Jackson was embarrassed and outraged. Visibly shaken, he told me, “I do not know why he used this platform to address those issues. It was unnecessary. It was a diversion. … Perhaps he was aiming for an audience that was not here.”
Indeed, he was. Suddenly, I understood it perfectly. That’s why the team from Little Rock was at the ready. They were there to spin the story for the fat Sunday papers and well-watched talking-head shows.
Knowing that the second day story would be reaction from black leaders to the candidate’s comments, I (joined by Gwen Ifill, then of the New York Times) rushed to grab a quote or two from black congressional leaders. I wanted to know if they were as offended by Clinton’s comments as Jackson was.
Comparing notes, Ifill and I realized that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., had made almost identical comments to us. Clinton had given them his talking points in advance, covering himself beautifully.
You don’t have to strain to see the parallels.
Faced with the prospect of losing, the Clintons tried to marginalize Obama by making him nothing more than the black people’s candidate.
After the results were announced in South Carolina, Bill Clinton added the kicker: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88,” Clinton said in a speech on his wife’s behalf. “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here. … Now we go to February 5 when millions of Americans finally get in the act.”
See why I’m so disgusted? I know which Americans Clinton is talking about.
Sam Fulwood III is a regular contributor to The Root.