"Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card -- and Lose," my new book, comes out Feb. 5, Super Tuesday. Unfortunately for former President Bill Clinton and his wife, no one sent an advance copy.
"Jesse Jackson," said Bill Clinton, "won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign, and Sen. Obama's run a good campaign here." Clinton gave this response in South Carolina to a reporter's question about why it took two Clintons to beat Barack Obama. Clinton's response had nothing whatsoever to do with the question.
So why did Clinton say it?
Obama, unlike Jackson, actually got elected to something -- in his case, the United States Senate, from the state of Illinois. Obama, unlike Jackson, won the Democratic caucus in the mostly white Iowa, and finished a strong second in the mostly white state of New Hampshire. Obama is nobody's Jesse Jackson, and Bill Clinton knows it.
By invoking Jesse Jackson's name, Clinton attempted to portray Obama as the "black candidate." Clinton knows that the race-driven Jackson polarizes people. By branding Obama as Jackson-esque, Clinton hoped to peel away Obama's support from white voters and thus -- pardon the expression -- ghettoize Obama's candidacy.
Sen. Hillary Clinton even agreed that her husband crossed the line, and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a long-serving member of Congress, publicly called on Bill to "chill." Comically, even the Rev. Al Sharpton complained about Bill Clinton's behavior -- although Sharpton did not complain about any specific statement. What could Sharpton say? After all, Clinton attempted to alienate whites by invoking the race-hustling Jackson, and by extension Sharpton, too.
Before the primary, an MSNBC poll showed Obama getting only 10 percent of South Carolina's white vote. But Obama captured 24 percent, with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards getting 36 percent and 39 percent of the white vote, respectively. Edwards got more of the "white vote" than did Clinton!
Black voters account for 55 percent of South Carolina's Democratic vote, and Obama carried 80 percent of that vote. Is that racist?
Many Catholics voted for Jack Kennedy in the 1960s. Many Greek-Americans in 1988 supported Gov. Michael Dukakis' candidacy. And, yes, many blacks support Obama because he represents the first serious presidential candidacy of a black man. But remember, Obama is also a liberal. He condemns the Bush tax cuts, opposes the war in Iraq, wants a federal government takeover of health care, criticizes the alleged unequal criminal justice system -- in short, the kind of anti-Republican class warrior that black voters monolithically support. Blacks voted for Obama, rather than against Clinton and Edwards.