she made that statement embraces the old-style approach to politics. Rather than emphasizing what she has to offer that would make her the best choice for president, she's chosen to use the old, Rovian, attack-dog style of campaigning in an attempt to undermine Obama's appeal–and history shows that appeal is a president's most valuable asset.

She campaigned in South Carolina with Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, in order to appeal to the Black voters, for example. Then Johnson immediately went on stage to attack

Senator Obama, and serve Hillary's purpose well–or did he? Hillary showed very poor judgement in using Johnson, and judgement is another important presidential quality. One would think that if Hillary truly had the best interest of the Black community at heart, she wouldn't have even wanted to appear on the same stage with Johnson. While, granted, Johnson is a highly successful Black entrepreneur, he's also responsible for spreading more pernicious dysfunction and cultural degradation among more Black youth than any Black man who's ever lived. This man's thoughtless greed has contributed directly to the destruction of life, and the functional viability of, literally, millions of Black kids. If Hillary didn't know that, she's out of touch with the Black experience; if she did, she simply didn't care.

It was the height of irony that she would send Johnson on stage to criticize Senator Obama. The senator has spent his entire adult life trying to create a better life for the people in the Black community. On the other hand, what has Johnson done? After building the perfect tool to educate Black youth and introduce them to a better way of life, what did he do with it? He made a fortune by spreading a culture of gangster rap–with its glorification of murder, disrespect for women, saggin' pants, and the perpetuation of a dysfunctional vocabulary that all but ensures that countless young Black people will never be able to get through a job interview. Then Hillary brings this man up to criticize Obama?! If you call that love for the Black community, that's a love I can do without.

On the other hand, let us look at Obama's background. After high school Obama moved to Los Angeles and attended Occidental College for two years. Thereafter he transferred to Columbia University in New York. He majored in political science and specialized in international relations, receiving his B.A. in 1983. Thereafter he worked for Business International Corporation, and later, the New York Public Interest Research Group. After moving to Chicago he became a community organizer–he worked with low-income residents in Chicago's Roseland community and the Altgeld Gardens public housing project. He went on to Harvard in 1988, and in 1990 became the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review in 104 years. After obtaing his law degree, magna cum laude, in 1991, he returned to Chicago to direct a voter registration drive. He then became an associate attorney in the law firm of Miner, Barnhil l & Galland, representing community organizers, doing discrimination and voter rights claims. He then went on to become a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

In 1996 Barack was elected to the Illinois State Senate where he represented the 13th District on the south-side of Chicago. While a state senator he worked with both Democrats and Republicans to draft successful legislation on ethics, health care reform, tax credits for low-income workers, welfare reform, subsidies for child care, a law monitoring racial profiling, and led the passage of legislation requiring the videotaping of homicide interrogations. Yet, he still managed to win the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police. 1

But while I'd be less than honest to contend that Hillary hasn't demonstrated some compassion for the plight of the average American, her tendency to discount Obama's experience, competence, and qualifications to be president is grossly disingenuous, and the Johnson affair clearly demonstrates that her judgement under fire is highly suspect. What is also clear is that Obama's preparation for the highest office far exceeds her own. After all, while she, and her healthcare plan, was being soundly trounced by her Republican opponents, Republicans were working with Barack in Illinois to get his passed. And while she was giving tea parties in the White House to help the poor, Barack was in the trenches, and public housing projects, directly involved in the struggle. So while both senators have challenged the opposition to "bring it on", Barack was on the ground, while Hillary, was on the phone.

Eric L. Wattree

Anonymous said...

Well said!
You have been

Anonymous said...

For the most part
young uneducated black men
don't want to work for a living
they choose to take the easy way out, stealing,selling drugs anything but hard work.
I am a small business owner
my father is black and my mother is hispanic and I am always trying to build bridges between people.
I for the longest time tried hiring 1/3 black 1/3 white and the other 1/3, hispanics.
The african americans would go the lunch and never return to work.
Yet I was left with answering calls from child support departments and probations officers for weeks afterwards, for hiring them in the first place.

Wattree said...


You said,

"For the most part
young uneducated black men
don't want to work for a living
they choose to take the easy way out, stealing,selling drugs anything but hard work."

The evidence you put forth to support your claim is both weak and anecdotal at best. After all, how many young Blacks have you attempted to hire--3, 10, or even a 100? Whatever the number, I'm sure that it is insufficient to support your wildly exaggerated claim when you consider the millions of poor, uneducated Blacks in the workforce.

Have you ever stopped to consider that your experience may result from your own poor judgement regarding which poor, uneducated Blacks you should hire?

Literally millions of formerly poor, uneducated Blacks have gone on to become not only educated, but highly productive members of society, I take great pride in counting myself among them. I've become so educated, in fact, that I was able to recognize the flaw in your logic upon first glance.

Wait, you don't even have to say it--I'll say it for you: "The only worse than a poor, uneducated Black is one with an education--they tend to become too damn uppity."

That's true--I even threw out my tap dancing shoes.