Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

BET Founder calls out Obama

Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, just called out Obama on his past drug use at a Clinton rally.

He then added: “And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book –­ when they have been involved.”

Moments later, he added: “That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, ‘I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ And I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, this ain’t a movie, Sidney. This is real life.”

Here's the question - is it okay when a black person does it? And doesn't this mean that Camp Hillary hasn't learned anything from the Billy Shaheen incident in New Hampshire? Or does it mean that the campaign thinks it worked all too well and is what contributed to their win?

These questions are pretty depressing, and I don't really want to think about them. But I will, because it really just reinforces the politics of fear. And I'm not sure that this isn't what pushes more black politicians over the edge, like Clyburn, to endorse Obama.

Mr. Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement and a power in state Democratic politics, put himself on the sidelines more than a year ago to help secure an early primary for South Carolina, saying he wanted to encourage all candidates to take part. But he said recent remarks by the Clintons that he saw as distorting civil rights history could change his mind.

“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics,” said Mr. Clyburn, who was shaped by his searing experiences as a youth in the segregated South and his own activism in those days. “It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”

You would think that the Clintons had had enough of this with the allegations about Bill and whether or not he smoked up, and with Monica. You would think that because they had had their names dragged through the mud, ripped to shreds and thown into the mulcher that they would not want to do the same to other people. But it doesn't seem like that. It seems like Bill and Hillary are intent on personal destruction, and it makes me sick.

Moreover, the movie he is referencing, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, is about an Ivy League educated black man whose white fiance brings him home to her wealthy San Francisco parents. Yes, it's a movie. So this only recalls Bill's words that Barack's candidacy is a fairy tale. And as a minority American, I deeply resent that. Obama has never said that Hillary's campaign is a fairy tale, has never called her Cinderella or Tracy Flick.

And there's no end of comparisons to be made here - Tracy's cupcakes smell of desperation just as much as Hillary's shovels for the voters of Iowa.

There IS such a thing as too much hardball. It can work for Obama the way that the female bashing worked for Hillary. No one likes it when you bully someone, and yes, women can also be bullies.

On one hand, this is the kind of go for the jugular gusto that some people want to see in a Democratic candidate - someone who is willing to fight, and who goes for the kill. On the other hand, it is pretty darn disgusting, like watching a vulture feed. And Hillary, well, she has always been the gunner who rubs people the wrong way, regardless of her intentions. A few moments of niceness, of openness and of emotion, doesn't negate a lifetime of being closed off. Our memory is too deep. In fact, those of us who had bitter high school experiences should recall them and question - "Why exactly is Hillary showing her soft side and being nice to me? What does she want?" And remember that in high school, just as in real life, once the gunner gets what he or she wants from you, they move on to their next victim.

You know, I am a bleeding heart - this means that I am pretty hardwired to feel bad for the person being attacked - I felt bad for Hillary when she was getting hit on the non-existent Chinatown donor can o worms that the LATimes opened up. And it definitely helped me to appreciate her position more. Who's to say that her campaign doing this isn't pushing other similarly-minded Democrats toward Obama? Every time she or her husband talk about it, apologize or spin, it reinforces Obama's blackness and his cocaine. Which might be a strategy all in itself. But that kind of shit don't fly in majority minority states.

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