My sister, Dorie Ladner and me (Joyce Ladner) at the March on Washington, August 23, 1963.
By Joyce Ladner
I received a call today from a young woman whom I call my daughter. She lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and she is a hard-working single Mom to an eleven year old boy that I call my grandson. In other words, they are like family and I am fortunate to have them in my life.
She told me something today that was very disturbing. You see, she works with an African American man who is in his forties, and hails from South Carolina. He told her that he doesn't plan to vote because nothing will change. This upset me because I lived during a period in our history when blacks in my home state of Mississippi were prevented from voting because of their race.
From the time I was fifteen years old, and helped to start an NAACP Youth Chapter in my Mississippi hometown, the civil rights of African Americans has been my major preoccupation. As a youth, I knew some of the men who eventually became civil rights martyrs: Medgar Evers, Vernon Dahmer, and Clyde Kennard were my mentors who also died for their beliefs. James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, two of the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi were my friends. I worked with Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and Mrs. Ella Baker, two of the great heroines in the civil rights movement along with countless other brave men and women.
Most of our work in the civil rights movement was fighting for the right to vote.
When I was nineteen years old I tried to register to vote, but I failed the literacy test. I was required to explain in writing my interpretation of several amendments to the U. S. Constitution. I'm sure I was more literate than Theron Lynd, the white Voting Registrar who administered the test. You see, he flunked a majority of blacks who tried to register to vote, and he wasn't the only one.
Some voting registrars asked stupid questions such as, how many bubbles are in a bar of soap? They also published the names of everyone who applied to register to vote so that anyone could challenge whether they were "fit" to vote. The real reason they published names in the local newspapers was to alert employers that an employee was trying to register to vote. Oftentimes, the employer then fired that person!
I was not registered to vote until a few years later when a federal court overturned the decisions Theron Lynd made regarding those literacy tests. This is why it pains me to hear of black people who do not think it is important to vote. Some say that nothing will change. Nothing will change if they do not get involved. Nothing will change if they sit on the sideline and wait until others do all the work. I hope the young man I mentioned in my opening will read this and see a reason to register and to vote next month.
The deadline to register is next week in most states.
Register to vote online at
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
My sister, Dorie Ladner and me (Joyce Ladner) at the March on Washington, August 23, 1963.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
John McCain is not the president this country needs now or ever. He looked like an old has-been, sinister, evil, nasty, out of touch man. He was condescending, arrogant, rude, and hostile. He lied repeatedly, and he tried to paint Obama into a corner as some sort of dangerous, untested, uninformed neophyte who shouldn't even be in the running. His refusal to look at Obama during the entire ninety minutes must have set a new category of insulting behavior in presidential debates.
David Broder, political columnist for the Washington Post disagrees with this assessment of McCain. He said McCain's behavior was quintessential "Alpha male" to the younger Obama's Beta male. He also said that Obama accepted this lower status role when he kept saying "John is right..." about several points made by McCain. Over 700 mostly negative letters were written in response to Broder's claims. A majority said McCain's so-called Alpha male is not the kind of behavior today's voters appreciate. It was Obama's magnanimous gestures toward McCain, for example, when he agreed with him on occasion, that readers appreciated most. This civility of tone and substance won voters for Obama who saw him as one who would be more bi-partisan. The electorate is also tired of the tirades of the so-called aggressive Alpha-male dogs in politics. Women, especially, want collegiality and cooperation instead of lies and insults candidates hul at each other.
McCain was also disrespectful toward Obama as a black man. History is replete with evidence of white men ignoring black men's presence symbolically and real-- as the non-person, as 3/5'ths of a man, and as the slave. I was reminded of the negative stereotypes white men affixed to black men as I watched the debate. Slavery and lynching were institutionalized practices of these very racist attitudes and laws when, during segregation, Southern white men talked about black men in their presence, as though they weren't there. McCain, whose family owned slaves in Mississippi, reminded me of the whites I saw in my Southern childhood--those who called black men "Uncle" and black women "Auntie," when they felt they were being kind, "Nigger" when they were overtly hostile, but never "Mr." or "Mrs." In a case in Arkansas, a black man was arrested for "eyeball rape" because he looked at a white woman. Black men were expected to drop their heads when in the presence of white men, take their hats off, and act in a servile manner.
Fortunately, Barack Obama did not allow McCain's Old South behavior to rattle him. He held steadfast to his long-range strategy of dealing with the facts, being presidential, reassuring nervous voters that he was steady, normal, and by reassuring them that he would act decisively with the best information possible during a crisis. He left the impression that he could be trusted to protect and be fair to Americans.
Obama knows the score. He is the man we need to be the President at this time because he is on the right side of history.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Saturday, Sep. 27, 2008
By Curtis Sittenfeld
Michelle Obama is tall, smart, funny, relaxed and basically so glowy and poised — if she's attractive in pictures, she's flat-out gorgeous in person — that it almost seems as if she already is the First Lady.
Or at least this is the conclusion I came to after sitting down with her at Denver's Westin Tabor Center during the Democratic National Convention. I'd been tagging after her for a couple of days, from one rapturous audience to another, including the crowd at a community-service event for soldiers, at which an Iraq-war veteran introduced her by announcing, "Ma'am, I know you weren't in the military, but I'd follow you anywhere." If all that hadn't quite convinced me (it was the Democratic Convention, after all), I'd guess it took roughly the first 30 seconds of our interview for me to fall for her. It happened when I asked whether she gets bored giving the same speech over and over, and she cheerfully replied, "Yeah, absolutely."
It had never been that I didn't like Michelle Obama. (Full disclosure: I voted for Hillary Clinton in Missouri's Democratic primary.) But after writing a novel about a First Lady based loosely on Laura Bush, I saw Michelle as, well, controversial. Back in June, when she made a visit to The View to talk about policy issues such as panty hose (in case you missed the episode, she's con), the appearance was widely considered part of a charm offensive intended to rehabilitate an image damaged by, among other things, the now infamous remark she'd made during a speech a few months before: "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." I also knew that some people found Michelle to be variously "mean," "uppity" and "radical" — not me, mind you, but people. Plus, this very magazine had asked on its cover in June, "Will Michelle Obama Hurt Barack in November?"
To be sure, there are Americans who will never vote for Barack Obama — and by extension are unlikely to be fans of his wife — because he's black. There are also those who'll never vote for him because he's a Democrat. But are there people who would vote for him but who have been put off by Michelle?
Perhaps, but I've encountered more people who, if anything, seem more infatuated by Michelle than by her husband — including the white woman I know who bought her first-ever issue of Ebony magazine because Michelle was on the cover, and the cameraman I met in Denver who finagled a fist bump with Michelle and then proclaimed that he would never wash his hands again. He assured me he was usually jaded in these kinds of situations, but Michelle was the second coming of Jackie O.!
During our interview, I asked Michelle what accounts for the discrepancy between the admiration she inspires among such voters and the kind of blogosphere and talk-radio slurs that prompted the New Yorker, even if in jest, to run its notorious cover cartoon of her standing with her husband in the Oval Office, sporting an Afro and an AK-47. "I've realized that there are two conversations that go on," she said. "There's one at the punditry level — the polls, the writers, the folks in the know, they have one set of conversations — and then there's what's happening on the ground. Early on, I learned to base my reactions on what I see on the ground, because that to me is a more accurate reflection — even, as it turned out, in the primary. If you read the papers, you wouldn't have predicted the outcome of Iowa. But if you were in Iowa, you could feel the clear possibility of what the outcome would be."
My own theory is that the media, bolstered by conservative wishful thinking, got bored with the early Michelle Obama narrative — that she was a successful professional with a blue-collar background, degrees from Princeton and Harvard, and a penchant for making wifely jabs about her husband's morning breath — and switched to the Michelle-as-liability narrative to keep things entertaining. Certainly it seems that Michelle has paid as steep a political price for her national-pride remark, which some of us were not actually offended by, as Cindy McCain has for any of her own shortcomings.
The delicate dance that Michelle is required to perform calls to mind the axiom that blacks must be twice as good as whites to get half as far. A few Democrats — and feminists — expressed disappointment at her convention speech, with its subtext of, Ignore my race and my Ivy League education and look how warm and maternal and unthreatening I am. But others, including, presumably, Michelle herself, recognized this soft approach as a necessity.
The most poignant comment I heard her make during the days I followed her was one she shared with a group of five female newspaper columnists. As a professional black woman who grew up in a stable family and now has a stable family of her own, she told the columnists, "Sometimes I do feel as if people don't believe I exist. I'm probably the first person of my kind the nation has seen out there." Or, as Whoopi Goldberg put it during Michelle's June appearance on The View, "I have to say I'm really glad to see you because ... any time you see black folks on the news, particularly women, they have no teeth, and the teeth that they have have gold around them, and they can't put a sentence together."
