March 2008 Archives

March 29, 2008

Can North Carolina Save Clinton's Campaign?

Nick Timiraos, writing in the March 28, 2008, Wall Street Journal Online, said "One key" for Senator Hillary Clinton in her quest to become the democratic presidential nominee to face Republican John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election, "will be to increase her share of the white vote to overcome Sen. [Barack] Obama's advantage to date with black voters" in North Carolina, a state in the southeastern United States.  See "North Carolina Can Change Race Dynamic."

Timaraso said, "Theodore Arrington, a political-science professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, estimates Sen. Clinton will have to increase her share of the white vote from about 55%, her showing in a recent poll, to some 75%. He argued that superdelegates will be less concerned with the overall result than with exit polls that show how whites voted."

So, while she's doing all that, what is O'bama doing? Resting on his laurels? I doubt it. This scenario suggests that Obama is relying solely on African-American voters and not seeking the vote of other North Carolinians.

Also, does this mean that Clinton is conceding the African-American vote in the name of racial politics? I doubt it.

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March 26, 2008

Detroit News: Bloggers Showing No Mercy for Mayor Kilpatrick

Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin reports in a March 26, 2008, column that, Michigan bloggers are showing "no mercy" for Detroit, Michigan, USA, mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was hit with a 12-count indictment March 24, 2008. The indictment includes eight felonies. Writes Rubin:

At DetroitYES!, the online gathering place for people who care enough about the city to waste their employers' time discussing it, there is newfound respect for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and no sympathy whatsoever for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Or as various posters referred to him, "sick puppy," "megalomaniac" and "fatty."

The more-reasoned citizens do not resort to name-calling, of course, especially when it takes valuable time away from gloating. "I'd dance in the streets," wrote Genesyxx, "but since I work in this building, I might get canned again."

Rubin said, "On days like Monday [March 24, 2008], when news doesn't so much hit as it explodes, dropping in on chat rooms is like visiting barbershops. The difference is that when a white guy with a notebook strolls into a barbershop full of wary black men, they watch their words. "What we say when you're here," I was once advised, "ain't what we say when you're gone." At www.detroityes.com and in the forums at www.detnews.com, there's no need for caution, regardless of race or locale. "These clowns will never learn," wrote Detroitbill at DetroitYES! "Their guilt is unbelievable. Their defiance even more so."

If you want to read the entire post, please see "Bloggers showing no mercy for Kilpatrick."

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March 25, 2008

Cost Force Some Papers to Cut Back on Daily Campaign Reporting

Jacques Steinberg reports in the March 26, 2008, edition of The New York Times that, "In the weeks leading up to the 22 Democratic nominating contests [in the United States] on Feb. 5, and in the weeks since, few newspapers beyond The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have sought to shadow the candidates on a near-daily basis."Steinberg notes:

Among the newspapers that have chosen not to dispatch reporters to cover the two leading Democratic candidates on a regular basis are USA Today, the nation’s largest paper, as well as The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Baltimore Sun, The Miami Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer (at least until the Pennsylvania primary, on April 22, began to loom large).

The Times said, "For firsthand, daily dispatches from the campaign trail, most of the others have relied heavily on reports from the wire services, including The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters; a handful of Web sites; and video captured by camera-toting producers from the television networks and cable news channels."

If you want to read more, see "The Buzz on the Bus: Pinched, Press Steps Off."

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March 24, 2008

Should Europe Fear a McCain Presidency?

"It may seem incredible to say this, given past experience, but a few years from now Europe and the world could be looking back at the Bush administration with nostalgia," writes British author Anatol Lieven, "a professor at King’s College, Cambridge, and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation," in the March 24, 2008, edition of FT.com (The Financial Times) "This possibility will arise if the US elects Senator John McCain as president in November."

The author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism notes that, "Over the years the US has inserted itself into potential flashpoints in different parts of the world. The Republican party is now about to put forward a natural incendiary as the man to deal with those flashpoints," Mr. Lieven contends.

If you care to read more, see "Why we should fear a McCain presidency."

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Should Europe Fear a McCain Presidency?

"It may seem incredible to say this, given past experience, but a few years from now Europe and the world could be looking back at the Bush administration with nostalgia," writes British author Anatol Lieven, "a professor at King’s College, Cambridge, and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation," in the March 24, 2008, edition of FT.com (The Financial Times) "This possibility will arise if the US elects Senator John McCain as president in November."

The author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism notes that, "Over the years the US has inserted itself into potential flashpoints in different parts of the world. The Republican party is now about to put forward a natural incendiary as the man to deal with those flashpoints," Lieven contends.

If you care to read more, see "Why we should fear a McCain presidency."

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Politico: Local Republican Parties Are in Trouble

Politico reported March 24, 2008: "At a time when the GOP presidential nominee [Senator John McCain of Arizona] will need more assistance than ever, a number of state Republican parties are struggling through troubled times, suffering from internal strife, poor fundraising, onerous debt, scandal or voting trends that are conspiring to relegate the local branches of the party to near-irrelevance."

If you want to read the entire post, see "GOP state parties are in dire straits."

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Gordon Fischer Was Right to Apologize to Bill Clinton

Iowa, USA, Attorney and blogger Gordon R. Fischer has rightly come under fire for stating at Iowa True Blue, his personal blog:

"B. Clinton questions Obama's patriotism.  In repsonse (sic), an Obama aide compared B. Clinton to Joe McCarthy. This is patently unfair.  To McCarthy.

"When Joe McCarthy questioned others' patriotism, McCarthy (1) actually believed, at least aparently (sic), the questions were genuine, and (2) he did so in order to build up, not tear down, his own party, the GOP.  Bill Clinton cannot possibly seriously believe Obama is not a patriot, and cannot possibly be said to be helping -- instead he is hurting -- his own party.  B. Clinton should never be forgiven.  Period.  This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress.

