Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Reasons not to fire the spook photo lady?
I'm sure by now you know about the Tennessee State Senate staffer who e-mailed this "historical keepsake photo" of the 44 U.S. presidents, depicting Barack Obama as a "spook." (She says she sent it to the wrong list ... and the right list would have been, what ... David Duke, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and you mama???)

Well, should Sheri Goforth, the staffer in question, be fired? Welll ... the Nashville Scene says she's just a symptom of a greater, nastier cause:

Think about the people she works for as a secretary. Since January alone, they've accused Barack Obama of being a foreign national. They've accused the federal government of turning socialist. They've tried to assert their sovereignty from the United States, playing the part of ingrate welfare client. (Last I heard, Tennessee gets $1.23 back for every dollar it kicks to the feds in taxes.)

They profess love for Jesus, but won't listen to what he has to say. They've tried to kill prenatal care, women's health clinics, and pre-kindergarten funding. They've even attempted to reject federal stimulus money for the unemployed. But they have tried to put a gun in every bar, park and playground. Jesus would have liked that.

One is a slumlord. Another smacked around his daughter for dating a black guy. Still another would like to tie Mother Nature to a tree and torture her with an arch welder.

These are the people Goforth works for. Is it any wonder she believes what she does? But to fire her only picks off a middle-aged lady. It does nothing to heal the greater wound, which is composed by the creeps, racists, half-wits and professional victims who make up the Tennessee legislature.

Here's Goforth's boss, Diane Black, on CNN:

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The threat, and cause, of Obama Derangement Syndrome
Stipulated that people on my side of the aisle had no love for George W. Bush. But dislike of Bush was different from the current, truly scary, Obama hatred in a couple of significant ways.

First of all, Bush derision was initially based on the 2000 election, which was seen as illegitimate not because people didn't think Dubya eligible to serve as president, say, because he's secretly a foreigner or a Muslim or a terrorist ... but rather because the election was decided by the Supreme Court. After 9/11, even Bush criticism, let alone "bashing" was practically disallowed in public, and pressure was even extended from the deferential media to the entertainment industry. Once the fear of criticizing the president wore off, the lingering dislike (and in some cases hatred) of the former president was based on a collective alarm about such ephemera as his administration's massive domestic spying apparatus, the war against Iraq, which it turns out, was as unnecessary and ideologically driven as it was deadly, not to mention what turns out to have been a policy of American-made torture. In other words: "Bush Derangement" if you want to call it that, was based on a loathing of Bush administration policies. Attitudes toward Bush himself, if you have to characterize them broadly, tend to lean more toward the comical. And while derision of Bush as a dunce bugs those on the right, it's hardly the same chilling talk that derides our current president as tantamount to a Marxist, Socialist, anti-American Muslim terrorist. [Left: a leaflet distributed in Dallas on the day of JFK's assassination. Courtesy of Prose]

Obama hatred is based on something entirely different than Bush hatred: not anger at his policies, but a profound and irrational fear and loathing of the man himself, because of myths -- including some that were generated by Republicans during the 2008 campaign, in some cases to the point of hysteria -- about his background, "associations," plus paranoia about the dastardly things he's really, really planning to do to conservatives, up to and including confiscating their firearms and putting them in concentration camps... And rather than being scorned, minimized (or ignored) by the media, as opposition to Bush often was, especially in the two years between 9/11 and the start of the Iraq war, Obama hatred is being fueled in the hearts of the black helicopter crowd by elements of the influential right. Frank Rich concludes
WHEN a Fox News anchor, reacting to his own network’s surging e-mail traffic, warns urgently on-camera of a rise in hate-filled, “amped up” Americans who are “taking the extra step and getting the gun out,” maybe we should listen. He has better sources in that underground than most. ...

... Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”

If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.

The question, Shepard Smith said on Fox last week, is “if there is really a way to put a hold on” those who might run amok. We’re not about to repeal the First or Second Amendments. Hard-core haters resolutely dismiss any “mainstream media” debunking of their conspiracy theories. The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality — I emphasize might — belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.

So what is the right overreacting to? Perhaps it's to what they see coming, electorally and demographically:
Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the past five elections, though in one case (2000) they did not end up in the White House. In years in which they have also won the electoral vote, Democrats have racked up sizable margins. Obama bested John McCain by 365 to 173, and Bill Clinton's two victories were in the same range. George W. Bush's two electoral-college victories were narrow; he won 271 votes in the disputed election of 2000 and 286 in his 2004 reelection.

What has brought this about? It's not just one thing -- it's everything. Start with the Democrats' success in the suburbs. Lang's formula is that demography and density have combined to help Democrats: They dominate not just the cities but also the urbanized suburbs that contain the largest share of the suburban population in America.

Democratic strength in the counties around Philadelphia, around Detroit and in Northern Virginia have squeezed Republicans dramatically. Increasingly, Republican strength outside the urban areas counts for less. "There's just not enough rural folks and small-city people left in America in the key states that determine the electoral college to offset that difference," Lang said. "You're out of people."

