I don’t really know what people mean when they say “playing the race card.” To me, 9 times out of 10 it’s really means “stop talking about race because I’m uncomfortable” or it means “don’t accuse me of racism.” But you have to laugh at some of our white American politicians like Bill “My Office is in Harlem” Clinton.
Clinton is at it again complaining that the Obama camp “played the race card” on him. It all started with an interview with a Philadelphia radio station where Clinton made the race card comment. The next day when asked about the comment Clinton denied it. Check out the video and the text summary on this New York Time blog (Clinton has his finger up in the air, which is usually a sign that he’s lying or angry.). Here is the text of the exchange where Clinton tells his lie:
Mr. Memoli: “Sir, what did you mean yesterday when you said that the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?”
Mr. Clinton: “When did I say that, and to whom did I say that?”
Mr. Memoli: “On WHYY radio yesterday.”
Mr. Clinton: “No, no, no. That’s not what I said. You always follow me around and play these little games, and I’m not going to play your games today. This is a day about election day. Go back and see what the question was, and what my answer was. You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today. Have a nice day.”
Mr. Memoli: “Respectfully sir, though, you did say …”
Mr. Clinton: “Have a nice day. I said what I said, you can go and look at the interview. And if you’ll be real honest, you’ll also report what the question was and what the answer was.”
Then in a subsequent interview he followed up with this gem of a comment:
In the same interview, he offered a full-throated defense of his record with African-Americans, adding: “You gotta really go some to play the race card with me. My office is in Harlem, and Harlem voted for Hillary by the way.”
Nice variation of the some of my best friends are black line isn’t it? I guess we should also note that there were several irregularities in the voting in NYC, so some have questioned Clinton’s “lock” on Harlem. In spite of past black support for Clinton, Clinton has never been the pro-black politician people make him out to be. His policies were not particularly helpful to African Americans, and he was more than willing to play on white fears of blacks when he went out of his way to attack a rapper in one of his campaigns.
I get a chuckle out of people like Clinton and Ferraro making racist comments, and then attempting to use the condemn the condemners strategy to make themselves look like victims. I think I need to file this under “whiny white people.” What I’d say to Clinton is–if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.
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My office is in Harlem! I know black people! There’s no way I can be a racist! I’m the first black president!
Man, what a wreck.
Words fail me when it comes to the Clintons. They just keep digging that sewer trench they’re living in deeper by the day.
Another reason to vote for Obama – “because his immediate family does not consist of HUGE PATHOLOGICAL LIARS”.
I can’t be the only one who doesn’t support Hillary Clinton at least partly because I am tired of the national psychodrama that is the Clinton family, now including Chelsea. I mean, should super delegates be asking Hillary Clinton whether supporting her means she will try to obligate them to support Chelsea should she decide to run for political office?
Playing the race card, to me, means bringing race into a discussion that was otherwise race neutral. E.g.,
Reporter to Bill Clinton: “Senator Obama won convincingly in South Carolina.”
Bill Clinton: “So did Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.”
That’s actually a pretty restrained example, but basically, it’s an attempt to explain something in racial terms. Even if it’s true, think about what it signifies. Imagine if Obama were to say something similar, such as, regarding Pennsylvania, that Hillary won because so many women voted for her because she is a woman. It may be true but still, it implies that a class of voters is incapable of independent judgment beyond racial and gender identification.
It may be true that blacks and women prefer when possible to vote for a candidate who “looks like them,” but isn’t this also true of white men? And it’s also true that blacks and women have definitely voted for the “other” candidate when they had the opportunity to choose — African Americans never supported Al Sharpton, for instance. And I highly doubt that Democratic women would vote for, say, Phyllis Schlafly.
Okay, rant over, but it bugs me that accusations about identity politics are always such a one sided discussion, with the assumption that they are “just politics” when it comes to white men, and something deeply insidious when it comes to women and African American (and no doubt in the future, Asian and Latino) candidates.
Re Harlem’s support of Clinton versus Obama: Not all of Harlem is black. A fairly large percentage of Harlem residents are Hispanic and Obama was, at the time of the NY primary, not doing so well with Hispanics. For one thing, his campaign seems to be subtly othering Hispanic voters. For example, his slogan “yes, we can” got translated as “si, se puede” or yes, you can*. Not the same thing. Maybe I’m being oversensitive and no one else in the universe is bothered by that, but it struck me as a bit off.
*I’m too lazy to figure out how to get the accent right in explorer, but the “si” should be si with an accent (yes) not si without (if).
Dianne, far be it from me to explore the subtleties of Spanish, but my children, bless their hearts, are fluent Spanish speakers, and my understanding is that the second person plural, (which would be “Podemos”) is not a favored usage in Spanish, which, like French, relies more on third person expressions for both “you” and “we” when not referring to immediate family or social groupings. Spanish and French have concepts of familiarity and formality as well as plural and singular that English doesn’t.
But the inclusion of “se” means that it can also be translated as “it can be done,” which is a much more “active” version of what in English would be a passive voice expression.
Maybe a native Spanish speaker can chime in here. I’m just noting that I think the expression is sufficiently idiomatic that a literal translation might be even more off-key to those speaking Spanish as a first or native language.
Barbara: You may be right. My spanish is far from fluent and translation is always a tricky thing. Any native speakers?
Depends on what country too where the Spanish is being spoken. Some have plural familiar “you” and some don’t, for example.
Some have plural familiar “you” and some don’t, for example.
South Texas doesn’t use vos/vosotros, nor, I think, does Mexico. Spain uses vosotros. Vos is a Central/South American form, although which countries use it and which don’t I’m not sure. I think “se puede” is formal singular, unless I’ve gotten my grammar completely screwed up.
You’re right in that the second person plural is not favoured among most Spanish-speakers, but both “podemos” and “yes, we can” use the first person plural, I believe.
I’m having a hard time deciphering what “si, se puede” means. “Poder” is, to the best of my knowledge, not a reflexive verb, so the best translation should be “si, podemos”. “Yes, you can” would be “si, puedes” – and in the formal, would be the regular third person “si, puede”. What does the particle “se” signify in this case?
Oops! You of course are right — “we” equals “first person” plural. But I was thinking we. My kids are always using third person in Spanish when they would use we or you in English.
As best as I can tell, this is similar to a French usage. For instance, if someone asks “is it possible to fix this?” a French speaker might responde, “on peut le faire,” (third person singular: one can do it) whereas, in English, the response might be “We can do it” or even the “you can do it,” which is really a nonsensical usage when you think about it, but English speakers hate the third person “one” usage, which is considered too formal, and prefer “you” or “we.”
My sense is that Spanish has usage that is more similar to French.
If you plug “si se puede” into a translator, you get something like “it is able” which is a bowdlerized form of “it can be.” But if you watch Bob the Builder, you already know that the question is “Can we fix it?”
To which “Yes, it can be” is actually a correct, if very shorthand answer, which, in English is either “Yes we can!” or even “Yes you can!” Okay?
It’s a matter of personal taste, I suppose. I’m personally very anti-“one”. I tutor essay writing and composition to Korean kids sometimes, and getting rid of the “ones” is among the first things I teach, right after emphasizing action with sentences and not using vestigial vocabulary words best left in the 19th century. Generally, I think having to use the pronoun “one” more than once in a sentence – as in, “one can’t do what one never tries” – just sounds silly. If you can rearrange it so that the pronoun only comes up once – “one should always give things a try” – it’s at least tolerable. Yes, that came up in SAT prep.
Has anybody found a clip of the exchange that actually includes the critical question that Clinton was asked?
I’ve watched your clip. I found this clip at the Huffington Post. And I also found this NBC report in which the newscaster alleges that Bill Clinton denied accusing Obama of playing the ‘race card’.
They are all missing the question. And given all the recording equipment in evidence, and how critical the exact question is to the legitimacy of the ‘story’, I find that omission rather curious.
Without that, all we are left with is Bill Clinton denying … something … but it’s unclear exactly what. We are presumably left with trusting the interviewer — a certain Mike Memoli — to have accurately phrased the question in the transcript.
Now Bill Clinton has demonstrated a willingness to lie to the media. But the media has also demonstrated a willingness to lie about the Clintons (and Al Gore and well, actually any moderately liberal politician). So I’m reluctant to conclude that it’s the first situation, and not the second, strictly on the basis of NBC/National Journal reporter Mike Memoli’s say-so.
Memoli, btw, is this guy, a pundit who reacted to Elizabeth Edwards’ standing up to Anne Coulter by saying that this made the Edwards campaign look bad. Now that piece seemed to me to be the classic ‘right wing media spin to peripheralize the progressive’ type story, but you’ll be forgiven if it strikes you as ‘standard journalism’, since at this point they’re practically the same thing. At any rate, it definitely raises questions in my mind about Memoli’s approach to political journalism.
I think it is a bit incorrect to say that Obama’s slogan “Yes, we can!” was translated into Spanish as “Si, se puede!” (I don’t know how to do the initial exclamation point).
“Yes we can!”, perhaps taken from “Bob the Builder,” is the Obama campaign’s translation of the Caesar Chavez slogan “Si, se puede.” Or something, I’m not sure if translation is quite the right word. In any case, “Si, se puede” long precedes Obama’s adulthood as a Latin@ slogan of collective action and the ability to get things done.
For Diane and Charles —
Assuming Amp’s software works, here it is —
¡Sí, se puede!
On Windows, Start -> All Programs -> System Tools -> Character Map
English speakers hate the third person “one” usage, which is considered too formal, and prefer “you” or “we.”
One can most certainly use one in English if one choses to. It just doesn’t sound very natural and idiomatic.
Thanks, Charles, that clears it up.