When President Obama delivers his jobs speech on Thursday, will he continue to ignore his base?
Monday, September 5, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I was a maid in high school. I cleaned white peoples houses on Saturdays and after school. I cleaned, washed and ironed clothes and waxed the kitchen floor for $3.00 and twenty cents, the latter being for bus fare. I came from a family of nine children so this was the only way I could make spending money. There were no fast food places like McDonald's during the fifties for had they existed I would have had a part-time job at one of them to get spending money.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Saturday, November 6, 2010
New York Times
November 5, 2010
By Bob Herbert
"What this election tells me is that real leadership will have to come from elsewhere, from outside of Washington, perhaps from elected officials in statehouses or municipal buildings that are closer to the people, from foundations and grass-roots organizations, from the labor movement and houses of worship and community centers.
The civil rights pioneers did not wait for presidential or Congressional leadership, nor did the leaders of the women’s movement. They plunged ahead with their crucial work against the longest odds and in the face of seemingly implacable hostility. Leaders of the labor movement braved guns, bombs, imprisonment and heaven knows what else to bring fair wages and dignity to working people.
America’s can-do spirit can be revived, and with it a brighter vision of a fairer, more inclusive, and more humane society. But not if we wait on Washington to do it. The loudest message from Tuesday’s election is that the people themselves need to do much more."
By William Thomas
Friday, October 1st, 2010
There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a Republican or Democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.
Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.
Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.
Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.
Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.
Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”
At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.
The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.
Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.
Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.
And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.
Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”
Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”
In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.
In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.
What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.
America, you know not what you have.
The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.
President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”
Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.
Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: “No shirt. No shoes. No service,” they’ll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.
OCTOBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
Friday, November 5, 2010
By: John F. Harris and Glenn Thrush
November 5, 2010
In the anthology of Barack Obama quotations, one of the classics came just hours before the event that made him the hottest property in American politics.
As Obama walked toward the arena at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he gave an electrifying keynote address, a Chicago Tribune reporter noted that he seemed to be making a good impression.
“I’m LeBron, baby,” Obama told author David Mendell. “I can play on this level. I got some game.”
Those words came at the start of the supernova phase of Obama’s career. But on Wednesday came another quote, not quite so crisp, destined to become an early marker of the crash-to-earth phase.
“This is something that I think every president needs to go through because … sometimes we lose track of the ways that we connected with folks that got us here in the first place,” Obama said toward the end of his post-election news conference, after reporters' repeated questions pressing him to go beyond his clinical descriptions of the disastrous election results and explain whether he felt responsibility or remorse. “Now, I’m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like they, like I did last night. I’m sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons. But I do think this is a growth process and an evolution.”
Is he capable of growth? And how painful the evolution?
Many Obama observers regard these as central questions about his presidency as he tries to recover from an election debacle that many warned of for a year and that even some sympathizers regarded as a natural comeuppance for an exceptionally confident man who slipped into overconfidence.
The results also served as a reminder that Obama is not immune from a timeless truth: Every president’s defects are in part a magnification of his virtues.
Self-regard can blur into self-delusion. According to many Obama supporters and skeptics alike, it is still to be seen whether Obama shares with his most successful predecessors a capacity for self-critique and self-correction.
A year ago, after Democrats got trounced in off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia — in large measure because of the same flight of independents that helped the GOP triumph in the midterm elections — White House aides loudly and publicly stated that there were no lessons in the results that were relevant to Obama. And for most of the year that followed, they acted on that premise.
This misplaced confidence, by some lights, did not merely lead to political miscalculations. It strained the emotional connection with voters on which the most successful presidents depend. Restoring that connection, and regaining the sympathy to be extended a second chance, require a show of modesty.
“Humility is a great quality, and it’s one that people will respect,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who teaches at Rice University. “Ronald Reagan could be seen as a polarizing presence, but he also knew how to play humble when it was necessary. Where is President Obama’s self-deprecating humor? Kennedy and Reagan could both be very self-deprecating. People liked that.”
"The worst thing that happened to Obama is he’s lost a lot of his aura. Even his friends think he’s thin-skinned and a bit highfalutin," he said.
It’s the sort of complaint that comes to the fore in background conversations with lawmakers, lobbyists and veterans of previous administrations who interact with Obama’s West Wing staffers: that they’ve created a cult of personality around Obama, having followed their boss on his rapid and improbable ascent to the presidency. Many of these devotees do, indeed, feel that he is the political equivalent of NBA phenom LeBron James. The view is based on a belief that Obama’s outsize political skills and uncommon personal poise make him different than conventional politicians and immune to conventional political laws of gravity.
One Obama insider said it is a view that starts at the top. Having triumphed over an early perception by political insiders and many journalists that he could not defeat front-runner Hillary Clinton, Obama, this person said, frequently invokes the 2008 experience and what he believes was its lesson — always stay the course, don’t be distracted by ephemeral controversies or smart-set importuning for a change of direction.
Some believe this is an admirable instinct carried to a dangerous degree.
"Obama would sort of say, 'Look, I'm smart. I know what I'm doing. You'll just have to trust me,'” said Democratic strategist and commentator James Carville. “It was kind of beneath him to explain the reasons behind his actions to people — how TARP really worked, how the stimulus was helping. ... You had a lot of signs — New Jersey, Virginia, Scott Brown — but they thought what they were doing was going to turn out all right.”
Obama’s predicament of 2010 suggests another refrain of the modern presidency: Its occupants arrive in office shaped pre-eminently by experience, with character formed well before leaders reach the White House.
A time traveler who went to Arkansas in 1977 would find plenty of people in Little Rock who would not be the least bit surprised that their newly elected attorney general would become president someday. And these same people would not be surprised to learn of the particular nature of the scandal that hobbled Bill Clinton’s presidency some 20 years later.
Obama, however, burst onto the national scene with such speed and force in 2008 that he may have seemed sui generis, a man untouched by the normal cycles of success and setback.
Instead, what’s clear in 2010 is that Obama is like all presidents a product of his past. Some believe his style is too cerebral. Was this a surprise from a former law professor? Some said he allowed himself to be defined too much by legislative victories and defeats, rather than sketching a higher vision of where he wanted to lead the country. Did people not recall that his most extensive government experience was as a state legislator?
Likewise, the contemporary argument about Obama’s personal style has long antecedents. People have for decades regarded him as having special leadership traits. And some people have observed, for just as long, that Obama sometimes regarded himself as too special.
In author David Remnick’s Obama biography, “The Bridge,” he quotes White House adviser and longtime friend Valerie Jarrett: “I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. ... He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. ... So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. ... He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”
Remnick also regularly cites how even Michelle Obama would sometimes bridle under “his ego and his self-involvement.”
A 2008 New Yorker article quoted Patrick Gaspard, now the White House political director, describing what Obama told him during the job interview: “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
It was health care where the self-confidence of the Obama team had the most profound impact. The team produced landmark legislation, even after many pundits assumed last winter that the Democratic reform package was dead, but it just happened to be deeply unpopular with many independent voters who went to the polls Tuesday. A recent poll by POLITICO and George Washington University found 62 percent of independent voters had an unfavorable view of health care.
Rep. Marion Berry, who retired from the House earlier this year, described a White House meeting between Obama and conservative Democrats, who warned the president that the measure was unpopular in their districts and asked him why he thought he could do better with health care reform than Bill Clinton had done. “Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me,” Berry quoted Obama as saying.
One Democratic operative active in the health care debate said Obama never wavered — but also seemed not to care — when lawmakers expressed their concern to him about the political hazards of the measure. “The do-the-right-thing is, in itself, arrogant,” this Democrat said. “He thinks of it as noble, as rising above. But the underlying assumption is that you are an unprincipled jerk. And all the people around him have drunk that Kool-Aid.”
Veterans of Illinois politics say Obama’s Washington tenure reflects themes — great talent, harnessed to great ego — that are familiar to them.
During his first six years as a state senator, Republicans controlled the Senate and the governorship. So at the time, to get a bill out of committee, he needed Republican support.
“I think he came into Springfield with an arrogance,” said Dan Shomon, who was assigned by Democratic leaders to help Obama as an aide when he arrived. “He wanted to fix the process too quickly. … He didn’t have ‘time’ to make nice with everybody. … I guess the word confidence and professorial-like is better than arrogance, occasionally a lecturing sort of nature — which I think he’s toned [down]. Over time, he learned to get rid of that where he was, sort of, lecturing.”
Others who knew Obama back then think he came in modest and became less so as he accumulated more power. Mike Lawrence, a veteran GOP staffer at the Illinois State Capitol, sees a different Obama than the young state senator who shared the workload with him on a reform panel in the 1990s.
“He was a guy who could take criticism gracefully. Once, I blew up at him, and he chuckled and said, ‘Gee, Mike, you’re really intense,’” said Lawrence, who first got to know Obama as press secretary to then-Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar in the 1990s. “The difference I see now from a distance is a guy who’s defensive and seems to always be in campaign mode.”
Shomon was campaign manager in Obama’s 2000 House challenge against Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). He sees parallels between Obama’s predicament now and the loss 10 years ago, which he says was a major setback for a politician who had seen so much break his way. Despite the loss to a powerful incumbent of his own party, in a race no serious observers ever expected him to win, Obama kept quickly climbing rungs on the ladder to the presidency.
“I think he will learn his way out of it, and that’s what he did in 2000,” Shomon said. “He’s very competitive at golf, basketball and politics. He does not like to lose. That sort of knockout quality — the Michael Jordan in him — he’s not going to give up.”
One prominent Democratic strategist expressed hope that Obama will conclude that genuine confidence would lead to a willingness to accept the need for a new governing approach, especially in an era when his party no longer controls all of Congress. “The question is, does Obama have the suppleness of mind, the flexibility, the self-confidence to question basic premises?” the Democrat asked. “And does he have the intuition to know when to take half a loaf and when to stand firm? They don’t teach that at Harvard Law, you know.”
One veteran Obama observer was not impressed with the early signs at the Wednesday news conference, believing that the president seemed impassive compared with the magnitude of the setback.
“Where’s the guy who out-hustled Hillary Clinton?” asked former Des Moines Register reporter David Yepsen, now director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. “I don’t think he realizes the mess he’s in, that he’s staring into his political grave. I was watching that press conference the other day, and I’m thinking, ‘Does he really get it?’ Where are the heads that should be rolling? Where’s the acknowledgment things have gone really wrong? I know he wants to project confidence, but come on.”
White House aides declined to comment for this article.
It may be, however, that Obama is feeling his rebuke more keenly than is apparent to outsiders. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” he described his feelings of embarrassment and rejection after the 2000 loss.
“No matter how convincingly you attribute the loss to bad timing or bad luck or lack of money — it’s impossible not to feel at some level as if you have been personally repudiated by the entire community, that you don’t quite have what it takes, and that everywhere you go, the word ‘loser’ is flashing through people’s minds,” Obama wrote. “They’re the sorts of feelings that most people haven’t experienced since high school, when the girl you’d been pining over dismissed you with a joke in front of her friends, or you missed a pair of free throws with the big game on the line — the kinds of feelings that most adults wisely organize their lives to avoid.”
James Hohmann and Ben Smith contributed to this report.
© 2010 Capitol News Company, LLC
Rachel Maddow's TV Ratings Shoot Through the Roof
By Jan Frel, AlterNet
Posted on September 18, 2008, Printed on September 19, 2008
The latest cable news ratings show that Rachel Maddow is already ahead of Keith Olbermann and Larry King. Quite a feat in the ultra-competitive TV news environment.
