Bill Clinton and Black America Hardcover – 1 Jan 2002
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From the Inside Flap
While white Americans were evenly divided about Bill Clintons impeachment ninety percent of African-Americans opposed it. Now from a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists comes a groundbreaking new book that explores the deep and unique connection between the former president and the black communityin the words of journalists, celebrities, academics, and other thoughtful Americans.
Going well beyond mere TV punditry, luminaries such as Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Bill Gray, Kweisi Mfume, and Alice Randall, as well as ordinary citizens, offer insight into why African-Americans for the first time saw themselves in the soul of a presidentWhether it was the large African-American presence in his administration, his perceived legal persecutions, his personal style, or his lasting yet tumultuous marriageand why that kinship has sweeping cultural implications. Bill Clintons actions, associations, and essence are all analyzed in light of their effect on and appeal to this crucial constituency.
Much-awaited and long overdue, Bill Clinton and Black America features fascinating, provocative interpretations of the special relationship between the black people and this extraordinary man who, when his presidency ended, moved his office from 1600 Pennsylvania AvenueWhite Americas most famous addressto Harlems 125th Streetthe heart of Black America.
About the Author
DeWayne Wickham is a columnist for USA Today. The editor of Thinking Black: Some of the Nations Best Black Columnists Speak Their Mind, he is also the author of Woodholme: A Black Mans Story of Growing Up Alone and Fire at Will. A founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Wickham lives near Washington, D.C.
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Moreover, Wickham writes: "What impresses me about Bill Clinton is that he does not view black skin as a 'disagreeable mirror.' More to the point, he has shown a greater willingness than any other president to look African Amercans in the eye not with condescension, as Lew Payne points out, but with an uncommon sense of fairness."
In his 310-page book, Wickham makes it clear that Clinton did not use magic to woe black America. He appointed an unprecedented number of African Americans to top jobs in his administration and he tackled America's racial problems head on. And while the Republicans attacked affirmative action, Clinton promoted a "One America" initiative to help build a bridge of understanding between whites and blacks.
The book is loaded with interviews with a cross-section of black America. Over and over again, the same theme is sounded: Bill Clinton was well liked because he made the connection that other presidents ignored. Clinton made the connection that past president did not make because of racism or ignorance.
Wickham has weaved together a number of interesting interviews of African Americans of different walks of life in a way that make this book easy reading. I recommend this book to all students of history and those who want racial progress.
As we're clearly seeing now, Bill Clinton will inevitably go down in history as not only our worst President ever, but also as the worst person we've ever had as President. His only success was being smart and/or lucky enough not to derail a vibrant, roaring US economy. Most of his policies were failures. As Wickham discussed, Clinton squandered away huge amounts of political capital with that stupid Monica Lewinsky affair, then was (correctly) impeached for lying and committing perjury over it. Worst of all, we now know that Clinton's lame, lacksadaisical response to repeated terrorist attacks (the first WTC bombing, Khobar Towers, the two African embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing) encouraged Osama Bin Ladin and other Islamic terrorists to declare open season on America - because they laughed at Clinton's tepid responses, and thought they'd continue to get away with it. Don't believe me - listen to Osama Bin Ladin on that captured videotape. Many Americans, including many blacks, died on September 11th because of Bill Clinton's weakness and pre-occupation with sex over the previous years. We Blacks encouraged him, cheered him on, and let him get away with it. Contrary to Wickham's book, Black America's unquestioning, fanatical support of Bill Clinton has clearly been shown to be something we should be deeply ashamed of now.
This book spends a lot of time looking at Clinton as "our first black President." I was deeply, deeply offended by this. The attributes usually quoted - Clinton being a shucking and jiving scam artist, being sexually promiscuous and adulterous, never getting caught, being able to sleaze out of tight situations, being noted for lying and dissembling - what part of this reflects well, at all, on Black America? None! Why on earth are we proud of being compared or linked to a disbarred lawyer, the first elected president ever to be impeached, a man who is widely known to this day as a phony and a liar? Wickham's book doesn't address this - probably because there is no good answer.
In short, DeWayne Wickham's book is long on warm, fuzzy thoughts and a highly selective memory of the Clinton Years. We can't escape history, however. History will judge Clinton harshly, and US Blacks along with him. President G.W. Bush has done much more for US Blacks than Clinton ever did - better programs, more Blacks in his Cabinet and Administration, stronger action to protect us against threats, and bringing us all together as a nation. I will be curious to see if Wickham will one day write a book on, "George W. Bush and Black America." Somehow, I wouldn't bet on it. This book could have been much, much better if Wickham had focused on reality rather than the political myths and Democratic Party line that seem to pervade it. Not a good effort, and not up to the usual caliber of Wickham's otherwise incisive and interesting articles.