Roland S. Martin: Did Hillary Clinton come off too strong or just right?
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) – I almost fell off my chair.
Pleasantries and politeness were off the table. It took the moderator nearly 30 seconds to calm down the crowd – the same length of time Sen. Hillary Clinton was supposed to take to answer the question. But the New York Senator took more than five times as long setting the record straight on her health care plan at the National Association of Black Journalists Presidential Forum Thursday.
I would find out later that the audience question came from a freelance writer named Kiara Ashanti, who wanted to know why the Democratic White House hopeful was pushing for, what he called, “socialized medicine.”
“Why are you still insisting upon moving that system in here when particularly it will hurt African American communities more than anyone else?” Ashanti asked.
“Oh, man – that was a string of misrepresentations about me and the systems in other countries,” Clinton began her response. “Number one, I have never advocated socialized medicine, and I hope all the journalists hear that loudly and clearly because that has been a right-wing attack on me for 15 years, and it is wrong.”
LISTEN to the Clinton exchange yourself.
From there, the two of them hammered it out, back and forth: “Do you think Medicare is socialized medicine?” she challenged him. “To a degree it is,” Ashanti said. “Well, then you are in a small minority in America because Medicare has literally saved the lives and saved the resources of countless generations of seniors in our country.”
Clinton went on to champion Medicare, but criticize the U.S. as the only “advanced country” to have “so many of its citizens without health care.” She punctuated her answer with a stinging, yet cordial invitation to Ashanti: “I don't know who you are. But you come introduce yourself to my staff and we will try to give you some information if you're interested in being educated instead of being rhetorical.”
It was an audacious move – the audience could have gone either way – but it paid off. The masses, largely, clamored around Clinton.
So, did Ashanti chase down Clinton’s staff and “get educated”? No, but I chased him down. I had to know who he was, and whether Clinton’s “tough love” resonated.
Ashanti said he was a freelance writer from Orlando, Florida, with his own political blog, and who has written for Black Enterprise, BET.com, and the Active Trader.
What did the writer think of her answer?
"Typical,” he told me. “This type of forum really works for her because there's not a lot of time to refute anything she says. That's what I expect. She's not looking at the real facts. She wants to do something that gains her political points.”
Then he added, “She can't deal with the fact that I have the knowledge to refute everything that she's saying."
- CNN contributor Roland Martin