It’s important to put all this in the context of the time and to remember how strikingly different the political landscape appeared then. Going through my reporting notes yesterday, I came across a quote that was given to me at the time by a close friend of the Clintons that seems comically misguided today but nicely captures the attitude that prevailed in Hillaryland in 2006, and suggests why Clinton might have been unwilling to move against her loyal servitor. “She is piggybacking the only black president the United States has ever known,” the Clinton friend piously lectured to me. “Given African Americans’ prominence in the Democratic Party, people who talk up other candidates don’t understand the impact that her husband will have. He won’t passively sit back in this election. He is going to be an activist and he will get on the phone to black ministers and they will be there for her [emphasis added].” (He had an impact, all right.)
That quote nicely summarizes the way the Clintons have courted African American voters. And it actually sort of worked. The Clintons locked up support from a lot of black politicians, ministers, and other leaders. The problem, of course, is that the grassroots didn't play along.
Which brings me to my piece, where I take a look at the uncomfortable position a lot of these same black Hillary boosters now find themselves in. I think Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers put it most provocatively when he told me:
"To me, there's a historical consideration in this as well," Conyers says. "How in the world could I explain to people I fought for civil rights and equality, then we come to the point where an African American of unquestioned capability has a chance to become president and I said, 'No, I have dear old friends I've always supported, who I've always liked.' What do you tell your kids?"
Tough stuff. (You can read my piece for some answers to that question.)