Alright, I didn’t want to have to post on this but people keep bringing this up in response to Barack Obama’s race baiting. But before I begin, saying “she did it too” is not an excuse for Obama’s race baiting. In fact its a Tu quoque logical fallacy to be exact.
But anyways, the reports of Clinton’s comments are inaccurate. Josh Marshall from TPM points out that the politico quotes Clinton as saying:
Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act,” Clinton said. “It took a president to get it done.”“
However, they fail to report both the full comment and the question that the faux news reporter asks her. Major Garrett reads this Obama’s quote and then asks her to comment:
“False Hopes. Dr King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over the magnificent crowd, the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, sorry guys, false hopes, the dream will die, it can’t be done, false hope, we don’t need leaders who tell us what we can’t do, we need leaders to tell us what we can do and inspire us.”
Clinton’s FULL response was:
“I would, and I would point to the fact that that Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President 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 a real in peoples lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished.”
(You can see a video of the interaction here. It starts at 3:40)
OMG ONLY POLITICIANS CAN PASS LEGISLATION?!?!?!?! * SHOCK * It’s ridiculous that people get up in arms when someone points out that social movements don’t pass legislation. Of course social movements are an invaluable tool to build public support, but at the end of the day they can’t pass bills.
More importantly, Clinton’s comments aren’t about King’s dream, they’re about the political process needed to pass the legislation King fought for. President Kennedy, who Obama likes to compare himself to, attempted to pass the civil rights act but could not override the political factors before his assassination. At the time of his death the civil rights act was still bottled in the House of Representatives.
When President Johnson came to office he used the political environment to twist arms, politic, and manuever the bill through the House and Senate. Her point, and it’s an accurate one, is that while hope provides vision, it takes an experienced and politically savy President translate dream into reality. If you doubt me consider the fact that the division over the civil rights movement caused the entire bloc of southern democrats, previously a major stronghold, to literally leave the party and become Republicans.
You can argue until your face is blue, but the history is undeniable. While hope played a significant, and necessary, role in galvanizing the people, it still required one of the greatest feats in political history to get the bill passed. Barack Obama might be a great inspirational figure, but I’m voting for a president, or commander and chief if you will, not a motivational speaker.