(See photos of the Obamas on the campaign trail)
When we talked, I wondered whether it really should be Michelle's responsibility to refute such biases. Michelle replied that she's used to it. "That has been my experience my whole life," she said. "That's why education is so important. That's why giving all kids a chance to go away to college is important. We grow up in our communities and our neighborhoods and our families, and we know what we know. It's no fault. It's no blame. But when people have a chance to interact and have conversations — you don't even have to live under the same roof. There are many people who went to college with me who got to see me and know me, and whether [or not] they knew me personally, they took away the experience. That's the nature of life when you're in the minority in most situations ... I feel like that's a role that I should play."
The fact that she has played it for so long helps to explain the apparent ease with which she has handled the intensity of the campaign. "When you're a person like me, who steps outside the normal boundaries of what their life is supposed to be like — say, going to Princeton — you're worried that maybe you're not prepared, because everybody has told you you probably won't be, and then you get there and you're like, I'm prepared." She laughed. "I think many of us are more prepared for certain situations than we imagine."
If the past 20 months have had their rough patches, what's surprising at this point is how unguarded Michelle still seems: the most endearing and entertaining parts of her public appearances are ad-libbed, whether she's bragging to a Denver audience that she's wearing sensible shoes (the member of her staff in particularly high heels that day was "going to be sorry in the end," Michelle joked) or referring to Barack, as she did at the convention's black caucus, as "this guy that I know, this man that I married," before mischievously adding, "his cute self." Anyone who doubts her off-the-cuff charm should Google the clip in which she's giving an outdoor speech and her dress flies up in the wind. Deftly catching it, she tells the audience, "I don't mean to flash you guys ... I'm not going to be on YouTube."
And this is Michelle Obama's greatest gift: her ability to relate to regular people, and vice versa. Even though she's taller and fitter and better educated than most of us, she is completely and totally believable as a person who lives in the same world we do, who consumes the same pop culture (Us Weekly, anyone?) and shops at the same stores (Target, Gap) and struggles with most if not all of the same personal and professional juggling acts.
Few political spouses in recent memory, and even fewer First Ladies, have seemed this familiar. Take, for example, Laura Bush. I'm a fan of our current First Lady, in large part because she comes across as a truly kind, decent person. Her combination of obvious intellectual curiosity, compassion and total discretion intrigues me — so much so that I decided that the next best thing to knowing what someone like her thinks and feels would be imagining it. But if Laura inspires my affection and sympathy, I don't exactly relate to her, or I relate only to certain elements of her story — her love of reading, her past as a Democrat — that stand out all the more because the rest of her life seems so foreign. She is of an older generation and has made choices, like quitting her job after getting married but before having children, that are the choices of another time. Michelle Obama, by contrast, had a higher income than her husband for part of their marriage.
And contrary to her claims, Michelle is not the first person of her kind I've seen; she's actually recognizable as a very particular type, though it took me until after the convention to figure out what that type is. I suspect this person will be familiar to anyone who has, in the past 25 years, been a young, college-educated woman in her first real job: you're, say, 22 and somewhat clueless, and you go to work in an office where there's a woman eight or 10 or 12 years older than you who's not only visibly good at her job but also confident and friendly and well-dressed and busy with a life that features a cute husband and a nice house and maybe even a couple of kids. And you think maybe, if everything goes right, your own life could turn out like hers.
—Sittenfeld is the author of Prep and American Wife (Random House)
Posted September 23 2008
Given that we would never have had the odious George W. Bush in the White House in the first place if it wasn't for your blow jobs, Bill, it seems obvious that you owe it to the people of this country, and especially to the parents whose kids died in the Iraq War that Gore would never have started, and to all the parents whose kids would be killed in the WarFest that would be a McCain/Palin -- sorry, Palin/McCain -- administration to do everything in your power to get Barack Obama elected.
But that's not what you're doing, Bill, and it's not going unnoticed. We see your rage, Bill, it's too huge to hide. We see that -- as Chris Rock so brilliantly pointed out -- it pains you to even speak Obama's name. We see you petulantly rooting against him even as you go through the motions of doing the barest minimum on his behalf to avoid being blamed if he loses.
You're not fooling anyone, Bill. You've gotten so caught up in yesterday that you've stopped thinking about tomorrow. You have the power to influence millions of voters and you're spitefully sitting on it. Surely you've noticed what's going on in the country. Surely you're aware of what's at stake on November 4th. This is not a game that you can afford to take your ball and go home with if you don't get to play the position you want. An Obama loss will most certainly be part of your legacy.
There's still time to fix it. How about this for an October surprise? Bill Clinton gets on the road and spends every day until the election sincerely and wholeheartedly communicating the urgency of electing Obama. You're the greatest politician of your generation, Bill. Surely you can fake enthusiasm for a month.
Oh, and stop talking about how much you like Senator McCain. Have you forgotten the vile joke he told a decade ago at your wife's and daughter's expense? Let me remind you: "Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? She's the child of Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton." Are you saying, Bill, that you can forgive McCain for calling Chelsea "ugly" but you can't forgive Obama for defeating Hillary?
If Obama loses a close election -- one in which even one state where you could have made a difference goes for McCain because you sat home and pouted -- it will be on you. We will remember that you couldn't be bothered to rise above your petty resentments for something as trivial as saving your country from the enemies of everything you profess to believe in. We forgave you for Monica, Bill, but we won't forgive you for this.
Friday, September 26, 2008
September 26, 2008
Will Sarah Palin still be in the race a month from now or will she have imploded for incompetence?
It was only a matter of time before we would hear that John McCain’s campaign aides find out what they got in their so-called Alaska maverick, moose hunter, mother of five (or four) children. Most Americans already knew what McCain is just now learning: Sarah Palin is a dumb ambitious woman who doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. Or, McCain already knew she is severely limited in abilities but didn’t care so long as she was a right-winged female. McCain is notoriously labeled a misogynist of the first order so it’s not likely he cared whether Palin was very competent. He must have thought she would be competent enough to conduct a press conference or to give an interview. Inasmuch as she has failed miserably on both of these fronts, McCain has a lot to cuss about. Palin didn’t pass the minimum standard of political intelligence.
According to Ed Schulz, the well-known radio commentator, “Capitol Hill sources are telling me that senior McCain people are more than concerned about Palin. The campaign has held a mock debate and a mock press conference; both are being described as “disastrous.” One senior McCain aide was quoted as saying, “What are we going to do?” The McCain people want to move this first debate to some later, undetermined date, possibly never. People on the inside are saying the Alaska Governor is ‘clueless’.”
In an article in the conservative National Review, Kathleen Parker writes that Palin is so incompetent that she should step down. Her interviews with Sean Hannity on Fox news, Charles Gibson of ABC news, and especially Katie Couric of CBS news, Palin’s performance was horrendous. Parker said she is “Clearly Out Of Her League.” The Boston Globe said Palin’s honeymoon is over. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey suggests that 49 percent of voters believe Sarah Palin lacks the leadership qualities required in a president. This bad news comes after she helped John McCain get a significant bounce in the polls following her being named to the ticket and after the Republican convention. Now, it’s all downhill Sarah.
What was especially disastrous in the three interviews she gave was Palin’s absolute lack of knowledge of what’s going on in the world, and in the lower forty-eight states. Palin reminds us of someone who suffers from:
1. No knowledge of politics, economics, international affairs, governmental policies, and even John McCain’s record.
2. A lack of understanding of the way government functions. She made nonsensical statements that McCain had to back away from. For example, she repeatedly talked about “not blinking” when making grave policy decisions that might determine the fate of nations in conflict. She said the war is won in Iraq, and she talked about supporting Israel without regard for what the policies included or what the United States interests were. Her understanding is downright pedestrian.
3. No analytical ability and a knowledge base to engage in comparative analysis (for example, she can’t discuss the merits of Policy A versus Policy B).
4. No curiosity about the world. When Katie Couric asked Palin why she got a passport only last year, her response was that she didn’t have the kind of parents who would give her a passport and a back pack after college graduation, and send them out to see the world. She added that she had to work. Palin was trying to shift the topic to the “elites” who have the money to send their children abroad.
That is ridiculous. It has little to do with money and more with a curious mind and a desire to expand one’s personal horizons. Most young people who go abroad after college pay their own way. Why else did they publish travel guides on London or Paris on $10 a day? Palin’s excuse is a non-excuse. Her limited world view comes from her.
5. Palin relies on religious orthodoxy and conservative principles to explain the world. A lot of discussion on her membership in a conservative church in which one of the ministers who preaches there believes in expelling witches from people. He prayed for Palin’s political rise. (YouTube video)
6. Her religious teachings are substitues for facts, general and specialized knowledge on which her public policy positions are based. Take Palin’s views opposing abortions and contraceptives is a good example of how they infiltrate her public policy positions. Under her mayoralty of the town of Wasilla, her administration’s policy was to bill rape victims for the forensic kits used on them. Can you believe it? This would be consistent with her anti-abortion stance because the kit includes an abortion pill given to rape victims. Palin is on record for being opposed to abortion for rape and incest victims. How cruel to have a woman who has been raped pay for her own legal examination!
It is easy to see how Palin’s attendance at five or six colleges fragmented her learning. She doesn’t appear to have learned any specific area of competence in college. Nor did she learn how to engage in a deeper type of understanding–analysis–that she can use in her work. That is why her responses in all the interviews came off as rote learning in which someone had fed her information and told her to repeat it if asked a question in that general area. The consequence was she spilled out buzz words and phrases that were not relevant to the questions. She was so bad that she elicited sympathy from a lot of people who felt sorry for her even though she doesn’t feel sorry for herself. They know she’s not qualified, but she doesn’t know any such thing.
Many in the blogosphere world feel she should step down. It would have spared her Party and herself the embarrassment if she had not accepted McCain’s offer of the Vice Presidential nomination. Many women ask why did she take on this enormous task when she has a special needs infant, and a pregnant teenage daughter? It is a question worthy of being asked because it is not only a matter of figuring out how to give time to her special needs children. It has to do with how does she meet the challenges of raising a Down Syndrome baby with all the emotional, physical and psychological challenges he will have. Ditto for her teenage daughter who is pregnant by an eighteen year old boy whose MySpace page was littered with expletives, and he stated clearly that he doesn’t want any (expletive) children. Obviously, her ambition had something to do with her accepting the nomination.
Once Palin allowed her name to be put in the ring, she started trying to swim with the sharks. The national press corps is filled with pyrannas. The political high stakes in which she is operating are the most lethal in the world. Palin is not equipped to use her small town (Wasilla, pop. 6-8,000 people) and small state (pop. 800,000) in the shark pools of Washington, DC. She is being eaten alive, and she hasn’t even had her first debate with Senator Joe Biden who has been in the Senate for over thirty years.
Rumors are floating that Palin will try to find a way out of the debates. That is not possible without showing that she really is incompetent. And, if she admits she is unprepared to lead the United States, she needs to step down right now.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Barack Obama cannot afford to show anger for fear of alienating white voters
September 22, 2008
By Sam Fulwood III
As much as we want Obama to go off on McCain, angry black men don't become president.
I'm sick of folks yapping about how Barack Obama needs to do a war dance on John McCain's head.
Sure, McCain and his GOP allies are telling lies and appear to bear no cost for repeatedly doing so. And, yes, the Democrats' response has been, to say the least, lame and tepid. I understand; it's maddening to witness McCain and his right-wing, populist running mate Sarah Palin deep diving into the muddy waters, only to watch Obama stay aloof, safe and clean on the shore.
Predictably, natives of Obama Nation are restless. Some, like columnist and blogger Arianna Huffington, implored the cool and collected Obama to show some passion. Get veins-popping-and-eye-bulging angry, she wrote recently on The Huffington Post Web site.
"Being likeable is obviously a good thing in politics," Huffington wrote. "So is being analytical and thoughtful and composed. But the last seven-plus years demand more than detached analysis—and certainly more than a beaming smile. They demand indignation. Outrage. Fury."
Even here on The Root, Terence Samuel vented his frustration at Obama's approach, writing, "This is not a civics seminar; it's a knife fight, and the McCain camp is bringing automatic rifles. Right now it is not about the American people getting it. It is about Obama getting it. He's getting hit over the head with a baseball bat and looking like he wants to file an amicus brief about it."
But if Obama wants to get elected president of the United States, getting mad is the last thing he can afford to do. He may be the Democrats' standard bearer, but he is still—as the McCain camp consistently points out with their unsubtle "not like you" messaging—a black man.
This is a struggle that black men—especially those of us who work in professional settings and want to remain there—grapple with daily: Showing our anger, no matter how justified, is a death sentence. We feel outrage. We want to say and demonstrate our daily frustrations, but we don't dare because we know that the release of our pent-up emotions can't ever be explained after the fact.
And so it goes for Obama in his quest for the highest prize in all of America. We won't know whether the nation is ready to cast aside enough historic prejudices to elect a qualified, smart, articulate and family-oriented black president until after all the votes are cast. For the first time in U.S. history, the possibility exists.
But, let me assure you, there's no need to hold the vote if Obama blows his stack before then. It might satisfy some Obama supporters to see him put McCain-Palin in their places, call them out John Wayne-style and pummel them into submission. For a quick, exhilarating minute, it would feel like the 21st century equivalent of Joe Louis' 1936 knockout of Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling.
But it would be political suicide.
Journalist Mark Shields said as much on a recent broadcast of PBS' News Hour, noting that Obama won the Democratic nomination because he didn't scare white people. "He has always been controlled," Shields said. "He's always been incredibly disciplined. And I think there is a concern about his ever becoming an angry black man that would somehow be a threatening figure to some voters."
Call it the Sidney Poitier syndrome. During the racially tense '60s, Poitier was a huge Hollywood-box-office draw. He made history in 1963 as the first black man to win an Academy Award for his role as a non-threatening Negro in Lilies of the Field. Rarely did he—or any iconic black male celebrity like Jackie Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr. or Bill Cosby—exhibit any public anger.
In that day and at those points in history, trailblazing black men succeeded because they didn't scare white people, unlike the civil rights protesters or—God forbid—the Black Panthers or the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and his followers in the Nation of Islam.
Now those were some bad-assed, angry black men. They didn't care whether their righteous anger frightened the white establishment. In fact, they relished the way their rhetoric, dress and behavior seemed to rattle dry, white bones. None of them had a shot at being elected president.
Let's be real: Obama can't win the White House by only making black people feel proud for slapping some sense into The White Man; he needs white votes—lots and lots of them—if he has any reasonable chance to win.
So stop all the foolish, short-sighted demands for Obama to open a can of whoop ass on the campaign trail. Come on, people, just five more weeks to go. Don't press a brotha to self-destruct.
Sam Fulwood is a regular contributor to The Root.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
John McCain wants to suspend the presidential campaign including the debate this Friday night at Ole Miss.
John McCain tries to be slick. But he’s not slick enough to outwit Barack Obama and his large contingent of Chicago ward politicians who advise him. They’ve got McCain’s number because they are the origina slicksters. Remember Mayor Richard Daley? His son, who is now mayor, learned the tricks of the trade at his father’s feet. So did a lot of the other politicians who are part of Obama’s inner circle. Karl Rove’s protege who manages McCain’s campaign has met his match.
McCain announced today that he was suspending his campaign and heading to Washington where he will devote all of his precious time to solving the crisis in the American economy. You see, McCain has personal familiarity with the people who brought down the economy. They are his drinking buddies, and he helped to change the laws of the banking industry along with his buddy Senator Graham that allowed his buddies to loot the economy and empty the national treasury. He has an inside track with his buddies. They will be able to tell him what the weak spots are, and that’s how he thinks he can gain the upper hand of leadership. He must be smoking some of Colombia’s best weed. Puh-leez.
McCain must think Obama just fell off the turnip truck, as the saying goes. The Rove school of politics that McCain is following by announcing he is shutting down his campaign is supposed to throw Obama off his game. Obama is leading in the polls. Americans say they have more trust in him being able to fix the economy than McCain (how right they are). Obama is set to go into the debate with a lot of momentum. The breaking story is that Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, earned $20,000 her month for No Work done for Freddie Mac. McCain definitely wants to get ahead of that story because the link between his campaign manager and the looting of Freddie Mac is at the heart of the FBI investigation of how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were destroyed.
Add to that, the back story of the debate will be a lot of comparisons the media will draw between Obama and James Meredith, who was the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi in 1961. Journalists are set to do side stories on how much progress has been made since those dark days when President Kennedy brought out the National Guard to protect this lone black student from the hordes of white Ku Klux Klansmen and others who tried to attack him.
By bowing out of the race and trying to get Obama to do the same, McCain is trying to shift the content and tone of the campaign race. Remember how he changed the momentum when he picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate. For two weeks the media talked and wrote about Palin, Palin, Palin. McCain is in trouble and he doesn’t see how he is going to get out of it. This is his Hail Mary pass. Obama has him on the run. The thing to do is keep him on the defensive. Obama needs to take his place in front of the lectern at Ole Miss. If McCain doesn’t show, then the American people know he is a coward who is afraid to face his own role in the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression.
McCain must be held accountable for his role in deregulating everything that is nailed down. His buddies got big money from (1) Bush’s tax cuts; (2) a bogus War in Iraq where they got more money from big contracts and: (3) they want to steal our children’s tuition, food money, clothes allowance, our grocery money, and our last dollars we are holding onto to pay an inflated mortgage. And this man named McCain doesn’t know how many homes or cars he owns? We bet he doesn’t. He doesn’t know we can’t get loans to buy a car either. You know what? He doesn’t care either.
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Posted on September 24, 2008 by straightalkexpresswatch
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist wrote a funny column yesterday. In an
imaginary conversation between Barack Obama and fictional U. S. President Bartlett
in the no longer running TV show, The West Wing, the following exchange takes place:
OBAMA: (to President Bartlett) What would you do?
BARTLET (to Obama) GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah
Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You
were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was
legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take
that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their
problem is with excellence.
While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of
our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know
the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it
patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them
mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate
who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she
thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a
woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology,
anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own
daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our
aughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose,
it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t
know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got
the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch,
make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are
times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Do white people ever feel bad about harboring racist attitudes? Do they ever regret how badly they have treated blacks? Do they ever stop to wonder how it feels for us black folks to be mistreated at will by any idiot who decides that white skin privilege alone gives him license to do so?
I have been thinking about this a lot during the election. It used to bother me terribly when the media folks or prospective white voters said of Barack Obama: "I don't know anything about him." What did they mean, I wondered? They knew almost as much as I knew because these were informed people who watched CNN and MSNBC. They read the major newspapers and news magazines. What did it mean to "know" Obama, I wondered.
All of this changed when Sarah Palin was given the place on the ticket with John McCain. Overnight, whites said Palin "is just like us." They adored her because she shared their values, and goals. I wondered how could they know that when they had only learned of her existence a day ago. If they knew her instantly, how could they not know Obama after his exposure on television for a year and a half?
Frustrated, I even ventured into the existential territory by asking myself, what does it mean to "know" someone at that level? Were there barriers to "knowing" based on gender and race, religion and culture?
Now comes an article by the Associated Press that announced that the Yahoo-Stanford University poll found that racial views steer some white Democrats away from Obama. In other words, whites who embrace negative racial stereotypes against blacks may vote for McCain solely on the basis of race. So, what else is new? Blacks are not likely to be surprised about this finding. We are accustomed to some whites who embrace us publicly but would cut our throats behind closed doors.
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush's unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The findings suggest that Obama's problem is close to home — among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.
We must keep registering voters. Failing on that front, we can always pray!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Could it be that Sarah Palin, the Republicans second coming is now dragging down the presidential ticket? Sweet Jesus. I cannot think of a better thing to happen to a worse set of people, especially John McCain. It was McCain's cynicism, disregard for women voters, and his mantra of doing anything to win the presidency that he went out and found a hyperkinetic, pathological liar to be his running mate. We are going to read a lot more stories like this one in which McCain's blunder in selecting Palin is dragging down the ticket from top to bottom.
By Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos
Posted on September 19, 2008, Printed on September 19, 2008
No one can doubt that McCain's choice of Palin rejuvenated a listless, dying campaign. She excited the Theocon Right and brought them home, and being a fresh new face with an interesting bio, she captivated the nation's attention. Her initial numbers were sky high, and she packed them in for McCain. Suddenly, what had been a large Obama post-DNCC bounce turned on a dime, and Palin delivered a huge surge for her ticket.
Bloggers and tradmed reporters took a hard look at Sarah Palin and began raking her over the coals for myriad transgressions. She is a liar with theocratic tendencies, sports an intellect that makes Bush look like a Mensa member, and features an obvious fondness for Cheney-style abuses of power. And that's not even the worst of it.
But then the worriers began to question, "Why are we focusing on Palin? McCain is getting a pass! We're tilting at windmills, since she's too popular to damage!" We were told to stop talking altogether about Palin, as if ignoring her would remove the spell she had cast on America. This Andrew Sullivan post must've been emailed to me two dozen times by panicked worrywarts. A few bad polls, and people seemed to be losing their minds and sense.
But we continued to focus on Palin. Republicans were busy trying to build a positive narrative about Palin -- the "hockey mom" who was so folksy she could "field dress a moose" and had "said no to the Bridge to Nowhere and other government waste" and was overflowing with "small town values." McCain had shot up in the polls because of Palin. Common sense dictated it would be hard to knock him back down as long as she consolidated her popularity. So we set out to build the negative narratives about Palin. This is stuff straight out of Taking on the System. I have a whole chapter on it, in fact.
So we focused heavily on Palin, and make no mistake, it's exactly that intense focus that has taken its toll on her numbers:
Approve Disapprove No Opinion
9/11: 52 35 13 +17
9/12: 51 37 12 +14
9/13: 49 40 11 +9
9/14: 47 42 11 +5
9/15: 47 43 10 +4
9/16: 45 44 11 +1
9/17: 44 45 11 -1
9/18: 42 46 11 -4
That's a shocking 18 21-point collapse in a single week. She went from being just about the most popular person on the top of the ticket, to the (lipstick wearing?) goat. And it's not just our Research 2000 polling showing this collapse.
In the three days after Palin joined Team McCain--Aug. 29-31--32 percent of voters told the pollsters at Diageo/Hotline that they had a favorable opinion of her; most (48 percent) didn't know enough to say [..] By Sept. 4, however, 43 percent of Diageo/Hotline respondents approved of Palin with only 25 percent disapproving--an 18-point split. Apparently, voters were liking what they were hearing. Four days later, Palin's approval rating had climbed to 47 percent (+17), and by Sept. 13 it had hit 52 percent. The gap at that point between her favorable and unfavorable numbers--22 percent--was larger than either McCain's (+20) or Obama's (+13).
But then a funny thing happened: Palin seems to have lost some of her luster. Since Sept. 13, Palin's unfavorables have climbed from 30 percent to 36 percent. Meanwhile, her favorables have slipped from 52 percent to 48 percent. That's a three-day net swing of -10 points, and it leaves her in the Sept. 15 Diageo/Hotline tracking poll tied for the smallest favorability split (+12)** of any of the Final Four. [UPDATE: The Sept. 17 Diageo/Hotline tracking poll shows Palin at 47 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable--an even narrower +10 split.] Over the course of a single weekend, in other words, Palin went from being the most popular White House hopeful to the least.
The trendline is indisputable (it was just picked up by CBS). And just as Palin's initial popularity bolstered McCain, her sudden faltering is now bringing him back down to earth. You might have even noticed that the latest round of McCain ads don't even feature her or refer to "McCain/Palin." It's back to just "McCain." She was starting to drag him down.
Palin will continue to excite and energize the wingnut base. She was designed for that purpose, and won't fail at that task. But her cratering popularity now hampers McCain's efforts to expand beyond that core base.
All of this is happening because we did not relent on Palin, blocking Republican efforts to paint her in a positive light. The results are speaking for themselves.
Markos Moulitsas is founder of the political blog Daily Kos and coauthor of "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics" (Chelsea Green Publishing).
© 2008 Daily Kos All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/99424/
Lester McKinnie and Catherine Brooks
There have been a lot of recognition ceremonies recently for civil rights activists from the sixties. For young children, the sixties is ancient history. But we remember those days all too well with the kind of familiarity veterans from World War II or Vietnam remember their involvement. One has only to log onto the website for civil rights veterans to get a sense of this shared perspective (See www.crmvet.org).
I remember Catherine Brooks and Lester McKinney in the picture. They remained in Mississippi, my home, after the Freedom Rides. They lived in what we called the "Freedom House" on Rose Street in Jackson. Others who lived there included civil rights icons, James Bevel, and his wife, Diane Nash.
It was routine for these pioneering activists to be expelled from college for for their civil rights involvement. In this case, it was eleven Tennessee State College (now University) students who joined the freedom rides. They spent thirty days in jail. Some were re-admitted a year later, and finished college. The Nashville Tennessan described their odyssey below.
September 18, 2008
Activists were expelled in 1961
By JENNIFER BROOKS
They set out to make the world a better place and paid the price.
Today, Tennessee State University honors 14 former students who risked everything — their lives, their reputations and their educations — when they boarded a bus in 1961 and joined the Freedom Ride.
They challenged a culture where buses, trains and planes had separate white and "colored" seating areas. For their pains, they were beaten, threatened, arrested and finally, expelled from school.
Today's TSU students are too young to remember an America with black and white drinking fountains, or black and white seats on the bus.
For that, they can thank people like Catherine Burks Brooks, Pauline Knight, Etta Simpson Ray, Frances Wilson, Frederick Leonard, Larry Hunter, Ernest "Rip" Patton, Clarence Wright, William Harbour, William Mitchell, Mary Jane Smith, Allen Cason, Lester McKinnie and Charles Butler. Ten will receive diplomas today. Four of them will be honored posthumously.
"One must always give recognition to those who paved the way for successful modern-day African-Americans such as myself," said Greg Duckett, a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents who pushed for special recognition for the TSU Freedom Riders.
Getting the Freedom Riders that recognition wasn't easy. The Board of Regents originally balked and refused to approve the honorary doctorates, but changed their vote in the face of public pressure.
Backlash was intense
Hundreds of young people, men and women, black and white, from every corner of the country, participated in the Freedom Ride. But without the Nashville activists, the entire movement might have faltered when violent attackers torched one of the buses and sent riders to the hospital, beaten senseless.
In the face of such a brutal backlash, even the Freedom Riders' allies were ready to call off the nonviolent protest. Instead, Nashville organizers stepped forward and volunteered to join the ride in Alabama and press forward.
"Without that sort of immediate response, that willingness to get involved after everything that happened, that could have been the end of it right there," said Eric Etheridge, author of Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders.
Etheridge dug up old arrest photos of the hundreds of Freedom Riders who were jailed during their attempts to desegregate the bus stations, train stations and airports along their routes. His book pairs these 47-year-old mug shots with personal accounts and pictures of the Freedom Riders today.
"They faced opposition not only from the state of Alabama, and the Klan and the mobs, but even among their allies in the civil rights movement, the Democrats, the white liberals, there was a lot of opposition to the Freedom Ride," he said. Some worried that the Freedom Riders were doing more harm than good by provoking the segregationists on their home turf. "It was a movement that was nonviolent, but very much about direct action."
For the TSU riders, the journey ended in Jackson, Miss., where they were thrown in jail and chose to remain to fight their case, rather than make bail. Eventually, they would be joined by hundreds of other Freedom Riders who flooded into Jackson's bus terminals, airports and train stations — and were all jailed in turn.
TSU, then known as Tennessee A&I, delivered the students' expulsion letters to their jail cells. Today, the university makes amends.
"If they were willing to risk life and limb to ensure the future for us," Duckett said, "then the burden is on us to take advantage of these opportunities."
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Baron de Rothschild and Lynn Forrester a.k.a. "Lady de Rothschild"
September 17, 2008
Sometimes a rich person will say something that an illiterate, homeless person wouldn’t say. Wealth is not always an indicator for intelligence and common sense. Take the hubbub today over Lynn Forester, New Jersey born, lawyer, divorced, remarried an old dude 24 years her senior from the old line British rich, rich, rich de Rothschild banking family. She was a Hillary fundraiser (about $100,000) and a member of the Democratic Platform Committee, announced she would vote for McCain-Palin.
The first question is “Who the hell cares?” She is so full of herself that she thinks y’all care so the McCain campaign organized her press conference in Washington today so she could tell her “public” why she isn’t voting for Barack Obama.
“This is a hard decision for me personally because, frankly, I don’t like him. I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”
Yes folks, she said it, but she also did a backhand slap by accusing Obama of being an “elitist” and he hasn’t given her a reason to trust him (translated in upper class-talk: Obama hasn’t called her to beg her to give her his support and, he is an “uppity” (educated) Negro.) Give me a break. This came from a woman who is so very rich. Let her tell it she is not an elitist, whatever that means. She tried to explain it to Wolf Blitzer of CNN: “Elitism is a state of mind.”
Madame Lady Lynn Forest Whittaker de Rothschild, who celebrated her honeymoon in the Clinton White House (probably the Lincoln bedroom) is unknown to 99.999 percent of American voters.
Baroness resigned from her post on the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee. I’ll bet she begged the DNC to allow her to resign, after they told her that she’d been kicked off the committee.
Does she have ANY self-consciousness? Does she realize what she said? Rich people think they can get away with saying anything….just make up something….like Sarah Palin keeps making up stuff –lies– on the campaign trail.
For all of her money, the Baron and Baroness titles she and her British husband hold, and English countryside 300-room castle, she is stupid and arrogant,
You know why? Because she is too dishonest to say she dislikes Obama solely because he is BLACK, and she thinks those who bothered to take notice of her endorsement believe her. Oh, please.
I will say it again. He is BLACK, folks. Obama doesn’t fit into her relatively new old line moneyed titled world. I’ll give you another reason she would never vote for a black man. She is probably one of those rich fat cats and fat chicks who had surveyed housing in Washington’s posh Georgetown neighborhood. Lady Baroness Racist had plansto spend a lot of time being a hostess in DC in a Clinton administration. Maybe she thought Hillary would appoint her Ambassador to the Court of St. James. All of those dreams gone down the drain. No White House state dinners. No high access to the private quarters of the White House. No big parties at her Georgetown mansion. Poor, pitiful Lynn. All of her dreams gone down the tube. So, she got in her private jet and went home to her English countryside manor. At least she can be Cindy Lou’s BFF. They can go shopping together.
Oh yes. I hope Barack Obama is one of those 99.999 % of voters who doesn’t know her, doesn’t want to know her, and sees her as a shameless, lying, attention seeker.
Wish I had the courage of a friend who simply said, “Hoe, sit down.”
September 12, 2008
Please give a big Mudflats welcome to our guest poster for the evening, Les Gara. Les is a Democratic State Representative from Anchorage. He’s also a former Assistant Attorney General (Exxon Valdez Litigation Section), and has been in office since 2003.
I took that photo of Les at the Primary Night festivities at the Egan Convention Center in downtown Anchorage. That’s him being interviewed for a local news cast. He had the best signs, I thought. You can only do so much with red, white, and blue.
Here’s Rep. Gara’s take on McCain’s spin and interference with the bi-partisan “Troopergate” Investigation.
Politicians are good at spin. The McCain camp has brought a whole new level of it to our small state - in what looks like an effort to show they can play the same Karl Rove-like political games that have haunted this country for the last 8 years. I like Governor Palin on a personal level. But I don’t like what the McCain campaign is doing to our state. I don’t like deception. And I don’t like politics as usual.
Alaskans are starting to see evidence of a Karl Rove-like effort to stonewall what started as a non-controversial, bi-partisan ”Troopergate” investigation. A little deception here. A few personal attacks there. And the kind of spin you see at an amusement park tilt-a-whirl station.
This investigation was started by a Republican-dominated Alaska Legislature to look into Governor Palin’s conduct in seeking the termination of a State Trooper, once married to the Governor’s sister, Trooper Michael Wooten. The McCain camp wants to stop it by saying it’s a “democratic” investigation. Apart from facts, and the reputations the McCain folks don’t mind destroying, there’s not a lot standing in the way of this strategy.
Until August 29 “Troopergate” was a small state investigation Governor Palin, and every Republican and Democrat in a Republican-led Legislature had agreed was appropriate. But things changed the day Governor Palin joined the McCain ticket. His handlers went ballistic that the Governor agreed to an investigation they now needed to stop.
I know Senator McCain is now running on a political platform of ”change.” Leave aside how he’ll fight to change what he’s voted to do to this country for the last 8 years. If you ask me, the only thing he’s changed so far is Governor Palin’s position - her decision to cooperate with this once-small investigation.
This is one of those cases where there’s a clear truth. It’s a clear truth - about a bi-partisan investigation - that I hope McCain’s operatives will ultimately fail at spinning into a “partisan” plot against his running mate.
To get their way, and prevent sworn testimony from leaking out on what I suspect was probably a minor breach by Governor Palin, McCain’s operatives have come to Alaska to add invective in a state where people generally get along. They’ve chosen to vilify: 1) one of the state’s most respected public officials, Senator Hollis French; 2) the state’s most respected law enforcement official, Walt Monegan; and 3) a highly respected former DA and Victims Rights advocate a legislative committee voted 12 - 0 to hire to conduct the investigation, Steve Branchflower.
It’s the ghost of Karl Rove. Say something untrue enough times - like that Al Qaida is training with Saddam Hussein’s help - and people will believe it. Not this time. I’m not sure if I mentioned a few important facts.
Did I mention that no one ever attacked the Troopergate investigation by Alaska’s Legislature - started long before Governor Palin was placed on McCain’s ticket - until August 29? That was the day Governor Palin joined the McCain bid for the White House.
Did I mention that before the McCain camp got involved, the Governor stated of the Legislative investigation: “That being the route they choose, so be it. I’m happy to comply, to cooperate.” (KTUU.com, July 24, 2008). She repeatedly stated she’d comply, and that it was the right thing to do.
Did I mention the personal attacks against our local public officials only started after Sen. McCain sent his flacks up to our small state on August 29? They came with a mission to make America believe a Republican-initiated investigation, started with a unanimous committee vote of 8 Republicans and 4 Democrats, was a “partisan” plot. That’s only a tough sell if people know the facts.
Did I mention they now claim the Legislature cannot legally proceed with an investigation into government misconduct (I thought Republicans didn’t like attorneys who made frivolous arguments), and that they are threatening to to go to court to stop it? The Governor’s attorneys started writing those letters on - you guessed it - August 29. Before then they agreed the investigation was proper.
Oh, and what about this. Last week the McCain camp put our Governor in a bizarre position. They told her to file an ethics complaint against herself! Yup, again after her VP nomination. Too weird? What’s behind this move? You guessed it. Lawyers.
To create the legal argument that the Legislature cannot investigate government misconduct, the McCain team has had her file a complaint against herself before something called the State Personnel Board. That’s a 3 member group of Republican Gubernatorial appointees - that, if it started this week, wouldn’t get an investigation done, and reported to the public, until after the November election. Convenient.
Hmmm. The Legislature has announced they’d have their investigation done - if witnesses would cooperate like they were until August 29 - by October 10. I can’t imagine why the McCain camp would prefer an investigation that doesn’t get finished until after November. Any ideas?
So what about the claim that this investigation is some sort of partisan plot against a Republican ticket? A legislative committee of 8 Republicans and 4 democrats asked former Assistant District Attorney Hollis French, a Democrat - to hire a legislative investigator in July. He did. He’s not doing the investigation. So the complaint that he’s a Democrat who supports Barack Obama is, well, weak. He’s a Democrat who supports Barack Obama, who was appointed before Governor Palin was a VP candidate. More importantly, he’s a Senator who has the confidence of a majority Republican Senate.
He once said to the press the results of the investigation are likely to be troubling. He shouldn’t have said that. But the Governor’s said it too. The newspapers have said it. We all know it. The public record already contains evidence that the Department of Public Safety was contacted roughly 20 times by Palin senior staff, and her husband Todd, about firing Trooper Wooten. The Governor has conceded that based on this evidence, the public could conclude the Department could have felt pressure from above to fire Trooper Wooten.
The investigator, Steve Branchflower, is a former DA and Office of Victims Rights head (a job he was appointed to by a Republican Legislature). He’s actually conducting the investigation. Attacking Senator French doesn’t really work if he’s not investigating the case, or making any findings. So the McCain folks have attacked Mr. Branchflower. And they’ve tried to stop him from issuing subpoenas to the witnesses now directed not to talk. Today the McCain folks suffered a setback. A bi-partisan committee of Republicans and Democrats authorized Mr. Branchflower to move ahead to subpoena those witnesses.
And for good measure - the McCain folks are attacking Walt Monegan - the Public Safety Commissioner Governor Palin fired. The Troopergate investigation involves claims that Monegan was fired for not agreeing to fire Trooper Wooten, the Governor’s brother in law involved in a very ugly custody dispute with the Governor’s sister.
I don’t begrudge the Governor for not liking her brother-in-law. I don’t really like him either, from what I’ve read. I do begrudge those who’d attack Commissioner Monegan, a quintessential public servant who’s worked for both Republican and Democratic heads on the state and local level.
These three public servants deserve better. What they’ve received so far, is a little dose of ugly Washington politics in a state where we don’t see that stuff too often.
I stood on the sidelines when this investigation started. When Governor Palin fired Commissioner Monegan, my advice was to end the flap and just hire him back. He does good work. He’s well respected. Unfortunately, my advice sometimes isn’t that good, and the Governor didn’t agree.
Then McCain’s staff of outsiders came to town. And they began to launch personal attacks on people I respect. They started proving that the same old politics that have caused dissatisfaction with Washington insiders these past 8 years are going to be the bread and butter of the McCain campaign.
So - here I am today. I support an Obama presidency because he shares a vision I believe in. I’ve publicly supported him since the race started last year. I also think Governor Palin originally did the right thing in agreeing to take some small lumps by proceeding with a legislative investigation Republicans and Democrats, and much of the public asked for.
But unfortunately Alaska is the bull’s eye in a national presidential race today. When told by the McCain folks that she needed to change her position, she did, as a loyal running mate. I understand that.
As an Alaskan I’m not really angry at our Governor for this mess. I do blame John McCain for the ugliness he’s brought to our state this week. His folks have come to my small state to attack my friends, and people I respect, for political gain. In my book, that’s not OK. We all mess up time to time. But this crosses the line.
In small states, like small towns, people who act like the McCain folks apologize. Until that happens, I’ll keep defending 3 public servants who deserve better.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The tide has turned and I hope we won't hear any more nonsense about non-issues in the presidential campaign. The Republicans have a predictable play book. Talk about nonsense, put out nasty rumors, unleash their 527's and sit back and wait. Hope the smears on the personality and background of their opponent and his relatives will lower their ratings. Hammer away with the nastiness long enough, stoke the "culture wars" and wait for election day.
The major distraction has lost ten points in three days favorability ratings. Yep. One Sarah Palin has plummeted like a set of free weights dropped into the ocean. She will keep dropping too because Americans have lost their fascination with a woman who tried to sell herself as a reformer from the backwoods of Alaska.
You see, Americans don't like liars. Her entire schtick is a lie. The tough, gun-slinging, moose dragging, tough-guy candidate is not that at all. According to the New York Times last Sunday, Palin is a petty, vindictive, nasty, provincial, liar. People are recoiling, said pundit Chris Hayes of the Nation, when they see what kind of vice president she would be. The Sarah Palin story is about a person named Sarah Palin, said the pundit. She is at the center of a post-modern mythology set on the American presidential campaign stage. She has been called a "serial" liar. I prefer the more clinical definition: pathological liar. Her ambition has no bounds.
It is fortuitous that two more major businesses went belly up yesterday and finally McCain stopped spewing nastiness. Even when he turned to the economy, he said "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." He went on to say "we need a 9/11 Commission" to look at the problem. McCain attacked the heads of corporation whose compensation packages are sinful!
Give me a break! McCain chaired the Senate Commerce Committee. He never met a corporate titan he didn't like. He never met a big lobbyist he didn't like. So what gives with him feigning concern for workers? He has said on more than one occasion, "I am always for less regulation. I am fundamentally a deregulator."
McCain's day got worse when his surrogate, Carly Fiorini said McCain isn't competent to run a large corporation. .. none of the candidates are competent to run a corporation like the one she headed. Yet, she argued that McCain is competent to be President. Carly should know. She ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground. She darn near destroyed HP.
It's time for McCain to put up or shut up. I expect it will be the latter because he isn't about to turn on the hands of all those rich, fat cats who have fed him over these twenty-odd years he has been in the Senate.
By the time the election rolls around, McCain will despise Palin. She will have told so many lies (remember how many times she repeated the "bridge to nowhere" story last week even in the face of ad's and the newscasters who demonstrated proof that she hadn't played the role she said she did) that many of the original McCain supporters will have run for the hills. Palin is the kind of person who stays in your face, unrelenting, pushing you, getting even with you, until you just don't want to see her or anyone associated with her anymore.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Barack Obama and John McCain
If you grow up in Hawaii , raised by your grandparents, you're exotic and different.
If you grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.
If you named your kid Barack, you're unpatriotic. Name your kids Willow , Trig and Track, you're "colorful."
If you're 18, white, and get an underage girl pregnant, "life happens." If you're
18, black, and get an underage girl pregnant, you're a registered sex offender.
If you're a minority and you're selected for a job over more qualified candidates, you're a token hire.
If you're a conservative and you're selected for a job over more qualified candidates, you're a game changer.
If you're a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual, you're reckless.
A Republican who doesn't fully vet is a maverick.
If you get 18 million people to vote for you in a national presidential primary, you're a phony.
Get 100,000+ people to vote you governor of the 47th least populous state in the Union, you're "well loved."
Graduate from Harvard Law School and you are unstable.
Attend 6 different small colleges in 5 years before graduating, you're well grounded.
If you are biracial and born in a state not connected to the lower 48, America needs darn near two years and three major speeches to "get to know you."
If you're white and from a state not connected to the lower 48, America needs 36 minutes and 38 seconds worth of an acceptance speech to know you're 'one of us.'
If you spend three years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 50,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a constitutional law professor, spend eight years as a state senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend four years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public
Works, and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
If you spend four years on the City Council and six years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people (or the size of Dallas, Texas), then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude", didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.
If your pastor rails against inequality in the United States of America , you?re an extremist.
If your pastor welcomes a sermon by a member of Jews for Jesus who preaches that the killing of Jews by terrorists is a lesson to Jews that they must convert to Christianity, you're a good Christian.
