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5 September 1998

Minor mishaps, Volume III: Sooth-sayers, mind-readers welcome

Synopsis: Somehow, Clifford Alexander knows what Bill Clinton felt back when Clinton was still just a teen-ager.

Clinton Lies About Race Too
Clifford Alexander, The Wall Street Journal, 9/2/98

When celebrity lynch mobs race through town--just generally yellin’and showin’ off, actin’ crazy--sometimes they start to pick up the irregulars, townfolk you wouldn’t normally see down at their haunts. No, Clifford Alexander isn’t part of the press, and it’s a little surprising to see him mixed up with this crew. But he has increasingly become a regular part of the Council of Harpies on the inventive show Hardball;and in this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, he brings a new skill--retrospective mind-reading--to that battery of powers we’ve seen on display from those who would Bring Down Big Bill.

Everybody who’s signed up for the posse knows the drill all too well: Bill Clinton’s Always Been A Big Liar. And, as we’ve seen so often from our celebrity press corps, sometimes they’ll distort and invent things themselves, just to help us take in the Big Picture! Alexander doesn’t take it quite that far, but he comes to the mob as a skilled second-sighter. He somehow knows what Clinton felt when he was still just a schoolboy in his mother’s home, long ago; and therefore, he can tell us the president was lyin’ through his teeth when he told us last week, on Martha’s Vineyard, the feelings he’d had, back in 1963, during Martin Luther King’s famous speech.

Sorry--we have to go to Cliff-on-Bill to let you see what’s been transpirin’:

ALEXANDER (paragraph 2): Mr. Clinton said the following [in the Vineyard speech]: “Most of us who are old enough remember exactly where we were on Aug. 28, 1963. I was in my living room in Hot Springs, Ark. I remember the chair I was sitting in; I remember exactly where it was in the room; I remember exactly the position of the chair when I sat and watched on national television the great March on Washington unfold. I remember weeping uncontrollably during Martin Luther King’s speech, and I remember thinking when it was over, my country would never be the same and neither would I.”

It’s sort of the way that we feel, every night, after sitting through an hour of Hardball!Anyway, here’s more of Cliff-on-Bill:

ALEXANDER (paragraph 3): So spoke the man who in January could not remember whether he had been alone with Monica Lewinsky a few weeks earlier. And it wasn’t the first time Mr. Clinton had suspiciously vivid memories concerning race in America. On an earlier occasion, he gravely told the nation of his vivid memory of church burnings in Arkansas when he was growing up. Journalists’ inquiries revealed that there were no church burnings in Arkansas during Mr. Clinton’s early years.

At least now we know what Alexander thinks: Clinton’s memories of King’s speech are “suspiciously vivid.” (More on the church burnings later.)

Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t rightly know just whereClinton sat when Dr. King made his speech; so we aren’t sure if Clinton’s statement was accurate. But we cansuggest that Alexander himself has some problems, of a quite recent vintage. Let’s look at the big guy’s next paragraph:

ALEXANDER (paragraph 4): Manipulating issues of black and white in America to distract our attention has been a favorite pastime for this president. Rather than showing concentrated leadership, thought and attention, he has made up stories that would have Americans believe that he has led the struggle to correct racial inequities. In his Martha’s Vineyard speech he even compared himself to Nelson Mandela and Dr. King.

Alexander’s one specificremark, on Mandela and King, is one which we did find intriguing. We went back through the text of Clinton’s speech, to see where he “compared himself to Mandela and King.” We’re still looking. Here’s how Clinton discussed Dr. King, in a speech that was delivered to commemorate King’s march:

CLINTON: There are people all across this country who made a more intense commitment to the idea of racial equality and justice that day than they had ever made before. And so in very personal ways, all of us became better and bigger because of the work of those who brought that great day about...What I’d like to ask you to think about today, and to share with what I think this means for us today. I was trying to think about what John [Lewis] and Dr. King and others did and how they did it, and how it informs what I do and how I think about other things today.

Is a person who says “I learned from Dr. King” thereby trying to comparehimself with Dr. King? Moral learning, worldwide, could really slow down if we decide to adopt thatstrange construction. For our part, we didn’t much like the president’s speech, but we search it in vain for comparisons to Mandela. Should Clinton have boasted, of Dr. King, “I didn’t listen to a thing the man said?”

Did a teen-aged Bill Clinton sit and weep in his chair? Here at THE HOWLER, we’ll admit we aren’t certain. But we have read the letter Clinton wrote to his draft board, back in 1969, a letter the young Clinton surely never could have dreamed would ever be read by the public:

CLINTON (to Colonel Eugene Holmes): Let me try to explain. As you know, I worked for two years in a very minor position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I did it for the experience and the salary but also for the opportunity, however small, of working every day against a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before Vietnam. [Our emphasis]

Left on our own, we wouldn’t swear that the young man who wrote that letter may not have wept over Dr. King’s speech. So thank goodness we have psychics like Clifford Alexander to let us know it’s A Big Bunch of Hokum!

Dr. King often spoke of the blessed community. In this strange time of slick accusation, it might be time to jes’ go reread that.

Postscript on church burnings: Pleasedon’t make the analysts go back and research church burnings in Faubusian Arkansas! As we recall, there were mixed reports from state historians about whether any Arkansas churches had burned. But Arkansas is right next door to Mississippi, and we seem to recall a few problems down there. Is it possible young Clinton had his states mixed up? We don’t rightly know, and guess what, boys and girls? Clifford Alexander doesn’t have a clue either.