Favorite

Bill and black lives 

Watching Bill Clinton bickering with Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia recently, I had several conflicting, and not entirely praiseworthy responses. One was that the longer an American political campaign continues, the dumber and uglier it gets.

Another was, why bother? People holding up signs saying, "Hillary is a Murderer," aren't there for dialogue. The charge is so absurd it's self-refuting. Certainly nobody in the audience was buying.

That woman who shouted that Bill Clinton should be charged with crimes against humanity? He probably should have let it go. Bickering over a 1994 crime bill has little political salience in 2016, particularly since Hillary's opponent, the sainted Bernie Sanders, actually voted for the damn thing. She didn't.

Instead, Clinton briefly lost his cool. The next day, he said he "almost" wanted to apologize, which strikes me as slicing the bologna awfully thin even for him.

You've probably seen the 10-second clip on TV. "I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children," Clinton said angrily. "Maybe you thought they were good citizens, [Hillary] didn't. You are defending the people who killed the people whose lives you say matter! Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns."

Many Democratic-oriented pundits found this shocking. Evidently political journalism is where Freudianism — or Maureen Dowdism anyway — has gone to die. Even as astute an observer as Slate's Michelle Goldberg went all psychoanalytical on Clinton.

"It is somehow only when he is working on his wife's behalf that he veers into sabotage," she wrote. "What is needed here is probably a shrink. ... Either he doesn't want her to overtake him, or he doesn't want her to repudiate him. Regardless, Hillary should shut him down. She can't divorce him, but she can fire him."

Fat chance. Anyway, who says the outburst hurt her? Sure Bill Clinton can get hot defending his wife. I suspect more voters find that admirable than not.

It's also unclear whom Clinton's tantrum offended. "If you read some intellectuals on the left, they'd suggest there should be a grudge against the Clintons," Michael Fortner, a professor of urban studies at the City University of New York told the Christian Science Monitor "but I think the primary results show there isn't a grudge at all."

Fortner, author of the book "Black Silent Majority," argues that contrary to Black Lives Matter activists, many in the African-American community understand that the tough-on-crime aspects of the 1994 law weren't foisted upon them by white racists. Devastated by a veritable tsunami of violence and gang warfare, "political leaders, mayors, and pastors played an important role in pushing for these policies."

In Little Rock, where I lived, it was common to hear fusillades of gunfire in black neighborhoods at night. During Clinton's first term, the city's homicide rate was nearly triple today's — the vast majority of victims young black men. Teenagers I coached on Boys Club basketball teams needed to be careful what color clothing they wore en route to practice. People got shot to death for wearing Crips blue in Bloods neighborhoods.

Businesses closed, jobs dried up; anybody with the means to get out, got out. Including, one suspects, the parents of some Black Lives Matter activists. There's a reason two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus joined Bernie Sanders in supporting the 1994 legislation.

Clinton told them about all that, along with a recitation of the bill's Democratic virtues: a (since rescinded) assault-weapons ban, the Violence Against Women Act and 100,000 new cops on the beat. Then he made some probably insupportable claims about the crime bill's good effects:

"A 25-year low in crime, a 33-year low in the murder rate — and listen to this, because of that and the background-check law, a 46-year low in the deaths of people from gun violence. And who do you think those lives were, that mattered? Whose lives were saved, that mattered?"

But then it's also a stretch to say the bill's responsible for America having more citizens in prison than Russia and Iran. Eighty-seven percent are in state, not federal lockups. Fifty-three of those for violent crimes. Those numbers Clinton didn't dwell upon, although he did in a speech last year. "The bad news," he said "is we had a lot of people who were locked up, who were minor actors, for way too long."

Hillary Clinton herself has regretted resorting — one time, 20 years ago — to a comic-book term like "super-predators" to describe drug gang members.

Lost in all the hubbub was Bill Clinton taking the protesters seriously enough to engage them about what the dread "triangulation" really signifies. It's not an ideological label, but a philosophical inclination: doing what you can, when you can, while recognizing that the job is never done.

