If you haven’t seen the newly released recording of Hillary Clinton’s 9-minute face-off with a black activist who grills her on the subject of violence against blacks and “massive incarceration of blacks,” you really need to watch it.
It is an extremely interesting, political mini-drama, laden with tension, passive aggressiveness (on the part of Clinton’s interrogator) and unseen hand wringing from Clinton’s handlers, who almost beg her to turn and run.
There’s a lot I don’t like about Hillary, but this is Hillary at her rare, spontaneous best, giving cogent, respectful and insightful answers to a man who has meticulously planned his attack.
Showing that she can be very quick on her feet, she turned the tables on the young man — Julius Jones of Boston — and challenged him to help come up with a strategy to make sure that black Americans cease being undervalued as a group.
“That’s what I’m trying to put together,” Clinton tells Jones, “in a way that I can explain it, and I can sell it — because in politics, if you can’t explain it and you can’t sell it, it stays on the shelf.”
The exchange was taped taped Aug. 11 and took place after activists with the group Black Lives Matter tried to disrupt a Clinton event in New Hampshire. Clinton agreed to speak privately with the group’s representatives afterward, and someone recorded the event, which was released yesterday in two parts.
In the video, Jones is facing Clinton. A couple of other activists are standing off to the right, watching intently. Out of view, to the left, are several Clinton handlers.
It takes Jones a full three minutes to ask his question, during which time Clinton listens quietly and nods frequently. You can almost see her mind working, trying to figure out how to handle this spontaneous burst of deeply felt, but almost passively presented, emotion.
Despite the even tone, the question contains broad and incendiary societal assessments, including Jones’ assertion that “America’s first drug is free black labor and turning black bodies into profit” and “the mass incarceration (of blacks) system mirrors…the prison plantation system.”
When he finally concludes his question — essentially asking Clinton how she intends to change this unacceptable situation — the first thing the viewer hears is a voice off to the left, saying, “I apologize…We have…
All heads turn toward the voice, which is that of a nervous Clinton handler.
After just those first few words, Jones immediately understands the handler is offering his candidate a chance to bail. Jones interrupts and says forcefully: “I would really love to allow her to answer the questions. We’ve worked really hard and we’ve driven so many miles…”
The handler backs down, saying, “I’m not stopping you…just letting you know we’ve got a couple more minutes..We still have more people waiting…I just want to give you a heads up.”
During that exchange, Clinton looks quietly toward the handler. She fully realizes it’s too late to bail: The ball is bouncing and it’s in her court.
“Obviously, it a very thoughtful question that deserves a thoughtful answer,” she begins.
Then she launches into what I consider a very eloquent response, including the counter-challenge she lays at Jones’ feet. Her answer is even longer, at four minutes, than Jones’ question. But everything she says — again, in my view — is on subject and devoid of doublespeak or political gibberish.
The moment she winds up her answer, a handler — perhaps the same one — jumps in and says, “We really have to go!”
As Clinton moves to leave, however, Jones slides in another question/comment, in which he says, “If you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do.”
Clinton interrupts, saying, “I’m not telling…I’m just telling you to tell me.”
After Jones accuses her of “a form of victim-blaming” and alleges that the violence against blacks that needs to be remedied is a “white problem,” Clinton throws aside political correctness and replies, “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with a very real problem.”
Then, she finds her strongest voice and goes on a minute-long roll where she puts Jones on the defensive and, like the seasoned politician she is, gradually brings the face-off down to a gentle denouement.
“I’m ready to do my part in any way I can,” she says, claiming the last word, as her handlers, now front and center in the video, usher her away.