If you spend 18 months building a campaign around the theme of Change, it's just empty rhetoric.
If one week before your party's national convention you SUDDENLY make your candidacy about "Change," that's the real deal.
OK, much clearer now.
September 14, 2008
By E. J. Dionne
So now we learn that Sarah Palin did not go to visit troops in Iraq, as the McCain-Palin campaign originally claimed, nor did she visit Ireland, as a spokesman claimed – she went through Ireland only for a refueling stop. Good reporting by the Boston Globe got to the truth of the matter. The McCain- Palin campaign was forced to concede the facts, but only after being pressed.
There’s a pattern here, two patterns actually. The first is that the McCain campaign is willing to peddle all sorts of untrue and half-true claims. The second is that the McCain campaign is clearly so uneasy about Palin’s patent lack of engagement with foreign policy that it has felt the need to greatly exaggerate what small bits of engagement she has had. (When ABC News' Charlie Gibson asked her how Alaska's proximity to Russia gave her insight into that country, Palin replied: “They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.” That’s reassuring, isn’t it? The Gibson interview also revealed the thinness Palin's knowledge of domestic policy, particularly on the budget.)
There is also a question here for the media. When Hillary Clinton claimed last March that she had to evade sniper fire during a landing in Bosnia in 1996, the media came down on her hard. It was a huge story. But at least Clinton actually visited Bosnia. Will the media focus the same attention on the false and exaggerated claims about Palin?
Journalists gave Al Gore endless grief about supposed exaggerations and even suggested he said things (about inventing the Internet) that he actually didn't say. Aren't Palin's claims about opposing earmarks, when she actually tried to get them, and about saying "no thanks" to the bridge to nowhere, when she initially supported it, part of a larger narrative of deception?
The media made a big deal about whether John Kerry, when he served in Vietnam, did or didn't cross the border with Cambodia. Why doesn't Palin's relationship to the Kuwait-Iraq border deserve at least as much attention?
Since we're talking about travel here, let's stay focused on the Clinton comparison: Is there one standard for Hillary Clinton -- a tough one -- and another, permissive standard for Sarah Palin? I’ll be curious about this and so, I suspect, will Hillary Clinton’s supporters.
A Note on Gibson: In an earlier post, I suggested that Gibson should stay away from questions about Palin’s family life and focus on policy and her public life. I salute him for doing exactly that. And to conservatives who are going after Gibson, I’d point out that (1.) he did not press her at all hard either on Troopergate or on the controversy over her relationship with the Wasilla public library when she was mayor; (2.) he was still far tougher on Barack Obama in last April’s debate than he was on Palin; and (3.) he treated Palin as a serious person who presumably had something to say beyond index card briefings about policy. That’s the opposite of sexism. (Click here for ABC’s lengthy excerpts from the interview to judge for yourself.)
I continue to believe that Palin’s lack of engagement with most national and virtually all international issues until the moment of her selection will eventually become a bigger issue. So will McCain’s extremely limited personal knowledge of Palin before he picked her.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I was sitting in the hair salon last week reading the New York Times. Then I heard something that made me stop and listen to what two white hairstylists were saying to each other.
Stylist #1: I was going to vote for Obama but now I don't know. I'm looking at Palin now. She makes McCain look better.
Stylist #2: I can't vote for Obama, but if he doesn't win there will be a race war and the black people will kill all of us.
Stylist #1: If there's going to be a race war if he loses, maybe we should vote for him so there won't be one.
I sat there chuckling because they were in a no-win situation--two middle aged, white working class women who were dubious about Obama at best, who used the "race war" argument as a reason to not vote for him.... Oh, what the heck. They couldn't even get their logic straight.
And, they wanted my money.
Out the door I went.
Read the Randall Kennedy article below on "What If?"
The Big 'What If'
The hopes of black America ride on his shoulders. But the outcome's way up in the air.
By Randall Kennedy
Sunday, September 14, 2008; B01
I am a black man born in 1954, the year of Brown v. Board of Education. Fleeing the abuses of Jim Crow, my parents moved from South Carolina to Washington, D.C., later that decade. Tales of racial oppression and racial resistance were staples of conversation in our household. My father often spoke of watching Thurgood Marshall argue the case ( Rice v. Elmore) that invalidated the rule permitting only whites to vote in South Carolina's Democratic primary. Memories of that story played a large part in producing the tears I shed on the evening Barack Obama won this year's primary in the Palmetto State.
Related memories -- the most haunting being our visit to a D.C. funeral home to pay last respects to Medgar Evers, the courageous head of the Mississipppi branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who was murdered by a segregationist -- helped reduce me to tears, again, on the night the senator from Illinois accepted his party's nomination as its candidate for president.
Never before have my emotions been so exercised by a political campaign. For one thing, never before has a candidate so fully challenged the many inhibitions that have prevented people of all races, including African Americans, from seriously envisioning presidential power in the hands of someone other than a white American. With intelligence, verve and elegance, Obama has opened the public mind to the idea of a black president and made that idea broadly attractive.
The senator's progressive politics, cosmopolitan ethos and pragmatic style have turned me into an enthusiastic supporter, and I savor the prospect of his triumph. But I'm watching this election very closely as I teach a course about it this semester. And I know that the conclusion to this electoral drama is far from determined. Yes, political gravity would seem to favor the Democratic candidate after two terms of Republican control of the White House. Yet the possibility is very real: Barack Obama could lose.
If that happens, then what? How will I feel? How will other black Americans feel? How should people like me feel?
Much depends on what might underlie any potential defeat. In September 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy, needing to allay anxieties about his religion in his quest to become the nation's first Roman Catholic president, addressed a Protestant ministerial association in Texas. At the end of his speech, he declared that if he lost the election "on the real issues," he would return to his seat in the Senate satisfied that he had been "judged fairly." He also said, however, that if the outcome was determined by a religious bias that deprived 40 million Americans of the chance to become president on the day they were baptized, "then it is the whole nation that will be the loser . . . in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people."
Whether black onlookers believe that this election was decided "on the real issues" and that Obama was "judged fairly" will be shaped in part by future developments, including the nature of the campaign in its closing weeks (will race-baiting intensify?) and the demographics of the final voting tally (will people who have traditionally voted Democrat vote differently this time around?).
I anticipate that most black Americans will believe that an Obama defeat will have stemmed in substantial part from a prejudice that robbed 40 million Americans of the chance to become president on the day they were born black. They will of course understand that race wasn't the only significant variable -- that party affiliation, ideological proclivities, strategic choices and dumb luck also mattered. But deep in their bones, they will believe -- and probably rightly -- that race was a key element, that had the racial shoe been on the other foot -- had John McCain been black and Obama white -- the result would have been different.
This conclusion will be accompanied by bitter disappointment, and in some quarters, stark rage. In the early stages of the Obama campaign, his rival, Hillary Clinton, outpolled him among blacks in part because many didn't believe that he stood a chance of prevailing. Then came Iowa. And the near-victory in New Hampshire. When blacks realized that Obama's candidacy represented a serious drive for electoral power with an appreciable chance of success, they gravitated overwhelmingly to the Illinois senator.
After he was nominated in the week marking the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Obama became the focus of millennial aspirations. "Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime black candidate," wrote a black student in a memo for my course, "our one shot, probably the only real contender that my parents and grandparents will ever see, and maybe the only contender my generation will see. All my hopes ride with him." Imagine the pain of such hopes dashed.
Black America, of course, is diverse. Some black conservatives -- columnist Thomas Sowell or Ken Blackwell, former secretary of state of Ohio -- will undoubtedly be delighted by an Obama defeat; he is, after all, their ideological foe. But there are also black leftists who oppose him. Writing in the Progressive magazine, Prof. Adolph Reed of the University of Pennsylvania urges voters to reject Obama (as well as McCain) because he is a "vacuous opportunist" who, like Bill Clinton, conservatizes the leftward end of the American political spectrum. A close variant is the camp of blacks who will be relieved by an Obama defeat because they fear that his victory would misleadingly suggest that America is no longer in need of large-scale racial reform. Still others, who believe that Obama has hurt himself by seeking the political center and declining to be more forceful in voicing a progressive alternative to the Republican ticket, would feel somber vindication.
There are blacks who'll be indifferent to an Obama defeat because they don't think that the outcome of the presidential race will have any real effect on their miserable fates. Others, protecting themselves against the pain of disappointment, have systematically repressed expectations. My mother will be sorry if Obama loses, but she won't feel disillusioned, because she hasn't allowed herself to get her hopes up. She has insisted throughout that "the white folks are going to refuse one way or another to permit Obama to become president." That she says this is remarkable, given the success of her three children, all of whom attended Princeton and became attorneys (one is a federal judge). Still, even though she has seen many racial barriers fall, she's simply unwilling to make herself vulnerable to dejection by investing herself fully in the Obama phenomenon.