Fischer has since offered what he calls "A Sincere and Contrite Apology" and "A Sincere and Contrite Apology, Part Two."

After coming under fire, he deleted the offending passage. I took the passage above from a March 24, 2008, post ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper put up at Political Punch.  As Tapper notes: 

Gordon Fischer, the former director of the Iowa Democratic Party and a senior adviser for Sen. Barack Obama's efforts in the Hawkeye State, is still very much involved in making sure Obama gets delegates as the caucus process continues.

He's also quite fired up about former President Bill Clinton's comments in front of a North Carolina VFW Hall, which the Obama campaign took to be an impugning of Obama's patriotism.

By the way, the Monica Mr. Fischer is referring to is former White House Intern Monica Lewinsky, with whom Mr. Clinton reportedly had sexual relations with in the White House, while he was president. As Wikipedia notes, "The news of this extra-marital affair and the resulting investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal on all charges (of perjury and obstruction of justice) in a 21-day Senate trial."

It's time for personal attacks against candidates and their spouses to end. Secondly, both Republican and Democratic presidential aspirants need to put a muzzle on irresponsible surrogates.

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Gordon Fischer Was Right to Apologize to Bill Clinton

Iowa Attorney and blogger Gordon R. Fischer has rightly come under fire for stating at Iowa True Blue, his personal blog:

"B. Clinton questions Obama's patriotism.  In repsonse (sic), an Obama aide compared B. Clinton to Joe McCarthy. This is patently unfair.  To McCarthy.

"When Joe McCarthy questioned others' patriotism, McCarthy (1) actually believed, at least aparently (sic), the questions were genuine, and (2) he did so in order to build up, not tear down, his own party, the GOP.  Bill Clinton cannot possibly seriously believe Obama is not a patriot, and cannot possibly be said to be helping -- instead he is hurting -- his own party.  B. Clinton should never be forgiven.  Period.  This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress.

Fischer has since offered what he calls "A Sincere and Contrite Apology" and "A Sincere and Contrite Apology, Part Two."

After coming under fire, he deleted the offending passage. I took the passage above from a March 24, 2008, post ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper put up at Political Punch.  As Tapper notes: 

Gordon Fischer, the former director of the Iowa Democratic Party and a senior adviser for Sen. Barack Obama's efforts in the Hawkeye State, is still very much involved in making sure Obama gets delegates as the caucus process continues.

He's also quite fired up about former President Bill Clinton's comments in front of a North Carolina VFW Hall, which the Obama campaign took to be an impugning of Obama's patriotism.

By the way, the Monica Mr. Fischer is referring to is former White House Intern Monica Lewinsky, with whom Mr. Clinton reportedly had sexual relations with in the White House, while he was president. As Wikipedia notes, "The news of this extra-marital affair and the resulting investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal on all charges (of perjury and obstruction of justice) in a 21-day Senate trial."

It's time for personal attacks against candidates and their spouses to end. Secondly, both Republican and Democratic presidential aspirants need to put a muzzle on irresponsible surrogates.

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March 23, 2008

What Accounts For Obama's Campaign Success?

"How can one account for Barack Obama's truly astonishing success in reaching for the American presidency?" asks Michael Silverstein in a March 23, 2008, post over at The Moderate Voice. See " Obama’s Success: Voters Finally, Truly, Mad As Hell… According to Silverstein:

It isn’t his speechifying. He’s an excellent speaker, but Jesse Jackson in his time was better. It’s not his personal story, which though in many ways inspiring, can’t match the heroic realism of John McCain’s. It’s not his stands on issues that are not noticeably different from Hillary’s. Nor is it the populist edge that has creeped into his campaign in recent months. John Edwards was way out front in this respect.

"No," Silverstein maintains, "it all comes down to that one word that appears in bold letters on all his literature and just over his left shoulder at every speaking engagement. Change."

The promise of genuine change is why I voted for Obama in the Illinois Primary. Clinton is too establishment to be an agent of change.

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Economics and the U.S. Presidential Race

J. Brooks Spector, "a senior visiting lecturer in international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand" in South Africa and a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, asserts in a March 23, 2008, column in The Sunday Independent of South Africa:

A year ago, most people thought this election would be a referendum on Iraq, but America's growing economic difficulties have now made the economy an even bigger concern for American voters.

Moving in right behind the economy is a growing clamour for health care reform, fuelled by rising medical costs and the inevitable gaps in coverage - even for those who have medical plans and health insurance (and nearly 50 million Americans do not). Concerns about the economy and health care are usually issues that help Democratic Party candidates win elections.

Spector said, "These economic concerns also have important foreign policy aspects, however. One is growing support for protectionist trade policies that supposedly are a shield against the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs in America, even though some experts argue automation and increasing productivity are as important for job losses as competition from nations such as China or Mexico."

Spector recently spent time in the U.S. and talked with several informed observers about the U.S. presidential campaign before returning to Africa. If you want to read more of his views on the subject, see "Economics takes a front seat in US race."

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Richardson: '... It shouldn't just be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton...'

I like the way New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson answered the question below from Fox News Sunday host  Chris Wallace during Wallace's March 23, 2008, show with Richardson and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell

Rendell supports Senator Hillary Clinton and Richardson has endorsed Senator Barack Obama, to be the Democratic Party nominee to face Republican Senator John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election in the United States.

WALLACE: Governor Richardson, I want to ask you one other question about your endorsement of Obama this week. And you talk about negativity and attacks. Clinton adviser James Carville accused you of an act of betrayal on holy week. 

Here's what he said. "Mr. Richardson's endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate." Governor Richardson, that's pretty tough stuff. 

RICHARDSON: Well, I'm not going to get in the gutter like that. And you know, that's typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency. 

You know, and I got in this race myself. I am very loyal to the Clintons. I served under President Clinton. But I served well. And I served the country well. And he gave me that opportunity. 

