Andre Demorais, 2019
Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson’s book titled Super Predator: Bill Clinton’s Use And Abuse of Black America tackles Bill Clinton’s rhetoric and record on race.
The main conclusion of the book is that despite trying to portray himself as a champion to Black people – the subtitle is a bit misleading, it talks about people who live in African countries in addition to African-Americans in this country, so it is not just “Black America” – Bill Clinton rarely, if ever, sacrificed political points because he had firm principles. Robinson also describes Clinton as a narcissistic man who always has self-gratification on his mind even if Black or poor lives suffer for it.
The book separates the critique of Clinton into several chapters: an introduction, crime policies, welfare reform, Black appointees, Clinton’s actions in Africa, Clinton’s actions in Haiti, the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a chapter called “the first Black president”, and some final thoughts. The chapter on crime policies is the longest and the one on Rector’s execution is the shortest.
One of the main strengths of the book is the legenths the author went to research Clinton, even talking about the less publicized things that he did. Many people may already know about the Crime Bill of 1994; but others may not know about the AEDPA (which restricted death penalty appeals) or Clinton’s indifference to the powder-to-crack cocaine enforcement disparity which punished Black drug users more than it did White ones. Robinson also compares and contrasts Clinton’s words and actions. A big example in an early chapter is how Clinton apologized to the NAACP for his contribution to mass incarceration, but then angrily defended the same polices a year later after being challenged by activists on it.
Robinson’s prose is polished and his writing does its best to not meander. Like most newspaper writers, he seems to begin most chapters with a personal anecdote or a quick biography of a person’s life. Robinson does not focus too much on a person’s life, save for the chapter on Ricky Ray Rector. But that chapter is devoted entirely to Rector’s life so it at least makes sense.
The book is certainly not flawless. While the author builds a very strong case against Bill Clinton and it does not hold back when it comes to getting its message across, the third chapter “Black Appointees” feels weaker compared to the others. This chapter showed Clinton’s willingness to drop Black advisors if they attracted Right wing fervor. But this is harmless compared to everything else Bill Clinton did. In a book that talks about throwing thousands of poor people off of welfare rolls, bombing the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, and getting in the way of relief efforts in Haiti, the lack of loyalty to his Black appointees seems trivial as no one was necessarily physically hurt because of it.
However, the book is still a strong collection of criticisms against Bill Clinton. And I would recommend it to people who want to know more about the actions of Clinton’s presidency.