The Brother Caught ANOTHER Break: Clinton’s Failed ‘Willie Horton-ing” of Obama

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Barack Obama must surely have been born under a lucky star.

‘Black’ but not black. ‘American’ but only American since his college days, having spent his formative years outside the CONUS. Whip-smart but with enough nerdchic to make it cool. Now he even gets to have been a doobie-smoking, coke snorting slacker made untouchable about it by having ‘fessed up before he could be outed. Best of all, now he’s been attacked by Whitey for it. Finally, proof: it is indeed better to be lucky than good.

There has been so much racism in the air lately (i.e. my entire life) that I can’t get too worked up about Clinton’s folks having hinted, or not, that Obama not only did drugs but might have dealt them too. I can’t even manage depression and/or anger that Clinton (Bill, that is) could lie so obviously about his youthful drug use without being deemed the pusher man while Obama is all but pictured on a corner going psst-psst to small children wandering by. There is nothing, apparently, that black people won’t do, or haven’t done, however long their track record of excellence. Exhaustion and a Gaullic shrug is the best I can manage.

John Dickerson, Slate’s political columnist (and perhaps my distant cousin), thinks imagining what the GOP might do to discredit Obama is fair game. It is plausible that Shaheen was simply predicting what path the GOP’s well established penchant for racist (sexist, classist, nativist, tortur-ist) dirty tricks might take. It’s also plausible that Shaheen’s tactic was as knowingly desperate as the bee’s: sting someone, who may die if allergic, but either way you’re toast. Perhaps he took one for the team, hoping that the right-wing blovio-sphere will run with Barack-as-American-Gangster as they have with Barack-as-Muslim-Terrorist and infect the rest of the nation. The only thing that’s clear is that no other politician with Obama’s resume would ever have been subjected to such a slur.

I agree with Dickerson, though, that the Clinton tactic, if it was one, hurt her far more than it did him. Having innoculated himself by admitting to his past drug use and wastrel days, then distinguishing himself afterward, he’s bullet proof. Bringing it up makes everyone but him look like the racist hater-ation it is. It might just be that this sort of under handed white attack is the highest compliment for a truly transcendent black because no one in their right mind could truly believe Barack Obama sold drugs.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend