Will Media Remember Gov. Clinton's 'Insecure White People' Remarks?

By now you've likely heard about Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama's recent gaffe concerning high unemployment in small towns making Americans "cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

With this in mind, if media really are in the tank for Obama, and want to help him navigate this minefield he's created for himself, maybe they should look at some speeches Gov. Bill Clinton made in 1991 and 1992 that typically involved some form of the phrase "economically insecure white people."

Although Clinton was typically talking about how, in his view, Republicans tried to use race to gin up votes amongst financially struggling Caucasians, the similarities would certainly be enough to deflect attention away from Obama, assuming this was the press's modus operandi.

For instance, the Los Angeles Times reported on September 17, 1991 (emphasis added, h/t Huffington Post):

In complaining that President Bush has been exploiting the race issue to divide the Democrats, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, a probable presidential contender, said: "The reason (Bush's tactic) works so well now is that you have all these economically insecure white people who are scared to death."

As Clinton sees it, Bush has been telling worried white workers: You're right. I won't do anything for you. Government can't do anything for you. But at least I won't do anything to you.

In fact, if media did a little digging, they'd find this to be quite a common theme of Clinton's back then:

  • Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, trying to convince Alabama Democrats to support his presidential bid, accused Republicans of trying to woo white voters by preying on unfounded racial fears.

    Clinton told a meeting of the Alabama Democratic Party black caucus that Republicans "find the most economically insecure white folks and go scare the living daylights out of them." -- AP, October 13, 1991

  • Why does the President refuse to let a civil rights bill pass? Because he knows that the people he is dependent on for his electoral majority -- white working class men and women, mostly men, have had their incomes decline in the 1980s and they may return to their natural home, someone who offers them real economic opportunity. And so he is dredging up the same old tactic that the hard right has employed in my part of the country, in the South, since I was a child. When everything gets (hyped ?) and you think you're going to lose those people, you find the most economically insecure white people and you scare the living daylights out of them. -- Georgetown University, October 23, 1991
  • 1,000 Illinois Democrats had gathered in Chicago for their annual fund-raising dinner. Clinton, 45, was determined to give them his best shot. And he did, vigorously attacking George Bush: ''You know, he wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this,'' Clinton croaked. ''This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them.'' -- Sunday Times, November 3, 1991
  • "If you were in the do-nothing faction and you were about to get voted out, you just found the most economically insecure white people and scared the living hell out of them. We were raised on his. . . What did it do for us? Nothing. Kept us down. Kept us flat. All the progress we've made in the South, we've made since we started working together again.'' -- Houston Chronicle, June 7, 1992

Are we likely to see such reports in the coming days? Stay tuned.

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