Former President Bill Clinton went off on a rant against Black Lives Matter protesters in the audience at a campaign event for his wife, Hillary Clinton. There was focus on the spectacle itself. Some attention was paid to the substance of Clinton’s remarks, but for the most part, it was presumed that Clinton became worked up and agitated by the protesters.
Did Bill Clinton really lose his cool at a campaign event in Philadelphia or was this calculated? Was this another Sister Souljah moment, like what happened to Lisa Williamson during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign?
On CNN, commentator Van Jones said Bill Clinton destroyed Williamson’s career, as she was sitting in the audience, in order to show white voters he could stand up to Jesse Jackson and to black activists.
This week Douglas Williams, a writer for “The South Lawn,” joins the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast to discuss Bill Clinton’s attacks on Black Lives Matter and more. We discuss the crime bill in the 1990s. We talk about how the Clinton campaign has used African Americans against each other and how the Democratic primary race has perverted the concept of diversity. Williams calls this the “cognitive dissonance election,” and we explore this idea during the interview.
In a separately posted Part II of the episode, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola discuss the Panama Papers, a class action lawsuit by American Muslims against the No Fly List, a human rights hearing on water crises in the United States, and some more of the latest developments in the 2016 presidential election.
The podcast episode is available for download on iTunes. For a link to the interview with Douglas Williams (and also to download the episode as well), go here. A page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.
For a link to the discussion portion of the episode with Khalek and Gosztola, go here.
Below is a partial transcript for the interview.
RANIA KHALEK: Bill Clinton earlier this week at a rally in Philadelphia said the crime bill was really good, and it helped decrease violence in black communities. And welfare reform helped reduce black poverty. What is your take?
DOUGLAS WILLIAMS: You didn’t even say my personal favorite quote, “I’ll tell you another story about a place where black lives matter: Africa.” Like, you have to really step back and be in awe of Bill Clinton’s ability to completely come in and fuck up things for Hillary. This is just wild.
KHALEK: I mean, there’s the defense of her super-predator comment too that was insane.
WILLIAMS: It was just—”You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. Tell the truth.” It’s just absolutely bonkers, but I think this is what a campaign looks like this time, the time when Hillary Clinton was confronted by her super-predators comment and basically had security dismiss the protester and said now let’s talk about the real issues. This is the campaign of a candidate that believes that this nomination and this presidency is somehow owed to her. It’s like, I can’t believe I have to go out here and campaign amongst the plebeians, and it’s just like, wow.
This is a campaign that is clearly uncomfortable with being challenged from what is perceived to be her own side. It’s one thing when Republicans attack Hillary Clinton because Republicans have been attacking Hillary Clinton for the better part of three decades now. They’ve been on some really unhinged stuff at times. Look up at the Arkansas Project. Look up Joe Barton saying the Clintons murdered Vince Foster. It’s funny though, right, because this person is currently chairman emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee. So, I’d love to hear Hillary Clinton’s plan for getting meaningful legislation on climate change passed when the chairman emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House believes she had a role in murdering her husband’s counsel.
This is incredible because that stuff can be easily spun, but it seems like they’ve always had a hard time—be it 2008 or 2016—with critique, which comes from the left on stuff like the Iraq War, on stuff like what did you say in these speeches to Goldman Sachs, to ExxonMobil, and places like that. What do your ties to Wall Street mean for America’s working class? And they always have problems countering this.
You have to give people credit. It’s very interesting sleight of hand. So, the problem isn’t the critiques. It’s the people who are making them a.k.a. “Bernie Bros.” That’s what we’ve seen in this election, at least the commentary online, and we’ve seen it seep into the actual campaign when Bill Clinton brought this up at a rally a month or so ago.
KHALEK: The “Bernie Bros” going after The Nation columnist Joan Walsh and like terrorizing her apparently.
WILLIAMS: Or, the “Bernie Bros” going after someone like Emily Nussbaum, which turned out to be a Tea Party congressperson. No, wait, actually, it’s a parody of a Tea Party congressperson that doesn’t actually exist.
But this is how you get around reckoning with the fact that the candidate that you support is a reactionary on any number of issues, be it the economy, be it our social welfare system, be it foreign policy. It’s been pretty amazing to watch.
KHALEK: For people who live under a rock but are listening to our show, what we’re talking about is earlier this week Bill Clinton was confronted by a couple black protesters about his wife’s super-predators comment and her support for the death penalty apparently was another sign, and a couple other things like the crime bill and welfare reform. He was disrupted at one of his rallies for her. His response was to defend everything from his presidency, the crime bill and welfare reform, and say this crazy thing about Africa, like that’s where black lives matter to us is Africa. He also defended—I think this is the most insane crazy part—is the defense of the super-predators characterization.
He said, “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 in the street to murder other African American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn’t,” speaking of Hillary Clinton. Then, he accused them of defending the people, who were taking the lives of people they say matter.
So, it was so messed up and twisted, but some people have theorized it was a political calculation because the narrative has been, oh, Bill Clinton is so old. He’s getting cranky and ruining it for his wife. But there is the fact that Hillary Clinton has not apologized or said anything to address it. And on top of that, Bill Clinton barely apologized for it. He didn’t apologize for anything he actually said. Is this a signaling of the pivot if ends up in the general election towards the right and towards what they’ve always done, basically using racism or the southern strategy to get people to like her? She’s not doing as well with white voters as she was in 2008, and that’s going to be a problem in the general election. Do you think that’s a possibility that this wasn’t an accident?
WILLIAMS: Let’s map out the general election for a second. The whole demographics is destiny argument has really been a sort of linchpin of liberal thinking when it comes to elections, and the future of elections and the future of the Democratic Party, especially in places like Georgia, Texas and Florida, and all these other places. But here’s the deal. You had someone unique in 2008 and 2012. That’s a black person. You had a black person of color that led the Democratic ticket in those years. So, what you saw was not only a greater concentration of votes from black people to Democratic candidates — 95, 96, 97 percent, but you also had a greater volume of black people going out to the polls to vote for Democrats.
With Hillary Clinton on the ballot, with Bernie Sanders on the ballot, that is going to decrease. Hillary Clinton is losing youth by incredible margins to Bernie Sanders. You got to think that will probably decrease. So, you have to think about where Hillary Clinton is going to be able to make up the decline of these core voters in the Democratic coalition. Well, Ed Rendell said in an interview in a couple months ago, where already they’re going to make it up. They’re going to make it up among the country club Republicans, who are like, meh, you know I’m alright with marriage equality but just give me my money. The social issues, like the morality issues, whatever; just give me my money. This is what matters to me.
Those are the kinds of voters Hillary Clinton is going to start targeting because those are the voters, who are going to be repelled by either a Trump candidacy or a Cruz candidacy. So, to me, is this a Sister Souljah moment? For people who don’t know, how would you describe her? Like a black nationalist or whatever, poet, author, commentator from the 1992 election. Bill Clinton repudiated her on the campaign trail and ever since then the Sister Souljah moment has been known as a moment where a candidate for president can repudiate someone viewed as extreme within their party or within voting blocs that are key to their coalition. That repudiation makes him or her look good for moderate middle-of-the-road voters that might have certain concerns about certain ideological leanings.
I don’t necessarily know that this is a sort of flashpoint for that. I think that the campaign itself, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee for the Democratic Party, I think the country club Republican voter is going to get a lot of grist for them to chew on, as far as coming up with reasons to vote for a Democrat as opposed to a right wing sort of Republican.
KHALEK: We have to wait and see.
WILLIAMS: We have to wait and see. But this has really been a cognitive dissonance election. People want to believe that the Clintons have certain ideological leanings that quite frankly they’ve never had. That’s just one example.