That's one geographical reality. The other, which became acute in 2008, is that outside the South, Republicans are in trouble. McCain won the South in November, but Obama swept the rest of the country by an even bigger margin. The same pattern holds now for House and Senate seats. Republicans may continue to win governorships in Democratic-leaning states, but in congressional and presidential elections the geographic divides are sizable.

Brownstein reeled off a list of statistics that all arrived at the same place: The South now accounts for a greater share of Republican strength than at virtually any time since the party's founding. That base is too narrow, as even Republicans know.

Demographically, the forces at work have chipped away at what was once a GOP-leaning majority in the country. The most important is minorities' rising share of the vote. Whites accounted for 76 percent of the overall electorate last November, down from 85 percent in 1988.

In the last election, there were more than 2 million additional African American voters, about 2 million more Hispanic voters and about a million more Asian American voters. All are groups in which Obama increased the Democratic share of the vote over 2004. Frey estimated that minority voters in nine states made the difference in Obama's victory margin.

Republicans can't reverse the demographic trends; their only solution is to increase their share of the minority vote. Opposing Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's Supreme Court nominee, because of her pride in being a Latina won't help solve that problem.

... Leading Mike Murphy to predict a coming Republican Ice Age. If you want to see what might be aptly renamed Republican Demographic Panic in action, you need only read anything by increasingly unplugged white nationalist Pat Buchanan.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this analysis, but those who differ had better come up with a good reason Republicans can win nationwide again, short of an absolute Obama meltdown. And while they're at it, they might want to chat with their highest profile people about perhaps not trying to bring about such a meltdown by vilifying the president of the United States in ways that riles up the scariest elements of their base.

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posted by JReid @ 9:33 AM  
Friday, June 12, 2009
Has Pat Buchanan jumped the shark on Sotomayor?
Pat, the Sons of Confederate Veterans member and jovial face of the white power movement, has written a new piece for Human Events (the desperate right wing magazine that keeps filling my in-box with pleas for money and conspiracy theories about how the U.S. Postal Service is out to destroy them.) And this one goes right after the heart of the Angry White Man, with arguments that are straight out of the 1980s. In short: Pat Buchanan believes that Judge Sonia Sotomayor didn't really graduate first in her class ... anywhere. She stole the first place finishes of some downtrodden white guy. Read on:
Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that, to get up to speed on her English skills at Princeton, Sotomayor was advised to read children's classics and study basic grammar books during her summers. How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of "Chicken Little" and "The Troll Under the Bridge"?
After ridiculing Sotomayor's English speaking ability, Pat gets to his real point:

In video clips dating back 25 years, and now provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sotomayor, according to the Times, even calls herself an "affirmative action product."

"The clips include lengthy remarks about her experiences as an 'affirmative action baby,' whose lower test scores were overlooked by admissions committees at Princeton University and Yale Law School because, she said, she is Hispanic and had grown up in poor circumstance."

"If we had gone through the traditional numbers route of those institutions," says Sotomayor, "it would have been highly questionable if I would have been accepted. ... My test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates."

Thus, Sotomayor got into Princeton, got her No. 1 ranking, was whisked into Yale Law School and made editor of the Yale Law Review -- all because she was a Hispanic woman. And those two Ivy League institutions cheated more deserving students of what they had worked a lifetime to achieve, for reasons of race, gender or ethnicity.

This is bigotry pure and simple. To salve their consciences for past societal sins, the Ivy League is deep into discrimination again, this time with white males as victims rather than as beneficiaries.

Pat concludes with the following bit of irony:

Lay out the Sotomayor record -- SAT scores, LSAT scores, bar exam score, law review articles and her opinions -- so that we can see up close what those who eviscerated Robert Bork regard as academic and judicial excellence.

No need for name-calling.

Well, no need for name calling after we give Pat a Mulligan for calling Sotomayor "Miss Affirmative Action..." The NYT article in question contains the following:

... Judge Sotomayor insisted that her test scores were sub-par — “though not so far off the mark that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions.” Her scores have not been made public. “With my academic achievement in high school, I was accepted rather readily at Princeton and equally as fast at Yale, but my test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates,” she said. “And that’s been shown by statistics, there are reasons for that. There are cultural biases built into testing, and that was one of the motivations for the concept of affirmative action to try to balance out those effects.”

... which Pat takes to mean that she scored lower than the required minimums to get into those colleges.

Well, as a former 4.0 high school student who scored in the 95th percentile nationally on the SAT (and the 98th percentile on the PSAT), and who then was admitted to Harvard, probably in part because they wanted the diversity of having a Black first generation American from the West (Colorado) on campus (in fact, we were told that they balanced our dorm assignments based in part on achieving such diversity...) let me assure you, Pat, that Ivy League colleges DO have a minimum test score requirement (at least for those whose parents and grandparents didn't attend the schoolo.) And as this issue of whether or not we belonged at the school came up almost immediately, in the first class I took at Harvard ("Ec-10," the Martin Feldstein economics course...) we did some checking around the Yard. And it turned out the Black and Hispanic students I went to school with had equal or even HIGHER average test scores than the white students. In fact, I went to school with more than one white student who had not only sub-par high school grades, but also sub-par high school test scores. What those students DID have going for them was a family name -- one that dated back generations at the institution. Hell, I knew one girl whose last name was the same as one of our freshmen dorms in Harvard Yard ... literally.

