The Race Card
Jude Wanniski
February 2, 1999


Memo To: Juan Williams, Washington Post
From: From Jude Wanniski
Re: The Race Card?

So the House managers do not pick Betty Currie as one of the three witnesses they are allowed, and you and every other White House surrogate in the news media parrot the idea that the decision was racially motivated. They did not want to be seen picking on a little old black lady. Frank Rich of the NYTimes devoted an entire column to the notion that the managers were dumbstruck with fear that the little old black lady would fold under the klieg lights and Henry Hyde's Nazi-like third degree questioning, and burst into tears. On the CNN "Evans&Novak" show this weekend, the WSJournal's resident Clinton clone, Albert Hunt, fixed his steely gaze on Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison [R-TX] and practically demanded she agree with him that race was involved in the decision to pick Sidney Blumenthal. In the words of each and every media surrogate who played this race card, Blumenthal is cast as a peripheral figure.

It's bad enough that the Senate Democrats, each and every one, swore an oath to impartial justice, and except for Russell Feingold of Wisconsin voted to dismiss all charges against the President BEFORE THE TRIAL STARTED. I don't expect anything much of the other White House media toadies, but I was startled to find you playing the race card. You seemed surprised yourself on "FoxNewsSunday," when Tony Snow looked at you and said, "Juan, are YOU playing the race card?" Even after Brit Hume tried to explain it to you, you seemed dazed in your innocence. I only can conclude that it is because from first to last you have assumed that the only reason President Clinton is in a bit of trouble is that the Republicans have control of Congress and are possessed with the wicked desire to drive him from office. There is no reason to have a trial because there are not the votes to convict. Someone told you that, and you believed it. The reason I'm surprised you fell for the Clinton race card is that you did not fall for it during the Clarence Thomas electronic necktie party. As I recall, because you knew Clarence personally, you sort of doubted that he talked dirty to Anita Hill, as she alleged, and as a result the "lady" reporters of the Washington Post formed a caucus demanding that you be fired, emasculated, or both. I suppose that taught you a lesson.

Now let me explain this to you again, Juan. It is the White House lawyers who are scared silly of permitting an actual trial, because they know once the country tunes in, it will realize the President doesn't have a leg to stand on. There absolutely was no pressure put on the House managers to not call Betty Currie because she is a black lady. You find a Senator who did so, and then I'll think about your race card. But before you waste your time, think how stupid it would be for a Republican Senator to pressure Henry Hyde on that point.

The only reason Ms. Currie was not picked was that one of four witnesses had to be dropped to comply with demands from Senator Trent Lott [R-MS] that there be only three witnesses. At the time of the 100-to-O bipartisan vote on process, Lott secured the deal by promising Sen. Tom Daschle [D-SD] that if it ever got to witnesses, he would insist on limiting it to three. Lott believed he had to do that in order to get what he did get, which I believed at the time was sufficient to justify his decision. Even then, I made the point with Lott that three are plenty, as long as one is Sidney Blumenthal. The decision to pick Blumenthal over Ms. Currie was made within the conference of House managers, with no pressure from Senators. A number of the managers wanted Currie instead, but Rep. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] prevailed, as he is the fellow who persuaded many of the moderates in the House to vote for impeachment because of the Blumenthal testimony before the federal grand jury. I wrote about it at the time, as "Lindsey Graham's Bombshell."

If you would ask the House managers today if they would like to bring Betty Currie to the Senate floor, with or without tears, they would be unanimous in saying they would. Why wouldn't they? Why do you fall for such nonsense, Juan? Why do you allow yourself to be manipulated this way? Spoon-fed such transparent propaganda. When are you going to stop falling for the idea that all Republicans are racist, and this whole impeachment process has to do with the Good White Guy in the Oval Office beset by these Bad White Guys in Republican white sheets on Capitol Hill. You are being suckered. Remember back in the 1992 campaign, when he was way behind in the polls, how easy it was for the Good White Guy to play the race card with Sister Souljah. Invited to speak at the Rainbow Coalition, and using his time to denounce Sister Souljah for her rap lyrics? You know it was to show the white folks that he wasn't gonna let the black folks get uppity on his watch. A shocked Jesse Jackson told the NYTimes that Bill Clinton has "a character flaw." Well, maybe he has.