Understanding Bill Clinton's Self-Image

Jim Spence
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to South Florida in 1973 was what I would call “old south” racism. It was right out there in the open. More than a couple of my older white male co-workers openly used racial slurs when referring to African Americans and Hispanics. I was disgusted at the startling contrast to the culture I knew growing up in New Mexico. I quickly learned to loathe the culture of the old south.
Later in life as an employer I remember a client from Canada in my office one day. She had a large account with my firm and apparently she decided to deliver an ultimatum. Either I’d fire two African American interns working for us, or she would move her accounts to another firm. I smiled and asked her to let me know where she wanted me to send those accounts. She stomped out.
Bill Clinton
Recently when it comes to racism I realized I share something in common with former President Bill Clinton. Clinton too despised the old south culture. And he spent years in public life defining himself as lifelong warrior against old south racism. We are not alone. There are tens of millions of middle-aged white men who grew up during the civil rights movement. We remember Martin Luther King Jr. and we also remember people like the late KKK Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd’s filibuster of the civil rights law of the 1960’s was one of the most despicable moments in Senate history.
Fast forward to the 2008 presidential primary campaign on the Democratic side. The contest between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton got heated. There was a real scramble for the all-important African-American vote on the Democrat side. In the end Senator Obama and his strategy team couldn’t resist the temptation to play on people’s fears and take a cheap shot. The Obama campaign openly inferred that Bill and Hillary Clinton were closet racists.
Now far be it from me to rush to the defense of the Clintons. Then again, those who despise racism and are warriors against all forms of prejudice and bigotry deserve better treatment than the Clintons got from Obama. Unfortunately, those of us who continue to refuse to support socialism, can expect no end to the racist accusations coming our way any time political hay can be made playing the race card. Sadly, millions of people who want Democrats to win will find excuses to look the other way while their political candidates accuse innocent people of harboring racist views. It even happened to the Clinton’s in 2008. It will happen again to Mitt Romney in 2012.
It is worth noting that a large part of Bill Clinton’s self-identity is embedded in his self-image as a champion of fair play when it comes to civil rights. Clearly Clinton has never forgotten the racial backstabbing he took from the political knife-wielding hand of Barack Obama in 2008. Don’t be surprised if the former president continues to make little backhanded comments favoring Romney’s qualifications from now until November. Chalk it up to a subtle form of payback for the slander directed his way. Some people rank racists one notch above child molesters. Bill Clinton is one of them.

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