Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton come from the highest political pedigree in the United States. And despite the battles their two families have fought against each other, members of the Clintons and the Bushes have formed inextricable bonds.
But politics is politics, so when Clinton took the stage on Friday at the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale – just minutes before Bush would address the same audience — the former secretary of state leveled some of her most direct attacks against the former Florida governor.
“I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say you are for phasing out Medicare and repealing Obamacare,” Clinton said, using Bush’s “Right to Rise” super PAC name to indirectly — but clearly — hit the 2016 Republican candidate.
“They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on,” Clinton said. “You cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote.”
Bush did not respond to Clinton’s comments when he took the same stage later Friday morning, only saying he was “pleased” to see the other candidates at the event and mentioned them all by name, including Clinton.
Spokesman Tim Miller, however, took Twitter to blast Clinton’s remarks.
“Clintonesque move to pass over chance to unite in favor of a false cheap shot. When you have no record of accomplishment to point to,” he wrote.
In her speech, Clinton cast herself a someone who has fought along side the Urban League for decades, not just someone who speaks at their conference and tells them what they want to hear.
“The real test of a candidates’ commitment is not whether we come to speak,” Clinton said, “it is whether we are still around after the cameras are gone and the votes are counted. It is whether our positions live up to our rhetoric and too often we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in venues like this and what they actually do when they are elected.”
Clinton did not use Bush’s name, but the lines were clear and some of the starkest attacks the former first lady has leveled against the former Florida governor.
The lines underscore Clinton and Bush’s different presidential platforms, particularly the way the candidates are positioning themselves with African American voters.
Friday’s scene is rare: Clinton and Bush are among the guests speaking at the conference, where a select group of Republican and Democratic candidates make their pitch for president before a predominately African-American crowd.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Republican, along with Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are also set to appear.
The conference comes after a year of growing racial tension that has exploded into an emotional debate over the separate killings of black Americans at the hands of white police officers. That conflict has seen fresh attention after the death of a black woman, Sandra Bland, in a Texas jail after a traffic violation. Officials ruled the death a suicide.
Also in recent memory: The massacre of nine parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white male who told authorities he wanted to “shoot black people.” The tragedy sparked a passionate, bipartisan effort to have the Confederate Flag removed from state capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina.
Encapsulating their message in the slogan “black lives matter,” activists have sought to bring racial injustice to the forefront of the presidential debate, forcing politicians from both parties to face questions about how they would remedy racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
It’s been a difficult issue to navigate for many of the candidates. Confronted by activists in June, O’Malley responded: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” He later apologized, saying he did not “mean to be insensitive” to the “depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.”
Bush, however, defended O’Malley, arguing that the Democratic candidate shouldn’t have to apologize for saying “all lives matter.”
“I know in the political context it’s a slogan, and should he have apologized? No. If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn’t apologize to a group that seemed to disagree with it,” he said in New Hampshire last week.
Clinton had her own “black lives matter” misstep when she told an audience just miles from Ferguson, Missouri – where the shooting of Michael Brown sparked sustained protests — that “all lives matter.”
Since then, and with the benefit of watching her opponents stumble, Clinton has used the phrase “black lives matter” repeatedly.