Hillary Clinton turned in a skillful performance at CNN’s Democratic Town Hall in Iowa on Monday night, deftly answering questions on topics ranging from Benghazi to her personal trustworthiness. But the presidential hopeful sparked accusations of historical revisionism with an answer near the end of the evening, when Clinton seemed to bemoan the process of Reconstruction.
The answer: Identifying Abraham Lincoln — not her husband Bill Clinton nor former rival and boss Barack Obama — as the president who most inspired her, Clinton lauded the 16th chief executive as a figure who “was willing to reconcile and forgive.”
“And I don’t know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancor, a little more forgiving and tolerant than might possibly have brought people back together more quickly,” Clinton continued. “But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the reigns of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So, I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.”
Wow. I am going to be charitable here and say that Hillary hasn’t really thought about Reconstruction in any meaningful way since she took college level history in the 1960s, when the Dunning School was still in vogue for some historians. But this is pretty awful to say in 2016. I’ve been as concerned as anyone about Bernie Sanders’ tone deafness on race, but this is worse than anything he has said or not said about Black Lives Matter. Reconstruction is pretty much the ultimate version of Black Lives Matter and Hillary’s response is that if only southern whites had been mollified after the Civil War, everything would be OK? Yikes.
I will also say that after 8 years of Barack Obama, it is rather depressing to have the two major Democratic candidates both fundamentally not understand why race matters so much in this country. Barack Obama gets it because he has to get it. It’d be nice to see Sanders and Clinton at least try to get it. Given the poor response of both to America’s racial problems, I guess it made more sense for Jim Webb to run as a Democrat in 2016 than I thought!