Monday, January 14, 2008

Can We Just Stop with the Knee-Jerks? On Clinton's MLK Comments.

[Disclaimer: I am an undecided voter]

Let's all stop, take a deep breath, and actually read a presidential candidate's full transcript before we start calling her racist. Okay?

There is a new presidential/blogosphere/media uproar regarding comments that Hillary Clinton made regarding the civil rights movement.

Specifically, a reporter asked Clinton how she would respond to Obama's argument that leaders should inspire the citizenry, much like MLK did. Clinton responded:

Senator Clinton: "I would, and I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality. The power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said, "We are going to do it," and actually got it accomplished."

Clinton's comments are subject to interpretation, of course. But I fear that some are creating a controversy where none exists. Raise your hand if you've read the above transcript, as opposed to the conveniently shortened version that has been circulating. In most blogs and mainstream media articles I have read regarding this brand new controversy, Clinton's remarks have been truncated and edited to read something like this:

Headline: Hillary disses MLK!

Quote: "I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [deletions] It took a president to get it done."

That bloggers and the media are distorting (by truncating) these statements is sloppy and irresponsible. For, what Clinton actually said (and meant) is different than what many people are saying she said. Her words support an interpretation that MLK and the President had to work together to pass the Civil Rights Act- that neither of them could have done it alone. Dr. King had the dream and the mobilization, and when President Kennedy did not pass the law, President Johnson did. Johnson, being the Chief Executive had the power to sign the bill into law. MLK, being a private citizen and not being President, did not have that Executive power. That may be "offensive" to some, but it's the literal truth from a governmental powers standpoint.

But worse, it seems that perhaps public figures may no longer even mention historical figures or sensitive historical situations without their remarks being grossly distorted, taken out of context, truncated, or misinterpreted. (Ahem, Will Smith).

People will use another's words to support whatever conclusion about that person they already have in their heads.

Oh, and as if on cue, John Edwards has chimed in with his distortion of Clinton's statements. Anyone else getting tired of Edwards continuous interjecting into these pseudo quarrels? ("Hey everyone, look at me! Look at me!")

Now... What's that about the economy, war, taxes, health care, and terrorism again?....

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