But you know, Chris, it shouldn't just be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. You know, what about the rest of us? I got in the race. A lot of other candidates — Senator Biden, Dodd — that are qualified and experienced — you know, Senator Obama representing change. 

So I feel that it's important that we bring a new generation of leadership. You know, the American people hate this partisanship, these divisions, snapping at each other as we seem to be doing. 

And I think Obama represents this new change of not just bipartisanship, but bringing people together, bringing races together, bringing America's role in the world to be respected again.

Richardson said, "The huge message that he would send if he's president, an African American of mixed heritage, of great intelligence and tremendous depth as a human being, the way he handled that race issue, is going to be a great signal for America." 

For more, see "Transcript: Govs. Richardson, Rendell on 'FNS'".

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FNS Transcript of Interview With Bill Richardson, Ed Rendell

Chris Wallace at Fox News Sunday interviewed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on his March 23, 2008, show.

Rendell supports Senator Hillary Clinton and Richardson has endorsed Senator Barack Obama, to be the Democratic Party nominee to face Republican Senator John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election in the United States.

If you're curious about what they said, see "Transcript: Govs. Richardson, Rendell on 'FNS'".

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Bloggers, Politics and the Race Question

Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional law and civil rights litigator and author of "How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok," "How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency" and Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, has a March 23, 2008, post that shows how incendiary bloggers' discussions about race can get. It's called "One of Instapundit's favorite blogs speaks on race."

Instapundit is University of Tennessee at Knoxville law professor Glenn Reynolds. His blog, Instapundit, is very popular in some circles. The favorite blog Greenwald is referring to is Instapunk.

Reynolds' response to Greenwald's post about his"EASTER THOUGHTS, from InstaPunk:

UPDATE: Jeez, get a clue, Greenwald. I don't know why you felt you had to bring me into this -- well, actually, I think I do -- but the post you're bitching about is by a different blogger than the post linked above. I know it's hard to get your mind around the idea that multiple pseudonymous writers might actually be different people, but . . .
Should bloggers weigh-in on discussions about race? Yes. However, I think it should be from an informed perspective. If bloggers, regardless of their racial background, approach the issue from a holier-than-thou, finger pointing perspective the discussion will result in a continuation of name calling and denial we've witnessed over the years. I prefer the let me see if I can understand why you feel the way you do approach.

I also understand, whether we want to accept it or not, that there are clear, cultural differences and experiences that make the various racial and ethnic groups see things from different perspectives, with some individuals within each group often identifying with the other, while others may not. Wishing that it wasn't so won't make it go away.

My sense is that, we have decades to go before color doesn't matter in America. I hope I'm wrong.

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Does Age Matter When We Look at Race?

I think  San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. makes a valid point in his March 23, 2008, column when he argues that:

Sen. Barack Obama wrote and delivered a brilliant and brave speech that not only addressed the controversy involving his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but also kicked off a national conversation - not just about race (been there, done that), but about how members of different generations view race differently. As Obama reminded us from Philadelphia, how you see the world isn't just influenced by the color of your skin but by the year of your birth.
Navarrette gives an example from his own life:
I learned that lesson several years ago when I was a guest on a public television talk show in Dallas with a couple of veterans of the Latino civil rights movement. I insisted that experience was overrated, since many of the experiences that older Latinos went through had left them angry and bitter. One of my fellow panelists, José Angel Gutiérrez - who started the La Raza Unida Party in Texas in 1970, when I was still pedaling around on my tricycle - decided he'd had enough."

"It's too bad the Texas Rangers aren't around," he told me, "because what you need is a good . . . whuppin'."

"Gutiérrez and I became friends, but we still don't see the world the same way.

Navarrette makes a lot of sense to me. But judge for yourself. See "Age matters when we look at race."

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March 22, 2008

Commentary, Editorials, and Rants

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A Benazir Bhutto Retrospective

The March 2008 edition of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs has five interesting perspective on the December 27, 2007, assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. I found them informative. Most have appeared elsewhere.

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John McCain's Iran Gaffe

Gareth Porter, "historian, national security policy analyst, journalist and author of "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", asserts in a  March 21, 2008, post at International Press Service (IPS) Web Site:

Sen. John McCain's confusion in recent allegations of Iranian training of al Qaeda fighters in Iraq is the result of a drumbeat of official propaganda about close Iran-al Qaeda ties that the George W. Bush administration and neoconservatives have promoted ever since early 2002.

He said, "McCain, the Republican nominee for the presidency, was confusing the Bush administration's charges of Iranian training of Shi'a militiamen associated with the Mahdi Army with the administration's propaganda theme of Iranian tacit or explicit support for al Qaeda operatives in Iran -- charges which have amplified by right-wing media."

If you want to read more, "POLITICS-US: McCain's Gaffes Reflect Bush's Iran-Qaeda Myth."

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John McCain's Iran Gaffe

Gareth Porter, "historian, national security policy analyst, journalist and author of "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", asserts in a  March 21, 2008, post at International Press Service (IPS) Web Site:

Sen. John McCain's confusion in recent allegations of Iranian training of al Qaeda fighters in Iraq is the result of a drumbeat of official propaganda about close Iran-al Qaeda ties that the George W. Bush administration and neoconservatives have promoted ever since early 2002.

He said, "McCain, the Republican nominee for the presidency, was confusing the Bush administration's charges of Iranian training of Shi'a militiamen associated with the Mahdi Army with the administration's propaganda theme of Iranian tacit or explicit support for al Qaeda operatives in Iran -- charges which have amplified by right-wing media."

If you want to read more, "POLITICS-US: McCain's Gaffes Reflect Bush's Iran-Qaeda Myth."

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Slavery and the U.S. Constitution

One of the benefits of the manufactured controversy over Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Barack Obama's formerimage pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago, is Obama's March 18, 2008, "A More Perfect Union" speech on the racial tension that has surfaced in his battle with Senator Hillary Clinton for the right to face Republican presidential candidate John McCain in the November 2008  presidential election in the United States.

