Clinton laughs with Pastor Noel Jones, left, and Ambassador Sidney Williams at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California Sunday. (Photo Credit: AP)
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) - Bill Clinton embarked on a pre-Super Tuesday tour of African American churches in Southern California Sunday, in what some involved in the organizing claim is intended to let the former president speak directly to African American voters after the controversy that erupted over his remarks in South Carolina.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful election for America. We ought to be able to have a few disagreements without discord,” he told an audience of African American parishioners during his first stop at the City of Refuge Church in Los Angeles. The Clinton campaign says the tour is part of a larger effort to reach out to all California communities.
At his first stop, the former president never directly addressed his remarks in South Carolina, but he appealed to the audience for understanding.
“I’m not against anybody. I’ve never been more proud to be part the Democratic Party in my life,” he said. “I get why this is a hard election. I waited my whole life to vote for an African American for president. I waited my whole life to vote for a woman for president. And sometimes I look up at sky and say God you’re playing with my mind again.”
Clinton was introduced by California Rep. Maxine Waters, an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus, who directly addressed the tension between supporters of the two candidates: “Let us not turn on each other. Let us not look at each other cross eyed. Let us not start hating each other,” she said.
Get breaking news Super Tuesday results via email. Sign up here
At the City of Refuge Church, the former president was greeted by polite applause and a brief, respectful, standing ovation. It's hardly the enthusiastic reception he’s seen in similar churches in times past, though the audience appeared to warm to him during his twenty minute talk. He ticked through a list of reasons the congregants should support Sen. Clinton including her proposals to provide universal health care, repair the mortgage crisis, provide opportunities for former inmates, provide more tax credits and college loans for low income working Americans, and improved relations around the world.
Clinton also invoked the rage many felt after the federal failure to respond to hurricane Katrina. Insisting she “will not forget your faces,” he said she’s prepared to solve problems immediately.
“That’s what you hire a president to do. To stop big bad things from happening. Look how we felt when it didn’t happen after Katrina?” he said.
He elicited some laughter when, after describing one of his wife’s programs, he joked, “I wish I’d thought of it.”
He also drew laughter when he said Sen. Clinton wouldn’t get caught up in the trappings of the office, explaining that when you’re president “they play a song for you when you walk in a room” and “your plane is so cool they make movies about it.”
He ended his talk telling the audience: “Search your heart and do what you think is right. I love you. She loves you.”
The former president is scheduled to attend three more church services and appears to be running about an hour behind schedule.
– CNN Correspondent Jessica Yellin