Democratic presidential frontrunner and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton confirmed to the Los Angeles Sentinel in an exclusive interview this week that she has hired two high-powered and influential African Americans to help run her historic race for the White House and she's assembling a team of African American advisors across the country.
"I want to have as inclusive and diverse a campaign as I can because that's the way I want to govern," Clinton said. "We just want to do things right."
Clinton announced that Chicago-based banker and longtime friend Bob Nash would soon become her deputy campaign manager. Previously, Nash had worked as the director of White House personnel for President Bill Clinton for six years.
Former CEO of the Democratic National Committee and former White House political advisor Minyon Moore, who worked as principal political advisor in the Bill Clinton White House, officially re-enters the Clinton camp.
"Minyon is a class act. She's brilliant and brings a lot to the campaign. She's been helping me before I even thought about doing this," Sen. Clinton said.
Nash and Moore are two of about a dozen of African Americans expected to be named to the Clinton inner circle.
"I feel very committed to working with and involving Black voters and Black citizens in whatever I do. That's the way I've lived my life and that's the way my husband and I believe our country works best," Clinton said.
Nash said Hillary Clinton was his "strongest supporter" as it relates to helping the president have an administration that looks like America.
"It was an honor for me to serve and that's why I'm leaving my job and everything to help her continue being for issues important to Black people," Moore said. "Sen. Clinton has always championed issues that impact people of color in general and African Americans in particular. It's a pleasure to work with such a diverse team of smart and committed people."
When asked to identify those African Americans in Southern California who have signed on under the Clinton column, Sen. Clinton named legendary entertainer Quincy Jones, music mogul Clarence Avant and his wife Jackie and well-known businesswoman Alice Huffman.
Although it's still early in this heated race, it's clear the battle for Black votes is on. Democratic Party officials believe this will be one of the most competitive scrambles for Black supporters since the Voting Rights Act was passed four decades ago. And what's also clear is that the Black vote is not a guarantee for a Black candidate.
When Illinois Sen. Barack Obama threw his hat into the political ring, many African Americans — some longtime Clinton supporters — were excited about the man who could become the country's first Black president, yet they found themselves in a political quagmire: How do you abandon a team that's been there for Black America?
"Bill and Hillary Clinton have been in the trenches — side by side with us for decades," Avant said. "They're like family and you have to respect that."
In the one-on-one interview, Clinton, who could become the first female president of the United States, told the L.A. Sentinel she understands the "difficult decision" facing African Americans, who see Obama as standing on the brink of history too.
"It will be a difficult choice, but I'm hoping I can earn their vote," Clinton said.
However, she said she doesn't believe the Black community "owes her."
"I've been blessed. I've been able to participate in many of the good things and stand against some of the bad ones in the last decade. But I don't think in politics you can ever assume that anybody owes you anything," Clinton said. "We're all free people and we have a right to make our minds about who we vote for based on any factor whatsoever."
She is hoping, however, that African Americans remember the Clinton record on civil rights.
"But what I hope is that people will see in me someone who has been in these struggles for a long time who has worked particularly to provide opportunities for our children, who has spent time both as a public servant and public official trying to create better conditions for people to live their lives and live out their dreams," Clinton said.
So far, both Sens. Obama and Clinton have been careful to not attack each other. When pressed to say if Obama presents a problem in her race for the White House, Clinton empathically stated she "doesn't see it that way."
"Sen. Obama is running a very strong race as an accomplished African American. Bill Richardson will be the first Hispanic. I will be the first female president," Clinton said. "I'm thrilled that the Democratic Party can offer this to the people of this country. I think we're stronger because of who we all are running. I think it should be a hard competition. This is a very difficult job we're asking to have. It's not going to be easy no matter who is elected. I think I'm the best-qualified and experienced person to do it. I wouldn't be running if I didn't feel like I was the best candidate."
Clinton is campaigning on a platform of "Renewing America's Promise," which includes goals of creating jobs, affordable higher education, universal pre-kindergarten education, energy independence, economic empowerment and universal healthcare.
"I want to set a goal of universal health care coverage for every single American. It's a disgrace that we have 47 million uninsured Americans and we have a lot of people in effect underinsured," Clinton said.
As for ending the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton agreed with the House vote last week to start withdrawing the troops out of the Middle East, but understands and believes "special forces" will be needed in the region possibly until 2009.
"I don't think the president (Bush) is going to do much to start pulling troops out of Iraq. And what that means is, as president I will have to start doing that," she explained. "You can't do it overnight. You have to do it in an orderly way. You have to make sure the troops are safe as they're withdrawing. I want to get most of our troops out as quickly as possible."
Clinton also stressed she wants to "restore respect for America around the world."
Although voters are one year away from casting a ballot in the presidential primaries, Clinton fully plans to have her popular husband, former President Bill Clinton described as "her closest and best advisor" out on the stump. For the first time since she announced her candidacy, the former president recently joined his wife in Alabama to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
The Selma march was the first time the 2008 presidential contenders had shared the same turf, but it surely won't be the last. And it's no doubt President Bill Clinton was a big boost for his wife that day. Georgia U.S. Representative John Lewis told one reporter he was prepared to endorse Sen. Obama that day – "until Bill Clinton called."
"It's thrilling for me when he's out there," Sen. Clinton said of her famous husband. "He and I know that I have to get out there and run the beginning of this campaign on my own. He will certainly be out there during the campaign but more importantly when I'm president he will be out there."
As for the future of this country, Clinton said there are a lot of problems left over from the Bush Administration.
"We have a lot of problems," Clinton said. "This president (George W. Bush) we have now has done a lot of damage to our country. We are going to be left with a big hole to dig ourselves out of so I'm going to hand my husband a big shovel along with a lot of other people and we're going to start digging together."
—The Black Press