The Clintons And Uncle Johnson

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

With Barack Obama surging and threatening to win the Democratic nomination for president, the Clinton political machine is now playing the race card and using “Blacks” like BET founder Robert L. Johnson to do their dirty work.

Since the Iowa upset, Camp Clinton has been grasping to regain footing in a race they assumed they had already won. Before Iowa, many pundits opined as if the Coronation of Clinton was nothing more than a forgone conclusion. Many are now awakening to the reality that Obama’s historic win signals that Americans are fed-up with do-nothing politicians, and are willing to vote radically to express that.

In the 2006 Congressional Elections, Americans voted out a Republican-held majority in favor of the Democrats. It was very clear then that the main issue driving American voters was the desire to exit the Iraq War. However, true to form, the Democrats have responded without the backbone these desperate times demand. Why do you think their approval rating is lower than this White House?

It’s within this context that we must look at Obama’s monumental upset in Iowa. Iowa may in fact represent an important political and racial crossroad in American history. For, given the entrenched racism still prevalent in America, isn’t it extraordinary that a Black man won in a state with such a large white majority? The Clintons no doubt weren’t expecting this--they had never envisioned such an occurrence upsetting the Senator’s path towards Coronation. They decided to punish Iowans, Obama and the rest of America. So the Clintons are trying to halt Obama’ momentum, by reverting to something that they have done in the past when their political aspirations were threatened: inject race.

Last week in South Carolina, the Clintons got Robert Johnson, the BET founder, to do their bidding. Johnson, before introducing Clinton at a town-hall style meeting, said this: “As an African-American, I am frankly insulted 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—when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in his book.”

What is Johnson so “insulted” about? Instead of engaging in smear tactics, why didn’t he just concretely articulate how the Clinton platform was better for Blacks than Obama’s? When are we going to hear Clinton speak about what she intends to do to alleviate the high levels of joblessness, homelessness and prison incarceration so prevalent in African American communities?

“Deeply and emotionally involved in Black issues,” Johnson claimed, referring to Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has been a senator for two terms in New York. What has she done for Black people here? In New York City, including Harlem where Bill Clinton has a 125th Street office, the unemployment rate is 50 percent. Can you remember either Clinton doing anything about this outrage? Would such abysmal unemployment rates be acceptable to the powers that be--including Clinton--if the victims lived elsewhere but Harlem?

Has Senator Clinton uttered anything substantive regarding police brutality? Do you remember any response from her about Sean Bell’s murder in a hail of 50-plus police bullets on the morning of the day he was to get married?

Think about this: what kind of credibility is Johnson supposed to have? This is the same man who decided that positive programming on BET was useless and unappealing to Blacks, so, his station became a twenty-four-hour minstrel show filled with denigrating images of Black people.

At one point, Johnson seemed to be a pioneer on the path of advancing the interests of Blacks, with the perfect vehicle: a media corporation. Evidently, Johnson held no such ideal. He sold-out BET to Viacom. Marcus Garvey --who was also a pioneer in his era, producing a newspaper that found its way all the way to Kenya and other African countries where it instilled pride and nationalism drive for independence from Britain--must be turning over in his grave.

Johnson’s attack on Obama is a devious racist strategy by the Clintons using a “Black” man to sully Obama so as to insulate themselves against accusations of race-play. “Uncle,” Johnson delivered. By alluding to Obama’s drug use, Johnson attempted to “ghettoize” Obama. Forget about his Harvard and Columbia credentials and even the Senate---peel off the layers carefully and you’ll find homeboy shuffling and pushing drugs.

This isn’t the first time the Clintons have used race for political expedience. Remember when Bill Clinton flew to Arkansas, on January 24, 1992, during his first presidential campaign run to watch the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally retarded Black man? Wasn’t that a signal to whites, especially, those of a conservative stripe that he wouldn’t allow any Willie Horton-types to escape white “justice?” Yes, Rector did kill two people. However, besides the immorality of killing a retarded human, it’s clear Clinton’s intent was to make Rector’s execution a political media event to send a racial “law and order” message to whites. Rector was killed by lethal injection.

Then there was the “Sister Souljah moment.” In June, of 1992, Reverend Jesse Jackson invited Bill Clinton to speak before his Rainbow Coalition. Instead of speaking about issues affecting the Black community, Clinton attacked Sister Souljah for a speech she made regarding racism and the 1991 L.A Riots.

It’s interesting how history repeats itself. The Clinton political machine is again playing the race card, using “Blacks” like Johnson—and Charlie Rangel—to give color and cover to their racism. Before Blacks vote for them they should remember Hillary’s record in New York and the Clintonesque penchant for using race to further their political ambitions. They are a dangerous pair.


Johnson wondered whether we are "so stupid." The answer to this question will be determined in the way we vote.

Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News’s Editorial Board

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