Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
CBC members gush over Fidel ... now there's a bad idea!
There is a certain segment of the 60s-era left (the Ron Kuby segment, we'll call it) and of the 60s-ear African-American left, too, that remains enamored of Fidel Castro. Not sure if it's the favorable impression on black America when he first took power, even traveling to Harlem and staying at the famous Theresa Hotel, or Cuba's taking in black activist Assata Shakur after her cop killing conviction, or Castro's alleged abolishment of racism on the island (Kuby's love affair is due to the fact that he just likes revolution, according to a recent ep of his radio show.) However ... um ... Fidel Castro is a dictator, guys ... an actual one. And while I think the U.S. embargo of Cuba is a stupid anachronism that should be scrapped immediately -- especially since we're the only ones upholding it (while trading with and being bankrolled by Communist China) -- sometimes I wish that black folk with Castro affections would keep those particular feelings to themselves...
Lee and others heaped praise on Castro, calling him warm and receptive during their discussion. But the lawmakers disputed Castro's later statement that members of the congressional delegation said American society is still racist.

"It was quite a moment to behold," Lee said, recalling her moments with Castro.

“It was almost like listening to an old friend,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.), adding that he found Castro’s home to be modest and Castro’s wife to be particularly hospitable.

“In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor,” Rush said.
Um ... yeah. ... That said, it's hard not to support the purpose of the CBC trip -- to encourage normalized relations, trade and dialogue. Only, without the gushing, maybe?

Meanwhile: President Obama will head to Trinidad & Tobago next week for the Summit of the Americas regional meeting, which will include Hugo Chavez, but apparently, there will be no one-on-one talks. However:

What if Chávez walks over to Obama during a coffee break, I asked. ''If they run into one another at a coffee break, my president is not going to run away from him,'' one U.S. official said.

Hey, and Chavez probably won't call Obama the Devil, either. Progress!

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 AM  
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
What's it going to take to make Bob Johnson shut up?
Black Exploitation Television founder Bob Johnson continues to be an embarrassment, most recently as regards his support for defeated presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Bob's latest hit? He has written to SC Congressman Jim Clyburn to ask for ... well ... a little favor:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Billionaire businessman Bob Johnson, a close adviser and friend to Sen. Hillary Clinton , launched a campaign Wednesday to persuade Sen. Barack Obama to offer the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket to Clinton.

Johnson told CNN's "American Morning" that Clinton knows about his push but "she didn't direct me to do it."

A day after the final two primaries, Johnson sent a letter to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Wednesday to lobby the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Clinton as Obama's running mate. He said it needs to be done for the sake of party unity.

"There's no question that Sen. Clinton will do whatever she's asked to do for the party and she will certainly … entertain the idea if it's offered," Johnson said.

In his letter directed at the Congressional Black Caucus, Johnson wrote:

"As African Americans we agree that the stakes in this election are far too high to take any chances that this party will not be unified from the top to the bottom in our effort to gain control of The White House." ...

... "You know as well as I the deep affection that millions of African Americans hold for both Senator Clinton and President Clinton. … But most important, we need to have the certainty of winning; and, I believe, without question, that Barack Obama as President and Hillary Clinton as Vice President bring that certainty to the ticket."

Johnson, who founded Black Entertainment Television, also owns the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team.

He told CNN he was not trying to limit Obama's options, or force him to pick Clinton.

"My letter was not a pressure letter," he said. "This is Sen. Obama's decision.

"If the Congress members can come together and agree as I do that it would be in the best interest of the party to have Sen. Clinton on the ticket, they carry that petition to Sen. Obama," he said.

"This is not a pressure. This is elected officials giving their best judgment."
So Bob wants Hillary to join the ticket of a man he once derided as a drug dealer? Seriously? And he thinks that ... what ... pro-Clinton Congressional Black Caucus members (of whom Clyburn is certainly NOT ONE ... he's been clearly pro-Obama the whole way and formally endorsed him this week) have some sort of leverage with the Obama campaign? Signs point to "no," Bob. Go back to exploiting Black college kids and playing low-brow music videos, you know, the things you do best. Politics is just not your bag. 
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posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The Obama dilemma, part two
I had a front row seat to the late adoption of Barack Obama's candidacy by Black folk. I can still remember having to defend Barack against streams of angry callers -- all of them Black -- and from my own program director at the time (at Radio One Miami), who were calling him a phony, not really Black, and accusing him of never having fought for civil rights "the way Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have." Black folk were supremely skeptical of Obama. I can recall conversations with two very prominent African-Americans, one in the clergy, one in the media -- neither of whom I'll name -- who expressed sentiments about Obama that were so negative, no downright nasty, that I was frankly shocked. One of the two has taken to doing gauzy interviews with the candidate ... the other has conspicuously warmed to his candidacy...

