As Jeb Bush waited to speak before the National Urban League, Hillary Rodham Clinton portrayed him as a hypocrite who had set back the cause of black Americans.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jeb Bush and his aides had envisioned a big, inclusive, high-minded speech about race Friday in his home state of Florida, a chance to bring his message of colorblind opportunity to a prestigious group of African-American leaders.
In a rare gesture of bipartisanship, Bush planned to warmly quote President Obama, usually the subject of his derision.
Then Hillary Rodham Clinton stomped all over those plans.
Clintons’ earnings topped $139M
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, earned more than $139 million between 2007 and 2014, according to eight years of federal income-tax returns released by her campaign Friday.
The returns show the Clintons paid an overall federal tax rate of 31.6 percent during those years. Most of the Clintons’ income came from speeches delivered to corporate and interest groups by Bill Clinton and later by Hillary Clinton after she resigned as secretary of state in early 2013.
Hillary Clinton said the couple has paid nearly $44 million in federal taxes on $139.1 million in income since 2006, and donated nearly $15 million to charity. This year, the Clintons boosted personal donations to their family charity, the Clinton Foundation, to between $5 million and $10 million.
The Associated Press
In a biting pre-emptive attack delivered as Bush, the former Florida governor, waited backstage at the annual convention of the National Urban League, Clinton portrayed him as a hypocrite who had set back the cause of black Americans.
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It was an unexpected moment of political theater that seemed to presage what could be a bitter general-election rivalry between two of the biggest names in American politics.
Clinton, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, latched onto Bush’s campaign slogan and the name of his super PAC — “Right to Rise,” his shorthand for a conservative agenda of self-reliance and hope — and turned it into an oral spear.
“People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care,” Clinton said to applause from conventiongoers, a dig at Bush’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
“They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on,” she said, a jab at his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage.
“They can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education,” she said, a critique of Bush’s decision as governor to eliminate affirmative action in college admissions.
When Bush reached the lectern, declaring, “I believe in the right to rise in this country,” the scent of political gunpowder was still in the air.
The assault on her Republican rival was all the more striking because the Bush and Clinton families make a point of highlighting their friendly ties: Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush appear on this week’s cover of Time magazine.
Bush appeared unprepared to respond, thanking Clinton for joining him at the event but otherwise leaving her criticism unanswered in his speech.
Bush’s aides, however, could barely hide their disgust over Clinton’s remarks, which they spoke of, bitterly, as uncivil and uncalled-for. On Twitter, Tim Miller, Bush’s communications director, called it a “Clintonesque move to pass over chance to unite in favor of a false cheap shot.”
Allie Brandenburger, another spokeswoman for Bush, followed up with an email: “The Urban League deserved better.”
Despite the broadsides from Clinton, Bush’s speech was well-received. He won applause when he recalled his decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the Florida Capitol in 2001. And he spoke emotionally of the massacre of nine black parishioners in Charleston, S.C., in June and of the forgiveness their survivors had expressed for the man charged in the shooting.
“In the community of that city, we found such grace, such purity of heart, such heroic goodness, such boundless mercy, all gathered up in one story,” Bush said.
He quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama. “When President Obama says that ‘For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present,’ he is speaking the truth,” Bush said to applause.
He did not directly address the rash of police shootings of unarmed black men that dominated discussions at the Urban League conference this week. Instead, he called for rebuilding trust in “America’s vital institutions.”
“That happens,” he said, “one person at a time. One politician at a time. One police officer at a time.”
In her remarks, Clinton took a more direct approach, ticking off the names of African Americans who have died after interactions with law enforcement — including Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray — to knowing nods in the audience.
“These names are emblazoned on our hearts,” she said. “We’ve seen their faces; we’ve heard their grieving families.”
The conference Friday had offered a chance for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination who has generated a loyal following among white liberals, to appeal more directly to black voters. But his speech highlighted how much work he still has to do.
At one point, Sanders begged for the crowd’s indulgence to discuss his campaign platform before focusing on the “save our cities” subject of the gathering. But he called that “your theme,” an off-key remark, and one that echoed a speech he made Thursday, in which he twice referred to Latinos as “your people” before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Ben Carson, a Republican who was the sole black candidate to speak at the meeting, took a tough-love approach that seemed to inspire little enthusiasm from the crowd. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, never mentioned the high-profile deaths of unarmed black men and women in police custody and held himself up as a model of how ambition and education could rescue poor African Americans from poverty.
He called on black parents to talk to their sons “about how they conduct themselves.”
“If you conduct yourselves in certain ways,” he said, “you are going to run into trouble, not only with law enforcement but with the guy down the block.”
Herman Wallace, an attendee from Kansas City, Missouri, was unmoved. “Carson,” he said, “talked about himself.”