Recent Bill Clinton quote: anyone have more context?

Today around the web I started seeing this video excerpt of some comments Bill Clinton made at a rally in Memphis last Thursday:

The quote in question:
“The other thing I want to make a funny comment about is Steve Cohen’s remark that I was just a stand-in for the first black president,” Clinton remarked. “I’m happy to do that, but you know what else we learned from the human genome? We learned that unless your ancestors, every one of you, are 100%, 100% from sub-Saharan Africa, we are all mixed-race people.”

The quote is being portrayed as echoing a line of attack Bill used in 2008 to downplay Barack Obama’s “blackness,” but so far I can’t find any sources that include the broader context of the quote in Bill’s full speech.

I’m trying to figure out why Bill would make such comments, and I’m suspicious that no one has seen fit to provide context. Has anyone seen or heard a long version that can clarify what he was getting at?

Is Bubba trying to pretend that he’s African now? Because that came out really awkward. Yes, we are all descended from African proto-humans. No, we are not all (culturally) “mixed-race” because of that. We are mixed because peoples intermarry.

Europeans may be mixed between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal stock, sorta, but both of those descend from Australopithecenes, in Africa.

Besides, the first President who explicitly considered himself of “mixed” African-American descent was Warren Harding, wasn’t it? :dubious:

[SIZE=1]Apparently, it came from Toni Morrison in “The New Yorker”.
Article written in the October 5,1998 issue.
(Scroll down to about the ninth paragraph)

Actually, we’re all descended from African members of the species H. sapiens. You needn’t go back any further than about 60K years ago. No need to invoke “proto-humans”.

Other folks said that, not him. And recent genetic testing of his descendants proved the rumor to be false.

Thanks, but I meant more context from Clinton’s speech. You’ve provided context for the “quote within the quote.”

What I’m curious about is why Clinton thought to bring up that anecdote in the first place.

I’m having trouble finding the context for him bringing up mixed-race. But here’s a longer quote from the speech at the Memphis rally where he praises Obama:

Hopefully a transcript or longer video will come out. I’d be surprised if Clinton bought up “we’re all mixed-race” in order to dismiss Obama’s significance as the first black president.

So he’s still pushing the idea that the USA’s Democratic Party, an ostensibly center-left party in a country with a remarkably right-wing/neoliberal ruling class, needs to be more conservative, and less “liberal” or progressive. I see.

But that hasn’t worked out! Neither for progressive causes nor for the party organization! He, the centrist, only had a Democratic Party majority in Congress for two years as well. Maybe the Democratic Party would do better with a more inspiring FDR/LBJ type than with a corrupt centrist like Bubba.

I don’t see how you get this out of the quote given, at all. He is specifically acknowledging that he only had a Democratic Party majority for two years as well (“I’ve been there”).

So, he’s a big giant drag on the Democratic Party and his advice is worthless.

I suggest that the next administration have no Clintons in it.

It would seem that the left DOES have its equivalent of the Tea Party purists.

When Bill Clinton was still president, a black activist (I forget her name) mentioned that he is the first black president. It was meant to show support for him, from the black community. It was also kind of tongue in cheek.

Recently, Steven Cohen mentioned that previous remark, and then said that history had proved Bill Clinton was just a “stand in” for the first black president. Also tongue in cheek. Clinton’s remarks were in response to that.

Edit to add:

It’s part of Hillary’s ongoing effort to prove that she’s more electible than Bernie, in this case, because she claims to have more support among black voters. Bill bringing up that ‘first black president’ quote is a way of emphasizing the Clintons’ longstanding ties to black voters and lawmakers. The Clinton team has also been trying to discredit Bernie’s efforts at civil rights support in order to hurt him with black voters. So that’s what that’s about.

Clinton does have more support among black and all non-white voters according to every poll I’ve seen, although Sanders is closing the gap. She’s not just claiming that, it’s true. I don’t know enough about Sander’s efforts at civil rights support or what Clinton’s been claiming about it to comment on that.

According to local press reports the day after Clinton’s comments, his reference to the Human Genome Project – however clumsily worded when taken out of context – was part of a segue into a positive theme. From

And from

It’s true at the moment, but it’s not immutably true. The Clintons have been claiming that Sanders doesn’t understand black voters and isn’t used to talking to them because he comes from such a lily white part of New England. They’re also claiming that Sanders is doomed when he hits the Southern states, where Clinton’s support is inviolate.

