As you might have expected, Hillary Clinton issued a clarification of her controversial remarks about Reconstruction, made in the context of her speculation on what might have happened had Abraham Lincoln not been assassinated:
Nice try, but strike two.
Ms. Clinton’s statement now indicts the federal government, saying it gave up too soon, and its lack of persistence “led to a disgraceful era of Jim Crow.”
That this was due in part to the behavior of “defiant” white southerners, including terrorist activity, is a link she’s unwilling to make, although one can make it when she reminds us about “racist efforts against Reconstruction.” How exactly a president could achieve “equality, justice, and reconciliation” while protecting black rights — not exactly a good way to reconcile white southerners — remains unanswered. Nor does her response consider the role played by the racism of some white northerners, most of whom were Democrats (that might take more explaining).
We’ve been over this before: it’s rather difficult to envision a policy that would have successfully sought both equal rights for blacks and reconciliation with southern whites. That the federal government Ms. Clinton blames was first headed in the postwar years by someone who led “the racist efforts against Reconstruction” when it came to black rights is also omitted. It’s also wishful thinking to speculate about what Abraham Lincoln would have done (to say that he would not have been Andrew Johnson doesn’t get us very far).
No one expects Hillary Rodham Clinton to be a Reconstruction historian. One could even forgive her verbal fumble and vagueness. Now, however, we have a more considered statement, and it is also problematic.