The speech provided a opening for demagogues, quacks and serious scholars and commentators to weigh in on the most incendiary issue in the United States. One of the more scholarly I've read this week was a March 21, 2008, commentary by Paul Finkelman, blogger, "legal scholar and historian," who is a "President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy, and Senior Fellow in the Government Law Center at Albany Law School" in Albany, New York, USA.

The professor, author of the 1996 book Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, contends that:

Senator Obama's speech raised the issue of how slavery has affected our Constitution. Few politicians since the Civil War have acknowledged this connection.

Senator Obama's discussion of this is an important first step in healing the wounds that still linger from slavery. Whatever the outcome of the Democratic nomination process or the general election, we can thank Senator Obama for finally asking the nation to think about how the Constitution was shaped by slavery and how slavery shaped our history.

Indeed, I'd say most American probably haven't given this much thought. However, it is something I've thought about for years, and wondered how could a country with such lofty ideals be founded on slavery and then dismiss it as if it had never happened. Here's Finkelman's entire commentary.

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Why Doesn't Canada Have its Own Version of Barack Obama?

Bob Hepburn, columnist at the Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star , asked in a March 20, 2008, column:

Why doesn't Canada have its own version of Barack Obama?

Many Canadians have been asking that question ever since Obama launched his presidential campaign complete with his spell-binding speeches, his slogan of "Yes We Can," and his promise of real change in America.

Hepburn said, "That question became more obvious after listening to Obama, who is trying to become the first black U.S. president, deliver a bold and passionate speech on Tuesday [March 18, 2008] that confronted head-on the deep racial divisions that have long existed in the United States."

If you want to read more, see "Longing for an Obama of our own."

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Why Doesn't Canada Have its Own Version of Barack Obama?

Bob Hepburn, columnist at the Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star , asked in a March 20, 2008, column:

Why doesn't Canada have its own version of Barack Obama?

Many Canadians have been asking that question ever since Obama launched his presidential campaign complete with his spell-binding speeches, his slogan of "Yes We Can," and his promise of real change in America.

Hepburn said, "That question became more obvious after listening to Obama, who is trying to become the first black U.S. president, deliver a bold and passionate speech on Tuesday [March 18, 2008] that confronted head-on the deep racial divisions that have long existed in the United States."

If you want to read more, see "Longing for an Obama of our own."

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Roland Martin's Commentary on 'Race, Faith and Politics'

CNN contributor Roland S. Martin published a March 21, 2008, commentary headlined "Commentary: Race, faith and politics." I recommend it.

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Slavery and the U.S. Constitution

One of the benefits of the manufactured controversy over Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Barack Obama's formerimage pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago, is Obama's March 18, 2008, "A More Perfect Union" speech on the racial tension that has surfaced in his battle with Senator Hillary Clinton for the right to face Republican presidential candidate John McCain in the November 2008  presidential election in the United States.

The speech provided a opening for demagogues, quacks and serious scholars and commentators to weigh in on the most incendiary issue in the United States. One of the more scholarly I've read this week was a March 21, 2008, commentary by Paul Finkelman, blogger, "legal scholar and historian," who is a "President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy, and Senior Fellow in the Government Law Center at Albany Law School" in Albany, New York, USA.

The professor, author of the 1996 book Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, contends that:

Senator Obama's speech raised the issue of how slavery has affected our Constitution. Few politicians since the Civil War have acknowledged this connection.

Senator Obama's discussion of this is an important first step in healing the wounds that still linger from slavery. Whatever the outcome of the Democratic nomination process or the general election, we can thank Senator Obama for finally asking the nation to think about how the Constitution was shaped by slavery and how slavery shaped our history.

Indeed, I'd say most American probably haven't given this much thought. However, it is something I've thought about for years, and wondered how could a country with such lofty ideals be founded on slavery and then dismiss it as if it had never happened. Here's Finkelman's entire commentary.

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March 21, 2008

Democrats' Continue to Erode Voter Apathy

"The surprisingly prolonged Democratic presidential race may have become as much a battle against fatigue and exhaustion as each other for Hillary ClintonBarack Obama and their top staffers these days, but the contest continues to exhilarate segments of the body politic as it moves from state to state," according to the  political blog Los Angeles TimesTop of the Ticket.

If you want to read the entire post, please see "Clinton and Obama may be tired, but the public isn't.

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Richardson Endorses Obama

William Blaine "Bill" Richardson III, the Hispanic governor of New Mexico, "has put his support behind Barack Obama for president, delivering one of the most coveted endorsements in the race for the Democratic nomination," the Associated Press and other news outlets reported March 21, 2008. See "NM Gov. Bill Richardson Endorses Obama."

I think Richardson would make a great U.S. secretary of state, given his skills at negotiation and his experience with leaders all over the world.

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March 20, 2008

Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Speech

As Prepared for Delivery on March 18, 2008, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” 

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy.  Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787. 

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished.  It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations. 

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time. 

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States.  What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America.  I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.   

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people.  But it also comes from my own American story. 

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas.  I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations.  I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. 

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate.  But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one. 

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country.  In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans. 

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign.  At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary.  The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn. 

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap.  On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.   

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.  For some, nagging questions remain.  Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy?  Of course.  Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church?  Yes.  Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views?  Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.   

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice.  Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. 

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough.  Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask?  Why not join another church?  And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way 

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man.  The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor.  He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones.  Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world.  Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories tha t we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity.  Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger.  Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor.  They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear.  The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright.  As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me.  He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children.  Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect.  He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.  I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me.  And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable.  I can assure you it is not.  I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork.  We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. 

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.  We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality. 

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.  And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American. 

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point.  As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried.  In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country.  But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened.  And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us. 

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up.  They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination.  That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways.  For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.  That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends.  But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table.  At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews.  The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.  That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change.  But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community.  Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.  So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committ ed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time. 

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company.  But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.  Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition.  Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends.  Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.  And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding. 

This is where we are right now.  It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.  Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union. 

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past.  It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life.  But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family.  And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons.  But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change. 

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.  But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change.  That is true genius of this nation.  What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed.   Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. 

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us.  Let us be our sister’s keeper.  Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. 

For we have a choice in this country.  We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism.  We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news.  We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.  We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction.  And then another one.  And then another one. And nothing will change. 

That is one option.  Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”  This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.  This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.   

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together. 

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit. 

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned. 

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country.  This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.  And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election. 

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.   

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina.  She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. 

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer.  And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care.  They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches.  Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice.  Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally.  But she didn’t.  She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign.  They all have different stories and reasons.  Many bring up a specific issue.  And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time.  And Ashley asks him why he’s there.  And he does not bring up a specific issue.  He does not say health care or the economy.  He does not say education or the war.   He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama.  He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.” 

“I’m here because of Ashley.”  By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough.  It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start.  It is where our union grows stronger.  And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.   

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Michigan Seems Unlikely to Hold Second Primary

The Michigan state Senate "adjourned this afternoon [March 20, 2008] without taking up the Michigan primary redo bill, meaning the plan is dead," according to the Detroit News and other news outlets. See "Michigan primary redo bill dies in Senate."

Florida decided March 17, 2008, not to re-do it's democratic primary. Both states voted early in defiance of Democratic Party rules. As The Wall Street Journal Online's Susan Davis noted in a March 6, 2008, article headlined "Michigan and Florida Debate Do-Overs":

The irony in this debate is that Michigan and Florida expedited their primaries in a move to ensure their state’s relevance in the primary battle. But if the two states would have followed DNC rules and held primaries after the approved Feb. 5 [2008] date, they could have played a much more decisive role in deciding the nominee. Instead both states violated DNC rules and held primaries before the sanctioned date. As a result they were stripped of their delegates — 210 for Florida and 156 for Michigan.
Question: Why didn't both states just follow the rules? Especially after five Democratic Primary challengers withdrew from the contest. Consequently, many voters chose to be uncommitted during the vote. Will Michigan voters punish their state party leaders for making their vote worthless?. It remains to be seen.

By the way, Democratic Party presidential contender Senator Hillary Clinton took part in the primaries. Her challenger, Senator Barack Obama, wasn't on the ballot and didn't campaign in Florida, which has become known for its political screw-ups. Clinton supports a re-vote. Obama wants Michigan to split the delegates.

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Race and Politics is Part of the Fabric of Life

Los Angeles Times Correspondent P.J. Huffstutter tells Times readers in a March 20, 2008, dispatch:

In Chicago, where whites and blacks have lived together and clashed with one another for generations, the racial divide is spoken about with heart and passion -- and sometimes with rage.

It is a part of the fabric of life, particularly in the city's southern and southwestern sections, where attitudes can seem both urbane and deeply rural. Neighborhoods here are an ethnic mix: European immigrants, like the Southern African Americans who arrived in the Great Migration, came looking for work and a better life amid the cozy brick bungalows and oak-tree-lined streets.

When locals speak of race riots in the city's past, their memories of bloodied streets date to 1919. And 1953. And 1968.

Huffstutter added:
Both before and after this city's favorite adopted son [Senator Barack Obama] gave his [March 18, 2008, "A More Perfect Union"] speech about his recently retired pastor's comments, people had plenty to say. They argued over [Rev. Jeremiah] Wright's words at cafes in the middle-class Beverly Hills/Morgan Park area, and debated Obama's Tuesday speech in college dorms in the presidential candidate's home neighborhood of Hyde Park.

They've prayed for guidance on street corners in Washington Heights and exchanged knowing nods inside barbershops right down the street from where Wright spent more than three decades turning tiny Trinity United Church of Christ into a spiritual empire -- in an area where nearly 95% of the population is African American, according to U.S. Census data.

By the way, I've lived in Chicago for 34-years but had never heard Reverend Wright speak. I knew of him by reputation because of his community outreach work. However, I wouldn't have recognized him if I had come across him in the streets. Thanks to the news media, I know him now, and would recognize him immediately. I think Mr. Obama did the right thing in not disowning him. If he loses the Democratic nomination because of it, so be it. As an Independent, if Obama is not the Democratic challenger in the November 2008 general election, Hillary will likely not get my vote.

Does it have anything to do with race? Hell, no! If you talk about experience, Republican Presidential contender John McCain has more than Hillary. She said experience counted, so I may as well go with the person who has more than she does.

If you want to read the entire article, please see "Obama pastor's words ring familiar in Chicago."

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March 19, 2008

The Republican's Obama Strategy

Mike Madden at Salon.com reported March 19, 2008, that:

The Republican playbook for running against Barack Obama got a handy dry run this week. All of the outrage on right-wing talk radio, Fox News and conservative blogs over past incendiary comments from Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, fit perfectly into the plan the GOP and its allies are incubating for how to attack Obama if he wins the Democratic nomination for president.

"(The attack plan for demonizing Hillary Clinton, of course, is already well drawn, and many Republicans say they'd still rather face her)," according to Madden.

I doubt Obama's supporters in the blogosphere and the Afrosphere are going to let him be attacked relentlessly without going after Republican Presidential contender John McCain.

If you want to read more of Madden's commentary, please see "The GOP attack plan for Barack Obama."

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African-American Opinion on Obama's Speech on Race

Senator Barack Obama's March 18, 2008 "A More Perfect Union" speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA,  has generated considerable debate and discussion on blogs in the United States. Below are a few African-American bloggers' views on the historic address:

Booker Rising on Obama's Speech On Race And Religion --By Shay at Booker Rising

Obama's race speech --By Adam Ricketson at Welcome to Freedom Democrats

Obama Speech: Raise Your Expectations -- By Oliver Willis
Obama's Challenge to American Voters -- By Governor Devall Patrick at The Huffington Post
Obama Rising Again -- By Trey Ellis at The Huffington Post
The Blogger Racial Divide and Blogger Color Arousal -- By African American (Black) Opinion
Hillary, Race Matters and Obama -- By African American Political Pundit
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March 18, 2008

Political Slavery

Bill Maxwell, columnist and editorial writer for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, USA, contends that:

"Presidential candidate "Hillary Clinton should be leery of ever trusting the word of another black person, especially the word of elected officials, celebrities and other elites. She most certainly should never again trust the word of black preachers." See "Phony black friends ditch Clinton.

"Too many blacks have betrayed Clinton. They have been disloyal. They have lied to her, many to her face.

Damn! I guess the civil war put an end to all but the kind of slavery suggested in Maxwell's article. I don't feel beholden to Hillary Clinton or any other politician, white or black, for that matter. And I certainly don't feel any special fondness for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

I could vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain just as easily as I could Clinton. I don't see that much difference between them.

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Can Detroit's Mayor Overcome Scandal?

The Detroit Free-Press has an extensive archive on Detroit, Michigan, USA, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's political and personal problems, which includes, among other things, an extramarital affair with his former chief of staff Christine Beatty, Ms. Beatty recently resigned her post when her relationship with the mayor was revealed.

Kilpatrick seems to have squandered much of the goodwill he enjoyed. I wouldn't be surprised if he resigns any day now. In fact, it's probably the right thing to do.

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Columnist: 'Democrats Risk Losing a Generation'

"If -- and it's still an if -- the numbers just don't add up for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but the party, through its arcane rules and superdelegates process, gives it to her anyway, Democrats will pay dearly, for a generation or more, Predicts Detroit Free-Press columnist Ron Dzwonkowski predicted in a March 16, 2008, column headlined "Democrats risk losing a generation."

I found Dzwonkowski's analysis plausible and recommended it.

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March 17, 2008

Florida Democratic Party's March 17 'Statement on Primary Situation'

Dear Florida Democrats,

For a year now, the Florida Democratic Party has tried to comply with the Delegate Selection Rules of the Democratic National Committee.

We researched every potential alternative process - from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections - but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.

We made a detailed case to the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, but we were denied.

Our Democratic legislators in Tallahassee tried to set the Florida primary on Feb. 5, instead of Jan. 29, but of course, their proposed amendment to House Bill 537 was greeted with laughter and derision from the Republicans who control the state government.

Does '537' ring a bell? It should. It's the number of votes that separated Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in Florida in 2000.

It's the number that sent this country and this world in a terrible direction.

We can't let 537 - or the Republicans - determine our future again.

President Bush plans to stop in Florida tomorrow to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican National Committee's efforts to elect his successor in November.

The last thing America needs is a third Bush term. Despite the widespread anxiety that working families feel, not to mention the broad agreement among economists that we are in a recession, President Bush and John McCain blindly believe that the economy is strong.

And let me remind you that John McCain endorsed President Bush's decision to deny health care to thousands of Florida children by vetoing an expansion of the successful SCHIP program. McCain also promises to jeopardize the financial security of Florida seniors by privatizing Social Security. He continually threatens to push Florida's military families to the brink by keeping American troops in Iraq for "100 years" or more.

This is why we are Democrats, and this is why we must stick together, no matter where this ongoing delegate debate takes us.

Last week, the Florida Democratic Party laid out the only existing way that we can comply with DNC Rules - a statewide revote run by the Party - and asked for input.

Thousands of people responded. We spent the weekend reviewing your messages, and while your reasons vary widely, the consensus is clear: Florida doesn't want to vote again.

So we won't.

A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the Party were to pay for it. Republican Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio refuses to even consider that option. Florida is finally moving to paper ballots, which is a good thing, but it means that at least 15 counties do not have the capacity to handle a major election before the June 10th DNC primary deadline.

This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.

When this committee stripped us of 100% of our delegates last year, some members summed up their reasoning by saying, "The rules are the rules." Unfortunately, the rules did not apply to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina when they, too, violated the DNC calendar by moving from their assigned dates.

As the late great Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "We must adjust our ideas to the facts of today... Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are."

The Florida Democratic Party has stuck to its principles throughout this debate. We've remained open-minded while never wavering from our commitment to an open and fair election that would allow all Florida Democrats to participate, whether serving in Iraq, retiring in Boca, studying abroad or entertaining at a theme park.

Another late great President -Abraham Lincoln, a Republican - said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

If Democrats heed this wisdom, we will win in November.

America needs a great president again, but a President McCain will settle for the status quo and carry on the disastrous Bush tradition.

President Clinton or President Obama will make history and lead this nation in a new direction.

Let's remember this as the delegate debate continues. We must stick together as Democrats. The stakes are too high and the opportunities too great.

I will keep you posted on any major developments. Thank you for your concern and your commitment.

Sincerely,
Karen L. Thurman
Congresswoman Karen L. Thurman
Chair, Florida Democratic Party

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Florida Makes Right Decision By Not Re-doing Primary

"To a remarkable degree," writes Southern Political Report's Tom Baxter in a March 18, 2008, political analysis, "Hillary Clinton’s decline from prohibitive frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination to mathematically-improbable challenger has been a long series of small slips and mild disappointments, with no major disasters for a landmark."

Baxter contends that, "Clinton’s latest setback – the Florida Democratic Party’s announcement that it won’t attempt a “re-do” of the Jan. 29 Democratic Presidential Primary [which was held in violation of party rules] – is in that same drab pattern. It’s just one more frustrating impasse in Florida’s effort to connect its presidential election with the rest of the country’s, but at this stage of the game it could be disastrous for Clinton."

If you want to read more of Baxter's post, see "Florida punts, and leaves Clinton little time for a Hail Mary."

