Tuesday, June 17

Shut Up

VIA aimai, the campaign musings of Michael A. Cohen, proud white man:
Sixteen years ago, the most influential campaign speech of the last two decades was delivered at a hotel ballroom in Washington. It wasn’t broadcast on television and only a few hundred Americans heard it in its entirety. But when presidential candidate Bill Clinton appeared at the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition on June 13, 1992, and attacked an obscure rapper named Sister Souljah it fundamentally changed the popular perception of the Democratic Party.

I'm sorry, did you just say "the most influen..."
Standing only a few feet from Mr. Jackson, Mr. Clinton excoriated the young rapper, who had said: “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people.” Mr. Clinton declared, “if you took the words white and black and reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”


His words were crucial in recasting the image of the Democratic Party. For years, Democrats had been perceived as captives to a host of special interest groups, from labor and teachers’ unions to women’s and gay rights groups. But none were seen as more influential, and in many respects, as damaging to the party than African-Americans and their titular leader, Mr. Jackson. Today, as the Republican Party has become increasingly captive to its own collection of conservative special interest groups, the lesson of the Sister Souljah speech is one that the party needs to eagerly embrace.

Talk about your Two Americas. I really didn't imagine that Repub...
Mr. Cohen has taught speechwriting and political rhetoric at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He also served in the U.S. Department of State as chief speechwriter for U.S. Representative to the United Nations Bill Richardson and Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat. He has worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, and as chief speechwriter for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

Chin mullet and Melina Mercouri glasses. They didn't make his cv, but I assume he attaches the pic, as they must serve as what we used to call a Sander Vanocur Sideburns Pledge of Authenticity, something that apparently convinces your standard mark at a New America Foundation cocktailer that you must mean what you say, since otherwise you couldn't get away with a look that just might possibly still outrage a prospective spouse's great-grandmother at tea, assuming she can't get out much.

That is, of course, unfair to Vanocur, who was, and still is, a decent journalist and a Nixon Enemy, and whose muttonchops were an actual stick in the eye of his bosses in them days. And it's unfair to Cohen, but after that column I don't give a fuck. The thing about the I'm Too Old to Know Precisely How Many Years Out of Date that Look Is is that I'm really tired of hearing this sort of shit about what when on before they soiled their first diaper from people too convinced to look, and happily aware that an initial qualifier like "perceived" or "popular image"allows them to proceed as if they'd proved something.   The "image" of Democrats imprisoned by special interests became a nickel in the change purse of our political currency through the efforts of their political opponents, and it stuck to the extent that people were idiotic enough to imagine a teachers' union is a special interest, but a banking or manufacturing association is not.  In olden times this was occasionally referred to as How Democracy Is Supposed To Work. That was before we decided to vote based on which candidate looks like he might wax his own car, or, more contemporarily, which candidate is married to a woman who doesn't remind Jonah Goldberg of someone who might mastermind convenience store stick-ups. 

So the "image" of special-interest internment makes Clinton's comments the defining moment of the New Democratic Party (which would go on to achieve so much Greatness)  because they faced down Scary Black People. Not that we're saying Black People are scary, mind you. It's an image. Otherwise, Clinton's speech might today be seen as, oh, just another example of a politician plucking some low-hanging fruit while back-handing a constituency with no where else to go, a constituency which--I find this always comes as a surprise to people who don't often associate with Scary Black People--is no more in favor of murdering strangers on the street than any other, and much less so than some, and not the vital lesson on the importance of pandering to racists that it is today.  

And this guy wrote speeches for Chris Dodd.

I suppose now would be a good time to offer my apologies to the entire Internet community for imagining, months ago, that this sort of thing was going to be kept heavily under wraps, and that people with marginal racist issues had mostly learned how to be polite in public. I may have been more wrong about things in the past. I thought decaffeinated coffee would never fly. I thought there was a reachable bottom to the reality program market. I thought men would never want to look like Melina Mercouri in a Halloween costume.

I thought that a lot of the "racist" attacks on Obama were ginned-up nonsense from hyperactive supporters, and I still do. What I was not prepared for--and I suppose this is a species of lack of fellow-feeling--was just how goddam shit-your-pants frightening the candidacy of a dark-skinned male would be in a country where Oprah is the most powerful person in the entertainment biz, where Denzel Washington can be certified Sexiest Man Alive, where Charles Barkley would once consider running for office as a Republican. I don't care how you qualify it, saying, even imagining, that "African-Americans and their titular leader, Mr. Jackson" were a millstone around the special-interest-beholden Democratic neck until Bill Clinton made 'em sit down and shut off the boombox, is more than butt-ugly racism. It's butt-ugly stupidity.  And maybe you're not the guy to be telling other people what lessons they need to learn.

7 comments:

R. Porrofatto said...

For years, Democrats had been perceived as captives to a host of special interest groups, from labor and teachers’ unions to women’s and gay rights groups. But none were seen as more influential, and in many respects, as damaging to the party than African-Americans and their titular leader, Mr. Jackson

Holy shit. Did he just call all African-Americans—14% of the U.S. population—a special interest group? Just like a fucking teacher's union? And not just any old congregation of all black people, but a special interest group more damaging to the Democratic Party than any other? And did he really say that the titular leader of all African-Americans is Jesse Jackson? What fucking title might that be, exactly? King of the Negroes? Most Great and Powerful Wizard? The Mighty Favog? Da Man?

Jesus. Butt-ugly racism and stupidity, indeed, and what the fuck is this doing in the NY Times?

ignobility said...

what the fuck is this doing in the NY Times?

Because, McCain, he da man.

Hattie said...

And now Obama is showing his solidarity with his brothers by telling them they are lousy fathers. I guess he figures the black vote is in his pocket anyway. How insulting.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

And don't forget Bill Clinton is the single most powerful force in all of America. It it isn't the shear power of his words then of course it is the shear power of his penis.

Good God if he were only that powerful.

Painting that man as a racist has got to be the biggest lie since Nixon's promised secret plan to end the war.

pebird@pacbell.net said...

Another characteristic of post-journalist newsertainment is the anti-pr focus group. A bit of jujitsu for those of us knowledgeable in the ad biz.

Basically it's a form of "throw shit on the wall and sit if it sticks".

Often to answer the question: will it stick to the American psyche (at least 1 news cycle).

In the case of Cohen, it's: will it stick to the chattering class?

Or, will someone else please pick this up and move the ball a couple of more yards?

My guess (entirely a hunch- I've been wrong many times also), to use a good Clintonism - this dog won't hunt. Or at least is getting tired of running.

Grace Nearing said...

It was bad enough when there were just two political parties in this country. Now there's just one -- a very narrow range of Republicans running from mildly deranged to completely deranged.

Even a novice Chomsky-ite can tell you: the national interest is business; all others are "special" and defined in opposition to business.

And I have to balance out my Chomsky-referencing comment with a dick joke because, well, just because:

Jaye Ramsey Sutter, I don't even want to think about the shearing power of Bill Clinton's penis.

aimai said...

grace nearing is correct--not about the clenis, of course, but on the chomsky quote. But nice apology, Dog. I didn't think the racist attacks on obama were ginned up in the primary--I just think that we all underestimated how deeply the republican memes of those lazy, shifltess, welfare addicted, affirmative action drag on our collective progress blacks had sunk in *white liberal* minds. I've been astounded at the stuff that comes out of the mouths of people who are *happily* and devotedly and excitedly voting for Obama. They are voting for him qua democrats and against republicans but *man* do they think he and his nice middle class family are the exception in black society. And man do they secretely hope that Obama is the thin end of the wedge for turning blacks into jews--if Obama lectures black people about the importance of getting an "A" in school then the rest of us can sit back and just watch the surge of new, black, A team scholars banging on the doors of harvard--and we miraculously won't even have to foot the bill for better schools, teachers, and roads or scholarships. The blacks of america will become a new "model minority" and we can just chill out and kind of bask because they will finally *work for their success* just like my friend who is the daughter of mayflower era privilige with trust funds up the wazoo worked for her priviliges. Or. Not.

aimai