But Pat has no problem with the form of affirmative action known as "legacy," because it benefits people like George W. Bush -- he of the sub-par grades all throughout his young adult life, which led him to be admitted, not just Yale, but also Harvard Business School, where he still managed to emerge dumb as a post.

As Slate's Michael Kinsley once pointed out:

Sure, a C student can become president. It helps if his father was president first and his grandfather was a senator and he was born into a family that straddles the Northeast WASP aristocracy and the Sun Belt business establishment. And a C student at prep school can get into Yale by adopting a similar action plan of strategic birth control. (That is, controlling whom you're born to.)

Nor, apparently, does Pat have a problem with affirmative action as applied to Black conservatives. He fails, interestingly enough, to mention another sitting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his Jeremiad, despite the fact that Thomas has admitted, just as Sotomayor has, to being a "product of affirmative action":

Indeed, Thomas' rise from his dirt-poor upbringing in rural Georgia into an elite Ivy League law school is an affirmative action success story. But don't take our word for it. Take his.

In a November 1983 speech to his staff at the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, Thomas called affirmative action ''critical to minorities and women in this society.''

Then, his remarks got personal: ''But for them (affirmative action laws), God only knows where I would be today. These laws and their proper application are all that stand between the first 17 years of my life and the second 17 years.''

As an undergraduate at Holy Cross College, Thomas received a scholarship set aside for racial minorities. He was admitted to Yale Law School in 1971 as part of an aggressive (and successful) affirmative action program with a clear goal: 10 percent minority enrollment. Yale offered him generous financial aid.

Affirmative action can't guarantee success, but it can open doors previously closed to women and people of color. The rest is up to those who walk through the doors.

Indeed, once Sonia Sotomayor "walked through the doors" of Princeton and Yale, the grades she earned were a product of her own hard work. Even on the famous Ivy curve, it's not common to get so many As that you wind up at the top of your class, unless of course Pat believes the professors at Yale were engaged in a "racist" conspiracy to give automatic As to any Hispanic woman who showed up. (If that particular brand of affirmative action existed at Harvard, I want a re-do ... or my money back.) BTW Clarence apparently only turned on affirmative action when he graduated from Yale Law and says he couldn't find a job at a "major law firm." (Hell, I graduated during the Bush I recession. Cry me a river, man.) And retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor faced precisely the same problem as Thomas did when she graduated from Stanford Law School. Thomas isn't special, he's just especially whiney. By the way, Thomas' trouble getting immediate employment may have had more to do with Clarence Thomas than with affirmative action...

In particular, the African-American justice has blamed Yale's affirmative action program for stigmatizing black graduates, and contends his law degree is worth only "15 cents" because of it. However, that just isn't true, in their experience, fellow African-American graduates of the law school say. Although Thomas has complained that he couldn't get a job as a starting associate at a major law firm because of the devaluation of his law degree by Yale's affirmative action program, classmates suggest other factors may have been the issue, reports American Lawyer in a lengthy article. Possibilities include Thomas' grades (they aren't publicly known), his then-counterculture persona and his apparent lack of knowledge and interest in networking effectively in the corporate world.

... not to mention the fact that Thomas' complaints are belied by the fact that his mediocre backside is now SITTING ON THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT... thanks to both actual affirmative action, and the kind George H.W. Bush employed when he nominated him.

Meanwhile, Sonia Sotomayor was clearly an outstanding student. And you get voted to lead the law review, not by some touchy-feely faculty, but by your peers. Clearly, they knew something Pat -- who went to Georgetown and Columbia School of Journalism, but still seems to be suffering from something like envy of Sotomayor's academic resume -- doesn't. Maybe we should open up the records of which undergraduate schools Pat applied to back in the day. Were Princeton and Yale on the list?

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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Are white conservatives suffering from 'discrimination envy?'
//So I went and committed myself to taking part in this multi-part "conversation on race" over at Open Salon. (Had I known it was going to be this much work I might have thought better of it, but there you go...) Anyway, here's my entry. You can view previous parts the series here. //

I thought I'd heard it all when Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union over slavery, demanded that Judge Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize, presumably to all white men for saying, as we've now heard umpteen times on cable news (and never in context,) that she would "hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would make a better decision than a white man who hadn't lived that experience."

Never mind the context, Graham was offended "as a white guy," and he was just one part of the feeding frenzy on the right which followed the unveiling of that statement. It was almost as fascinating as listening to conservatives try to explain that, really really, the underwhelming Clarence Thomas wasn't nominated to the Supreme Court pretty much just because he's black and conservative. Sotomayor has been called everything from an "affirmative action baby" (never mind her honors graduation from Princeton and seat at the head of the Yale Law Review) and most pointedly, a "racist!..." including by Newt "Tweets" Gingrich (who soon took it back...) and right wing radio jock Rush Limbaugh, whose racial bona fides include once telling a black caller to "take that bone out of [her] nose" and call him back. The Sotomayor Derangement Syndrome sprang in part from her daring to join organiations while in college that celebrated her Puerto Rican heritage, and for associating herself with the National Council of La Raza, which the arguably insane Congressman Tom Tancredo (who once called Miami a "third world country" because there are too many Latinos down rehe for his taste,) likened to the Ku Klux Clan. Well beam me up, Scotty.

