Democratic presidential frontrunner and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clintonconfirmed to the Los Angeles Sentinel in an exclusive interview this week thatshe has hired two high-powered and influential African Americans to help runher historic race for the White House and she’s assembling a team ofAfrican American advisors across the country.
“I want to have as inclusive and diverse a campaign as I can becausethat’s the way I want to govern,” Senator Clinton said while visitingLos Angeles this week. “We just want to do things right.”
Mrs. Clinton announced that Chicago-based banker and longtime friend Bob Nashwill next month chairman of Shorebank Enterprises and become her deputy campaignmanager. Previously, Nash had worked as the director of White House personnelfor President Bill Clinton for six years.
Former CEO of the Democratic National Committee and former White House politicaladvisor Minyon Moore, who worked as principal political advisor in the BillClinton White House, officially re-enters the Clinton camp. “Minyon isa class act. She’s brilliant and brings a lot to the campaign. She’sbeen helping me before I even thought about doing this,” Senator Clintonadded.
Nash and Moore are two of about a dozen of African Americans expected to benamed to the Clinton inner circle. “I feel very committed to workingwith and involving Black voters and Black citizens in whatever I do. That’sthe way I’ve lived my life and that’s the way my husband and Ibelieve our country works best,” said Mrs. Clinton.
Nash said Hillary Clinton was his “strongest supporter” as itrelates to helping the president have an administration that looks like America. “Itwas an honor for me to serve and that’s why I’m leaving my joband everything to help her continue being for issues important to Black people.”
“Senator Clinton has always championed issues that impact people ofcolor in general and African Americans in particular,” said Moore.
“It’s a pleasure to work with such a diverse team of smart andcommitted people.”
When asked to identify those African Americans in Southern California whohave signed on under the Clinton column, Senator Clinton named legendary entertainerQuincy Jones, music mogul Clarence Avant and his wife Jackie and well knownbusinesswoman Alice Huffman.
Although it’s still early in this heated race, it’s clear thebattle for Black votes is on. Democratic Party officials believe this willbe one of the most competitive scrambles for Black supporters since the VotingRights Act was passed four decades ago. And what’s also clear is theBlack vote is not a guarantee for a Black candidate.
When Illinois Senator Barack Obama threw his hat into the political ring,many African Americans - some longtime Clinton supporters - were excited aboutthe man who could become the country’s first Black president, yet theyfound themselves in a political quagmire.
How do you abandon a team that’s been there for Black America? “Billand Hillary Clinton have been in the trenches - side by side with us for decades,” saidAvant. “They’re like family and you have to respect that.”
In the one-on-one interview, Mrs. Clinton, who could become the first femalepresident of the U.S., told the L.A. Sentinel she understands the “difficultdecision” facing African Americans who see Obama as standing on the brinkof history too. “It will be a difficult choice, but I’m hopingI can earn their vote,” said Clinton. However, she doesn’t believethe Black community “owes her.”
“I’ve been blessed. I’ve been able to participate in manyof the good things and stand against some of the bad ones in the last decade.But I don’t think in politics you can ever assume that anybody owes youanything. We’re all free people and we have a right to make our mindsabout who we vote for based on any factor whatsoever,” explained Mrs.Clinton.
She is hoping, however, that African Americans remember the Clinton recordon civil rights. “But what I hope is that people will see in me someonewho has been in these struggles for a long time who has worked particularlyto provide opportunities for our children, who has spent time both as a publicservant and public official trying to create better conditions for people tolive their lives and live out their dreams.”
Both Senators Obama and Clinton have been careful not to attack each otherso far in this campaign. When pressed if Obama presents a problem in her racefor the White House, Mrs. Clinton empathically stated she “doesn’tsee it that way.”
“Senator Obama is running a very strong race as an accomplished AfricanAmerican. Bill Richardson will be the first Hispanic. I will be the first femalepresident,” said Clinton. “I’m thrilled that the DemocraticParty can offer this to the people of this country. I think we’re strongerbecause of who we all are running.
“I think it should be a hard competition. This is a very difficult jobwe’re asking to have. It’s not going to be easy no matter who iselected. I think I’m the best qualified and experienced person to doit. I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t feel like I was the bestcandidate.”
Clinton is campaigning on a platform of ‘Renewing America’s Promise,” whichincludes goals of creating jobs, affordable higher education, universal Pre-Keducation, energy independence, economic empowerment and universal healthcare.
“I want to set a goal of Universal Health Care Coverage for every singleAmerican. It’s a disgrace that we have 47 million uninsured Americansand we have a lot of people in effect underinsured.”
As for ending the war in Iraq, Mrs. Clinton agreed with the House vote lastweek to start withdrawing the troops out of the Middle East, but understandsand believes “special forces” will be needed in the region possiblyuntil 2009. “I don’t think the president (Bush) is gonna do muchto start pulling troops out of Iraq. And what that means is, as president Iwill have to start doing that, “she explained.
“You can’t do it overnight. You have to do it in an orderly way.You have to make sure the troops are safe as they’re withdrawing. I wantto get most of our troops out as quickly as possible.” Clinton also stressedshe wants to “restore respect for America around the world.”
Although voters are one year away from casting a ballot in the presidentialprimaries, Mrs. Clinton fully plans to have her popular husband, PresidentBill Clinton described as “her closest and best advisor” out onthe stump. For the first time since she announced her candidacy, the formerpresident recently joined his wife in Alabama to commemorate the 42nd anniversaryof the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
The Selma march was the first time the 2008 presidential contenders had sharedthe same turf, but it surely won’t be the last. And it’s no doubtPresident Bill Clinton was a big boost for his wife that day. Georgia U.S.Representative John Lewis told one reporter he was prepared to endorse SenatorObama that day - until Bill Clinton called.
“It’s thrilling for me when he’s out there,” saidHillary Clinton. “He and I know that I have to get out there and runthe beginning of this campaign on my own. He will certainly be out there duringthe campaign but more importantly when I’m president he will be out there,” sheadded.
“We have a lot of problems,” Clinton said. “This president(George W. Bush) we have now has done a lot of damage to our country. We aregoing to be left with a big hole to dig ourselves out of so I’m gonnahand my husband a big shovel along with a lot of other people and we’regonna start digging together.”