THE REV. Jesse Jackson blew into town Sunday, ranting and snorting and harrumphing that President Clinton is getting a raw deal, that mean ol' white boys are out to get him and that we should all rally to show our support for Cigar Boy.
If Clinton is impeached, Jackson implied, all sorts of evil will follow. The mean ol' white boys will then target their wrath at the poor and elderly.
Witness what we have here, fellow Americans. That rare and defining American event: the hapless trying to help the hopeless. Or it may be the hopeless trying to help the hapless. When you have Jackson and Clinton involved, it's hard to tell which is which.
If Clinton had a grain of sense at all, he'd be screaming at the top of his lungs, "Jesse, don't help me!" The good revvum is not the guy you want going to bat for you, especially if you're facing impeachment charges stemming from perjury. Mr. Integrity Jesse ain't.
During the 1984 presidential campaign - when Jackson made the first of two futile attempts to win the Democratic nomination - Washington Post reporter Milton Coleman revealed that the good revvum had referred to Jews as "Hymies" and New York as "Hymietown." Jackson indignantly and self-righteously denied making the comments - until someone reminded him that they'd caught him on tape. All of a sudden Jackson's memory came back to him.
"I was wrong, and I'm sorry if I hurt anyone," a conveniently repentant Jackson said at the Democratic convention. More than one American watched Jackson and realized they were viewing a pathetic performance. But Jackson was just being Clinton before Clinton came along to take the art of prevarication to even lower depths.
Jackson was nailed dead to rights on the Hymietown remark as someone who would make mephitic comments off the record. The same charge has come from an unlikely source - convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. You can read Abu-Jamal's account in his book, "Live From Death Row," and decide if it is true.
Abu-Jamal claims Jackson referred to members of the Philadelphia radical group MOVE - who wear their hair in dreadlocks - as "nappy headed and unwashed." Abu-Jamal further charged that when he switched on his tape recorder and asked Jackson to repeat the remark, the revvum said, "No comment."
Jackson has neither confirmed nor denied Abu-Jamal's account - and he's had several years to do so. But the tale - which pits Abu-Jamal's credibility against Jackson's - is a conservative's delight. Supporters of both men - and they are usually the same folks - will be befuddled about which to believe.
It was Jackson who, a few years ago, felt compelled to tell us that if he knew a group of guys was following him, he'd be relieved if he turned around and saw they were white and not black. Conservatives who never listened to a thing Jackson had to say before hopped on that one.
"See,'"' they hooted, "that shows even Jesse Jackson has a fear of blacks committing crime." It showed no such thing, except that Jackson probably doesn't live in a predominantly black neighborhood, if he lives in one at all. His concern for the black poor obviously doesn't extend to actually living with them. Thus, it's no surprise that he's suggesting there should be one perjury punishment for the rich and powerful and another for the poor and powerless.
The poor and powerless who commit perjury will face criminal penalties. No ifs, ands or buts. Clinton, because he is rich and powerful, should be excused his perjury. That is the bottom line of what Clinton's supporters advocate. Those Americans who believe the president actually works for us, not the other way around, say let him face the penalties any other citizen would face. He may be booted from office, but that's what we have vice presidents for.
There are hearts that bleed not one drop for Clinton. As you read this, drug suspects in Baltimore can't even get a lawyer to represent them in drug court. That's how strapped the public defender's office is for money. Clinton has a wealth of high-priced lawyers to plead his case. The poor in Baltimore's drug courts couldn't afford five minutes' time for either of them.
So here's a counterproposal to Jackson's idea to rally for Clinton. Let the president send those high-falutin' lawyers here to represent indigent defendants in drug court, and let Clinton take his chances with the District of Columbia's public defender's office.
Pub Date: 12/16/98