Bill Clinton's disgraceful behavior on the presidential campaign has prompted a long overdue re-examination of his record, a record that better qualifies him to be called, in the words of one critic, the Pimp Daddy Prez, not the first Black president.
Toni Morrison started this nonsense. She wrote an article 10 years ago in the New Yorker magazine saying, "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."
The Congressional Black Caucus compounded the problem in 2001 while honoring Clinton at a dinner. Then-CBC Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas said at the time that Clinton "took so many initiatives he made us think for a while we had elected the first Black president."
As governor of Arkansas, Clinton did not remove the rebel flag from the state house nor sign Martin Luther King legislation into law. To prove that he could be tough while campaigning for president, he went to a Jesse Jackson forum to criticize rapper Sister Souljah for an outlandish comment she had made about killing Whites. Just before the New Hampshire election, he supported the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged African American.
As president, Clinton signed a regressive welfare reform program into law. He dropped the ball on Rwanda. His "mend it but don't end it" approach to affirmative action was not ideal, but may have been the strongest he could have managed with Republicans in control of Congress. He abandoned Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier after picking her to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department.
Still, Black people loved him and with such unquestioned loyalty, the Clintons were confident that Hillary would stroll to an easy primary victory in South Carolina, where Blacks made up half of the Democratic electorate.
Instead, insulted by the Clintons' tag-team attacks on Obama, nearly 80 percent of African Americans in South Carolina sent Hillary and Bill packing.
The Clinton camp had hoped to gain points by arguing that Hillary is more electable than Obama. But a CNN poll put that myth to rest. The poll, released shortly after observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday, shows that America is more ready to elect a Black president than a female one.
In the survey, 72 percent of Whites and 61 percent of Blacks believe the country is ready for an African American president. However, only 63 percent of both Whites and Blacks say the country is ready for a female president.
Another myth being floated by the Clinton camp is that Latinos won't support a Black candidate. While Hispanics were more supportive of Clinton than Obama in Nevada, the Black-Brown divide is not as wide as political handlers would want you to believe.
University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto has compiled research showing that Harold Washington received 80 percent of the Latino vote when he was elected mayor of Chicago in 1983. Similarly, David Dinkins won 73 percent in New York in 1989, Denver's Wellington Webb received 70 percent in 1991 and Ron Kirk also got 70 percent of the Latino vote in Dallas in 1995, 1997 and 1999.
The question is no longer whether Obama is electable, but whether Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' strongest candidate.
The Nation magazine compiled figures showing that in Iowa, 71 percent of caucus-goers voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton. In New Hampshire, 61 percent voted ABC – Anybody but Clinton. Almost half of those participating in the Nevada caucuses – 49 percent – voted for Clinton's opponents. In Michigan, where Clinton was virtually unopposed, she lost 45 percent of the vote. And in South Carolina, 83 percent of the voters supported Clinton's opponents.
Even Toni Morrison has now endorsed Obama, saying, "There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time."
Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris speculates that the Clinton attack on Obama in South Carolina was a ploy to deliberately inject race into the contest, hoping it will create a White backlash against Obama on Feb. 5, when voters go the polls in 22 states.
If true, that's as bad as any Republican dirty trick.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.