In reality, Sanders is a long time supporter of civil rights era marches and sit ins. He got arrested for civil rights protests, back in the days when Hillary was still working for Goldwater. He participated in the Million Man march with MLK. He worked to desegrate housing at U of Chicago.

Sanders has been promoting a photo of himself at a rally at U of Chicago and last week (well, last year, but it blew up last week) a bunch of people started claiming that Sanders was lying and that the guy in the photo was someone else, a guy named Bruce Rappaport. Unfortunately, a WaPo reported wrote a piece claiming he’d talked to Rappaport’s ex-wife and she insisted that it wasn’t Sanders.

The reporter, Jonathon Capeheart, still insists that he was right to believe Rapapport’s ex-wife, but the actual photographer came forward with all the contact sheets from the photos he took that day, showing that it was clearly Sanders in the dark sweater, not Rapporport (they were both young white men in the 60’s, with heavy black glasses and short dark hair so a passing resemblance in one shot is not odd. But Sanders is wearing a sweater and the other guy isn’t. Since they clearly wouldn’t have passed the sweater back and forth between frames, clearly the guy in the sweater is always Sanders.)

Anywhoo - you can read some about the photo phlap -

And about some of Sanders’ civil rights activities -

Sanders’ history with the civil rights era marches and sit ins is admirable. But that was also 50 years ago. From what I’ve read, it seems like black voters don’t seem him as having done as much lately. Here’s an article where black leaders in Vermont said that they were invisible to him, saying this:

Here’s an interview with him last summer basically saying the same thing:

It’s poor word choice to say that black voters don’t understand his history in fighting for civil rights, and that fighting income inequality is what they should be focusing on.

And here’s a more recent article about why he’s having trouble with African-American voters.

I like a lot of what Bernie has to say, and I’ll definitely vote for him if he’s the Democratic candidate. But I would also be somewhat surprised if he is.

Sanders certainly has reason to think that he is entitled to a good chunk of the African American vote (to the extent that this vote is monolithic, which of course it is not).

In his many years in Congress he has indeed been a strong voice for many issues that are important to African Americans—among them, as he points out, prison reform and income inequality. And he absolutely was involved in the civil rights movement, though I am a bit amused that anyone especially cares one way or the other whether that was HIM at a particular rally or not.

But as several people have pointed out, he hasn’t (yet) made that sale where black voters are concerned. I’m not African American, I don’t know exactly how Sanders comes across to African Americans (and even if I were black I’m only one person), but from what I have read and heard from black writers and friends and acquaintances there is significant doubt that Sanders understands what it means to be African American in this society.

I have a friend, a black Clinton supporter, who expresses it this way: “It doesn’t matter how much income is redistributed, I’m still going to worry about being stopped for driving while black.” In this man’s eyes, Sanders doesn’t fundamentally understand this.

And it’s worth pointing out here, since others have brought up the state that Sanders represents, that Vermont is almost unbelievably white—so damn white that most people accustomed to most of the rest of America can’t quite grasp it.

I live in a small city of 30,000 people or so in upstate NY. The black population of my city is more than twice the black population of the entire state of Vermont. That’s how white Vermont is.

What does this mean? Well, if you want to be elected as a Democrat in my city, or for that matter my county, let alone my state, you have to have significant African American support, and that means support from African American groups, and that means listening to the subtle and not so subtle ways in which being black is an issue that transcends poverty.

It means dealing with why schools in my city, which largely serve the African American population, are so bad; it means dealing with negative feelings from “suburbanites” about the “unsafe” city neighborhoods…

These are things that every Democratic politician in my city deals with on some level. As far as I can see, Sanders, in his life as a Vermont politician, hasn’t had to deal with it, and has chosen not to deal with it when it has come up. The article Sam Lowry linked to above suggests as much.

Sanders may yet break through with black voters. As I say, his policies are generally in that direction, and he is certainly a great deal less racist than the typical 75-year-old white American. Maybe blacks will come to decide that his plans for income redistribution outweigh the concerns they have about him.

But as long as he doesn’t directly acknowledge that the troubles of being black in America are bigger than prison reform and income redistribution, as long as he keeps showing his bona fides by emphasizing marches he was at half a century ago, and as long as he keeps saying vaguely condescending things such as ‘I have a long history in fighting for civil rights. I understand that many people in the African-American community may not understand that” (linked to above), I think it’s going to be an uphill battle.