Cable News Ratings for Tuesday, September 16
8PM - P2+ (25-54) (35-64)
The O'Reilly Factor- 3,060,000 viewers (731,000) (1,253,000)
Election Center-1,166,000 viewers (431,000) (576,000)
Countdown w/Keith Olbermann- 1,635,000 viewers (509,000) (771,000)
On the Money--207,000 viewers (65,000) (106,000)
Nancy Grace -1,166,000 viewers (412,000) (618,000)
9 PM - P2+ (25-54) (35-64)
Hannity & Colmes-3,136,000 viewers (716,000) (1,375,000)
Larry King--1,710,000 viewers (496,000) (801,000)
Rachel Maddow Show-1,801,000 viewers (534,000) (872,000)
Business of Innovation--a scratch w/102,000 viewers (a scratch w/42,000) (59,000)
Glenn Beck- 656,000 viewers (211,000) (354,000)
Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/www.alternet.org/99378/
McCain's Closing Argument
By George F. Will
September 18, 2008
Man is in love and loves what vanishes.
What more is there to say?
-- William Butler Yeats
Conservatives, who reputedly have lumps of coal where their hearts should be, have fallen in love. So have many people who are not doctrinal conservatives. The world is a sweeter place because Sarah Palin has increased the quantity of love, but this is not a reliable foundation for John McCain's campaign.
The tech bubble was followed by the housing bubble, which has been topped by the Palin bubble. Bubbles will always be with us, because irrational exuberance always will be. Its symptom is the assumption that old limits have yielded to undreamed-of possibilities: The Dow will always rise, as will housing prices, and rapture about a running mate can be decisive in a presidential election.
Palin is as bracing as an Arctic breeze and delightfully elicits the condescension of liberals whose enthusiasm for everyday middle-class Americans cannot survive an encounter with one. But the country's romance with her will, as romances do, cool somewhat, and even before November some new fad might distract a nation that loves "American Idol" for the metronomic regularity with which it discovers genius in persons hitherto unsuspected of it.
McCain should, therefore, enunciate a closing argument for his candidacy that goes to fundamentals of governance, concerning which the vice presidency is usually peripheral. His argument should assert the virtues of something that voters, judging by their behavior over time, prefer -- divided government.
The incumbent Republican president's job approval is in the low 30s but is about 10 points higher than that of the Democratic-controlled Congress. The 22nd Amendment will banish the president in January, but Congress will then be even more Democratic than it is now. Does the country really want there to be no check on it? Consider two things that will quickly become law unless McCain is there to veto them or unless -- this is a thin reed on which to depend -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has 40 reliable senators to filibuster them to deserved deaths.
The exquisitely misnamed Employee Free Choice Act would strip from workers their right to secret ballots in unionization elections. Instead, unions could use the "card check" system: Once a majority of a company's employees -- each person confronted one on one by a union organizer in an inherently coercive setting -- sign cards expressing consent, the union would be certified as the bargaining agent for all workers. Proving that the law's purpose is less to improve workers' conditions than to capture dues payers for the unions, the law would forbid employers from discouraging unionization by giving "unilateral" -- not negotiated -- improvements in compensation and working conditions.
Unless McCain is president, the government will reinstate the equally misnamed "fairness doctrine." Until Ronald Reagan eliminated it in 1987, that regulation discouraged freewheeling political programming by the threat of litigation over inherently vague standards of "fairness" in presenting "balanced" political views. In 1980 there were fewer than 100 radio talk shows nationwide. Today there are more than 1,400 stations entirely devoted to talk formats. Liberals, not satisfied with their domination of academia, Hollywood and most of the mainstream media, want to kill talk radio, where liberals have been unable to dent conservatives' dominance.
Today, as usual, but perhaps even more so, Americans are in the iron grip of cognitive dissonance. It is a genteel mental disorder afflicting those people -- essentially everybody -- who have contradictory convictions and yearnings. Consider health care. Americans want 2008 medicine at 1958 prices, and universal coverage with undiminished choice -- without mandatory purchases or government interference with choices, including doctor-patient relationships. As usual, neither party completely pleases a majority of voters. That is why 19 of the 31 elections since World War II produced or preserved divided government -- the presidency and at least one chamber of Congress controlled by different parties.
Divided government compels compromises that curb each party's excesses, especially both parties' proclivities for excessive spending when unconstrained by an institution controlled by the other party. William Niskanen, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, notes that in the past 50 years, "government spending has increased an average of only 1.73 percent annually during periods of divided government. This number more than triples, to 5.26 percent, for periods of unified government."
By picking Palin, McCain got the country's attention. That is a perishable thing, and before it dissipates, he should show the country his veto pen.
Katrina Memories Give Republicans Reason to Worry
By Donna Brazile
Roll Call Staff
What a difference three years have made in the federal government’s understanding of how to effectively, efficiently and compassionately deal with a natural disaster like a powerful hurricane hitting our nation’s shores.
While the soap opera aspect of the Republican presidential campaign continues to unfold under the mainstream media radar, I’d rather spend my time and attention while I’m here at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., focusing on Hurricane Gustav, whose damaging winds and torrential rainfall are at this very moment wreaking havoc on 300 miles of New Orleans levees still under repair from three years ago.
The Republicans gathered here to nominate Arizona Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appear hopeful that Hurricane Gustav will wash away our memories of how the Bush White House and Republican-run federal government mishandled Hurricane Katrina.
Three years ago, we as a nation sat transfixed in horror as we watched our fellow Americans either bake or drown while waiting to be rescued from rooftops and the hellholes that were the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center. After three years, the images that once burned onto disbelieving retinas continue to sear our hearts and memory.
It is impossible to forget the horrors of that week and the pain and suffering of those left behind and forgotten. Nor should we forget. Americans were left to die. And we watched them being left to die. More than 1,600 folks did die. Dead from their government’s incompetence, they live on in our thoughts and prayers — and votes.
Ironically, almost three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall and displaced hundreds of thousand of Americans left scattered across the country, the nation is once again reminded that it matters who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office. This time, the federal government is not outsourcing its responsibilities to the state and local government. This time, the executive branch has instructed the federal government to respond.
The 2008 Republican National Convention is still up in the air as organizers continue to scramble to pull together a truncated schedule that allows them to nominate their presidential and vice presidential candidates. The delegates and alternates who have gathered from across America are truly sympathetic to the plight of those who had to evacuate.
Yes, they are deeply concerned. Indeed, as I write this, they are looking for ways to help the GOP delegates from areas threatened by Hurricane Gustav get home safely to assess the damage and begin the repairing process.
No doubt McCain is painfully aware that all eyes will be on how his party and its leader will treat this latest attack on New Orleans and its Gulf Coast neighbors. No doubt he remembers where he was when Katrina hit landfall three years ago: in Arizona with President Bush celebrating his birthday. Like the president, who is holding fort in the emergency command centers in Texas, McCain is aware that the American people are watching. Pictures matter, but so do public policies.
We continue to lack public policies that will help people with houses damaged from Gustav (and Katrina and Rita, for that matter) repair their homes and rebuild their lives. Tens of thousands of Americans remain exiled from their homes.
I met one such survivor here at the Republican convention. She’s working as a top chef at one of the major hotels. Like me, she was born at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. When raging storm waters flooded her home, she fled to safety in St. Paul.
While watching the TV set near the hotel dining room with her, I watch as tears stream down her face. I promise her things will be better this time. I tell her the government will get everyone out safely and, later, help them get back home.
“I hope so,” she tells me. “I still am here and cannot go back.”
Aletha is not alone. So many thousands of people, including my own siblings, must answer many questions after this storm has passed. Can they go back and rebuild their lives? Can they afford to replace the roofs, windows and the other broken bits of their homes destroyed by Gustav? And what about the schools, the roads, the bridges and the hospitals? Will they also be rebuilt? When?
Soon, we can only hope. Just as we can only hope that the Republicans gathered here in Minnesota this week will not forget Gustav’s victims after they return home and it’s back to politics as usual.
McCain faces a unique challenge this week. He must not only distance himself from the uncompassionate and incompetent response of the Bush administration concerning Hurricane Katrina; he must also distance himself from his own hapless and heartless response.
After all, McCain voted against the emergency funding bill, including $28 billion for hurricane relief.
McCain voted against giving Katrina victims five months of Medicaid services.
He voted — twice — against establishing a commission to study the response to Hurricane Katrina.
And he opposed granting financial relief to families affected by Hurricane Katrina.
McCain talks about putting the country first. I support those who talk about putting the American people first.
How McCain reacts to and deals with these two latest events — Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Palin (the soap opera involving the politically naive rookie he chose to be his running mate) — will demonstrate to the American people the kind of judgment and leadership they can expect from him as president. Along with the rest of America, the good and beleaguered folks of the Gulf Coast states will be watching closely. And, come Election Day, they will not forget.
Donna Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grass-roots political consulting firm.
Official 2008 Obama/McCain Presidential Debate Schedule
Here is the full official debate schedule:
August 16, 2008: Video: Saddleback Civil Forum with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest California
(Not part of the official sanctioned schedule but both candidates attended)
September 26, 2008: Presidential debate with domestic policy focus, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
October 2, 2008: Vice Presidential debate, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
October 7, 2008: Presidential debate in a town hall format, Belmont University, Nashville, TN
October 15, 2008: Presidential debate with foreign policy focus, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Here is a break down of what each debate will consist of:
1. First Presidential Debate: – Date: September 26 – Site: University of Mississippi – Topic: Foreign Policy & National Security – Moderator: Jim Lehrer – Staging: Podium debate – Answer Format: The debate will be broken into nine, 9-minute segments. The moderator will introduce a topic and allow each candidate 2 minutes to comment. After these initial answers, the moderator will facilitate an open discussion of the topic for the remaining 5 minutes, ensuring that both candidates receive an equal amount of time to comment
2. Vice Presidential Debate – Date: October 2nd – Site: Washington University (St. Louis) – Moderator: Gwen Ifill – Staging/Answer Format: To be resolved after both parties’ Vice Presidential nominees are selected.
3. Second Presidential Debate – Date: October 7 – Site: Belmont University – Moderator: Tom Brokaw – Staging: Town Hall debate – Format: The moderator will call on members of the audience (and draw questions from the internet). Each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond to each question. Following those initial answers, the moderator will invite the candidates to respond to the previous answers, for a total of 1 minute, ensuring that both candidates receive an equal amount of time to comment. In the spirit of the Town Hall, all questions will come from the audience (or internet), and not the moderator.
4. Third Presidential Debate – Date: October 15 – Site: Hofstra University – Topic: Domestic and Economic policy – Moderator: Bob Schieffer – Staging: Candidates will be seated at a table – Answer Format: Same as First Presidential Debate – Closing Statements: At the end of this debate (only) each candidate shall have the opportunity for a 90 second closing statement.
All four debates will begin at 9pm ET, and last for 90 minutes. Both campaigns also agreed to accept the CPD’s participation rules for third-party candidate participation.
All 4 debates will be broadcast on the major broadcast networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX. They will also be aired on cable news channels such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and C-SPAN.
We will have full videos of each debate uploaded once they air.
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, September 5, 2008
"There are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, 'Who is this man?' and 'Can we trust this man with the presidency?' "
-- Fred Thompson on John McCain, Sept. 2
This was the most effective line of the entire Republican convention: a ringing affirmation of John McCain's authenticity and a not-so-subtle indictment of Barack Obama's insubstantiality. What's left of this line of argument, however, after John McCain picks Sarah Palin for vice president?
Palin is an admirable and formidable woman. She has energized the Republican base and single-handedly unified the Republican convention behind McCain. She performed spectacularly in her acceptance speech. Nonetheless, the choice of Palin remains deeply problematic.
It's clear that McCain picked her because he had decided that he needed a game-changer. But why? He'd closed the gap in the polls with Obama. True, that had more to do with Obama sagging than McCain gaining. But what's the difference? You win either way.
Obama was sagging because of missteps that reflected the fundamental weakness of his candidacy. Which suggested McCain's strategy: Make this a referendum on Obama, surely the least experienced, least qualified, least prepared presidential nominee in living memory.
Palin fatally undermines this entire line of attack. This is through no fault of her own. It is simply a function of her rookie status. The vice president's only constitutional duty of any significance is to become president at a moment's notice. Palin is not ready. Nor is Obama. But with Palin, the case against Obama evaporates.
So why did McCain do it? He figured it's a Democratic year. The Republican brand is deeply tarnished. The opposition is running on "change" in a change election. So McCain gambled that he could steal the change issue for himself -- a crazy brave, characteristically reckless, inconceivably difficult maneuver -- by picking an authentically independent, tough-minded reformer. With Palin, he doubles down on change.
The problem is the inherent oddity of the incumbent party running on change. Here were Republicans -- the party that controlled the White House for eight years and both houses of Congress for five -- wildly cheering the promise to take on Washington. I don't mean to be impolite, but who's controlled Washington this decade?
Moreover, McCain was giving up his home turf of readiness to challenge Obama on his home turf of change. Can that possibly be pulled off? The calculation was to choose demographics over thematics. Palin's selection negates the theme of readiness. But she does bring important constituencies. She has the unique potential of energizing the base while at the same time appealing to independents.
This is unusual. Normally the wing-nut candidate alienates the center. Palin promises a twofer because of her potential appeal to the swing-state Reagan Democrats that Hillary Clinton carried in the primaries. Not for reasons of gender -- Clinton didn't carry those voters because she was a woman -- but because more culturally conservative working-class whites might find affinity with Palin's small-town, middle/frontier American narrative and values.
The gamble is enormous. In a stroke, McCain gratuitously forfeited his most powerful argument against Obama. And this was even before Palin's inevitable liabilities began to pile up -- inevitable because any previously unvetted neophyte has "issues." The kid. The state trooper investigation. And worst, the paucity of any Palin record or expressed conviction on the major issues of our time.McCain has one hope. It is suggested by the strength of Palin's performance Wednesday night. In a year of compounding ironies, the McCain candidacy could be saved, and the Palin choice vindicated, by one thing: Palin pulls an Obama.
Obama showed that star power can trump the gravest of biographical liabilities. The sheer elegance, intelligence and power of his public presence have muted the uneasy feeling about his unreadiness. Palin does not reach Obama's mesmeric level. Her appeal is far more earthy, workmanlike and direct. Yet she managed to banish a week's worth of unfriendly media scrutiny and self-inflicted personal liabilities with a single triumphant speech.
Now, Obama had 19 months to make his magic obscure his thinness. Palin has nine weeks. Nevertheless, if she too can neutralize unreadiness with star power, then the demographic advantages she brings McCain -- appeal to the base and to Reagan Democrats -- coupled with her contribution to the reform theme, might just pay off. The question is: Can she do the magic -- unteleprompted extemporaneous magic, from now on -- for the next nine weeks?
National Election News from The Miss America Organization
McCain Names Former Miss Alaska Contestant as Running Mate
We are pleased to announce that former Miss Alaska contestant, Sarah Heath Palin, has just been named as John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. In 1984, Palin was chosen as Miss Wasilla and went on to become the first runner-up in the Miss Alaska Pageant and received the Miss Congeniality award the same year. Her husband, Todd Palin was a judge in the 2008 Miss Alaska Pageant.
Congratulations on this exciting news for the Miss Alaska Organization!
The Oprah-fication of Michelle Obama
New York Times
By The Editorial Board
If Barack Obama is elected president, a good chunk of credit should go to Oprah Winfrey. Her early and enthusiastic endorsement of Senator Obama – and her heavily attended appearances with him in Iowa and South Carolina – played a big role in winning over bit parts of Middle America to the Obama cause.
Ms. Winfrey has since faded into the background of the campaign, but her impact persists – perhaps nowhere more than in Monday night’s speech by Michelle Obama.
It was one of the most important speeches of the convention – far more so than the crowd-pleasing valedictory of Senator Edward M. Kennedy the same night. The campaign still has a significant selling job to do with Michelle Obama, who has been repeatedly baited by Republicans as angry, hostile to whites, and un-American.
Ms. Obama did an admirable job of turning back the right-wing assault – and she did it with an Oprah script:
Sentiment Is More Important Than Politics – One reason Ms. Winfrey’s endorsement of Senator Obama was so unusual is that with few exceptions, she has stayed away from politics. What she sells on her television show and in her magazine, for the most part, are sentiment, good feeling, and self-improvement.
In her speech, Ms. Obama made the major theme family – a very sweet version of family. She began with her brother, whom she described as “watching over me.” She moved on to the sustaining love of her mother and her late father, and then to her husband and children.
Doting wife and mother may be the role Americans have come to expect from their first ladies, but it was laid on heavily.
Ms. Obama has always talked a good deal about her family, but she has done so with a refreshing tartness. It was not love at first sight with her husband. When he first began asking her out, she has said, she refused, concerned it would interfere with their work.
She has talked about being the taskmaster in the Obama household, doling out assignments and keeping the girls on the straight and narrow. Those more piquant notes were left out Monday night.
Life is About Triumphing Over Adversity – Ms. Winfrey, who has spoken often of being a childhood sexual abuse victim, has emphasized the importance of rising above difficult circumstances. It is one of her favorite themes in life and literature.
Ms. Obama has a lot to be proud of, and her speech emphasized the struggle. She described herself as “raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue-collar city worker.” Perhaps since her own rise has been so steady, she recounted her father’s difficulties in detail. He battled multiple sclerosis in his 30s, she said, struggled to button his shirt, and used “two canes to get himself across the room to give my mom a kiss.”
Keeping a Gratitude Journal – Ms. Winfrey has had a lot to be unhappy about over the years, from the early abuse, to racism during her childhood in the Jim Crow South, to obstacles of more recent vintage. Her advice has always been not to dwell on the negative, but to keep a journal of everything one is grateful for.
So it was with Ms. Obama Monday night. The comments she has at times made about America’s flaws - refreshingly candid perhaps, but also politically maladroit - were deleted. In their place was a whole section on “Why I Love This Country.”
The “Oprah Moment” — Ms. Obama’s speech ended with an “Oprah moment.” As a surprise — and as those free-car winners can attest, Ms. Winfrey loves surprises — Senator Obama appeared from a remote location (in a swing state), and bantered with the family. “How do you think Mommy did?” It was quintessential Oprah.
There is, of course, a reason Ms. Winfrey is so popular. Her story lines are ones that resonate strongly with many Americans – and non-Americans. Through those themes, Ms. Winfrey may do as much for Michelle Obama as she has already done for Barack Obama.
Too Much of a Bad Thing
New York Times
By MAUREEN DOWD
My mom did not approve of men who cheated on their wives. She called them “long-tailed rats.”
During the 2000 race, she listened to news reports about John McCain confessing to dalliances that caused his first marriage to fall apart after he came back from his stint as a P.O.W. in Vietnam.
I figured, given her stringent moral standards, that her great affection for McCain would be dimmed.
“So,” I asked her, “what do you think of that?”
“A man who lives in a box for five years can do whatever he wants,” she replied matter-of-factly.
I was startled, but it brought home to me what a powerful get-out-of-jail-free card McCain had earned by not getting out of jail free.
His brutal hiatus in the Hanoi Hilton is one of the most stirring narratives ever told on the presidential trail — a trail full of heroic war stories. It created an enormous credit line of good will with the American people. It also allowed McCain, the errant son of the admiral who was the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific during Vietnam — his jailers dubbed McCain the “Crown Prince” — to give himself some credit.
“He has been preoccupied with escaping the shadow of his father and establishing his own image and identity in the eyes of others,” read a psychiatric evaluation in his medical files. “He feels his experiences and performance as a P.O.W. have finally permitted this to happen.”
The ordeal also gave a more sympathetic cast to his carousing. As Robert Timberg wrote in “John McCain: An American Odyssey,” “What is true is that a number of P.O.W.’s, in those first few years after their release, often acted erratically, their lives pockmarked by drastic mood swings and uncharacteristic behavior before achieving a more mellow equilibrium.” Timberg said Hemingway’s line that people were stronger in the broken places was not always right.
So it’s hard to believe that John McCain is now in danger of exceeding his credit limit on the equivalent of an American Express black card. His campaign is cheapening his greatest strength — and making a mockery of his already dubious claim that he’s reticent to talk about his P.O.W. experience — by flashing the P.O.W. card to rebut any criticism, no matter how unrelated. The captivity is already amply displayed in posters and TV advertisements.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor who married Jenna Bush and who is part of a new Christian-based political action committee supporting Obama, recently criticized the joke McCain made at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally encouraging Cindy to enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. The McCain spokesman Brian Rogers brought out the bottomless excuse, responding with asperity that McCain’s character had been “tested and forged in ways few can fathom.”
When the Obama crowd was miffed to learn that McCain was in a motorcade rather than in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being questioned by Rick Warren, Nicolle Wallace of the McCain camp retorted, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”
When Obama chaffed McCain for forgetting how many houses he owns, Rogers huffed, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”
As Sam Stein notes in The Huffington Post: “The senator has even brought his military record into discussion of his music tastes. Explaining that his favorite song was ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, he offered that his knowledge of music ‘stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile.’ ‘Dancing Queen,’ however, was produced in 1975, eight years after McCain’s plane was shot down.”
The Kerry Swift-boat attacks in 2004 struck down the off-limits signs that were traditionally on a candidate’s military service. Many Democrats are willing to repay the favor, and Republicans clearly no longer see war medals as sacrosanct.
In a radio interview last week, Representative Terry Everett, an Alabama Republican, let loose with a barrage at the Democrat John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who is the head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, calling him “cut-and-run John Murtha” and an “idiot.”
“And don’t talk to me about him being an ex-marine,” Everett said. “Lord, that was 40 years ago. A lot of stuff can happen in 40 years.”
The real danger to the McCain crew in overusing the P.O.W. line so much that it’s a punch line is that it will give Obama an opening for critical questions:
While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?
Toby Keith said he likes Barack Obama
LOS ANGELES — Barack Obama is getting praise from Nashville, courtesy of one big, patriotic country star.
Toby Keith, perhaps best known to non-country audiences for his post-Sept. 11 song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," says he's a Democrat, and was impressed by the senator from Illinois.
Keith has said in the past that the 2002 song — which included lines aimed at the Taliban like "we lit up your world like the Fourth of July" — was more patriotic than pro-war.
Asked while promoting his new movie "Beer For My Horses" about the role of patriotism in the current presidential election, Keith replied: "There's a big part of America that really believes that there is a war on terrorism, and that we need to finish up.
"So I thought it was beautiful the other day when Obama went to Afghanistan and got educated about Afghanistan and Iraq. He came back and said some really nice things.
"So as far as leadership and patriotism goes, I think it's really important that those things have to take place. And I think he's the best Democratic candidate we've had since Bill Clinton. And that's coming from a Democrat."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Par for Mr. Corsi
Friday, August 15, 2008
THERE'S A cottage industry in books about Barack Obama; by one count, more than 20 are just out or are in the works. But few debut in the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list, as Jerome R. Corsi's "The Obama Nation" will do among nonfiction hardcover titles this week. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, given his earlier hit job on the last Democratic nominee, Mr. Corsi's latest is rife with inaccuracies and innuendo. If the fundamental smear of "Unfit for Command" was that John F. Kerry was no war hero, the insinuation of Mr. Corsi's latest is that Mr. Obama is a closet Muslim and militant, black activist drug-user.
"The Obama Nation" -- the ungainly play on words (abomination, get it?) is "fully intended," the author tells us -- reprises the Corsi method. Mr. Corsi boasts that "I fully document all arguments and contentions I make, extensively footnoting all references" and asserts that "my fundamental opposition to Obama's presidential candidacy involves public policy differences." But footnoting to a discredited blog item does not constitute careful scholarship, and the bulk of Mr. Corsi's book has nothing to do with issues.
He gets facts wrong, from the date of Mr. Obama's marriage to whether he dedicated his autobiography to his family (he did) to whether he revealed that he took his future wife on his second trip to Kenya (he did.) He makes offensive statements: "The sexual attraction of his mother to her African husband jumps out from the page."
When facts are lacking, Mr. Corsi makes his point by suggestive questions. Noting that Life magazine could find no record of an article that Mr. Obama remembered reading as a child about a black man who tried to lighten his skin, Mr. Corsi asks, "How much more imagining, hypothetical lying, or just plain lying is Obama capable of doing?" When facts are present, he twists them to make Mr. Obama bad.
Mr. Corsi's discussion of Mr. Obama's drug use -- disclosed by Mr. Obama in his autobiography -- manages to combine a few of these techniques. "Still, Obama has yet to answer questions whether he ever dealt drugs, or if he stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended into his law school days or beyond. Did Obama ever use drugs in his days as a community organizer in Chicago, or when he was a state senator from Illinois? How about in the U.S. Senate?" In fact, Mr. Obama has said that he stopped using drugs when he was 20. Mr. Corsi is similarly misleading about Mr. Obama's religious background, questioning his claim to be Christian. "Obama had to know that running for political office, even state office, would be much more difficult to do if voters suspected he was a Muslim," Corsi writes. "Yet once Obama became a member of Trinity, he had proof he was a Christian, as he professed to be."
Mr. Corsi has dismissed criticisms of his book as "nit-picking," an odd defense coming from an author happy to inflate any possible omission into a full-blown evasion. Mary Matalin, the Republican political strategist who heads Threshold Editions, the Simon and Schuster division that published "The Obama Nation," described the book to the New York Times as "a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that." That would not be our description.
When political hacks edit books.
Mary Matalin, Publisher
By Timothy Noah
Posted Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008, at 7:04 PM ET
Jerome R. Corsi has written a book about Barack Obama cleverly titled The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. The book is published by Threshold Editions, Mary Matalin's imprint at Simon & Schuster. It "was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book," Matalin sniffed to Jim Rutenberg and Julie Bosman of the New York Times. Rather, it is "a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that." Corsi holds a doctorate in government from Harvard University, and the book's cover highlights Corsi's academic credential with the byline "Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.d."
But Corsi, a staff reporter for the hard-right World Net Daily and co-author of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, a 2004 hit job published by the hard-right Regnery, maintains his scholarly posture with some difficulty. In his off-hours, Corsi calls Arabs "ragheads" and Bill Clinton an "anti-American communist" on Internet message boards. Susan Estrich is "Susan Estrogen" and Katie Couric is "Little Katie Communist." In the past, Corsi's fellow conservative, Debbie Schlussel, has even accused Corsi of plagiarism (though, to be fair, this looks to me more like garden-variety theft, i.e., taking an idea and some facts from another columnist without extending the usual courtesy of a citation; a minor offense in journalism, if not in academia).
Why did Corsi write The Obama Nation? Was it in disinterested pursuit of scholarly truth? Er, not exactly. "The goal is to defeat Obama," he told the Times. "I don't want Obama to be in office."
I haven't read The Obama Nation. But both the Times and Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog Web site (and the source of my above links to "ragheads," etc.), cite multiple errors in the book. Ordinarily, when an author or an editor discovers errors in a book's text, he or she arranges to correct them in the next printing. I've done this myself. But neither Corsi nor Matalin responded to e-mails from me asking whether they intended to correct any errors in The Obama Nation—it would be a miracle if there were none. In the Times, Corsi brushed aside the Media Matters critique because of its politics. Now, I yield to no one in my skepticism regarding the veracity of Media Matters' chief executive officer, the former right-wing hit man David Brock. But Media Matters operates on the principle of transparency, providing links and video clips necessary to assess its claims of falsehood. Sometimes the claims hold up; sometimes they seem like a reach. Most of its findings concerning The Obama Nation are unassailable. For instance, Obama either has or hasn't stated publicly when he stopped using marijuana and cocaine. According to Corsi, he hasn't. According to Obama's memoir Dreams From My Father he has. "I stopped getting high" when he was an undergraduate at Columbia, Obama writes. The Times further notes that in 2003, Obama told the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., in response to a question about drug use, "I haven't done anything since I was 20 years old." When the Times confronted Corsi with this information, he changed the subject from his book's obvious error to what he deems the unreliability of self-reporting on matters of drug use. Which, of course, was entirely beside the point.
All this raises the question of whether the world of "conservative" publishing, which includes not only Matalin's imprint at Simon & Schuster but also Random House's Crown Forum and Penguin Group USA's Sentinel, aspires even to the standards of the nonideological (or what conservatives call the "liberal") publishing establishment, which are nothing to write home about. What I've learned about The Obama Nation suggests it does not. What the hell is Mary Matalin doing running a publishing imprint in the first place? She is a professional propagandist, a political operative who learned her craft at the feet not of Maxwell Perkins but of Lee Atwater. Truth is not what she's about; campaigns are, and for Matalin, The Obama Nation would appear to be just another campaign. This isn't to say that, through her Threshold imprint, Matalin is subverting Simon & Schuster's pursuit of profit to partisan ends. Quite the contrary. Simon & Schuster and the other big publishing houses have started conservative imprints, at arms' length and with noses held, because they recognize them to be a gold mine. The Obama Nation, the Times reports, will debut on its best-seller list this Sunday at No. 1. But part of the deal, clearly, is that conservative imprints aren't required to adhere to the same standards of truth as the grown-up divisions. If an Erwin Glikes or even an Adam Bellow is available to edit your conservative fall list, fine. But in a pinch, a Mary Matalin will do. It's what George W. Bush memorably dubbed the soft bigotry of low expectations. The conservative movement has won the publishing houses' attention but not their respect. Does it even care?
Timothy Noah is a senior writer at Slate.
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2197432/
Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
Obama as Incumbent
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The core strategy of John McCain's campaign is to turn Barack Obama into the incumbent, the man who is too familiar yet still mysterious.
The effort reflects one of the most remarkable aspects of the 2008 campaign: Obama has turned himself into the central figure in American politics. That is an extraordinary achievement, but it comes at a price.
One cost was measured by a Pew Research Center study released last week that found that 48 percent of all those surveyed -- and 51 percent of the political independents -- said they had heard "too much" about Obama. Only 26 percent (and 28 percent of independents) said that about McCain.
This is understandable: From mid- to late-February until only the past week or so, Obama had received far more media attention than McCain, according to the Campaign Coverage Index produced by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Obama's centrality has created an odd dynamic. The most important influences on the campaign are President Bush's unpopularity and the collapse of public sympathy for the Republican Party, meaning that a majority is inclined to vote for the Democratic nominee unless he is rendered unacceptable.
But with Bush fading into the background, McCain's campaign has been more about Obama than about himself. In recent weeks, McCain's advertising tossed one charge after another at the man painted serially as "the biggest celebrity in the world," "Dr. No" and "The One." McCain's attacks, which helped build Obama fatigue, continued over the weekend.
Yet Obama has absorbed the assaults and headed to his holiday in Hawaii holding an advantage of four to six percentage points -- roughly the same margin he has enjoyed all summer. This led political strategists in both parties with whom I spoke in recent days to challenge the conventional wisdom of an Obama campaign that is "underperforming."
Obama has been criticized for not responding quickly enough to the McCain offensive. But the past two weeks have solidified voters' perceptions, measured in recent polls, that the Republican campaign is far more negative than Obama's. This opens space for Obama to respond forcefully to McCain without being accused of initiating the attacks.
Moreover, a candidate who spends all his time defining his opponent has not spent much time defining himself. McCain is living off his maverick image. This has fed voter perceptions that he is moderate and independent, allowing him to run more competitively with Obama than any of McCain's primary opponents could have.
Despite McCain's longevity in the public eye, though, a CBS News poll last week found a third of voters still undecided in their opinion of McCain or saying they didn't know enough to form one. (Roughly the same proportion said this about Obama.)
This leaves room for Democrats to define McCain as a conventional conservative and a Bush supporter. And some Republicans wonder if McCain, by absorbing so many Bush operatives into his campaign, may have limited his maneuvering room to declare his independence from an unpopular president.
In the past two weeks, McCain has succeeded in narrowing the economic discussion to energy and oil drilling, forcing Obama to respond defensively. But "drill, drill, drill" is not a slogan that can carry McCain through November, given the range of the electorate's economic discontents.
There is a certain shrewdness to the McCain campaign's effort to turn Obama's strengths -- the energy he excites in crowds, the historic nature of his candidacy and the interest he has created overseas -- into weaknesses.
"They're trying to make lemonade out of a lemon," said one Democratic strategist who is not working for the Obama campaign. "It's not a bad thing to do, but it's a sign of weakness."
Thus the effort to turn Obama into the incumbent. McCain loses if the race becomes a referendum on Bush. He is running behind on most issues. And he has yet to generate the commitment among those who say they're for him that Obama has inspired among his own supporters.
The one contest McCain can win is an election about Obama. Paradoxically, Obama's imperative at his convention is to reassure voters about who he is while also moving the spotlight off himself.
Political Wives Enabling Immoral Behavior
Washington Post Reporter
I just want to smack him across the puss, as my Savannah-born mother used to say. I want to smack him across that pretty puss, those pretty eyelashes, that pretty hair. I want to shake him and knock his pretty head against the wall.
At first that was all I could think of when I heard about John Edwards' confession. Because all the words about him had already been said. We've been through this so many times there's almost nothing left to say. Sure, they are all "lyin', cheatin', no-good hypocrites!" as the New York Post headline screamed. So what else is new?
The details are, of course, always different. In this case, Edwards says he wasn't in love with the other woman, it ended in 2006, the baby is not his, he told his wife every painful detail, she forgave him and anyway she was in remission from cancer so it wasn't really all that bad. Frankly, though, I don't see what John Edwards did as being that different from what any of the other men in power -- Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, etc. -- did. I don't see that the moral issues are all that different either. Like the others, Edwards and his wife pretended they were one big happy family, and like the others he lied to his family, the staff and the press. But we're all so cynical now that we don't believe a word they say and I think most Americans are so scandal fatigued that they just shrug them off.
Let's try to give John Edwards the benefit of the doubt for a moment. He lost a son in a tragic automobile accident. His wife developed breast cancer shortly before he lost the exhausting campaign for vice president. The cancer returned. It is inoperable. He has three children to whom he has to give moral support while his wife has been sick and he was running for president at his wife's insistence. That's a lot to deal with. I've had a number of friends die of cancer and often, discreetly, their spouses have turned to someone else for comfort and support, especially if the disease is drawn out. People have not judged them harshly. None of that excuses his behavior but at least it partially explains it. Even if he is a narcissistic, self centered, lyin', cheatin', no-good, hypocritical egomaniac which of course he is.
That, however is not what is interesting about this story. What is interesting here is Elizabeth Edwards.
This is the thing that is driving me crazy. The wives. The enabling wives. Nobody has more respect for Elizabeth Edwards than I do. First of all, any woman who has lost a child gets a pass for life from me. Nothing could be more horrible. Not only that, she is brilliant, clever, capable, decent and courageous. She has battled cancer, taken care of her family and been a loyal campaigner for her husband. The grief she has gone through, having lost a child and knowing she may leave her other three motherless must be unbearable.
The problem is, SHE LET HIM DO IT. She not only agreed to his run for the presidency, she encouraged him to do it, knowing the toll it would take on the family given her health problems. But, worse, she let him do it knowing that he had had an affair. What on earth was she thinking? She said in the Daily Kos, "This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well." I'm sorry but it was not a private matter. Not when you are running for president. The press would surely have left him alone had he not run. The mainstream press left him alone while he was running, but if he had won the primaries she had to know it surely would have come out. It always comes out. Repeat... it always comes out.
Not only did she allow him to run, exposing herself and her children to the pain and humiliation that would inevitably come, she could have allowed him to destroy the Democratic party in the process. This man was running for the President of the United States on a lie and she knew it. If he had not entered the race it could have changed the outcome of the primary. And what if he had won the primary? Think of the people they betrayed -- yes, THEY. They betrayed their devoted staff, the supporters who sent in millions of dollars, the taxpayers who supplied Secret Service protection (I want my money back) , their party and their country. She stood by and let him lie and lie and lie.
This simply can't go on. These women, these political spouses have to stop enabling their husbands to behave like this. Because as long as they do the men will continue to cheat, lie and betray. As long as they believe there will be no consequences (and by their wives tacit support they begin to believe it), what is there to stop them?
This kind of thing hurts everybody. Most importantly it hurts women. It paints all of us as pathetic victims, or potential ones in any case. Every time one of these guys goes off the reservation it creates the perception that it's OK, that that's what men do and the women should just shut up, put on a brave face and support them.
Yes, I want to smack John Edwards across the puss. But more than that I want Elizabeth Edwards to do it for me. Not just for me but for all of us.
Washington Post journalist, author and Washington DC insider, Sally Quinn founded and co-moderates On Faith, a blog from the Washington Post and Newsweek. Co-moderated by Newsweek editor and bestselling author Jon Meacham and hosted by a panel of renowned religious scholars of all denominations, On Faith is the first worldwide, interactive discussion about religion and its impact on global life.
Stalking, Sniffing, Swooning
New York Times
By MAUREEN DOWD
It could have been a French movie.
Passing acquaintances collide in a moment of transcendent passion. They look at each other shyly and touch tenderly during their Paris cinq à sept, exchange some existential thoughts under exquisite chandeliers, and — tant pis — go their separate ways.
Sarko, back to Carla Bruni. Obama, forward to Gordon Brown. A Man and a Man. All it needed was a lush score and Claude Lelouch.
Even for Sarkozy the American, who loves everything in our culture from Sylvester Stallone to Gloria Gaynor, it was a wild gush over a new Washington crush.
Sarko is right and Barack is left. One had a Jewish grandfather, the other a Muslim one. The French president is a frenetic bumper car; the Illinois senator is, as he said of the king of Jordan’s Mercedes 600, “a smooth ride.”
But the son of a Hungarian, who picked a lock to break into the French ruling class, embraced a fellow outsider and child of an immigrant who had also busted into the political aristocracy with a foreign-sounding name.
After 200,000 people thronged to see Obama at the Victory Column in Berlin, christening him “Redeemer” and “Savior,” it turned out Sarko was also Obamarized, as the Germans were calling the mesmerizing effect.
“You must want a cigarette after that,” I teased the candidate after the amorous joint press conference, as he flew from Paris to London for the finale of his grand tour.
“I think we could work well together,” he said of Sarko, smiling broadly.
He did not get to meet his fan, Carla Bruni. “She wasn’t there,” he said. “Which I think disappointed all my staff. That was the only thing they were really interested in.”
He admitted showing “extraordinarily poor judgment” in leaving Paris after only a few hours. Watching Paris recede from behind the frosted glass of his limo was “a pretty good metaphor” for how constricted his life has become, he said, compared with his student days tramping around Europe with “a feeling of complete freedom.”
“But the flip side is that I deeply enjoy the work,” he said, “so it’s a trade-off.”
How do you go back to the Iowa farm after you’ve seen Paree?
“One of the values of this trip for me was to remind me of what this campaign should be about,” he said. “It’s so easy to get sucked into day-to-day, tit-for-tat thinking, finding some clever retort for whatever comment your opponent made. And then I think I’m not doing my job, which should be to raise up some big important issues.”
I asked how his “Citizen of the World” tour will go down in Steubenville, Ohio.
“There will probably be some backlash,” he said. “I’m a big believer that if something’s good then there’s a bad to it, and vice versa. We had a good week. That always inspires the press to knock me down a peg.”
He thinks most people recognize that “there is a concrete advantage to not only foreign leaders, but foreign populations liking the American president, because it makes it easier for Sarkozy to send troops into Afghanistan if his voting base likes the United States.”
How does he like the McCain camp mocking him as “The One”?
“Even if you start believing your own hype, which I rarely do, things’ll turn on you pretty quick anyway,” he said. “I have a fairly steady temperament that has at times been interpreted as, ‘Oh, he’s sort of too cool.’ But it’s not real.”
Obama kept his cool through a week where he was treated as a cross between the Dalai Lama and Johnny Depp.
A private prayer he left in the holy Western Wall in Jerusalem was snatched out by a student at a Jewish seminary and published in a local newspaper. In Berlin, the tabloid Bild sent an attractive blonde reporter to stalk Obama at the Ritz-Carlton gym as he exercised with his body man, Reggie Love. She then wrote a tell-all, enthusing, “I’m getting hot, and not from the workout,” and concluding, “What a man.”
Obama marveled: “I’m just realizing what I’ve got to become accustomed to. The fact that I was played like that at the gym. Do you remember ‘The Color of Money’ with Paul Newman? And Forest Whitaker is sort of sitting there, acting like he doesn’t know how to play pool. And then he hustles the hustler. She hustled us. We walk into the gym. She’s already on the treadmill. She looks like just an ordinary German girl. She smiles and sort of waves, shyly, but doesn’t go out of her way to say anything. As I’m walking out, she says: ‘Oh, can I have a picture? I’m a big fan.’ Reggie takes the picture.”
I ask him if he found it a bit creepy that she described his T-shirt as smelling like “fabric softener with spring scent.”
He looked nonplused: “Did she describe what my T-shirt smelled like?”
Being a Citizen of the World has its downsides.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Barack, Here's How to Get the White People
June 25, 2008
A nine-point plan for winning over white voters—and the election.
Is America ready to elect a black president? We'll find out in November. Barack Obama's candidacy poses an unprecedented sociological experiment. Everything about us, including how far we've come toward the creation of the more perfect union in which people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, will be put to the test. And everything about Obama will be put to the test as well, including his ability to forge a winning political strategy.
The sad but unavoidable reality is that race is likely to play a pivotal role in this experiment. If Obama were a generic white, male Democrat of similar eloquence, youthful grace and energy, he would be a guaranteed easy landslide victor over the standard bearer for a party as deeply unpopular as the Republicans have become. As Alan Abramowitz, a professor of public opinion and the presidency at Emory University told Politico.com, "It is one of the worst political environments for the party in power since World War II."
Obama is ahead of John McCain by 15 points in one recent poll, but that's no cause for overconfidence: In 1988, Michael Dukakis had a similar advantage at a comparable point in the race, but wound up a loser to the first George Bush. Other surveys show Obama with only a six-point lead over McCain— a narrow margin that many white analysts seem to be going out of their way to attribute to every factor but the most obvious one, his ethnicity. White commentators may not want to talk about it, but race—not Obama's relatively short resume, or the resentment of Hillary Clinton's feminist supporters or McCain's increasingly obsolete image as a maverick—is the biggest obstacle between Obama and the White House.
That means that despite his lock on the black vote and his popularity among the young and highly educated, Obama must add enough whites to his coalition to win in the electoral college. He need not garner a majority of such voters—no Democrat, including Bill Clinton, has since 1964—but he needs enough of them to win. Can he do it? Yes, he can, with the right strategy. Here's my unsolicited nine-point plan to Obama for winning over white voters and victory in the fall campaign:
1) Remind us who you are. Hire Spike Lee to produce a one-hour story of your life, emphasizing your mother's Midwestern roots, your grandfather's and great-uncle's service in World War II, your climb through excellence to Harvard Law School and your time as a community organizer in Chicago. Include great footage of helping your daughters with their homework and of your participation in pick-up basketball games. The objective is to show that yours is a truly American story of patriotism, hard work and achievement that makes people feel that if you can make it, they can, too. Put it on all the networks before your acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention on August 28.
2) Keep it simple and sunny. The last time we faced an election as pivotal as this was 1980, when Ronald Reagan used his optimistic personality and a simple but powerful message to wrest the presidency from the hapless Jimmy Carter and usher in a conservatism that would dominate American politics for a generation. You have the potential to accomplish a similar re-alignment for your own brand of post-partisan pragmatic liberalism by recycling a few pages from Reagan's play book. Ask voters if they are better off than they were eight years ago. Promise them that we can rebuild the economy if we stop wasting lives and treasury on unnecessary wars and focus on renewing the infrastructure, finding new energy sources and coping with global warming. Don't get bogged down in details about new policy ideas.
3) Go to church every Sunday. This is the best way to combat the rumors that you are a secret Muslim and neutralize the damage from your ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Make sure the congregations are racially mixed. Keep meeting with evangelical leaders to let them know that you are a Democrat who understands their values and shares their belief in Jesus Christ.
4) Re-channel RFK. Use your powerful oratory to revive the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, when blacks and whites united in the cause of racial equality. Ignore the segment of white voters who will never vote for a black candidate under any circumstances. Concentrate, instead, on those who can be persuaded that you offer a better future for everybody by retracing Robert F. Kennedy's visits to in Appalachia, Indian reservations, ghettos and barrios, reminding all of us how much more must still be done to make the American dream real for everyone.
5) Be nice to McCain. Treat him the way you treated the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, "like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with." Call him "sir," when you debate him—which you should do whenever you can. Point out how closely he has tied himself to the failed policies of the Bush administration, but do it with respect and genuine admiration. Smile at him. This will help create the post-partisan atmosphere you'll need to accomplish anything once you get elected.
6) Show off your team. You've got a diverse group of really smart advisors. Make sure voters know that by putting them in the spotlight. Keep letting reporters into your sessions with your economic and foreign policy team, as you did a few days ago, to see how you operate. Let them float innovative new policy ideas while you focus on the big picture. Let voters see that you are smart and confident enough to let yourself be guided by folks who are even smarter.
7) Avoid Washington insiders. You did the right thing by quickly accepting the resignation of Jim Johnson from your vice-presidential vetting team, but you should never have put him on the team in the first place. Inevitably you have to include crafty Washington veterans in your campaign cabinet, but keep them at a minimum. Voters need to know that you are serious about change, and the best way to reinforce that message is to surround yourself with advisors who look like the new America you are trying to create.
8) Talk tough to your supporters, including blacks and liberals. Your Father's Day speech on absentee black dads was a masterstroke. It not only won applause from blacks but showed skeptical whites that you understand their feelings about race even if you don't necessarily agree with them. Follow up by re-iterating your skepticism about paying reparations for slavery and your doubts about race-based affirmative action policies. This will help to demonstrate that you intend to be a president for everybody, not just blacks. By the same reasoning, stand up to your supporters from Moveon.com, by sticking to your support for the compromise Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which protects telephone companies that cooperated with government intelligence agencies from lawsuits. The law sucks, but you can change it if you're elected. Meanwhile, there's no reason to give Republicans an excuse for charging you with being soft on terrorists.
9) Go to the front lines. Pay a visit to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan before the convention to get a first-hand look at how the wars are going. Pay visits to veterans' hospitals and propose big improvements in the way our soldiers are treated. Like putting that flag pin back in your lapel, these steps will help to burnish your patriotism and foreign policy credentials. If you are going to be commander-in-chief, you have to act like one.
There are, of course, lots of other things that you can do to improve your chances in November, and you're already doing some of them. But none of them may be as important, in the end, as something we blacks can do for you. We have to let you have the freedom to run as a candidate for all the people, not just us. If we try to turn your campaign into a black thing that whites don't understand, you won't make it and the country will be stuck with four more years of disastrous policies. This is a case in which we have to put America's interests ahead of our own, by letting you do whatever you need to do to win. Go for it! Yes, you can.
Jack White teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Obama Organizers Meet On Saturday, July 26, just 100 days from November 4th Election
Right now, Senator Obama is on an important trip to Europe and the Middle East where, as president, he will work to restore America's strength in the world. He has spent recent days visiting our troops and meeting with leaders in Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations.
Here in Florida, we have some important work to do as well.
This Saturday, July 26th, supporters are joining together at Campaign for Change organizational meetings across the state.
These meetings are an important chance to meet campaign organizers, community leaders, and other Obama supporters in your area. Together, we'll discuss our strategy for building this movement for change in Florida.
Sign up to attend an organizational meeting this Saturday:
Since we're only 100 days from the general election, we can't afford to sit on the sidelines -- we have to start now.
Saturday's organizational meetings are an opportunity to meet fellow Obama supporters in your community and learn about a crucial part of our strategy here -- our new Florida Neighborhood Teams for Change program.
The Florida Neighborhood Teams for Change program is a fun and easy way to turn your commitment to our Campaign for Change into action that will help turn Florida blue in November. Teams will be responsible for reaching out to friends, neighbors, and undecided voters to spread the word about this movement.
No political experience is required. We'll provide you with everything you need, every step of the way.
Join us this Saturday at an organizational meeting in your county:
Florida General Election Director
Campaign for Change
P.S. -- Want to learn more about programs in Florida?
The Obama Florida homepage is the best resource to stay up-to-date about events and activities in your area. Bookmark the page in your web browser, visit often, and make sure to pass the word to your family and friends:
Sign The Petition foxattacks.com/michelle
You can watch the video here.
You can sign the petition here.
The Obama Agenda
New York Times
By PAUL KRUGMAN
It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton?
Current polls — not horse-race polls, which are notoriously uninformative until later in the campaign, but polls gauging the public mood — are strikingly similar to those in both 1980 and 1992, years in which an overwhelming majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the country’s direction.
So the odds are that this will be a “change” election — which means that it’s very much Mr. Obama’s election to lose. But if he wins, how much change will he actually deliver?
Reagan, for better or worse — I’d say for worse, but that’s another discussion — brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.
Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing “a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.
We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans’ health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: “The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”
So whom does Mr. Obama resemble more? At this point, he’s definitely looking Clintonesque.
Like Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama portrays himself as transcending traditional divides. Near the end of last week’s “unity” event with Hillary Clinton, he declared that “the choice in this election is not between left or right, it’s not between liberal or conservative, it’s between the past and the future.” Oh-kay.
Mr. Obama’s economic plan also looks remarkably like the Clinton 1992 plan: a mixture of higher taxes on the rich, tax breaks for the middle class and public investment (this time with a focus on alternative energy).
Sometimes the Clinton-Obama echoes are almost scary. During his speech accepting the nomination, Mr. Clinton led the audience in a chant of “We can do it!” Remind you of anything?
Just to be clear, we could — and still might — do a lot worse than a rerun of the Clinton years. But Mr. Obama’s most fervent supporters expect much more.
Progressive activists, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama during the Democratic primary even though his policy positions, particularly on health care, were often to the right of his rivals’. In effect, they convinced themselves that he was a transformational figure behind a centrist facade.
They may have had it backward.
Mr. Obama looks even more centrist now than he did before wrapping up the nomination. Most notably, he has outraged many progressives by supporting a wiretapping bill that, among other things, grants immunity to telecom companies for any illegal acts they may have undertaken at the Bush administration’s behest.
The candidate’s defenders argue that he’s just being pragmatic — that he needs to do whatever it takes to win, and win big, so that he has the power to effect major change. But critics argue that by engaging in the same “triangulation and poll-driven politics” he denounced during the primary, Mr. Obama actually hurts his election prospects, because voters prefer candidates who take firm stands.
In any case, what about after the election? The Reagan-Clinton comparison suggests that a candidate who runs on a clear agenda is more likely to achieve fundamental change than a candidate who runs on the promise of change but isn’t too clear about what that change would involve.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Mr. Obama really is a centrist, after all.
One thing is clear: for Democrats, winning this election should be the easy part. Everything is going their way: sky-high gas prices, a weak economy and a deeply unpopular president. The real question is whether they will take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to change the country’s direction. And that’s mainly up to Mr. Obama.
Senator Obama And Telecom Immunity Legislation
Before we get too riled up about Barack supporting the telecom immunity bill, let's keep in mind what else the bill does and put it in context with a statement from his campaign:
(Posted on Huffingtonpost.com):
Sen. Barack Obama's campaign released a statement Friday afternoon saying that while Obama opposes amnesty for telecom firms that spied on Americans, he will support the House compromise legislation.
The statement in full:
"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.
"After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.
"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
"It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people."
I think we need to keep in mind the conditions under which Democrats are trying to get things done and that compromise is a necessity in politics. Compromise is also a quality of Barack's that will be fundamental in getting him elected as president.
Goodbye to a Standup Brother
Tim Russert was a rarity in Washington; when he said he wanted to understand other people, he meant it.
June 15, 2008--Here is something important you need to know about Tim Russert: On the night Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, even a casual viewer could tell Tim was beside himself with the joy of watching history unfold before his eyes. In that slightly over the top, nearly hokey way that characterized his love of election nights, he simply could not get enough.
I was watching at home, enough of a political junkie myself to know I had to hang in there to see the history being made, but fighting off sleep all the same. And then my friend Tim said something on the air that made me wish I'd said it first.
"I was thinking: What would I like to do tomorrow?" he said to the camera, his face shiny with excitement. "No more primaries to cover! One, I'd like to be in that meeting between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But absent that, I would LOVE to teach American history in an inner-city American school tomorrow morning. How GREAT would that be? Just to look in those faces and listen to those kids—what they witnessed and saw tonight."
I knew he meant every word.
Tim loved a lot of things, a lot of people. And we loved him right back. He hired me at NBC in 1994 on a dare, luring me from my comfy perch at the New York Times with a promise to teach me TV. His reasoning was simple; it was a better bet to teach a good reporter about television than to try to teach a TV-ready talking head about how to be a journalist. His own example was his guide. He took over Meet the Press in 1991 without a lick of television experience, but with a wealth of political knowledge.
He never had to say it, but I also know Tim considered it a bonus that, by hiring me, he was going to be able to add an African-American voice to his Washington bureau—someone who could keep up with him on politics but also tell him stuff he didn't know. He was keenly aware that, as proud as he was of his Irish Catholic, blue-collar roots, other people had different roots that they were equally proud of and that understanding those varied views of the world was important.
I was working for him at NBC during the 1995 Million Man March. As hundreds of thousands of men streamed onto the National Mall, he knew this was a big deal, and he knew there was something he could learn if he would just dig deeply enough. So he assembled a roundtable for that week's Meet the Press unlike anything Sunday morning had ever seen: all black men, including liberal Jesse Jackson and conservative Robert Woodson, Tim and me. It was no stunt. Tim really wanted to understand the significance of the event.
That kind of sincere interest is rare. Many powerful white men limit their curiosity to confirming what they already believe they know to be true. When Tim did not know something, he found someone who did. Over the years, he found me, and NPR's Michele Norris, and the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and Joe Johns and other voices who could clue him in to how black folk thought, talked, acted—and to help him understand why there was no monolithic answer. When the National Urban League scolded him and other Sunday morning shows about lack of diversity on their roundtables, he showed up at the meeting himself to talk to them about how to address the problem.
I made my last appearance with him on Meet the Press a few weeks ago. We were talking about race in the context of this year's presidential contest and another panelist, Jon Meacham of Newsweek, remarked that race was a subject that made white folks queasy. I countered that black folks only get queasy talking about race when they are in conversation with white folks who get queasy talking about it. Tim's eyes twinkled when he looked at me. He absolutely loved that I was telling him something he had not thought of before.
I never minded talking about race with Tim because he was never queasy talking about it with me.
There is quite a line of people who, at various times, have taken credit for my career. I usually let them do it, even if I remember events quite differently. But Tim deserves the credit. He not only talked me into switching to TV against my first instincts, but—five years later—he engineered a way for me to leave NBC when I was offered the chance to become the first African American to host a weekly public affairs program, Washington Week, over on PBS. He not only talked NBC executives into getting me out of my contract, but he also looked me in the eye and told me this was something I absolutely, positively had to do.
Tim remained a friend to the end. Even when we disagreed—as happened during the infamous Don Imus episode last year—he never stopped wanting to hear what I thought. Imus was his friend, and he had appeared on the radio show many, many times. So when Meet the Press producer Betsy Fischer called to invite me to participate in a Sunday roundtable focused on the controversy, I at first refused.
I felt compelled to call Tim and explain. If I come on your show, I told him, I will be forced to criticize the journalists who had enabled Imus over the years, leading up to his stunning insult of the Rutgers basketball team. Tim knew—and I knew—that Imus had insulted me too, years before. When I told Tim I didn't feel I could come to his house and insult him, he quickly assured me that he wanted me to come and say what I had to say. People needed to hear it, he told me.
So I went, and I told him to his face that I found his defense of Imus disappointing. I got a lot of kudos for speaking truth to power that day, but the real news was that Tim allowed me to say what I had to say, knowing it would not make him look good. That does not happen a lot—in life or politics.
I am stunned and grief-stricken by Tim's death. In a world where many of us realize we are the only black friends our white friends have, I remember Tim as a guy who considered it a thrill to drop by my house, grab the first baby who wandered by in a house full of mostly black people, and work the room like he never wanted to leave.
Now that, right there, was my brother.
Gwen Ifill is host of ''Washington Week'' on PBS.
Senate Should Stop Confirming Bush's Appointment of Judges
Thanks to seven years of Bush's ultra-conservative appointments to the courts, the federal judiciary has been shifted far to the right. Now that his presidency is -- finally -- almost over, it's time for the Senate to stop confirming ANY of his judicial nominees.
Let's tell Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that he should shut down the judicial confirmations process until a new president is sworn in next January.
I hope you'll have a look and take action.
Obama Speaks to His National Staff in Chicago After Winning
ON BARACK OBAMA: Andy Goodman's Ghost
April 27, 2008
Five years ago I was having dinner with a group of students in a bar in Carbondale, Illinois. As we left I saw five men seated at a back table. Waiting for them as they got up to leave, I stopped the tall and handsome man. It was Barack Obama, then campaigning for the Democratic nomination for Senator from Illinois. He stooped and listened patiently as I told him that Julian Bond was a good friend of mine, that I had photographed the civil rights movement, and that my daughter, Gabrielle, was an activist in Chicago, and my son in law, Dr. Paul Sereno, was also on the University of Chicago faculty where Obama had taught constitutional law.
Obama lives in Hyde Park, Chicago, the neighborhood I left to join SNCC 46 years ago. When he began his run for the Presidency of the United States, I sent him my civil rights book and wrote across the opening page, “The hopes and dreams of untold thousands rest with you”. I wanted to write “millions”.
When I was nineteen and a college student in Chicago, the first reports of the American civil rights movement were reaching me. I read that Martin Luther King was in jail in Georgia. I had no car and no idea of how to get there. In 1962, in my third year as a history student at the University of Chicago, I talked with a fellow student, a white Jewish woman who had been arrested in a demonstration in the South. It was my first contact with the black rebellion that was slowly growing in the southern states. That year I was twenty years old. Segregation, or aparthied, was the law of the land in thirteen American states. With contact information from my fellow student, I hitchhiked south, first to southern Illinois where I met John Lewis, who is now a congressmen and still one of my oldest friends.
Within a week I had reached the deep south in Georgia, was thrown into jail, and looked through the bars across to the Negro section of the jail to watch Martin Luther King being served a special lunch of chicken on a red and white checkered tablecloth and being examined by a doctor. I had managed to reach the southern civil rights movement about one year before it was recognized as a major story by the press. The word “media” was not used in 1962.
Now I am sixty -six and there are two things I like to tell people of my life. One is that I was in jail with Martin Luther King, the other is that I spent four days alone with Muhammad Ali in 1973 just before the second Jerry Quarry fight. Ali is like King, an American great. In 1968 Ali did something that is almost unheard of in our society. He put principles before money and refused to fight in Vietnam. “No Vietcong ever called me Nigger” is as good a line as many that Jefferson wrote, and Muhammad Ali did not go to college.
Any one that experienced segregation in the South, cannot help but jump when he sees a black family being served in a white restaurant in Mississippi. I will never get used to it. I saw too many people thrown through windows, knocked down, beaten up and arrested over and over to ever take this simple event for granted. Nor will I ever feel safe driving down a dark southern highway at night, all alone, because I know of young people that were in the Movement and were murdered as they drove down those roads at night.
As I write this Obama is about to become the 44th President of the United States. The office created for George Washington, a holder of hundreds of African slaves. An office elevated by Abraham Lincoln who wrote very clearly that the black person would never be equal to the white person, and thought sending the slaves back to Africa was the best way to deal with the problem. Of course it was James Baldwin who pointed out that “the problem” was something white people had, not blacks.
Obama’s campaign, in fact the whole phenomenon of his candidacy, is a page torn out of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and is the direct result of the events that occurred in the deep south forty six years ago. The grass roots uprising that I joined in 1962 was called the movement, with a small “m” and within two years I published a book called The Movement, with a capital M. That is what media people do. They take reality and sell it to the public. The entire idea of the leader that does not lead is straight from the life of Bob Moses, the NYC math teacher that led the rebellion in Mississippi and lead the successful fight to secure the right for blacks to vote in that state and across the South. When Hillary stupidly said that President Johnson secured the right to vote by signing the voting rights act in 1967, she insulted a lot of people. The people that won the right to vote in the South were the young people, mostly black, that put their lives on the line and created the pressure that made the voting rights act possible. When the Klan gathered in Mississippi to murder three voter registration workers, one of them was a black boy from Mississippi and the other two were Jewish boys from New York City. So the Obama candidacy has taken the tactics of the Movement, of grass roots organizing, of the “leader that does not lead” and used it successfully in a run for the Presidency.
Just participating in the black rebellion in the South in the early 1960’s was a victory. You didn’t have to win every battle because the biggest battle was overcoming your and your family’s fear to join the movement. Obama’s candidacy is in itself a huge victory. It shows that the media’s constant refrain that Americans all hate each other and that we are a deeply racist society is simply not true.
As the author of many books of journalism and films using pictures and words, I have devoted my life to creating an honest picture of America, almost always in direct opposition to the false world that seems to so naturally come from the Media. Can you change society? Can you change Americans? Can you even see or recognize change? If you live long enough and get old enough, you can see change. You can see it now. The real people that created this wonderful moment in American and world history aren’t the thousands of young people that have worked so hard organizing Obama’s victories. The people that created this moment are now in their sixties and older and worked for this moment when they were young and some that worked for it their whole lives.
I am not much for TV pundits, but one of them, on CNBC, commenting on Obama’s startling victory in Iowa, said something that made me jump and deserves repeating. He talked of the myriad problems of America and how the world and many people have come to view the United States. “Its almost as if he were sent by God,” he said. I agree.
Danny Lyon, April 27, 2008
Is Obama An Enlightened Being?
By Mark Morford
SF Gate Columnist
Friday, June 6, 2008
I find I'm having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and miserable, deeply depressed Republicans and spiritually amped persons of all shapes and stripes and I'm having it in particular with those who seem confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the same thing: What the hell's the big deal about Obama?
I, of course, have an answer. Sort of.
Warning: If you are a rigid pragmatist/literalist, itchingly evangelical, a scowler, a doubter, a burned-out former '60s radical with no hope left, or are otherwise unable or unwilling to parse alternative New Age speak, click away right now, because you ain't gonna like this one little bit.
Ready? It goes likes this:
Barack Obama isn't really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.
This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae - or no antennae at all - to all those who just don't understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama's aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.
To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?
No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.
Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.
Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.
The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.
Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me. But you gotta wonder, why has, say, the JFK legacy lasted so long, is so vital to our national identity? Yes, the assassination canonized his legend. The Kennedy family is our version of royalty. But there's something more. Those attuned to energies beyond the literal meanings of things, these people say JFK wasn't assassinated for any typical reason you can name. It's because he was just this kind of high-vibration being, a peacemaker, at odds with the war machine, the CIA, the dark side. And it killed him.
Now, Obama. The next step. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to the land and embarrassed the country and pummeled our national spirit into disenchanted pulp and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp, we are finally truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.
Let me be completely clear: I'm not arguing some sort of utopian revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie camp counselor. I'm not saying the man's going to swoop in like a superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren.
Please. I'm also certainly not saying he's perfect, that his presidency will be free of compromise, or slimy insiders, or great heaps of politics-as-usual. While Obama's certainly an entire universe away from George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall inspirational energy, well, so is your dog. Hell, it isn't hard to stand far above and beyond the worst president in American history.
But there simply is no denying that extra kick. As one reader put it to me, in a way, it's not even about Obama, per se. There's a vast amount of positive energy swirling about that's been held back by the armies of BushCo darkness, and this energy has now found a conduit, a lightning rod, is now effortlessly self-organizing around Obama's candidacy. People and emotions and ideas of high and positive vibration are automatically draw to him. It's exactly like how Bush was a magnet for the low vibrational energies of fear and war and oppression and aggression, but, you know, completely reversed. And different. And far, far better.
Don't buy any of it? Think that's all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls-- and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you're talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself.
Not this time.
Democratic Primary Boosts U.S. Image Around the World
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
LONDON, June 4 -- For much of the world, Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic primaries was a moment to admire the United States, at a time when the nation's image abroad has been seriously damaged.
From hundreds of supporters crowded around televisions in rural Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland, to jubilant Britons writing "WE DID IT!" on the "Brits for Barack" site on Facebook, people celebrated what they called an important racial and generational milestone for the United States.
"This is close to a miracle. I was certain that some things will not happen in my lifetime," said Sunila Patel, 62, a widow encountered on the streets of New Delhi. "A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different."
The primary elections generated unprecedented interest around the world, as people in distant parliament buildings and thatched-roof huts followed the political ups and downs as if they were watching a Hollywood thriller.
Much of the interest simply reflects hunger for change from President Bush, who is deeply unpopular in much of the world. At the same time, many people abroad seemed impressed -- sometimes even shocked -- by the wide-open nature of U.S. democracy and the history-making race between a woman and a black man.
"The primaries showed that the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, a place that is open-minded enough to have a woman or an African American as its president," said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo political analyst.
"I think it will be put down as a shining, historical moment in the history of America," said Fumiaki Kubo, a professor at Tokyo University.
While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has admirers around the world, especially from her days as first lady, interviews on four continents suggested that Obama's candidacy has most captured the world's imagination.
"Obama is the exciting image of what we always hoped America was," said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London think tank. "We have immensely enjoyed the ride and can't wait for the next phase."
The presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, who has extensive overseas experience, is known and respected in much of the world. In interviews, McCain seemed more popular than Obama in countries such as Israel, where McCain is particularly admired for his hard line against Iran. In China, leaders have enjoyed comfortable relations with Bush and are widely believed to be wary of a Democratic administration.
"Although no one will admit it, Israeli leaders are worried about Obama," said Eytan Gilboa, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. "The feeling is that this is the time to be tough in foreign policy toward the Middle East, and he's going to be soft."
But elsewhere, people were praising Obama, 46, whose heavy emphasis on the Internet helped make him better known in more nations than perhaps any U.S. primary candidate in history.
In Kenya, Obama's victory was greeted with unvarnished glee. In Kisumu, close to the home of Obama's late father, hundreds crowded around televisions to watch Obama's victory speech Wednesday morning, chanting "Obama tosha!" which translates as, "Obama is enough!"
"Our fortunes as the people of Kenya are certain to change. Obama knows our problems and I'm sure he has them at heart," said Salim Onyango, 32, a shoe shiner in Kisumu. "When he becomes president, he will definitely put in place support for us in Kenya."
Sam Onyango, a water vender in Kisumu, said: "Obama's victory means I might one day get to America and share the dreams I have always heard about. He will open doors for us there in the spirit of African brotherhood."
Obama also has strong support in Europe, the heartland of anti-Bush sentiment. "Germany is Obama country," said Karsten Voight, the German government's coordinator for German-North American cooperation. "He seems to strike a chord with average Germans," who see him as a transformational figure such as John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr.
Despite his Harvard Law School degree and comparisons to historical greats, Obama is an accessible and familiar figure for millions of people, particularly in poor nations.
His father's journey to America as a Kenyan immigrant resonates with millions of migrants. Many people interviewed said that the son's living in Indonesia for several years as a child doesn't qualify as foreign policy credentials, but it may give him a more instinctive feel for the plight of the developing world.
"He's African, he's an immigrant family; he has a different style. It's just the way he looks -- he seems kind," said Nagy Kayed, 30, a student at the American University in Cairo.
For many, Obama's skin color is deeply symbolic. As the son of an African and a white woman from Kansas, Obama has the brownish "everyman" skin color shared by hundreds of millions of people.
"He looks like Egyptians. You can walk in the streets and find people who really look like him," said Manar el-Shorbagi, a specialist in U.S. political affairs at the American University in Cairo.
In many nations, Obama's youth and skin color also represent a welcome generational and stylistic change for America. Obama personifies not the America of Bush and Vice President Cheney but the nation that produced Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods -- youthful, dark-skinned sports stars who are deeply admired household names around the world.
"It could help to reduce anti-U.S. sentiment and even turn it around because of what he represents," said Kim Sung-ho, a political science professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.
"For an African American candidate to compete and perhaps win a presidential election is a strong reason for people in Asia to reconnect with the U.S.," Kim said. "This is such a contrast to the image of the United States as presented through its wars in Iraq and Vietnam."
In terms of foreign policy, Obama's stated willingness to meet and talk with the leaders of Iran, Syria and other nations largely shunned by the Bush administration has been both praised and criticized overseas.
In Israel, Gilboa said Obama's openness to negotiating with Iran and Syria has contributed to the sense that his Middle East policies are too soft. When a leader of Hamas, the Palestinian organization that the United States considers to be a terrorist group, expressed a preference for Obama earlier this year, that turned off many Israelis even more.
Many in Israel said they would have preferred Clinton, who is well regarded because of her support for the Jewish state in the Senate and her husband's staunchly pro-Israel positions during his presidency.
Obama's candidacy has generated suspicion among Palestinians as well.
Ali Jarbawi, a political scientist at the West Bank's Birzeit University, said that even if Obama appears to be even-handed in his approach to the Middle East, he would never take on the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
"The minute that Obama takes office, if he takes office, all his aides in the White House will start working on his reelection," Jarbawi said. "Do you think Obama would risk his reelection because of us?"
In Iran, government officials have taken no official position on the U.S. race, but several people interviewed said the government and average Iranians would welcome Obama and direct talks between Tehran and Washington.
"The majority of Iranians feel that the Democrats support what they want: a major and drastic change in relations with the U.S. So for them, the coming of Obama would be a good omen," said Hermidas Bavand, professor of U.S.-Iranian relations at the Allameh Tabatabai University.
In Latin America, Obama's recent declaration that he would meet with Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Raúl Castro of Cuba has been widely welcomed as a break from Bush policy.
Obama, though, has pointedly declared that he is not an admirer of Chávez. He recently voiced strong support for Colombia in its fight against its main rebel group, which Colombian officials say receives sanctuary from Chávez.
Those comments were welcomed in Colombia, which has had the closest ties in the region to the Bush administration. Though Colombian officials worry Obama will not support a free trade agreement with their country, Obama strikes a chord with ordinary Colombians because of deep resentments toward the Bush administration's policies, including the Iraq war.
"My No. 1 wish is that Bush be gone," said Salud Hernandez, a popular radio pundit in Bogota. An Obama presidency, she said, would be "a positive turn because of what Bush represented to the world."
Still, not everyone has been riveted by the U.S. election.
The Chinese public, absorbed by the recent earthquake in Sichuan province and preparations for the Beijing Olympics in August, paid little attention.
Chinese officials, while abstaining from comment on politics in another country, were probably watching the contest closely, aware that a Democratic administration in Washington would be more likely than the Bush administration to heed calls in Congress for protectionist measures against China's large trade surplus.
And Russians have proven supremely indifferent to the U.S. primaries; one poll earlier this year found that only 5 percent of Russians said they were closely watching the race. Of 40 people approached on the streets of Moscow Wednesday, only five had any opinion on the race or knew who was running.
Still, some Russians hope that a new American president will improve the strained relations between Washington and Moscow, where last month Dmitry Medvedev, a 42-year-old protégé of former president Vladimir Putin, was sworn in as president.
"Barack Obama looks like the candidate that can be expected to take the greatest strides toward Russia," Konstantin Kosachev, a member of parliament, wrote in the newspaper Kommersant. "Unlike McCain, he's not infected with any Cold War phobias."
Contributing to this article were correspondents Ellen Knickmeyer in Cairo; Blaine Harden in Tokyo; Stephanie McCrummen in El Fashir, Darfur; Griff Witte in Jerusalem; Peter Finn in Moscow; Monte Reel in Buenos Aires; Juan Forero in Bogota; Rama Lakshmi in New Delhi; Edward Cody in Beijing and Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran and special correspondents Karla Adam in London, Shannon Smiley in Berlin, Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo, Stella Kim in Seoul, Allan Akombo in Kisumu, Kenya, and Samuel Sockol and Sufian Taha in Jerusalem.
Obama's Patriotic Call
May 27, 2008
If the 2008 election is to be a debate about the true meaning of patriotism, then bring it on.
Ever since Barack Obama took off his flag pin, Democrats and liberals have had a queasy feeling that talk of patriotism would be a covert way to raise the matter of Obama's race; to cast him as some sort of alien figure ("You know what his middle name is?"); and to paint him as an effete intellectual out of touch with true American values.
I have no doubt that these things will happen. Moreover, John McCain's sacrifice for his country will be a central theme of the Republican campaign. And why not? Yes, many Republicans refused to honor John Kerry's service during the campaign four years ago, but McCain wasn't part of that, and his service deserves the praise it gets.
Yet Obama cannot simply cede the terrain of patriotism to McCain, and progressives should not assume that patriotism is somehow a bad thing, akin to jingoism or nationalism.
The reaction of too many progressives to patriotism is "automatic, allergic recoil," say two young Seattle writers, Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, in their important book "The True Patriot."
Instead of recoil, they offer rigorous standards for what patriotism should be. "True patriots," they write, "believe that freedom from responsibility is selfishness; freedom from sacrifice is cowardice; freedom from tolerance is prejudice; freedom from stewardship is exploitation; and freedom from compassion is cruelty."
Their new progressive patriotism bears some resemblance to the old progressive patriotism of Theodore Roosevelt. "We cannot meet the future," Roosevelt said in a 1916 Memorial Day speech, "either by mere gross materialism or by mere silly sentimentalism; above all, we cannot meet it if we attempt to balance gross materialism in action by silly sentimentalism in words."
For good measure, the trust-buster also declared that "the big business man" must "recognize the fact that his business activities, while beneficial to himself and his associates, must also justify themselves by being beneficial to the men who work for him and to the public which he serves."
As Liu and Hanauer and and Roosevelt suggest, anyone who enters into a serious discussion of patriotism is required to offer more than bromides about love of flag and of country. Patriotism has to involve definitions, commitments and actions.
Obama already has the template for moving the debate in this direction. In December, he gave one of his best, and least noticed, speeches: a call to national service. The policies he proposed include a doubling of the Peace Corps and an expansion of the AmeriCorps program from 75,000 to 250,000 slots. (President Bush, by the way, deserves credit for saving AmeriCorps from the hostility of some in his own party.) Obama would link his $4,000 tuition tax credit to a service requirement.
He also suggests ideas that conservatives should embrace, including a Social Investment Fund Network and a Social Entrepreneur Agency that would encourage the innovations of the private, not-for-profit sector.
But Obama's speech was about more than programs. It was suffused with the rhetoric of a reformer's patriotism. "I have no doubt that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it," he said. "Loving your country shouldn't just mean watching fireworks on the Fourth of July; loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it."
Obama's is just one approach to patriotism and service. Sen. Jim Webb's new GI Bill of Rights is an essential step toward honoring those who have sacrificed in Iraq, and Sen. Chris Dodd has proposed important interim steps toward expanding AmeriCorps by bringing its rewards to those who perform service more closely in line with current college costs.
Dodd says he always explains his decision to join President John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps by saying, "The president asked me." He wins nods from youthful audiences when he says, "Let me tell you what it was like to be young, to be an American and to be asked."
Dodd was campaigning for Obama in South Dakota last Friday when he spoke with me, and he seems to have gotten this message to his candidate. Pinch-hitting for Ted Kennedy as the commencement speaker at Wesleyan University on Sunday, Obama revisited the themes of his December speech and explicitly renewed JFK's call, promising that "service to a greater good" would be "a cause of my presidency."
A competition between Obama and McCain over who can issue the most compelling summons to service would serve the country far better than an empty rhetorical skirmish over which of these candidates is the true patriot. And, yes, it's a good thing that Obama has been seen wearing the flag pin again.
Senator Obama calls on Wesleyan University graduates to enter public service
When Senator Edward Kennedy had to cancel his commencement speech at Wesleyan University, he asked Senator Barack Obama to stand in for him. Obama praised Kennedy, and when he said that Kennedy is "not finished yet," Kennedy's son cried. Obama said when he is President, he will creat a national service program for young people like the Wesleyan graduates.
Log on and see this inspiring speech.
The Persistence of Racism and Barack Obama
We are far away from a "post racial society." Look at the political map of the election in West Virginia and Kentucky. Uneducated working class whites were easily duped by the race card that Hillary played. Racism still finds its home with the ignorant and uneducated. Many hard hat working class whites are still swayed by racist tactics. Even though the de jure status of segregation and overt racism are now illegal the racism amongst us is still quite evident. The Katrina disaster in New Orleans is but one example of the racism that lies just below the surface and is rekindled during a crisis. The messages of racism are now coded script, or masked so that its hatreds can be perpetuated on hate radio and the likes. Racism has made an adjustment; it is now "colorblind," using the words of Professor Eduardo Bonilla Silva in his book "Racism Without Racists."
One has to understand that this society and the foundations of the political structures in this country were founded upon a racial birth disorder. The white colonial settlers founded this country on the ideological premise of "manifest destiny," and hence the genocide of the native population. This genocide coincided with the introduction of African slavery and the institutionalization of the rules of racial etiquette that are still working in the background. Obama is not supposed to be running for president by the rules established and practiced by de facto racism. Whenever possible they will go after him with everything in the racial play book to prevent him from winning. The racist ideas that once held sway in the minds of most white Americans has diminished to be sure, but has not disappeared. I teach political science, and every semester I teach I make it a point to ask students if they have heard friends or relatives make racial remarks that made them feel uneasy. Generally, 70-90% of the class responds in the affirmative. Whites tell me that they have friends or relatives that "hate blacks," and the African American and Hispanic students tell me that they have experienced racial profiling or some other form of discrimination. African American student also tell me that even some of their black friends make racist comments about Mexicans or some other racial group and that they felt sorry for them and their ignorant views. I have been doing this survey for seven years now, and the pattern remains the same. "Post Racial Society?" I wish it were true!
The politics of colonialism perpetuated by the white settlers in this country created a system that bends but does not break. It morphs, but it does not disappear. This has led many to suggest that racism may be a permanent structure that will not completely fade away because it was built to last. Today, when blacks and other non-white groups complain of police abuse or racial profiling that are said to "be playing the race card.' When the victims complain they are told we "live in a colorblind society now." Nothing could be further from the truth as the fiasco created from the Rev. Wright controversy illustrates so clearly. White preachers are given a pass in this society. Billy Graham once made some anti-Semitic comments. Recently John Hagee, who endorsed McCain called the Catholic religion a "whore" of some sort. But when Rev. Wright began a discussion about race he was beat to a pulp in the media in an effort to shoot political skates under Obama. This is racism in the raw, but it is masked with charges of being "Unpatriotic" or "Anti-American."
Having said all of that, how could an African American run as a civil rights activist and have any reasonable chance to win unless he or she "toned it down." I think Obama has done a good job of "toning it down" in order to prevent the diehard racists from being able to get him outright. Remember, it was the trumped up charges of the rape of some white woman that allowed for the racist mob to lynch a black. They don't use the real ropes much anymore, but use political ropes that have racial threads. Hillary Clinton acted like a real southern racist white woman when she said that she can carry the white vote in the states she recently won. That mere statement galvanized racist votes to her campaign - it's that real. Racism is still a central motivating factor in elections and other social functions, and Hillary knew how to awaken the not so sleepy monster.
Obama represents the idea that a black man can rule a country and be fair. This may be all he has to offer after they get through with him. Time will tell, but the racial structures in existence in Washington will not go away if he wins. There is even talk about him being killed if he wins. Remember just because your black doesn't mean you are "black." Clarence Thomas is black by definition, but hardly black politically. I am voting for Obama, but I am under no illusions about the power of racism to co-opt, corrupt, and oppress. It is important that he be elected, but it is equally important that we understand the political dynamics of a country founded upon racism. We are not in a "post racial society,' that's pure foolishness. Racial profiling, police abuse, and Katrina tells me different, as does the battering of Rev. Wright (despite his foolishness of letting racism use him as a tool) and the hate mongering going on at talk radio.
Video: Barack Obama on The View
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