To be honest, in was those on-air (and in studio) battles in large part that turned me from a long time, and I do mean long time Clinton supporter (I loved the 90s, thought Bill Clinton was a great president, particularly on the economy, and wanted Hillary to run in 2004) to an Obama supporter. I had known of Barack since Harvard (he's a bit of a legendary figure there among Black students) and have met him on a few occasions, including in 2004 when I was working for Harold Ickes 527 (America Coming Together.) I always figured he'd eventually run for president, though no one could have imagined it would be this soon, or this strong a run. Perhaps because of that familiarity, in the beginning, the charm he held for the media, and particularly for young white folks, was largely lost on me. Besides, I, like many political watchers, thought the Clinton machine was unbeatable.

But there came a time -- around mid-year last year -- when I realized that I couldn't remain on the fence. There was no way I could side with Hillary against him -- choose a white woman over a Black man -- and while I'm usually not that strictly racial, I thought I had to make that decision, and declared on the air last summer that I would vote for him, not her (and I did vote for him on January 29th.) I'll never forget a conversation I had with State Senator Fredrica Wilson after an Obama speech at the Miami Auditorium (a damned good speech, by the way) on August 25th of last year. I caught up with the Senator afterward to get an interview for the next morning's show, and she surprised me by being exceptionally blunt, saying in plain terms that after all we've fought for, and after all we tell your young Black boys about what they can become if they just work hard, how can anyone -- including any Black elected official -- not support this young man, who has done all that we tell our sons to do? That was game over for me.

Here in South Florida, it has been bizarre, watching the Black electorate swing broadly in Barack's direction, including on Primary Day, even as all three Black Congresspeople from Florida support Hillary (Kendrick Meek has even been traveling with former President Clinton, including during the South Carolina contretemps...) And a couple of weeks ago, Bishop Victor Curry, probably the most prominent Black religious leader in South Florida, went off on Meek for going in the opposite direction of his constituents. (The dust-up didn't last long...)

So imagine my surprise (or not) at reading that more than a few Black electeds are having second thoughts about their early endorsement of Hillary Clinton... From the Associated Press:
In a fresh sign of trouble for Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the former first lady's congressional black supporters intends to vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, and a second, more prominent lawmaker is openly discussing a possible switch.

Rep. David Scott's defection and Rep. John Lewis' remarks highlight one of the challenges confronting Clinton in a campaign that pits a black man against a woman for a nomination that historically has been the exclusive property of white men.

"You've got to represent the wishes of your constituency," Scott said in an interview Wednesday in the Capitol. "My proper position would be to vote the wishes of my constituents." The third-term lawmaker represents a district that gave more than 80 percent of its vote to Obama in the Feb. 5 Georgia primary.

Lewis, whose Atlanta-area district voted 3-to-1 for Obama, said he is not ready to abandon his backing for the former first lady. But several associates said the nationally known civil rights figure has become increasingly torn about his early endorsement of Clinton. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing private conversations.

In an interview, Lewis likened Obama to Robert F. Kennedy in his ability to generate campaign excitement, and left open the possibility he might swing behind the Illinois senator. "It could (happen). There's no question about it. It could happen with a lot of people ... we can count and we see the clock," he said.

Clinton's recent string of eight primary and caucus defeats coincides with an evident shift in momentum in the contest for support from party officials who will attend the convention. The former first lady still holds a sizable lead among the roughly 800 so-called superdelegates, who are chosen outside the primary and caucus system.

But Christine Samuels, until this week a Clinton superdelegate from New Jersey, said during the day she is now supporting Obama.

Two other superdelegates, Sophie Masloff of Pennsylvania and Nancy Larson of Minnesota, are uncommitted, having dropped their earlier endorsements of Clinton.

On Wednesday, David Wilhelm, a longtime ally of the Clintons who had been neutral in the presidential race, endorsed Obama.

The comments by Scott and Lewis reflect pressure on Clinton's black supporters, particularly elected officLinkials, not to stand in the way of what is plainly the best chance in history to have an African-American president.

"Nobody could see this" in advance, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black in Congress, said of Obama's emergence. He is officially neutral in the race, but expressed his irritation earlier in the year with remarks that Clinton and her husband the former president had made about civil rights history.
I've always wondered what kind of pressure Mr. Lewis -- the second most prominent speaker at the 1963 March on Washington after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and a man considered far more militant than King when it came to civil rights -- must be under, having fought so hard for civil rights, only to wind up siding against the Black man with the best chance ever, of becoming president ... apparently, he is wavering so much he could soon switch sides. The pressure on Lewis and other Black lawmakers is unfair -- but it's real.

And then there's this:
One black supporter of Clinton, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, said he remains committed to her. "There's nothing going on right now that would cause me to" change, he said.

He said any suggestion that elected leaders should follow their voters "raises the age old political question. Are we elected to monitor where our constituents are ... or are we to use our best judgment to do what's in the best interests of our constituents."

In an interview, Cleaver offered a glimpse of private conversations.

He said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois had recently asked him "if it comes down to the last day and you're the only superdelegate? ... Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?

"I told him I'd think about it," Cleaver concluded.

Jackson, an Obama supporter, confirmed the conversation, and said the dilemma may pose a career risk for some black politicians. "Many of these guys have offered their support to Mrs. Clinton, but Obama has won their districts. So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position" in the future, he added. ...
I go back to that John Conyers quote I posted here:
"To me, there's a historical consideration in this as well," Conyers says. "How in the world could I explain to people I fought for civil rights and equality, then we come to the point where an African American of unquestioned capability has a chance to become president and I said, 'No, I have dear old friends I've always supported, who I've always liked.' What do you tell your kids?"
What do you tell them, indeed.

Whom you support in a presidential contest is a deeply personal decision, and not one that should be subjected to external scrutiny. That said, the Obama candidacy is a gut check moment for most Black Americans, whether we want it to be or not. It's a bit of a shame that it's that way, and I'm very heartened by the fact that in so many ways, Barack's candidacy is race neutral. That's part of the reason it's been so successful. But while his run transcends race for white people, it carries the banner of race for black folk, if that makes any sense, and many of us are struggling with it (just as I'm sure Irish Catholics did with JFK and Jewish people did with Joe Lieberman, etc., etc., etc...)

I for one am proud to have voted for, and in my limited capacity, endorsed, the man who could be America's first black president. I'm proud of my country for rendering that fact somewhat less remarkable today than it would have been, even ten years ago. And I wouldn't want to be a Congressional Black Caucus member for Hillary today, for all the money in the world.

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posted by JReid @ 11:56 PM  
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Three for the road
The CBC debate so far has attracted three comers: Kucinich, Gravel and Biden. Should be a barn burner...

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posted by JReid @ 9:16 AM  
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Faux friends
The CBC has some dubious friends -- a handful of nefarious African dictators ... Michael Jackson ... but their latest association takes the cake. In short, why would the Congressional Black Caucus want to get in bed with Fox News?

You've probably noted the fact that the much touted CBC-Fox Democratic presidential candidate debate has been seriously undermined by the withdrawal of the major candidates, starting with John Edwards, and then followed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Second tier candidates are also either jumping ship or looking shaky -- with the exception of Joe Biden, who wouldn't turn down an invitation to talk in the center stage of Hell. The effort to separate the candidates from the debate, and the CBC from the right wing mouthpiece network, has been spearheaded by the group Color of Change, and for good reason: not only does Fox News carry water for the Republican Party, which itself is an anathema to anything resembling African-Aemrican interests, Fox itself traffics in some of the worst rhetoric about Black people, including employing so-called analysts who liken Barack Obama to a terrorist, and ridicule his church as a cult, and giving credence to the Karl Rovian fairy tales about rampant voter fraud among Black and Brown voters, which of course can only be remedied by putting Bible thumping Bushies in place as U.S. attorneys in swing states...

And yet, the CBC isn't backing down, distributing "talking points" to members and staffers on how to "cast the debate in a positive light" and even sending a letter to the major candidates urging them to reconsider. As Afro-Netizen reveals, by posting both the letter and the signatures, the CBC is clearly not united on the issue. Among those NOT signing the missive are Florida's three Black Congressmen, as well as Maxine Waters, a key leader of the Out of Iraq Coalition. And as the New York Times points out in an article today (same link as above), some of Fox's moves to court Black members of Congress carry the distinct stench of purchase:

By design or not, News Corporation also gained currency among black and Hispanic leaders by helping orchestrate a campaign to increase the participation of minority viewers in the television ratings system, a task it entrusted to a consulting firm with strong ties to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, in turn, has established a relationship with Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, who, for example, held a fund-raiser for her last year during her Senate re-election campaign. ...

... Despite a fierce debate within the 43-member caucus over whether to sever ties with Fox News, those representing the caucus in its dealings with Fox have thus far held firm. The network itself has apparently urged the caucus to do just that. There was, for example, a meeting for caucus press secretaries attended by representatives of News Corporation and Fox News, where talk turned to how to publicly present the merits of the debate. (Also working in Fox’s favor is that the debate is to be held in Detroit, the home city of Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kirkpatrick, the caucus chairwoman.) ...

...The partnership between Fox News and the caucus began in earnest in 2003, when the news channel responded to the caucus’s request for a broadcast partner for its debates for the 2004 presidential election. (Technically, the caucus was sponsoring the debate through an affiliate group, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute; the use of the institute gives the caucus itself some distance, even though several prominent caucus members are on the institute board.)

Fox’s proposal included broadcasting the debates in prime time, giving the caucus a say in selecting moderators and covering much of the production cost, said one former caucus staff member close to the negotiations.

Months after joining forces with the caucus, Fox News created internships for students at Morgan State University, a black college in Baltimore, in the Congressional district of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who was then chairman of the caucus.

In June 2003, its political action committee, known as News America-Fox, made a $1,000 contribution to Mr. Cummings’s political committee.

The Fox group later made contributions of at least $1,000 each to other caucus members, including Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, and Gregory W. Meeks and Edolphus Towns of New York. The political arm of the caucus itself received a $5,000 contribution from the Fox group, in May 2006. And on the Web site of its foundation, the caucus lists News Corporation among several dozen corporate sponsors.

Nice. At least Ms. Clinton demonstrated the independence to pull out of the debate, even if she probably did so mostly out of fear of being attacked from the left by Edwards' and Obama's campaigns. Those CBC members still on board with Fox are starting to appear to be purchased, no returns, no exchanges. And as the liberal Koskids point out, some members, like Bennie Thompson, are even lashing out at critics in a manner that's strangely reminiscent of ... well ... Fox News. As James Rucker, president of Color of Change wrote in an op-ed in The Hill this past week:
In his letter to The Hill on May 17, “No CBC member has urged institute to forgo Fox debate,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) proclaims that there is a “clear consensus” within the Congressional Black Caucus that the CBC Political Education and Leadership Institute should proceed with its plans to co-host presidential debates with Fox. This claim simply doesn’t match up with reality and it’s hard to imagine how Thompson could believe otherwise.

At least 10 CBC members have stated their opposition to the Fox debate deal, either in The Hill or in conversations with our organization. Most, despite our urging, do not want to comment publicly, saying that they prefer to express their concerns in private.

Thompson’s letter appears to be an attempt to undermine the voices of other CBC members. By belittling dissenting opinions as “misperceptions” and “misleading statements,” Thompson communicates to The Hill readers and CBC members that he has the power to speak on behalf of the entire caucus, without challenge, regardless of what has already been said.

It’s unsurprising that some members are reticent to express their disagreement with Thompson and Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), the two members most eager for a Fox partnership. Thompson dug his heels in long ago, and Kilpatrick’s vehement support for the debate is hard to separate from the fact that it would be held in her home district (Detroit), where her son is mayor. It’s clear that challenging the Fox partnership means challenging two powerful leaders in the CBC. With last week’s letter, Thompson made it clearer. …

Thompson describes resistance as coming from “liberal activist groups” concerned primarily about Fox’s “conservative bias.” What he doesn’t mention is that across the country, black community newspapers, columnists, radio hosts and bloggers have expressed outrage that the CBC appears to be — as one CBC member put it — “getting in bed with a racist network.” …
or worse, getting in bed with a right wing cable network for money.

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posted by JReid @ 1:07 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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