(NNPA)—When Ray Charles sang, “Tell your mama, tell your pa, I’m going to send you back to Arkansas,” he could have well been singing to Bill Clinton. The lyrics are from the hit song, “What’d I Say.” And what I say is that we send Clinton back to Arkansas, to his home in upstate New York or anywhere except center stage.
I’ve never cared for Clinton’s efforts to nudge the Democratic Party to the right through the Democratic Leadership Council, his misnamed welfare reform legislation, his masquerading as the nation’s “first Black president,” or his scandalous behavior while campaigning to get African-Americans to vote for his wife, Hillary, instead of Barack Obama.
For me, the last straw was his shameful effort to get Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, to drop out of the race in Florida and endorse Gov. Charles Crist, a longtime Republican who became an independent when it was evident that he would lose in the Republican primary to conservative Marco Rubio.
According to Politico.com, “Bill Clinton sought to persuade Rep. Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race for Senate during a trip to Florida last week and nearly succeeded.” The site said Meek agreed twice to quit the race but changed his mind. “The Crist, Meek and Clinton camps even set a date for an endorsement rally,” the story read. “Meek was to give Crist his blessing and explain to his disappointed supporters, many of whom deeply distrust the governor, who was elected as a Republican that their votes could save the Senate for the Democrats and save America from the rise of Rubio, who is viewed both as a hard-line conservative and a potential national figure.”
After the story broke, Meek said in a carefully crafted statement, “Any rumor of any statement from anyone that says I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate at best,” Meek said. “There was never a deal.”
Initially, Clinton refused to acknowledge that he had urged Meek to withdraw from the contest. However, a spokesperson for the former president said Clinton had indeed urged Meek to terminate his candidacy, figuring Crist would then have the votes to defeat the Republican front-runner. At the time, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Meek getting only 15 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Crist and 42 percent for Rubio.
Meek first met Clinton in 1992 when, as a Florida state trooper, he helped provide security for the former Arkansas governor campaigning for president. Meek endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Clinton repaid Meek in the Democratic primary by hosting 11 fundraisers for him as the Black long-shot candidate defeated billionaire Jeff Greene, who poured $23 million of his own money into the contest.
The troubling thing about Clinton’s overture was that after supporting the Democratic nominee who had won the primary fair and square, he favored Meek withdrawing from the race so that a life-long Republican donning the new clothes of an independent would have a better chance of defeating a less attractive Republican challenger. In other words, the former national leader of the Democratic Party favored dumping his party’s duly elected nominee so that one Republican would have a better shot of defeating another Republican in Florida. After news of the failed backroom deal became public, Clinton announced that he would be back in Florida on election eve to campaign for Meek, the candidate he was willing to sacrifice just days earlier.
This is not the first time Bill Clinton has tried to misdirect the fortunes of African-Americans. Throughout the Obama administration, Clinton has shared his opinions of what President Obama should do with journalists instead of relaying those messages to the president in private. Obama had been in office only a month when Clinton told ABC News: “I like trying to educate the American people about the dimensions and scope of this economic crisis,” Clinton said. “I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we’re going to come through this.”
In September, Clinton was still giving advice to President Obama—in public. “He’s being criticized for being too disengaged, for not caring,” Clinton said in an interview with Politico. “So he needs to turn into it. I may be one of the few people that think it’s not bad that the lady said she was getting tired of defending him. He needs to hear it.” Apparently, Clinton thought he was telling Blacks what they needed to hear in South Carolina.
After his wife lost the South Carolina primary, “Slick Willie” tried to paint Barack Obama as the Black candidate. When asked in Columbia, S.C. why it took “two Clintons” to compete against Obama, Clinton replied, “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here.” Of course, Barack Obama is no Jesse Jackson but that didn’t matter to Clinton. And nor does it matter to him, his election eve trip notwithstanding, that he was willing to toss his party’s Senate nominee under the bus in Florida.
We should sing another Ray Charles song to Bill Clinton—“You Don’t Know Me”. The lyrics are fitting:
You give your hand to me
And then you say, ‘Hello.’
And I can hardly speak,
My heart is beating so.
And as anyone can tell
You think you know me well.
Well, you don’t know me.
Bill Clinton doesn’t know us, but we know him. It’s time to tell him: Hit the Road, Jack and don’t you come back no more.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)