If Obama loses, I personally will feel disappointed, frustrated, hurt. I'll conclude that a fabulous opportunity has been lost. I'll believe that American voters have made a huge mistake. And I'll think that an important ingredient of their error is racial prejudice -- not the hateful, snarling, open bigotry that terrorized my parents in their youth, but rather a vague, sophisticated, low-key prejudice that is chameleonlike in its ability to adapt to new surroundings and to hide even from those firmly in its grip.
If Obama is defeated, I will, for a brief time, be stunned by feelings of dejection, anger and resentment. These will only be the stronger because the climate of this election year so clearly favors the Democrats, because this was supposed to be an election the Republicans couldn't win, and because in my view, the Obama ticket is obviously superior to McCain's.
But I hope that soon thereafter I'll find solace and encouragement in contemplating this unprecedented development: A major political party nominated a black man for the highest office in the land, and that man waged an intelligent, brave campaign in which many millions of Americans of all races enthusiastically supported an African American standard-bearer.
I hope that I'll take to heart the wisdom offered by two of my students. "Obama losing," one wrote, "would be hurtful, but it still spells substantial progress. . . . Change WILL come -- the wheels have been set in motion." Declared the second: "Sometimes you have to believe in the change before it comes (and in the face of its apparent defeat) for the change to be possible."
Even if Barack Obama loses in November, he will have bequeathed to all America something that should bring comfort and pride to even the most disappointed of his followers. He has reached the edge of the pinnacle. And shown that we can stand atop it.
Randall Kennedy is a professor of law at Harvard University and the author, most recently, of "Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal."
A box of Obama Waffles is seen in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. [Agencies]
Forum sells 'Obama Waffles' with racial stereotype
Activists at a conservative political forum snapped up boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.
Values Voter Summit organizers cut off sales of Obama Waffles boxes on Saturday, saying they had not realized the boxes displayed "offensive material." The summit and the exhibit hall where the boxes were sold had been open since Thursday afternoon.
The box was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix. They sold it for $10 a box from a rented booth at the summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.
David Nammo, executive director of the lobbying group FRC Action, said summit organizers were told the boxes were a parody of Obama's policy positions but had not examined them closely.
Republican Party stalwarts Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were among speakers at the forum, which officials said drew 2,100 activists from 44 states.
A box of Obama Waffles is seen in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. [Agencies]
While Obama Waffles takes aim at Obama's politics by poking fun at his public remarks and positions on issues, it also plays off the old image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate of waffles and smiles broadly.
Placing Obama in Arab-like headdress recalls the false rumor that he is a follower of Islam, though he is actually a Christian.
On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican dress, including a sombrero, above a recipe for "Open Border Fiesta Waffles" that says it can serve "4 or more illegal aliens." The recipe includes a tip: "While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language?"
The novelty item also takes shots at 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, Obama's wife, Michelle, and Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The Obama campaign declined to comment.
Wearing white chef's aprons, Whitlock and DeMoss were doing a brisk business at noon Saturday selling the waffle mix to people crowded around their booth. Two pyramids of waffle mix boxes stood several feet high on the booth's table.
"It's the ultimate political souvenir," DeMoss told a customer.
Asked if he considered the pictures of Obama on the box to be racial stereotypes, Whitlock said: "We had some people mention that to us, but you think of Newman's Own or Emeril's -- there are tons and tons of personality-branded food products on the market. So we've taken that model and, using political satire, have highlighted his policies, his position changes."
The socially conservative public policy groups American Values and Focus on the Family Action co-sponsored the summit.
Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved
Friday, September 12, 2008
Sarah Palin has done more for those who supoort first ammendment rights than in recent memory. We will celebrate Book Ban Week later this month and you can be sure that Palin's surreptitious attempts to carry out book banning in Wasilla will be on the minds of many Americans.
The so-called culture wars is no match for those of us who are sick and tired of these illiterate right-wingers trying to tell us what to think, how to think, what to read, what our children should read, and the like. I made one mistake: I assume that the right wingers read.
A few days ago we wrote about Sarah Palin's interest in banning books when she was mayor of teeny weeny Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 8,000). Some have dismissed this as a non-issue because Palin never submitted a specific list of books she felt should not be in the local public library. However, our view has always been the dastardly principle she seemed interested in embracing: book banning presumes that adults are incapable of deciding which books they should or should not read. So, Miss Sarah would have decided for them, had she had her way with Mary Ellen Emmons, a tough Librarian who was not about to be told how to do her job by a political hack even if she was Mayor. The Republican Party has tried to silence this issue. They hope it doesn't bubble up on the radar because everyone has a view about book banning. It's a hot button issue that the most conservative have views on because they want to tell someone else what to read while liberals fight for the basic principle of protecting their adult privileges.
Miss Sarah is not the brightest light bulb in the ceiling of a one room house. If her interviews with Charlie Gibson are any indication of her capability, we need to unearth more information like the article below on the book banning controversy. How a person feels about topics of interest to readers, especially if they are nonreaders like Palin, tells me more about them than all the puff personality pieces appearing in the magazines.
The article below reveals a lot more about the book banning governor.
GOP campaign downplays Palin book-banning inquiry
By Garance Burke,
Associated Press Writer
September 12, 2008
WASILLA, Alaska --The McCain campaign is defending Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's much-criticized inquiry into banning books at her hometown library, saying her questions were only hypothetical.
Shortly after taking office in 1996 as mayor of Wasilla, a city of about 7,000 people, Palin asked the city's head librarian about banning books. Later, the librarian was notified by Palin that she was being fired, although Palin backed off under pressure.
Palin's alleged attempt at book-banning has been a matter of intense interest since Republican presidential nominee John McCain named her as his running mate last month.
Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said Thursday that Palin asked the head librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, on three occasions how she would react to attempts at banning books. He said the questions, in the fall of 1996, were hypothetical and entirely appropriate. He said a patron had asked the library to remove a title the year before and the mayor wanted to understand how such disputes were handled.
Records on the city's Web site, however, do not show any books were challenged in Wasilla in the 10 years before Palin took office.
Palin notified Emmons she would be fired in January 1997 because the mayor didn 't feel she had the librarian's "full support." Emmons was reinstated the next day after public outcry, according to newspaper reports at the time.
Still, one longtime library staffer recalls that the run-in made everyone fear for their jobs.
"Mayor Palin gave us some terrible moments and some rather gut-wrenching moments, particularly when Mary Ellen said she was going to have to leave," said Cathy Petrie, who managed the children's collection at the time.
Recent outrage has been fueled by Wasilla housewife Anne Kilkenny, whose 2,400-word critique of Palin's legacy as mayor is widely posted on the Internet. Kilkenny described Palin's actions as "out-and-out censorship."
But the McCain campaign, in a statement, said the charge "is categorically false ... Governor Sarah Palin has never asked anyone to ban a book, period."
Emmons, a former Alaska Library Association president who now goes by Mary Ellen Baker, did not return calls seeking comment.
According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman newspaper, Emmons did not mince words when Palin asked her "how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library" on Oct. 28, 1996, in a week when the mayor had asked department heads for letters of resignation.
"She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied 'Yup'," Emmons told a reporter. "And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union20would get involved, too."
The Rev. Howard Bess, a liberal Christian preacher in the nearby town of Palmer, said the church Palin and her family attended until 2002, the Wasilla Assembly of God, was pushing to remove his book from local bookstores.
Emmons told him that year that several copies of "Pastor I Am Gay" had disappeared from the library shelves, Bess said.
"Sarah brought pressure on the library about things she didn't like," Bess said. "To believe that my book was not targeted in this is a joke."
Other locals said the dust-up had been blown out of proportion.
"That was many years ago and Sarah never had any intention to ban books," said David Chappel, who served as Palin's deputy mayor for three years. "There were some vocal people in the minority, and it looks like they're still out there."
Jim Rettig, a University of Richmond librarian who heads the Chicago-based American Library Association, suggested that lingering quarrel raises issues that are still relevant as librarians prepare to celebrate Banned Books Week later this month.
"Librarians are very committed to the principles of the First Amendment of the Constitution and that means we don't allow one individual or a group of people to dictate what people can or cannot read," he said. "Most librarians if they got that sort of a question would be curious as to what the intent of the questioner was."
© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
The following appeared on Boston.com:
Headline: GOP campaign downplays Palin book-banning inquiry
Sep 12, 2008
"The McCain campaign is defending Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's much-criticized
inquiry into banning books at her hometown library, saying her questions were
To see this recommendation, click on the link below or cut and paste it
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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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