Topic: White Water


Oct 12, 1998 David Horowitz

For fair use only

Clinton's amen chorus

African-American support for the president is being cynically manipulated by liberals who play to blacks' sense of victimization.

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A revealing aspect of the current White House crisis is the racial gap in public opinion polls, which is almost as wide as after the O.J. Simpson verdict. When the world discovered in January that the president was having sex with a young intern, a New York Times poll found that 81 percent of blacks (compared to 58 percent of whites) nonetheless approved of the way the president was conducting his job. When asked whether the president shared the moral values of most Americans, fully 77 percent of blacks (twice as many as whites) said yes.

Nine months later, after the discovery of the stained dress and the release of the Starr Report, 63 percent of blacks still thought the president -- now a proven liar and philanderer -- shared the nation's morality. This was nearly three times the number of whites (22 percent) who did.

This striking disparity, reflecting a unique community support of the president (even feminists are more ambivalent), has prompted several attempts to explain it. According to a widely quoted comment by comedian Chris Rock, Clinton's African-American support is inspired by the fact that he is "the first black president." Explains Rock: "It's very simple. Black people are used to being persecuted. Hence, they relate to Clinton."

The comedian is not alone in these ruminations. In an article exploring African-American reactions, New York Times reporter Kevin Sack quotes NAACP head Julian Bond saying, "You just can't help but think that some of this [investigation of Clinton] is race-based," while Harvard Professor Alvin Poussaint reports that rumors have been circulating in the African-American community to the effect that Clinton "must have had black ancestry."

A full-blown expression of these attitudes is on display in the current New Yorker, where Nobel laureate Toni Morrison writes of the crisis: "African-American men seemed to understand it right away. Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."

Perhaps one has to be, as I am, a lapsed man of the left to react to the loopy anti-white attitudes laced into these cadences from our most celebrated and rewarded national literary figure. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetimes? Apparently, Colin Powell, the most popular presidential hopeful in polls taken only two years ago, isn't all that black, having been born into a two-parent household and, though poor in origins and familiar with discrimination, not known for his unhealthy food addictions or stereotypical musical tastes.

On the other hand, perhaps the liberal identification of blackness with victimization and social dysfunction isn't so wide of the mark in explaining the sympathy of political leftists like Morrison and Bond, or the support of the congressional black caucus for the immoralist from Little Rock. Perhaps it reflects a resonance in the black community to the White House's cynical strategy of defining presidential deviancy down: "They all do it." Roosevelt, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Bush -- they all lie and cheat. So why shouldn't our guy? This certainly seems to be the corrosive logic behind which some blacks have rallied behind other criminal politicians, like corrupt and crack-addicted Washington Mayor Marion Barry. It could easily account for the undertones of racial paranoia ("they're out to get our guys") that surfaced when African-American members of the Clinton administration -- Ron Brown, Mike Espy, Hazel O'Leary -- all came under investigation for irregularities in office.

Which is precisely the way Toni Morrison frames Clinton's problem: "When virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President's body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and body-searched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke?" According to Morrison, the message from white America is clear, "No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place." Or, as the late Malcolm X, in his racist phase, once put it (I paraphrase): No matter how high you rise, you're always a nigger to them.

Putting aside the racial paranoia of such attitudes coming from a black Nobel prize-winner in the era of Oprah, one might still ask why Clinton should be "our guy" from an African-American perspective. Isn't this the President Clinton who established his New Democrat credentials by delivering a verbal slap to Sistuh Souljah on the eve of his election, and banishing Jesse Jackson from the circle of power? Isn't this the Clinton who betrayed old friend and political soul mate Lani Guinier, after nominating her to be his civil rights chief, and then left her to the mercies of her political enemies, pretending ignorance of who she was and what she believed? Isn't this the Clinton whose vaunted "dialogue on race" -- the centerpiece of his strategy for redressing minority grievances -- ended up drowned in his own sex scandal while the final report of his Race Commission called merely for more dialogue? Reviewing the report, liberal columnist Frank Rich summed up the administration's record on race as follows: "high ideals, beautiful show, one-night stand."

Indeed, isn't this the Clinton who brought Jackson back into the fold and wrapped himself in the protective cloak of the black community and its historic symbols only when he himself was in terminal trouble, and only after he had lost whatever power he once may have had to seriously advance its agendas? Surely there have been few more repellent demonstrations of Clinton's user ethic than his traipsing off to Africa, with Jackson and Maxine Waters in tow, in the heat of the Lewinsky scandal after he had been trapped in his lies and become an international laughingstock, to apologize for slavery. Then there was his performance in Martha's Vineyard debasing the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington to make yet another unconvincing confession of regret that he had "sinned." These are the kinds of gestures that give tokenism a bad name.

Still, the most prominent voices of black leadership have joined willingly in these charades. There was John Lewis, at the Martin Luther King Jr. anniversary, solemnly and tearfully forgiving Clinton and urging the rest of the country to forgive him as well. It was terrible, apparently, for the rest of us to be so judgmental of another human being. This was the same John Lewis who not so long ago was denouncing Newt Gingrich and the congressional Republicans as "Nazis" merely for attempting to reform a bankrupt and destructive welfare system.

This is what the melodramas of conspiracy and witch-hunt are really about. Not racial persecution, but political loyalties. The previously cited Times report also noted that "many of those interviewed said they not only subscribed to Hillary Rodham Clinton's statement that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" had targeted her husband, but also that they believed the conspirators were motivated by a desire to reverse the gains made by blacks during the Clinton administration. One paranoia is linked to another. Liberals and leftists from Waters to Morrison to Hillary Clinton have convinced the African-American community that Republicans are racists and want to reverse the gains of the civil rights era. This is the really Big Lie that keeps blacks in Clinton's corner and safely secure on the liberal plantation.

If liberals want instances of political persecution, they need go no further than their own character assassination of Clarence Thomas in an episode of sexual McCarthyism (to use Alan Dershowitz's inapt but effectively inflammatory phrase) whose charges pale in comparison to those leveled against Clinton. Where are the liberal apologies for this atrocity?

Or consider a more unpalatable thought: the political persecution of Gingrich, which cannot be far from the speaker's own reflections as he contemplates hearings that will determine the president's fate. Liberal leaders of the House, hoping to reverse the results of the Republican victory in the '94 election, leveled 370 phony ethics charges against Gingrich before they got one ludicrous claim to stick (and I'm willing to bet there is not one in a hundred Gingrich-loathing liberals who read this text that can describe the specifics of the charge). Yet Gingrich was censured, fined and politically destroyed outside his conservative base by what was little more than a liberal smear campaign, and yet there is not a single liberal now defending Clinton and bemoaning the unfairness of his prosecution who has offered any second thoughts about the outrage.

That is because this outrage, like that against Thomas, serves a liberal purpose. In the present presidential crisis, Gingrich is the point man for the "right-wing conspiracy" that is seeking to bring down a leader in order to "reverse" the civil rights gains of African-Americans. Cease to believe in this political mythology and what happens to the president, or to the leftist demagogues in the congressional black caucus who are still wedded to every jot and tittle of the failed welfare state? What if Republicans no longer function as racial bogey men? What if African-Americans were to see that Republican policies like educational choice and Republican values like personal responsibility work to the benefit of their community? What if they were no longer to vote 90 percent Democratic? What if they were to free themselves from the chains of a one-party system that feeds them tokens and shamelessly exploits their moral capital for its own venal agendas?

These are the real stakes that keep the political melodrama alive, and that prevent a taken-for-granted political community from fully entering the American polity and exercising its political power. SALON | Oct. 12, 1998

Remember clinton is our first black woman president!

Posted by: Lonnie (lonnie3@usa.net) *
10/12/98 07:55:42 PDT