Bill Clinton: Move beyond race remarks

January 15, 2008 1:36:41 PM PST
After asking supporters at an afternoon event to move away from discussions over what critics describe as racially-charged remarks by the Clintons, former President Bill Clinton call in to Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show to reiterate the need to move forward. "We don't wanna play into Republican hands by crippling either one of them, and making this race something it's not." Clinton said, referring to Democratic frontrunners Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton

Tensions between Obama and Sen. Clinton hit a boiling point Monday. Sen. Clinton faced scattered boos at an event honoring Martin Luther King Monday night - backlash from a comment she made suggesting King's success in the civil rights movement was possible thanks to President Johnson.

Obama, however, said he didn't view Clinton's comment as racially disparaging.

"I don't think it was in anyway a racial comment. That's something that has played out in the press, that's not my view," he said.

Former President Stresses Historic Democratic Race

In the former president's hour-long question-and-answer with Sharpton's listeners on Tuesday he commended Sens. Clinton and Obama for calling a truce yesterday on the back-and-forth surrounding the remarks and sought to draw attention to this Democratic field. "The nominee of the Democratic party is going to be an African-American man or a woman," he said.

"Neither is losing votes because of their race or gender," something Clinton added was "a good thing for America."

Stressing again the historic elements of this presidential race, Clinton also promised Sharpton that by the convention in August the Democratic Party will have put the in-fighting of primary season behind them.

"By the time we get to Denver we will have a united party," Clinton said.

This is President Clinton's second appearance on Sharpton's show in the last week. Amid accusations of racial insensitivity, the former president called in to Sharpton's radio show on Friday to discuss comments made about Obama receiving "fairy-tale" treatment from the press. During that appearance, a Clinton spokesman says he committed to coming back on the Sharpton show and taking questions from listeners when he appeared on Friday.

The Issue of Race

Earlier President Clinton responded to a minority supporter in Sparks, NV who asked him to stop making the "race issue" important in the election.

Clinton said "most people are trying to figure out who would be the best President. And I think that is what we want for America. And our party has been on forefront and paid a high price at times, for civil rights and women's rights and on those issues we have to be family. And that is what both candidates said yesterday and that is where we have to leave it."

"It is almost irresistible to the media, for obvious reason, and I don't criticize them," Clinton continued, prior to his appearance on the Sharpton show, "This is almost an irresistible thing but I think it is over now, and we need to leave it over."

The Conversation Continues

Obama yesterday used the remark to draw a distinction between himself and Clinton.

"But what I did interpret was her believing that the intricacies of the legislative process were somehow more significant than when ordinary people rise up and march and go to jail and fight for justice," he said.

In a taped appearance for the Tyra Banks Show, Clinton told the television talk show host she was "pained" by the reaction to her comments.

"You know, it is something that is personally hurtful to me," Clinton said. "Because I have been on the forefront of pushing for civil rights and women's rights and human rights for many years."

Clinton issued a statement late Monday saying, "When it comes to our heroes - President John F. Kennedy and Dr. King - Sen. Obama and I are on the same side."

As the candidates attempt to move on, it's clear that race will remain part of the conversation.

At an Obama event Monday night, a voter began a question by stating the obvious: "We've never elected a black man."

"I've noticed," Obama said to laughter.


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