Clinton’s Mea Culpa

Feb 23, 2008 9:02pm

ABC News’ Eloise Harper reports: Sen. Hillary Clinton came to New Orleans, La., to apologize again to the African American community at Tavis Smiley’s forum at the State of the Black Union Town Hall. Clinton acknowledged the pain in this race, alluding to her husband’s remarks and the offense taken in the community. She said, as she has before, that if President Clinton’s remarks offended anybody then she is sorry. But the timing of Clinton’s visit and creates questions about Clinton’s motivation to come to New Orleans nine days before March forth.

"The high stakes and historic nature of Senator Obama’s candidacy and mine have invested this campaign with an intensity and an excitement seldom seen in the political arena. And as often happens there have been some painful moments, too," Clinton said. "Those of us who have fought together for decades to right wrongs and break barriers cannot allow differences in our choice of who should be elected to undermine our fundamental unity and determination to change course in our country starting in November."

Smiley asked Clinton about this pain and what Clinton was referring to. The Senator did not directly say that it was a reference to her husband’s remarks and their tarnished reputation in the African American community, but alluded to it saying, "I just wanted to acknowledge that because I have lived it, I understand it and I think it is so important that we do take pride and we recognize the historic nature of this choice, but we also believe we will be unified once we have a nominee."

Clinton also made a point to talk about her long relationship with the community.

"I have long and deep relationships. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and I have introduced what has been called the platinum standard of voting reform," she said. "We worked our hearts out together to present that piece of legislation. Shelia Jackson Lee and I labored for four years to get the Congress the Republican Congress to approve a bust of Sojourner Truth, the first African American woman to be honored in the Capitol. I have relationships and friendships and working histories with so many of you, and so does Barack."

Clinton defended her husband, saying, "My husband apologized for slavery. My husband mended so as to avoid ending affirmative action. My husband had in his White House, his cabinet, his administration many of you who I see here.

"We know that when he was president we had a rising tide," she said. "We lifted more people out of poverty than in America’s recent history."

Clinton made that case of her long-term commitment.

"I don’t think that there has been any doubt that I and Bill have been part of that common purpose or struggle our entire adult lives," she said. "It is important to me that I make that abundantly clear."

Senator Clinton faces obstacles in Texas and Ohio, where the black vote could tip the scale for her. Clinton’s extension of the olive branch in New Orleans weeks after her husband’s inflammatory comments were met by some applause in the audience. Clinton repeatedly mentioned that come November, Democrats will have to be united behind their nominee -– signaling to the crowd that whether it is Obama or Clinton, she hopes the community will be able to rally behind either.

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