Do you all remember when the Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted Bernie Sanders’ campaign rally last year? Do you remember what happened? He didn’t try to shout them down. He didn’t try to casually dismiss them. He gave up the podium, let them speak their minds, and folded his arms so as not to distract from their protest.
Bill Clinton either didn’t watch that video or just doesn’t agree with how Sanders handled it, because a video that will surely go viral has surfaced from a Hillary rally in Philadelphia and ol’ Bill looks and sounds a bit frazzled and more than a little defensive of policies he signed into law and the devastating impact they had on the African-American community.
Here’s a pretty long clip of the interaction Bill had with the protesters.
To his credit, Bill, per his usual, did start the conversation in a very plan and open way. He described interacting with other protesters, and then explained to the crowd that the protesters were upset over enhanced sentencing guidelines that have helped contribute to an absolute explosion of the prison population, many of whom are African-Americans. He even did a pretty good job of explaining the circumstances behind the law, and why he signed it.
But here’s the problem — Bill just doesn’t want to admit he might have fucked-up. Period. And anyone who has followed the Clintons’ political careers know that not owning up to a boo-boo is sort of their specialty. So of course he’s going to spin and duck and move the goalposts on this one. But the problem for the Clintons is that this isn’t the late 90’s anymore. They aren’t being attacked by rabid, hypocritical conservatives for private, personal affairs. They’re being righteously criticized for the horrid effects of a policy they championed in the past, and that’s it.
For Bill to become dismissive is one thing. But when he starts generalizing about those in jail because of his policy all being “drug dealers” and “murderers” he is playing with fire. Who else have we heard making these same kinds of broad, generalized statements? Donald Trump, that’s right. In fact, Bill’s really displaying some galling ignorance here. The protests over the policies he put in place aren’t that they punished criminals; it’s that they were used to overly punish others. They were used to essentially over-correct and wound up putting way too many people behind bars for way too long.
Rather than just say, “You know, at the time we thought being tough on crime was more important than anything else, and we messed up on just how far we took things,” you’ve got Bill trying to shame BLM protesters for pointing out the unintended consequences he’s trying to worm his way out of taking responsibility for. It shows him as being a little of out touch with the criticism, ultimately.
In the end, does this clip somehow prove Bill or Hillary Clinton don’t care about African-Americans? Of course not. The big deal about this clip isn’t what was said, so much as what wasn’t said. All BLM protesters are looking for is responsibility. They want an acknowledgement that as good as their intentions may have been, the Clintons’ allied effort with Republicans to really ratchet up sentencing guidelines had a downstream effect on millions of peoples’ lives, and that in plenty of cases not only was justice not served, injustice was the only thing on the menu.
I don’t think this clip needs to get blown way far out of proportion, and I certainly don’t think it disqualifies Hillary from the presidency or anything stupid like that. But it is something that should be considered — have the Clintons truly learned anything from the last 20 years or so, or are they just going to pretend that everything Bill did and Hillary helped push for worked perfectly? The American people seem really fed-up and over a lot of the bullshit political stuff the Clintons are famous for, so I think this mostly noteworthy because of that context, not anything overtly racial in tone.
Then again, what do I know? Howard Dean never became the nominee because of a noise he let out, and Mitt Romney’s private commentary leaking in 2012 probably helped lead to his demise. So maybe this video will be the silver bullet for Sanders, but to me…it’s just a cautionary tale that the Clintons would be best to pay close attention to.