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The Editor & Publisher

The National Political Observer is published by Munir Umrani, who is also the editor and publisher of The Blogging Journalist, The Diplomatic Times Review Online, The Music Scene Gazette,  and The Technology Free-Press, which debuted in November 2006.

From 1997 to 2005, I served as Freedom of Information Officer for the Chicago Park District during the day and worked on a monthly newsletter--The Diplomatic Times-- and a website, The Diplomatic Times.Com, at night.

I also worked on novels. To date I've written three, all unpublished. But that's because I haven't really tried to publish them. They are: (1) When the Sun Rises in the West" and (2) The Man From Port-au-Prince." A third novel is in progress. I may try to publish them one day.

ROOTS
I was born on a sharecropper's farm in the Eastern Arkansas Delta about 15 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee. I had asthma as a child and spent most of childhood years reading hundreds of books on a wide range of subjects since I couldn't play or work in the fields without triggering an asthma attack. As a result of that discipline, I've read several thousand book during the past four decades. Mostly international affairs, world history, American history, African history, Middle Eastern history, diplomacy, politics, espionage history, spy thrillers and detective mysteries.

I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis in 1969. In July of that year, I registered for the draft and waited with dread for my greeting from Uncle Sam telling me I was wanted in Vietnam. It never came. I was determined to be a journalist, not a soldier.

PHOTOJOURNALIST

Photojournalist     I began working as a photojournalist in 1970, starting with a community newspaper in West Memphis, Arkansas called Many Voices. I was paid $14.50 every two weeks but I didn't care. I wanted to write. Not only did I write, I also developed and printed photographs for the paper and helped with layouts. After I left Many Voices, I contributed periodically to the The Southern Mediator Journal in Little Rock and had photos published in Jet magazine and other publications.

Sometimes in  early 1973, I met photojournalist Chester Sheard, then a correspondent with Muhammad Speaks, a controversial Muslim publication with a huge circulation, bureaus all across the U.S. and stringers in various countries. He encouraged me to contribute to it, which I did.

During those days, I visited or reported from small towns in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas. Over the years, I also took reporting trips to California, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. But most of the time, reporting was done by phone. In 1974, after having several freelance articles published in Muhammad Speaks, I was invited to Chicago and offered a position as a staff reporter. A year later, the paper sent me to the Printing Industries Institute of Illinois and Indiana where I studied newspaper and magazine layout and design. I wasn't interested in it but went anyway. I wasn't ready to look for another job.For years, I was stuck doing layouts and reporting.

LAYOUT, REPORTING AND EDITING
From 1974 to 1987, I worked as a reporter, layout editor, copy editor, managing editor and foreign affairs editor. I eventually became the editor of Chicago-based Muslim Journal and held the position for about two years before I was dismissed. Among the people I interviewed were former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Former Liberian U.N. envoy Winston Tubman, the late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, Dumasani Khumalo, South Africa's Ambassador to the U.N., representatives of South Africa's apartheid regime when it was in power, Palestine Liberation Organization officials and revolutionaries from the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress and the Southwest Peoples Organization of Namibia, the Polisario Front of the Western Sahara, to name a few.

Although I've covered events in the the Caribbean and North Africa, 99 percent of my work was in the United States, where I concentrated during the mid-1980s on diplomatic reporting and interviewing foreign officials that regularly visited the U.S. I've also visited England and Mexico.

My articles were often pirated by publications in the U.S., the Caribbean, South Africa and other countries. Some articles have been referenced in books. I never complained about the pirating because I was glad to have the exposure.

During my tenure at Muslim Journal, I spoke to inmates at Federal prisons in Lewisburgh, Pennsylvania and at Terra Haute, Indiana. I also spoke at several colleges, universities and schools in Illinois and Michigan.

I was a frequent guest on WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago, and WGCI radio during the tenure of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. I was also profiled in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press.

After leaving Muslim Journal, for a while I served as a correspondent for Sadaqa-TV, a local cable access program.

THE LEGAL PROFESSION
I also worked for the Chicago Council of Lawyers. While at the council, I took and completed a course at John Marshall Law School called "Law for Community Developers and Social Workers. This made me think about becoming a lawyer. But first I decided to go to paralegal school, to gain experience working in the legal profession and to see if I wanted to undergo the rigors of law school.

In 1991, I went to the Chicago Park District as a litigation paralegal specializing in discovery. I readily took to it because of the research and investigation involved. During that time, I started work on a novel and did periodic, freelance editing. I decided I didn't want to go to law school.

THE DIPLOMATIC TIMES, INC.

In December 2000, I formed The Diplomatic Times, Inc. (TDTI) For a while, I published The Diplomatic Times newsletter, and a website at The Diplomatic Times.Com. Those ventures were folded to concentrate on Internet publishing. My blogs are not owned by TDTI. In between, I taught myself how to create web pages after spending hundreds of dollars to have one designed that was never completed. I've studied Arabic since 1999 and intend to study it for the rest of life. I studied psychology at Chicago State University and English and Communications at East-West University in Chicago. I am a graduate of Roosevelt University's acclaimed Paralegal Studies program and have taken continuing legal education courses. In addition to my blogs, I also own numerous domain names.

Last Updated: August 26, 2007

Munir Umrani
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Obama Forced to Walk a Tightrope as He Denounces Ex-Pastor

The Wall Street Journal Online's Suzanne Sataline and Douglas Belkin make important observations about sermons in many African-American churches in a March 17, 2996, post headlined "Blunt Sermons Rooted in Black Tradition."

While the sermons of Mr. [Jeremiah] Wright, Sen. [Barack] Obama's blunt-speaking pastor, who is about to retire, may sound spiteful to some, they are rooted in the history of black protest and a Christian theology shared by some African-American churches," they note.

