November 8th, 2007
04:29 PM ET
10 years ago

Commentary: Clinton promoting the environment or his wife?

Former President Bill Clinton.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Former President Clinton was in the Windy City this week to speak at an environmental conference, but it was his presence at a rally, attended mostly by African-Americans, that has Sen. Barack Obama’s hometown talking.

A Chicago-based group of African-American pastors and civic activists, the 21st Century Alliance of Progressive Leaders, hosted Wednesday’s event that attracted nearly 600 people. But the media was kept away, even moved from sidewalks by Chicago police to across the street, according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell.

Clinton said he would have preferred that reporters be allowed inside.

But Thursday morning on my Chicago-based radio show on WVON the leader of the group said that a collective decision was made between his organization, the former president’s office and the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is Obama’s chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

So did the former president tell the Chicago media one thing, and his staff decided another?

Bishop Tavis Grant initially told me that the event was billed as a conversation with Bill Clinton on a variety of issues, including global warming, but he later admitted that it was a rally for the senator’s presidential campaign.

The issue has caused a dust-up, because the event took place in Obama’s backyard. The rally was in the Parkway Ballroom on the South Side of Chicago in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the senator’s home in Hyde Park.

Traci Blunt, a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign, said the confusion over the rally, and the failure to not allow reporters in, was theirs.

“It’s a mea culpa on our part,” she told me. “We should have opened it up to the press.”

She added that with the number of people in attendance, especially in Obama’s backyard, “we would have loved to showcase that.”

The ballroom has historical significance, because first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy spoke to black supporters there during their husbands’ respective presidencies.

A Sun-Times article put it this way: “The rally was closed to the press. One organizer admitted some in the largely African-American crowd might have been squeamish about being outed as a Hillary Clinton supporter in Obama's hometown.”

Ah, the beauty of Chicago politics.

- CNN Contributor Roland Martin

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Roland Martin
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. David Monington, PALM COAST, Fla


    November 8, 2007 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  2. kate, gb

    And the answer to your headline question CNN:


    November 8, 2007 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  3. Jim Green Bay, Wi

    Obama new campaign slogan: ABC (anybody but Clinton) its easy as 123

    November 8, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  4. Anonymous



    November 8, 2007 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  5. Dave in Tampa Bay, Florida

    Depends on what your definition of 'environment' is.

    November 8, 2007 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    "Your comment is awaiting moderation. Due to the volume of comments we receive, not all comments will be posted.

    Why not?

    November 8, 2007 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. barbara ny

    ewww clinton starting to look like a grandpa ewww

    November 8, 2007 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  8. Dave in Tampa Bay, Florida

    It depends on what your definition of 'environment is

    CNNs statement on my previuos (and identical post):

    Your comment is awaiting moderation. Due to the volume of comments we receive, not all comments will be posted.

    Is a warning that it is subject to censorship. My comment is mild compared to crap I see tossed at anything that looks like it supports a Republican or a Conservative.

    Try pulling out more posts from Karen, NJ and I might think you are being fair here.

    November 8, 2007 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  9. Chris Chicaho, IL

    Bill, When are you going to do it? You know what I am talking about. The cigar. When are you going to start smoking one in public. All the time. Yeah. That would be great. Millions of people would be watching that cigar mesmorized by it and totally aware of your total superiority for getting away with it all. Good job.

    P.S. Her redhead headdress collapses. Try not to forget about that.

    November 8, 2007 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  10. sf, ca

    Roland Martin is proving a shame in the name of journalism amongst African Americans. I never saw an impartial assessment of his scenario.

    Remember Hillary putting a journalist to his place when he questioned Hillary with no facts to back his rhetoric? Clinton invited him for a personal discussion with her staff to discuss the topic with facts. And Roland Martin has the guts to say oh let her come to me to explain how i stupid I am.

    November 8, 2007 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  11. Olson Johnson -- Rock Ridge

    The event, held in Obama's back yard attracted nearly 600 people, eh?

    Not quite as impressive as the 24,000 that Obama drew to a rally in New York City.

    November 8, 2007 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  12. Chima, York, PA

    Why is Clinton always wagging his finger at us?

    November 8, 2007 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  13. Walter Johnson Los Angeles, Ca

    do you think Hirrary Crinton will ever stop with her "coat tail" politics? she would be no where without him! I wonder how long she would last jumping off his coat tails and working on her own, I doubt she would last a month. I guess it goes to show that even she doesn't have confidence in her "experience".

    November 9, 2007 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  14. Anonymous, Ames, IA

    Why pick that forum for a rally for Hillary's presidential campaign? What's the matter, wasn't there a televised funeral they could have attended to grandstand. I'm referring to Sen Wellstone's funeral. A totally classless exhibition by the Clinton's...making their entrance with raised arms to accept their accolades. If I were the Wellstone's family, I would have asked this trailer trash to leave.

    November 9, 2007 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  15. Shawn, Atlanta, Georgia

    Its very obvious whom Roland Martin supports as the democratic nominee for
    President of the United States. I think he does the African American community a diservice by simply pointing out the shortcomings of the Clintons but constantly dismissing Barack Obama's mistakes as totally harmeless.

    November 10, 2007 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  16. Chris, Middletown, CT

    "billed as a conversation with Bill Clinton on a variety of issues, including global warming, but he later admitted that it was a rally for the senator’s presidential campaign." – what a shock...he lied...and so does she...I can't wait for a tell all from Chelsea Clinton....

    November 10, 2007 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  17. Cindy, Maryland

    Why is anyone or even any reporter making a big deal out of campaigning for one's wife? What in the world is wrong with that? Being a past president brings something to the table (like Clinton or not) and there is nothing wrong in using that in your wife's favor. This is politics campaigning is a part of it!

    This is the kind of article that makes people insincere when they are polled and leads to results like we had in New Hampshire, people can't be honest without being labeled, if I say I prefer Hilary over Obama and I happen to be white then race is probably an issue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The media can continue hating the Clintons at every chance they get but I haven't never seen a better president (IN MY OWN LIFETIME) not to talk of his current legacy.

    I don't care what anybody says about Hilary or Bill, I am African American and I am voting for her because she represents my own issues so well!!! l like Obama, I think his time will come, for me it's just not now!!!!

    And Roland..your preference is so apparent, please water it down a little to at least show a level of objectivity, I know you're trying to look out for a brother as you should but you also have an obligation to be objective!!!

    January 11, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. Shehzad

    Thanks for the link we have a coworker who found out to day her bhotrer that she thought was fine and dandy and had moved last week just was rescued from the top of his roof.

    July 16, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
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