In the Adegbile Affair, at Least, Obama More Honorable than Bill Clinton

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, politically. However, Obama has behaved more honorably to his doomed nominee for civil rights chief than did Clinton, a generation ago.

In the Adegbile Affair, at Least, Obama More Honorable than Bill Clinton

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“Lani Guinier never got a chance to testify on her own behalf before the U.S. Senate.”

This is not your usual Black Agenda Radio commentary. Don’t be shocked, but this week, history requires that we say something good about President Obama – at least, in comparison with his predecessor and political mentor, Bill Clinton. In the case of Debo Adegbile, Obama’s nominee to head up the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the First Black President has behaved far more honorably than did President Clinton, who nominated Black lawyer Lani Guinier to the same position in 1993.

Guinier, like Adegbile, had once worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She came to national attention by proposing formulas for elections that would avoid allowing majorities to completely shut out minority voters, through a system that would more resemble proportional representation than the U.S. game of winner-take-all. Predictably, the Guinier nomination ran into fierce opposition, just as Adegbile’s, 19 years later. But, Lani Guinier never got a chance to testify on her own behalf before the U.S. Senate. President Clinton withdrew her nomination as soon as the going got rough. Then, adding insult to injury, Clinton claimed that he wasn’t backing off Guinier from fear of losing, but because he had finally gotten around to reading what she had written about voting, and didn’t like it. In other words, Clinton punked out, left his nominee twisting in the wind, and then blamed her for it – a thoroughly dishonorable political performance.

“Obama’s behavior was morally superior to his mentor.”

President Obama, on the other hand, stuck with Debo Adegbile all the way through the process. Ultimately, seven Democrats joined Republicans in rejecting the nominee, on the outrageous grounds that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund had been part of Mumia Abu Jamal’s death penalty defense appeal. Obama issued a scathing condemnation of the lawmakers. He called the campaign against Adegbile, who is now a senior counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, a “travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.” Obama excoriated those who claim that association with Mumia Abu Jamal’s legal defense is some kind of crime. The fact that the nominee “was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice,” said Obama.

In most political matters, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are identical twins, both servants of corporate interests. But, in this case, under very similar circumstances, Obama’s behavior was morally superior to his mentor, Bill Clinton. Maybe that’s not saying much, but it should be said.

Back in 1993, Kweisi Mfume, then chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, warned Clinton that his shoddy treatment of Lani Guinier might lose him Black voter support. But, that didn’t happen. Six weeks before the mid-term congressional elections of 1994, Newt Gingrich unveiled his Contract with America, and went on to win control of the House of Representatives. Lots of Black folks thought Bill Clinton was the only thing holding back the Confederate barbarians at the gate. Four years later, Toni Morrison was calling Clinton the “first Black president.” Obama could have gotten away with dumping his nominee for the Civil Rights Division, too. But he didn’t, and that’s to his credit – comparatively speaking.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].



Hillary and Bill Clinton

I remember reading that Lanier Guinier wrote that she was in Bill and Hillary's wedding..and she was shocked when she went to the WH after she had been dumped ...Hillary walked right by her without speaking to her.  She had gone to the WH to get an explanation from Clinton on why she had been dumped.  She was not allowed to see him.

 About. Obama ..I doubt if he even knew who  Debo was.  As far as his speech that is so admired...we all should know by now that he has a team of speech writers....and never writes his own.

You're probably correct. 

You're probably correct.  Droneman has "punked out" on everything of benefit to the masses.  I am not too impressed that he didn't throw this guy under the bus.  Since he stood up for the guy he either 1) as you said, was just reading the script his handlers put in front of him; or 2) this Debo dude was cut from the same fascist cloth as Droneman and was not going to rock the boat if he were approved for the post.

Obama and Debo

Obama's handlers probably thought he (the DEMS) might need a few black votes.  

Yep.  The Obamacare debacle

Yep.  The Obamacare debacle is making the Demowits nervous as midterms approach.  Thus we see the president and the Mrs. making the rounds on the TV circuit talking up their dreadful healthcare scam.  You know things are bad when the president is on Funny or Die, some new comedy show, for the purpose of talking up his healthcare plan.  The entertainment industry is doing its part to promote the empire's agenda.  Rumor has it Leno was sacked for his recent spate of jokes critical of the president.   Leno's seat hadn't been cold one week before Michelle O was one of Fallon's first guests and what did she talk up?  Obamacare.  Support for this Dedo nomination ties in perfectly with shoring up the black vote and Democrat vote in general.

Don't Give Him Undue Credit

While technically he may have been better in this episode than Clinton was (and I don't doubt that, what BC did was just wrong), making a pretty speech after a nominee has failed isn't anywhere near the same as working hard to convince those seven Democrats that this was a damn good nominee and they needed to support the Party on this one.  There is absolutley zero evidence of the latter. 

He's always been good at saying pretty words.  Judge him on what he does (or doesn't do, as in this case he didn't work at all to change minds), not on what he says.  This is true of everyone, but especially politicians, and most especially, Obama.

I think he's the worst President in history and never thought I'd go anywhere near that after 8 years of W and The Dick, but I can absolutely say with conviction that he's the worst President I ever voted for.  Didn't make that same mistake in 2012 though, Jill Stein got my vote and I sleep well for making that vote, despite being in a battleground state (VA) where my vote may have actually mattered.  (If any votes really matter anymore, who knows with all these damn computerized voting machines and vote counters).