By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
"I will not turn back no matter who's behind me, or what they're saying, or what they're doing!" she declares, her voice rising and falling with a preacher's cadence. She pauses, then adds emphatically: "There is one thing you know about me: When I tell you, 'I'll stick with you,' I'll stick with you!" Like other audiences in churches and union rallies that have heard Mrs. Clinton use this line from her stump speech, this one explodes with applause.
But think about it: This Al Jolson act could have been left on the cutting room floor of Spike Lee's latest movie, Bamboozled. Couldn't Mrs. Clinton have applied the allusions to "gunfire," "shouts," and "footsteps" to a more relevant period in modern black historylike "Giuliani time"? Had she invoked the names of Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, and Abner Louima, her message might truly have resonated with all African Americans. But apparently Mrs. Clinton did not feel it was imperative to point out thatreality and stand clearly with the black community on that crucial dispute.
The very next day, during a televised debate with her rival, Rick Lazio, Mrs. Clinton passes up the opportunity to point the finger of blame for police misconduct at Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is sitting in a front-row seat. In her response to a question about racial profiling, she never mentions Giuliani, whose police force has been found by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan to have engaged in the often deadly practice. Instead, Mrs. Clinton, replying to a question about Giuliani's plan to build a stadium on Manhattan's West Side, chuckles softly as she acknowledges the mayor, while declaring that she will not support it. Giuliani laughs. She has let him off the hook. At least, I think, Mrs. Clinton could have parodied Giuliani's trademark tantrums, dredging up his divisive rhetoric to illustrate his lack of compassion. "As far as I am concerned," I fantasize her laying into him in her bully pulpit mode, using the mayor's own words, "Rudy Giuliani is a 'despicable, horrible human being, and you should always make that point every time you get a chance to make that point.' " And if calling Giuliani a "murderer" (the word the mayor used to describe Fidel Castro) is too extremist in her view, "I'm more than willing to make the point" (Giuliani's words again) that based on the lives his cops have stolen, Rudy Giuliani is a murderer.
Since coming to New York, Mrs. Clinton has learned to play the game of divide and conquer, especially when it involves blacks and Jews. After her historic visit to Al Sharpton's House of Justice last January, she has not been seen with one of the nation's most influential civil rights leaders.
Advisers may have cautioned her against getting too chummy with people like the reverend. She took a lot of heat for kissing his ring. The backlash was across the board, but it was the Hasidic communities in Crown Heights and Boro Park, along with some liberal Jews, who accused Mrs. Clinton of sucking up to an "anti-Semite." Some African Americans contend that if Mrs. Clinton starts sinking in the polls, she will turn on Sharpton with the same fierceness with which she denounced Suha Arafata move that right-wing Jews would gleefully applaud. Sharpton becomes Mr. Untouchable.
It is insulting how some Jewish supporters of Mrs. Clintonsuch as Ed Kochtreat black leaders like Sharpton, who has been striving to do the right thing. Koch, while standing foursquare behind Mrs. Clinton, won't allow Sharpton to put his controversial past behind him.
Koch rejected an invitation to attend Sharpton's 46th birthday party in Harlem on October 3 on the ground that Sharpton had reneged on a promise to apologize for his role in the Tawana Brawley case. "As you know, I have publicly stated that I think you are very smart and could one day be a broadly accepted leader," Koch wrote to Sharpton in a letter dated October 2. "I have also said I have urged you to publicly state you are sorry for participating in the Tawana Brawley fiasco, and that I have urged you to ask forgiveness for using language that was anti-Semitic and anti-White. I have told people that I don't think you are either, but that what you did was demagogic, which, of course, is reprehensible even if not motivated by anti-Semitism or racism."
According to Koch, "on innumerable occasions" Sharpton had said he would "make such an apology" and would do so "in a church with a black congregation." Koch was miffed when Sharpton "not long ago . . . reaffirmed [his] support for the Tawana Brawley claims of rape" and received no assurances that the activist would come clean during this year's celebration at Canaan Baptist Church. " . . . I would lose my credibility if I participated in extolling your virtues, as your birthday friends will undoubtedly do . . . ," he wrote.
Sharpton, who insists he never made any such promise to Koch, absorbs Koch's blows like a tar baby. It's like he's afraid to brawl with Koch, who some say helped make him kosher. Sharpton, who paved the way for Koch's redemption in the black community (ensuring that he was warmly received by a forgiving crowd at the preacher's birthday celebration last year), ought to remind the former mayor of his own tarnished legacy. Catch him the next time on NY1, Rev. Ask him: Remember Eleanor Bumpurs? Two congressional hearings on police brutality? Kochville?