Clinton's Politics Of Slime

-A +A

[Speaking Truth To Power]

As the January 26, South Carolina and February 5, “Super Tuesday” primaries approach, things have gotten nasty between presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with the two trading verbal fisticuffs about each others records during the South Carolina debate.

Politics is a dirty business; where perception, innuendo and slime often converge. In politics, honesty and integrity take a back seat.

And, given “mainstream” media’s failures in clarifying important issues the intricacies of politics is made foggier to regular Americans. During the South Carolina debate, the Clinton political machine ratcheted up its attacks on Obama searching for some vulnerability in his armor. Obama has run a clean campaign, galvanizing the hopes of many with his positive can do message of “change.”

After Obama’s historic upset victory in Iowa, Bill Clinton complained that the media was handling Obama with kid gloves. This comment was the signal that the Clintons were about to engage in political character assassination. 

However, when Hillary attacked Obama on aspects of his political record in the early moments of the debate he allowed the Clintons to muddy and pull him into the kind of smear politics that he must avoid.

Obama has exuded dignified eloquence throughout this campaign, while preaching his politics of positivity. This is his appeal to many Americans, especially, independent voters and those who make up the vast pool of the disaffected—some fifty percent of eligible voters—who often see no reason to turn out and vote. 

The South Carolina debate was infected with typical Washington bickering and negative politics. It started with Hillary Clinton’s insinuation that Obama was pro-Ronald Reagan, because he stated that “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way Bill Clinton did not.”

Obama responded that he wasn’t praising Reagan’s policies, but the manner in which he galvanized Republicans and Democrats, some of whom “voted against their interests.” Visibly angry, Obama at one point declared “while I was working on those streets, watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart.” 

This gave Hillary the green light to claim that she was fighting against Republican policies “when you were practicing law and representing your contributor [Tony] Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.” 

Somebody should ask her to clarify where and when she did this fighting. Rezko is facing fraud charges, and Obama’s staff has given back campaign contributions received from Rezko. Obama made it clear that Rezko was a client of his law firm, and that he worked a total of five hours for Rezko.

And, as is always the case in politics, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. A photograph has now emerged and was first published on the Drudge Report, showing senator and Bill Clinton posing together with Rezko, the “slum landlord.”

At the debate, Obama obviously felt that his record was being misrepresented, and that he needed to defend himself. But, if he is to continue inspiring voters—especially white ones—he must do so in a manner which will retain his positive allure. During the last debate he lost a little of his luster and his oratory wasn’t as crisp. 

Unfortunately, because of his understandable anger he made a tactical mistake bringing up Hillary’s employment with the sleazy corporation Wal-Mart. Hillary’s rapid-fire response about Obama’s firm’s dealing with alleged “slumlord” Rezko hints that she was waiting for an opportunity to use it.

Bill Clinton’s fingerprints are all over this. Later, Obama was forced to concede they all had political dealings with people having less than pristine records.

Here’s how senator Clinton now explains here own ties to Rezko.

“I probably have taken hundreds of thousands of pictures,” she said, when asked by NBC News today. “I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the door. I don’t have a 17-year-relationship with him,” she added, referring to Obama’s alleged dealings with Rezko.

On serious issues that the country wants to hear more about, moving forward, Obama should focus pinpoint attacks on disastrous Clinton policies like NAFTA, their impact on American workers and on Latin Americans and immigration.

Senator Clinton boasts of how people were better off under her husband’s Administration. Obama should point out how Clinton cut welfare benefits for Black single mothers. African Americans need to know of Clinton’s betrayal of the people of the Caribbean when he pursued a deal that crippled the banana trade in the region, by strangling access to European markets.

Clinton did this at the request of Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands, the largest distributor of bananas in America. Chiquita is the successor of the wretched United Fruit Company, which had an awful history of repressively exploiting workers in developing counties, in particular those in Latin America.

Moreover, senator Clinton’s absurd agreement to the building of a Berlin-type-Wall on the Mexican border should be exposed for what it is: pandering to right-wing elements to pave her path back to the White House.

Since none of the 9-11 hijackers came across the Mexican border—unlike reports that some came across the Canadian border—why is she supporting such legislation? Right-wing pandering is the very reason she voted for the Iraq War, and it is also the reason she introduced a bill to make flag burning illegal.

What does it say when conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asserts that flag burning is protected speech? This kind of shameless political pandering by senator Clinton is exactly what Bill Clinton did when he exploited the execution of a Black man, Ricky Ray Rector into a media spectacle and attacked Sister Souljah at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition during his first presidential run.

As the first African American with a seemingly legitimate shot of winning the White House, Obama has to play the political game more skillfully than the average white presidential candidate. There is no question that he has done an admirable job of it.

By his actions he has emphasized that he is trying to unite all segments of America. In this regard, he has been very calculating in his temperance when dealing with topics regarding race.

Given white America’s refusal to deal honestly with the racial question, this is strategically sensible. For, if he appears as just another angry Black candidate his appeal to whites will suffer, without whom he has no chance of winning.  

Obama should be aware of the Clintons penchant for playing dirty. For, as the race continues they will sling more slime. Occasionally, some of the slime will bounce back on the Clintons, as with the Rezko-Clinton photo.


Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News' Editorial Board.

To comment or to subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, or to send us a news tip, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to

Also visit out sister publications Harlem Business News and The Groove music magazine at

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

Also Check Out...

EFF: Zimbabwe Government Paying
Bill Prohibiting Collection of “
Rep. Beatty Leads Effort to
August is National Black Business
CARICOM on Abolition Anniversary,
President Barack Obama Endorses