The charges of reverse racism were made with such zeal and relish -- you almost begin to wonder whether the loud mouths were blowing the dog whistle or hearing it; somehow following what they knew to be an underlying and very real anxiety, even a kind of "discrimination envy" -- among white men of a certain age; plus a frustration about being the only group that doesn't get to cry "ism" when their feelings are hurt.

Indeed, for white men in America, it's been one hell of a half century. From desegregation to affirmative action to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of '64 and '65, the last 50 or so years have been a period of steady deterioration for the image of white man as America's boss and father figure. In America's collective theater of the mind, white men have traversed from Neil Armstrong and JFK to Al Bundy, Dick Nixon and Jimmy Carter. J.R. Ewing, Don Johnson and Ronald Reagan reinvigorated the brand for a while, but it didn't last.

On television in the 1970s, the fed up white guy was represented by Archie Bunker, who felt free to rail against blacks, foreigners, assertive women and all the rest of what was wrong with the Brave New multicultural world, but only inside his house. The Reagan era brought us a reinvented Archie named Rush Limbaugh -- far less lovable, louder and more blandly vicious than the Norman Lear character (and three times less capable of keeping a wife,) but still venting a real frustration at what seemed to be a world filled with teachers who want his kids to learn Spanish, Mexicans who are taking all the jobs (and not learning English), and Hollywierdos who fill his TV with blacks, browns and "queers", and who keep telling him, in ways large and small, that people like him -- meat and potatoes, Christian white men like the kind who "built this country" and who like their big cars, their cigarettes and their women in skirts -- aren't cool anymore. By the time Archie took its last Klieg lights in the late 70s, Title IX and affirmative action (whose dirty little secret is that it benefits white women more than any other group) had ripped June Cleaver from the kitchen and created a new generation of board room hustle-women who don't want to get married or have kids until they turned 40, or ever, and who don't like to be called "gal."

The 80s and 90s brought hip-hop, where a white guy pretty much has to muse about killing his mama to be taken seriously, and which stole a generation of young white college guys from good old rock and roll. Baseball was taken by the Latinos, basketball and football by the "brothas," hell even golf eventually fell to Tiger Woods (though he's not actually black according to him, he's "Coblanasian," which is black for "please don't call me black.") And there were the Cosbys, who forever replaced the Cleavers as the prototypical American TV family. (To add insult to injury, the show that for a long time was the lead in to Cosby was "Family Ties," in which the lone conservative white male character, Alex P. Keaton, was often the butt of the plot's jokes.)

In 2008, the real live Cosby family showed up. In a matter of months, as Barack Obama began to be taken seriously by the press, by voters, and by the Clintons, the cool white dude playing the sax and wearing shades on the "Arsenio Hall Show" was shoved aside by the even cooler Black/mixed dude with better shades, who was aiming to become the REAL "first black president." You could almost hear Bill Clinton's head exploding every day of the campaign. Clinton went from the guy who lamented the way politicians campaign among "all these insecure white folk" by scaring the hell out of them, to the guy trying desperately to scare the hell out of them on behalf of his wife's campaign.

It's cold comfort, it seems, that white men still controll 85 percent of the nation's board rooms, hold 84 percent of the highest corporate titles (CEO, COO and the like,) and that "just 6 percent of corporate America's top money earners are women," and "only 3 percent of board members are women of color." There is exactly one black female CEO of a major corporation in the U.S. (her name is Ursula Burns, and she now runs Xerox.)

Blacks and Hispanics may dominate on the diamond, court and field, but white men still control 95% of professional NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball franchises.

In Hollywood, Will Smith may have replaced Tom Cruise as the modern era's top earner and box office king, and Shonda Rimes ("Grey's Anatomy" creator") and Oprah may be at the top of the money market, but the majority of films featuring black actors are rehashes of "Boys in the Hood" or slapstick comedies, as Spike Lee has wryly pointed out. On television, the buffoonery is even worse, with not a "Cosby Show" in sight. (If you don't believe me, try being a black Hollywood actress for a day who isn't Halle Berry ...) And across the entertainment spectrum, don't let Diddy and Jay Z fool you, the vast majority of entertainment industry executives are NOT African-American (and neither are the vast majority of its stars.)

In fact, if you look at any statistic, from poverty, to unemployment to high school graduation rates, and on and on, and you'll find that in reality, black and brown people haven't even come close to catching, let alone eclipsing, white men.

So why all the gnashing of teeth It's called politics. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote (53%) since Jimmy Carter. And while he didn't win a majority of the white vote, he won enough of it (43%) to carry him to victory, because he swept every other demographic group, particularly minorities and young people. There was a particularly fixation with white voters and their relationship to Obama during the campaign, and for good reason. Prior to last year, the notion of a black U.S. president -- particularly one named Barack Hussein Obama -- seemed almost absurd, mainly because it was assumed that white people would never vote for such a person (remember how wrong people like Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews were about white voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio?) But the 2008 election proved a point that Buchanan, Gingrich and other seasoned politicos, and even the portly Mr. Limbaugh understand. Namely, the country's population, and voters, are shifting steadily brownward.

Thus the panic that Limbaugh, Buchanan, Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly and others are exhibiting, about "racism," about Sotomayor, the Ricci case (and "Lou Dobbs" nightly jeremiads about illegal immigration,) is not the panic of people who really believe that minorities are outshining white men economically or even socially. It's the panic of men who hear the drumbeat of the next national election, one that will be held after all the damage that's been done to the GOP, by the GOP with Hispanic voters (and long since with blacks.) Meanwhile, the percentage of white voters in the 2008 voting population shrank precipitously:

"The overall message is total ballots cast by white Americans was down, while African Americans and Latinos cast way more ballots than they did in 2004," said Jody Herman, a researcher with Project
. "And young voters, age 18-29, cast over 1.8 million more ballots than in 2005, which is a 9 percent increase. That increase was greater than any other age group."

... In contrast, 2.88 million more African Americans, 1.52 million more Latinos, 67,000 more Asian Americans and 1.32 million members of other minorities, voted this fall compared to four years ago. That is 1.18 million fewer white voters and 6.96 million more minority voters.

Moreover, precisely which white voters stayed home was telling:
"I think absolutely white Republicans did not show up," he said. "They were turned off, disillusioned. They did not turn out. Democratic voters did come out. They couldn't wait to vote."
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, his voters were 98 percent white. Had he received the same turnout of whites, blacks and Hispanics as we saw in 2008, he would have lost the election. Which brings us back to Lindsey Graham, Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Gingrich and others, (plus this guy) plus the right's favorite drum major: Fox News. Their two-week orgy of Sotomayor condemnation seems tailor made to target the white guys out there who really do feel like so many Frank Riccis -- victimized by "Jim Crow liberalism," having studying harder and overcoming more obstacles than the pampered Princetonians and birth certificate hiding Harvard grads living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with their exotic childhoods and degreed pomposity, and yet, being denied opportunities at work, at colleges, in sports, and hell, in life ... wait for it ... because they're white. To those Archie Bunkers out there, who found their voices (and their pitchforks) at Sarah Palin rallies and who don't realize G. Gordon Liddy is an actual criminal (or that Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck are not actually delivering the "news,") and who wouldn't care anyway, because these people are speaking up for them, the leaders of the right -- such as they are -- are offering to lead a new civil rights movement, which shall consist mainly of voting Republican.

Cross-posted at OpenSalon.

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posted by JReid @ 3:19 PM  
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Unless of course, the judge ISN'T a racist...
Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former House speaker who would dearly love to be president ... but who never will ... is one of those conservatives who has spent their adult life tisk-tisking Black and Brown people for calling people who look and think like him, "racist," and for "playing the race card," also known as "race hustling." Well, a funny thing happened when Newt did a little race hustling of his own. He got backslapped by reality. So now, Newt is walking back his "Sonia Sotomayor is a racist" tweet, while also learning that Twitter can be dangerous to the verbally impuslive. Newt emailed the following mea culpa to supporters:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.

With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
He then goes on to try and re-explain his opposition to Sotomayor like an adult, rather than an angry, screaming kid in the mall, like he and his winger friends have done so far. Good luck with that. So why the change of heart? Why, people whose support he just might need
when he runs for president in 2012 -- you know, the ones who actually have jobs in the Republican Party -- were not amused.

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posted by JReid @ 10:05 AM  
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Lindsey Graham: Sotomayor should apologize to white people
We have truly entered the Bizarro World of right wing politics. Senator Lindsey Graham, who represents South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, and a former bastion of slavery and Jim Crow, has now officially demanded that Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize to all white men for making them feel bad.

Yep. That's it. I've now heard it all.

BTW, I wonder if that nut-bag Tom Tancredo will now call Miss Lindsey a quasi member of the KKK for having addressed La Raza on the subject of immigration reform back in 2007...?

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
Judge Sotomayor? How NICE
Did you notice how nice, effusive and positive the elected Republicans were to Judge Sotomayor on the Sunday shows today? I think our children IS learning... Well, except for Mitch McConnell. I think he was just born mean...

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posted by JReid @ 2:40 PM  
Friday, May 29, 2009
Limbaugh attacks Cornyn, calls Native Americans 'clowns'
And this is the guy worried about a "racist" getting onto the Supreme Court? Rush Limbaugh, famous for his positive attitude toward ethnic minorities, has done it again. His attack on John Cornyn, whose conservative credentials he questioned today, was expected. After all, Cornyn made the seminal mistake of disagreeing with Boss Limbaugh for likening Judge Sonia Sotomayor to David Duke. But then, El Rushbo up and swallowed the "golden microphone":
Rush got the final hour started with "one more thing" about Sonia Sotomayor -- a mental exercise: "She said that because she is a Latina, because she is a Hispanic woman, that she'd -- because of the richness of that experience, she'd be a better judge than a white guy. What if she had said because of her rich experiences as a Latina, as a Hispanic woman, that she'd be a better judge than a black guy? What do you think the reaction to that might have been?"
Go on ...
"If we want to talk about richness of experience, there's a group of people that were here before we got here, gang: the Indians, the Native Americans, the chiefs, the redskins. I don't see any of them being put up on the courts. Talk about a richness of experience -- hell, these clowns beat Custer. They have cred. You don't see them being put up, do you?"
Oh, that's not good.