I highly recommend the article, which comments on the controversy surrounding some of Reverend Wright's sermons. See "Obama strongly rejects remarks by former pastor" and Church: Obama ex-pastor is under unfair attack." Also see "Pastor removed from Obama committee."

For two African-American perspectives, please see "The White Man's Burden is Not the Black Man's Responsibility" and "The Politician and His Pastor."

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March 15, 2008

We've Had 43 White Male Presidents to Date: Why?

Recommended: Andrew Foster Altschul's March 15, 2008, Huffington Post article headlined "ZZ Packer Takes on Geraldine Ferraro." I really like the opening paragraph, which says:

"So, forty-three white male presidents to date, and Geraldine Ferraro says [Barack] Obama's gotten where he is because he's black?"

The point? They got to be president because they were white.

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March 12, 2008

Is McCain More Hawkish on U.S. Foreign Policy Than Bush?

Bloomberg.Com correspondent Hans Nichols reported March 12, 2008, that,  John McCain, the Republican Party's nominee in the presidential election in the United State in November 2008, "is at least as determined as George W. Bush to stay the course in Iraq and more confrontational than the president on foreign policy issues ranging from Russia and China to North Korea."

If you want to know more, see "McCain More Hawkish on Foreign Policy Than Bush, Comments Show."

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March 9, 2008

Clintons Want Obama to Take Second Spot on Democratic Ticket

William Jefferson Clinton, the forty-second president of the United States, has joined his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, in suggesting that she and Senator Barack Obama  would make a formidable team against the Republican ticket in the November 2008 presidential elections in the United States. See "Bill Clinton: A Clinton-Obama ticket would be 'unstoppable.'"

Both Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton are seeking the Democratic Party nomination to face Republican nominee John McCain. Of course the Clintons think Ms. Clinton should lead the ticket despite the fact that Mr. Obama is ahead in delegates. In fact, the Clinton's seem to think Senator Clinton is entitled to lead the ticket. Such arrogance.

Sensibly, Mr. Obama has said it is too early to talk about Clinton-Obama ticket or an Obama-Clinton ticket when there are still primaries and caucus ahead and so-called "super delegates to woo.

If anything, Ms. Clinton should end her campaign and join Mr. Obama' in the Democrats' effort to win the White House .

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March 8, 2008

Can Obama Campaign Remain Positive and Still Beat Clinton?

CNN commentator Roland S. Martin maintains in a march 6, 2008, commentary that Senator Barack Obama faces a tougher task [than Senator Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States] because of his denunciation of the politics of old, which have sort of tied his hands." See "Commentary: Now it's Obama's turn to make adjustments."

"He is expected to be Mr. Positive on the campaign trail, and not go negative against Clinton," Mr. Martin wrote. "Yet there are ways in which he can better define Clinton that will not only not be seen as negative, but also better reposition him leading into the final contests."

I concur with Mr. Martin's analysis.

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Obama's Campaign Advisers Should Keep Their Opinions Private

Harvard University professor Samantha Power, one of Democratic Presidential contender Senator Barack Obama's foreign policy advisers, did the right thing on March 7, 2008, when she apologized and then resigned for calling Senator Hillary Clinton, Mr. Obama's rival to be the Democratic party nominee to face Republican nominee Senator John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election in the United States, a monster. It was the money quote in an interview she gave the The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper. The article was published March 7, 2008.

Mr. Obama, who has pledged to run a clean campaign devoid of personal attacks, disavowed Ms. Power's remarks.image

In discussing her mistake, which gave both Senator Clinton and McCain ammunition to use against the candidate she supposedly supports, Ms. Powers has been quoted as saying:

With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser to the Obama campaign. I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months.
The Ireland born, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2003), told the Boston Globe: "I care passionately - obviously, too passionately - about the Obama campaign. At the moment I felt I might do damage to the campaign, it was essential for me to remove myself and all the distractions that I had brought."

Obviously, she didn't care enough to keep her mouth shut. Issue and policy advisers should not speak for the campaign or publicly voice their opinions. Their opinions should be for the candidate and his staff's ears only.

Now, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business economics professor Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser to Mr. Obama, should should also resign. On February 8, 2008, he supposedly told Canadian consulate officials in Chicago that Mr. Obama's position on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was just political posturing. This embarrassed Mr. Obama and gave Senator Clinton another issue to attack him on the eve of the March 4, 2008, Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island primaries. It put Mr. Obama in a  defensive posture for four days.

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Campaign Advisers' Words Should Only Be for the Candidate

Harvard University professor Samantha Power, one of Democratic Presidential contender Senator Barack Obama's foreign policy advisers, did the right thing on March 7, 2008, when she apologized and then resigned for calling Senator Hillary Clinton, Mr. Obama's rival to be the Democratic party nominee to face Republican nominee Senator John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election in the United States, a monster. It was the money quote in an interview she gave the The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper. The article was published March 7, 2008.

Mr. Obama, who has pledged to run a clean campaign devoid of personal attacks, disavowed Ms. Power's remarks.image

In discussing her mistake, which gave both Senator Clinton and McCain ammunition to use against the candidate she supposedly supports, Ms. Powers has been quoted as saying:

With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser to the Obama campaign. I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months.
The Ireland born, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2003), told the Boston Globe: "I care passionately - obviously, too passionately - about the Obama campaign. At the moment I felt I might do damage to the campaign, it was essential for me to remove myself and all the distractions that I had brought."

Obviously, she didn't care enough to keep her mouth shut. Issue and policy advisers should not speak for the campaign or publicly voice their opinions. Their opinions should be for the candidate and his staff's ears only.

Now, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business economics professor Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser to Mr. Obama, should should also resign. On February 8, 2008, he supposedly told Canadian consulate officials in Chicago that Mr. Obama's position on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was just political posturing. This embarrassed Mr. Obama and gave Senator Clinton another issue to attack him on the eve of the March 4, 2008, Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island primaries. It put Mr. Obama in a  defensive posture for four days.

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