Based on his recent comments from the campaign trail while stumping for his wife, former President Bill Clinton is either having a "senior moment" or he's as duplicitous and disingenuous as arch-conservatives have long claimed.
President Clinton went on another ill-advised rant recently to slam Barack Obama's remarks at a fund-raiser that some working class people in Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania are bitter because they've gotten the short end of the stick as the U.S. economy has undergone radical changes during the past 25 years.
The attacks by President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have been two-pronged: The pair has tried to say working class people aren’t bitter and also that they don’t cling to guns and religion as a means to explain their frustrations.
To shamelessly capitalize on the remarks, the Clinton campaign has taken to passing out bumper stickers in Pennsylvania that read, “We’re not bitter.”
Here’s what Obama actually said: “But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.
“And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Obama’s comments were poorly timed and could’ve been articulated better, to be sure. But their basic premise is true. Some working class people are bitter, and some — not all — do use other hot button, cultural issues to vent their ire. It may be a sad situation and even a harsh assessment, but it contains a kernel of truth.
Bill Clinton knows this, because it’s similar to comments he made 16 years ago.
As The Huffington Post first noted, Bill Clinton used an example about affirmative action during a speech in his first run for the White House in 1992 that many people would find condescending to low-income white men.
Here’s what Bill said: “You know, he (President George H.W. Bush) wants to divide us over race. I’m from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they’re gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they’ve been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade.
“When their economic policies fail, when the country’s coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them. They know if they can keep us looking at each other across a racial divide, if I can look at Bobby Rush and think, ‘Bobby wants my job, my promotion,’ then neither of us can look at George Bush and say, ‘What happened to everybody’s job? What happened to everybody’s income? What have you done to our country?’”
Both men essentially were making the same basic point: People can act irrationally out of fear and insecurity.
Bill Clinton won election in 1992 largely because many voters were worried about the sluggish economy and, after 12 years of Republicans occupying the White House, most were ready for a change. Because of that weariness and Bill’s own undeniable personal charisma, many voters were willing to overlook some dubious events and campaign tactics on the Arkansas governor’s part.
As the Institute for Southern Studies reminds us, one of the ways presidential candidate Bill Clinton chose to show he was tough on crime was to fly to Little Rock mid-campaign and personally preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally retarded African-American man.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled executing mentally retarded persons constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” a stance held for years by most other western democracies.
Between Bill in the ‘90s and Hillary now, it seems the Clinton family is quite adept at putting their principles on the shelf long enough to win elective office.
— Kevin Osborne