Meanwhile, how long before the White House knuckles under to the wussified Old School Democrats and force Judge Sotomayor to issue a meek and full throated apology to white people everywhere, even as they're winning this debate??? The media, from Politico to the New York Times to the loathsome New Republic, is already doing its part to cow the would-be Justice on the "wise Latina" issue, and so far, Robert Gibbs is playing along.

UPDATE: So is Barack.

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posted by JReid @ 6:01 PM  
Remainders: Tom Tancredo's bad company, and the increasingly crazy right
Apparently Tom Tancredo, who Migra Matters accuses of having been too mentally unstable to serve during Vietnam (ouch!) and who apparently lives in fear of a "Latino KKK," gets flagged by of all people, Little Green Footballs, for continuing to employ (jointly with our good friend Pat Buchanan) a racist nut who attacked a black woman on the streets of D.C. (Apparently, the LGF crowd doesn't much like "paleocons," especially Buchanan -- they think they're fascists.) The LGF crew even helpfully linked to the assailant, Marcus Epstein's rap sheet. So who is Epstein? He's a Vdare contributor (and why not?) and apparently, is vying for Michelle Malkin to become the "world's darkest white supremacist." According to LGF, he "uses his Jewish-Korean background" as a cover for white supremacist activity. ... and he's a drinker... Way to go, Tancredo!

Staying with the crazy race card, did you hear the one about the dummy who took out an Obama assassination classified ad? Cue the Secret Service. (Hat tip to Salon's war room.)

What's amazing, and scary, is how quickly the Obama election has brought out the crazy, previously sublimated elements of the racist underbelly in this country, even in what used to be thought of as the mainstream right. We saw it at Palin rallies during the campaign, when people felt liberated to voice assassination fantasies in public, or shrieked that if Obama were to win, "blacks would take over," and we see it in the wingnuts who even now, desperately cling to the idea that Barack Obama is some foreigner masquerading as an American and hiding his real birth certificate, and in the occasional spasms of violent extremism with an Obama theme. But I suppose compounding the Black president with a Latina Supreme Court nominee was enough to pop the crazy cork completely out of the bottle. God, what will they do if he nominates a Black woman Justice next time?

Meanwhile, how long before John Cornyn has to apologize to Rush for saying he disagrees with his attacks on Sotomayor? And can elected Republicans walk back the lunacy before it's too late?


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posted by JReid @ 4:50 PM  
Countering the oppression of the white man
The right's self-sabotage just won't end. Also from Salon:
RedState's editor, Erick Erickson, felt compelled to stand up for white men on Wednesday. "I dunno, Sotomayor," he wrote on Twitter. "Considering white males engineered Western Civ, you'd think they'd have a handle on things to be able to make decisions."

Not surprisingly, the idea of trying to block a Latina judge from the Supreme Court by stirring up resentment over affirmative action doesn't strike many observers as the best way to appeal to Latino voters. "If Sonia Sotomayor's name were John Smith, she'd be just as qualified, and no one would be charging affirmative action or reverse racism," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who left John McCain's presidential campaign last year because he didn't want to help it go negative against Obama. "To suggest as much is itself racist. And I think most Americans see right through the smoke screen."

The White House -- which wouldn't comment for this story -- isn't exactly trying to avoid reminding people of Sotomayor's Puerto Rican heritage, preferably with a soft-focus lens that plays up the historic nature of her nomination. If conservatives overreach in opposing her, the administration won't complain. "Latino voters are responding with a tremendous sense of pride and appreciation," said Fernand Amandi, executive vice president of Bendixen & Associates, a Democratic polling firm that surveyed Latino voters for Obama's campaign last year. "The Hispanic community -- especially after the immigration issue -- is very sensitive to dog-whistle attack politics. During the immigration debate, Hispanics were never directly attacked or called out, but the message they received was they were not wanted here." The dog-whistle line may have already been crossed; it's not exactly a hidden message to call someone a race hustler.

Republicans who actually have to win elections don't seem interested in engaging in the backlash politics. "The approach that many of the senators and leadership is taking is, well, you know, let's give her a fair hearing and see what she has to say," said GOP pollster Glen Bolger. "It's really hard to stop this kind of nomination [with only 40 Senate seats], and then there's the political Hispanic angle." A Republican consultant who advises GOP candidates on winning Latino votes, Lionel Sosa, said he expected most senators to ask plenty of questions about Sotomayor, then support her. "For Republicans to mount a filibuster is foolhardy," he said. "If a Republican doesn't care about getting reelected, and a Republican doesn't care about the image of the Republican Party, they may vote against her, but I think in the end, we'll see who the smart ones are and who the not so smart ones are by how they cast their votes."
Dog ... whistle...