Favorite

Speaking of Bill Clinton

  • Welcome 2017. And make this the open line

    January 1, 2017
    Bill Clinton chose to emphasize the positive on Twitter this morning, so why not the Arkansas Blog? /more/
  • Bill Clinton tags Comey, 'angry white men' in Hillary's loss

    December 19, 2016
    Bill Clinton is quoted as blaming FBI Director James Comey for Hillary Clinton's presidential defeat — that and Donald Trump's ability to reach "angry white men." /more/
  • The Rev. Rapert wants to rename Clinton airport

    November 29, 2016
    The Bro./Sen. Rapert has his panties in a wad over the fact that Little Rock's airport is named for Bill and Hillary Clinton, according to his morning Tweet. I guess he should head on over to the Little Rock Airport Commission and warn them the Ledge is about to take it over. /more/
  • The roots and legacy of Bill Clinton's 'abandonment' of organized labor

    November 28, 2016
    After the labor movement helped elect David Pryor, Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton early in their careers, the three politicians took aggressive anti-union positions, Michael Pierce, an associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas, writes in a recent piece on The Labor and Working-Class History Association's Labor Online website. Pierce sees a connection between Clinton's early work against 1978's Labor Reform Bill (for the Pryor campaign), his later pro-business policies as governor and president and Hillary Clinton's struggles with working class whites. /more/
  • Bill Clinton was right

    November 17, 2016
    At the Arkansas Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser in July, Bill Clinton gave the worst speech I've ever heard him give. /more/
  • Roosevelt Thompson memorialized at Yale

    November 15, 2016
    Yale University had its ceremony last week renaming a dining hall for the late Roosevelt Thompson, the Little Rock native and Central High graduate who died in a car wreck in 1984 shortly before leaving for a Rhodes Scholarship. /more/
  • Huckabee: 'Hillary ain't Bill'

    November 8, 2016
    Mike Huckabee closes out the presidential campaign with comments on the relative likability of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and vows reprisal against Republicans who didn't back Donald Trump. /more/
  • Breitbart airs 1980 assault complaint against Bill Clinton

    October 19, 2016
    A woman identified as Leslie Milwee, a  Fort Smith TV news reporter in 1980 when Bill Clinton was governor, has given an extended interview to Breitbart, a right-wing news outlet once headed by Stephen Bannon, the leader of Donald Trump's campaign, in which she said Clinton groped her sexually. /more/
  • Take a ‘Billgrimage’ in Arkansas

    October 10, 2016
    Bill and Hillary Clinton have strong ties to Arkansas. The airport in Little Rock was even renamed in honor of the couple. Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, was born in Hope, grew up in Hot Springs, married Hillary in Fayetteville, served as governor of Arkansas in Little Rock, and made acceptance and celebration speeches in the state when he was elected and re-elected as the U.S. president. /more/
  • No, Bill Clinton did not call Obamacare 'the craziest thing in the world'

    October 4, 2016
    No, despite many reports to the contrary, Bill Clinton did not say in a speech that Obamacare is the craziest thing in the world. There are crazy problems that need fixing, but he is not calling for an end to Obamacare. /more/
  • More »

Comments (18)

Showing 1-18 of 18

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-18 of 18

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Hillbillies

    Anybody who can sing the lyrics to David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" probably won't find a whole lot in J.D. Vance's hotly debated, bestselling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" that's real surprising.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Lost in Real America

    Following the 2016 election, some readers have accused me of being out of touch with the Real America — that mythic locale inhabited by people who vote like them and watch the same TV shows they do.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Killer's failure

    Has any murdering terrorist ever failed more dramatically than Dylann Storm Roof? Like any punk with a gun, he managed to slaughter nine blameless African-American Christians at an historic church in Charleston, S.C. Intending to start a race war, he succeeded only in shocking the moral conscience of the state and nation.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Obama takes long view

    Right now, it's beginning to look as if President Obama will end up deserving the Nobel Peace Prize he was so prematurely awarded in 2009.
    • Jul 23, 2015
  • Trump and political correctness

    So I see where candidate Donald Trump and former Gov. Sarah Palin are complaining about "political correctness," the supposedly liberal sin of being too polite to tell the unvarnished truth. Me too. I've always laughed at the follies of self-styled "radical" left-wing professors.
    • Sep 3, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Hillbillies

    Anybody who can sing the lyrics to David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" probably won't find a whole lot in J.D. Vance's hotly debated, bestselling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" that's real surprising.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Lost in Real America

    Following the 2016 election, some readers have accused me of being out of touch with the Real America — that mythic locale inhabited by people who vote like them and watch the same TV shows they do.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • A heart in this house

    Since Election Day, I have been at a loss as to how to direct my energy. I am spinning in circles.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Hillbillies

    • Thanks. Good advice, Deadsea. And you're right - I've given her too much credit.

    • on January 19, 2017
  • Re: Hillbillies

    • Tony, my advice to you is to do what i have done, let it go…

    • on January 19, 2017
  • Re: A week of 'thunderbolts'

    • So poignant. Often, leaders come and go, only to fade into the chapters of history…

    • on January 18, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation