How Dumb Do the Clintons Think We Are?

A campaign blog.
Jan. 14 2008 11:53 AM

How Dumb Do the Clintons Think We Are?

This weekend’s big flap was a coy statement made by BET founder Bob Johnson that seems to refer—scratch that, unmistakably refers— to Barack Obama’s admitted drug use. Here’s his quote:

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. [Video here .]

Advertisement

The Obama campaign came out swinging. "I don't see why this is so much different from what Billy Shaheen did in New Hampshire," David Axelrod said , referring to Shaheen’s suggestion the GOP rivals would use Obama’s past drug use against him.

Then came Johnson’s explanation: "My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."

That this explanation is ludicrous on its face shouldn't take much convincing. It makes no sense that Johnson would use that kind of wink-nudge innuendo to refer to Obama’s community organizing. But that’s not the worst part. The biggest scandal is that the Clinton campaign tacitly endorses his excuse. Not only did they release Johnson’s explanatory statement, now Bill Clinton has said in a radio interview that "we have to take [Johnson] at his word." He's right— he has to take Johnson at his word, seeing as Johnson's word is now the campaign's word. But that doesn't mean we have to.

So, why doesn't Johnson just admit he was referring to coke, apologize, and be done with it? The answer is that Johnson is different from Shaheen. As race issues take center stage in the run-up to the South Carolina primary, the Clinton campaign can use all the help from African-American endorsers it can get. (Obama's rise has caused considerable strife among the old guard, many of whom are still waffling between the two senators.) Cutting off Johnson for his remarks would kill a valuable campaign asset: an influential black man testifying against Obama.

It's just sad that Johnson's original point—that to impugn the Clintons' dedication to the black community is insulting—became an insult itself: An insult to our intelligence.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.