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posted by JReid @ 12:57 PM  
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Oh here we go ...
Republicans have already begun hurling themselves off that cliff ... BTW why is it that so many white winger men seem to get so much enjoyment out of calling people racist? It's almost as if calling non-white people racist, as the wingers are now gleefully doing with Judge Sotomayor, is the pretty colored drink in the fancy bottles in mom and dad's cabinet, that they're just dying to open, taste, and refill with water so mom and dad don't find out... A sample:

Ooooohh... The brown lady's racist... (eyes rolling) Really? Really guys? I mean Rush Limbaugh is the guy who launched "Barack the Magic Negro" and once told a Black caller to "take the bone out of her nose" and call him back. Glenn Beck, Mr. "I'm afraid to have black friends," who I once heard on his show say that he'd be upset if his daughter brought home a black man, is calling OTHER PEOPLE racist? Interesting... Me thinks the wingers doth protest too much...

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posted by JReid @ 3:21 PM  
Friday, May 08, 2009
Jeff Sessions: Man of the Old South
The GOP's pick for ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee has a rather colorful history when it comes to race... the recollections of a former Sessions subordinate, a Black man named Thomas Figures, are particularly interesting:

Figures recalled one occasion in which the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sent them instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close: "We had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them.'"

All of them, according to Figures, meant civil rights cases generally. As he explained at one point: "[T]he statement, the manner in which it was delivered, the impression on his face, the manner in which his face blushed, I believe it represented a hostility to investigating and pursuing those types of matters."

Figures said that Sessions had called him "boy" on a number of occasions, and had cautioned him to be careful what he said to "white folks. "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks,'" Figures testified. "Had Mr. Sessions merely urged me to be careful what I said to 'folks,' that admonition would have been quite reasonable. But that was not the language that he used."

In response to these allegations, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) asked him if he'd ever objected to this behavior. Senator "Did you ever say anything to them? Did you ever say, knock it off, or quit it?"

Figures admitted he hadn't: "Senator, I felt that if I had said anything or reacted in a manner in which I thought appropriate, I would be fired. I always felt that my position was very tentative around Mr. Sessions."

Yep. The GOP has had it.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Michael Steele ... gets jiggy with it...???
Could this guy be more embarrassing? The New York Times spins a tale of near failure, turned into very close to success:
For decades, top Republican officials have looked at Mr. Steele and seen the promise of minority votes. He was recruited in the 1980s by Lee Atwater, a strategist who was the first of many excited by the charismatic, black Roman Catholic.

Outside politics, Mr. Steele struggled. He tried the priesthood but left as a novice. Later he practiced law for seven years in Washington (after passing the Pennsylvania state bar, he said), then started a consulting firm that made so little money that he almost lost his home.

But in the weak Maryland Republican Party, in a state that is 30 percent black, Mr. Steele was an instant hero. (The moment she saw him, said Joyce Terhes, the former state party chairwoman, she knew he was a keeper.) He zoomed from volunteer to state chairman to running mate in a race for governor.

Before the 2002 election, The Baltimore Sun published an editorial saying that because of his lack of experience, Mr. Steele brought “little to the team but the color of his skin,” outraging him and his supporters.

When Mr. Steele became lieutenant governor, he found himself among the highest-ranking black Republicans in the country, instantly embraced by President George W. Bush and his allies. Speaking to black groups, he was often the only Republican in the room, and in some Republican gatherings, the only African-American.

More than other black Republicans, “he has this unique capacity to connect with black audiences in a pretty soulful way,” said the talk show host Tavis Smiley. When Mr. Steele ran for the Senate in 2006, Russell Simmons, the hip-hop music executive and a Democrat, went to Maryland to endorse him.

Running in an unpopular year and state for Republicans, Mr. Steele tried to shed ties to his party. He called the “R” in Republican a “scarlet letter” and omitted his affiliation from advertisements: instead he talked about his love for puppies, his mother and the music of Frank Sinatra. On Election Day, campaign workers passed out sample ballots that listed him as a Democrat.

And that's the guy they chose as chairman...

Meanwhile, the Steele hip-hop fiasco continues to provide comedy gold (hat tip to Matt Ortega)

And don't forget the original "U Down wit GOP?" (Sorry, SNL, I thought of it first...)

For more wincing at Michael Steele's antics, check out:

The Reidblog Michael Steele page

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posted by JReid @ 3:36 AM  
Friday, March 06, 2009
Showing what they're made of
One Dittohead's view of Michael Steele:
It's not easy watching a black guy stumble around in the dark, but really, I'm trying.
And they wonder why most black people (well, those with an ounce of dignity, anyway...) wouldn't be caught anywhere near the GOP. Hat tip to SmirkingChimp, whose post of an article by Max Blumenthal also points out that Russell Simmons is, or was, a Steele supporter (he supported him during the 2006 Senate campaign, too.) Blumenthal takes us down memory lane:
The first African American elected to the position, Steele triumphed over a candidate who once belonged to a whites-only country club, and another who had distributed a CD that included the song, "Barack, the Magic Negro." Days after taking over the party's moribund infrastructure, Steele promised an "off the hook" PR campaign to apply conservative principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings"--offering the GOP a much-needed image makeover for the dawning of the age of Obama.
Meanwhile, Steele's mea culpa probably pretty much dooms him as a credible spokesman for the GOP, and:
... given Limbaugh's well-documented history of racial controversy, and Steele's position as the Republican Party's first African American chairman, his apology is more significant than Gingrey's. Limbaugh has, for example, mocked Obama as a "Halfrican-American" who should "become white;" he has called for a "posthumous Medal of Honor" for the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, and told an African American caller, "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back." Steele's "off the hook" PR campaign is now off the rails. Within days, he has gone from being "da man" to just another "Dittohead."
Update: as reported on Rachel Maddow's show tonight, Steele's got other problems to worry about.

The ReidBlog Michael Steele page

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posted by JReid @ 11:45 PM  
Friday, January 09, 2009
Blago impeached; Burris rebuffed

As expected, the Illinois Senate voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich today, with just one 'no' vote from a retiring State House member.

Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.

A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign.

Meanwhile, in the battle of Roland Burris vs Jesse White, it's Jesse by a vote:

The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

Burris was seeking to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat.

Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have cited the lack of White's signature as a reason not to allow Burris into the Senate.

White has maintained that his signature is purely symbolic, and the high court agreed in its refusal to grant the motion.

"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."

Um... somebody had better call Harry... how does this guy manage to lose even when he's not even playing?


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posted by JReid @ 2:16 PM  
Thursday, January 08, 2009
When Roland met Harry
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his sidekick, Dick Durbin would like you to know that Roland Burris doesn't think they're racist. And seeing as how Burris presents himself so well, and really, really loves his family... Harry will do what he always does: capitulate, this time in a self-created mess, and having allowed an embarassing spectacle to take place at what should have been the triumphal opening of the even more Democratic Senate. Just like I told you he would.

By the way, the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is a ceremonial matter and not at all necessary for Burris to be seated. Durbin and Reid's claims to the contrary are a pathetic sideshow, which White, by the way, resents. Oh, and he's black, too, although I'm sure he's extremely proud of his family...

I think I'll score this one, Rod Blagojevich: 2, Harry Reid: 0.


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posted by JReid @ 8:40 AM  
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Feinstein to Harry: let Burris in
The cracks in Harry Reid's leaky lifeboat begin to show:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders seeking to bar Roland Burris from the Senate suffered an important crack in support as they prepared to meet with him on Wednesday to begin negotiations over whether he will be able to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairwoman of the committee that judges senators' credentials, urged that the Senate seat Burris, arguing that his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich was lawful regardless of the corruption allegations swirling around the Illinois governor. "If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," Feinstein told reporters in a Capitol hallway Tuesday. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been Attorney General, he has been (Comptroller), and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."
Whoops! BTW that would be the rules committee that Feinstein is moving on from. And doesn't she want to be governor of California someday? (Her and Meg Whitman... wouldn't that be interesting. The layoff queen leading an economy in crisis...)


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posted by JReid @ 11:39 PM  
Burris turned away
The pictures that Harry Reid has got to be dreading just shot across the satellites. Roland Burris, surrounded by aides, security and media, attempted to present his credentials to the secretary of the Senate, and was rejected. He was not allowed into the Senate Chamber after leaving the secretary's office. Afterward, he held a brief press conference in which he and his lawyers promised to pursue their legal options. Here we go.

Harry Reid is using the excuse that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris' nomination, so the Senate doesn't have to seat him. That may work for today, but guess what? Everyone knows that the real reason Reid, Durbin and company won't accept Burris is that they don't happen to like the guy who nominated him ... that, and Harry and Dick had their own nominees in mind...

News reports suggest Reid may be trying to strike a deal with Burris, in which Burris would promise not to run in 2010. That strikes me as incredible hubris, given that every citizen has a right to run for office. Harry Reid doesn't have the God-given right to determine who the next Senator, or even the candidate in 2010, will be. First off, he isn't smart enough, or tough enough. If this goes to the Supreme Court, my money says Burris wins.

The media hacks are declaring Burris an egomaniac ... as if ALL politicians aren't egomaniacs...

Waiting for the video...


... the full Burris press conference:

And of course, a word from the new President Pro Tem of Black America, Bobby Rush, featuring his now infamous "standing in the schoolhouse door" comments:

UPDATE: The video, courtesy of AP...

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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Harry bar the door
Roland Burris is arriving at the United States Senate as we speak ... or type ... you get the picture. The expectation is that he will be prevented, perhaps bodily, from taking the oath of office as the appointed junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Harry Reid's Waterloo approaches...

CNN is doing it live!


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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
Sunday, January 04, 2009
On appointments under 'a cloud'
On December 19, 1998, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential powers in the Paula Jones sex harassment case (and the icky, irrelevant Monica Lewinsky scandal.) After the prurient Ken Starr, the Republican House leadership (led by confessed wife thief Bob Livingston, who replaced the disgraced, wife dumping fellatophile Newt Gingrich, and then resigned himself,) and the fatuous press corps had put the country through a full year of bawdy, useless sturm und drang (and about $80 million in wasteful spending,) Clinton was acquitted in the Senate, by a vote of 55-45 on the obstruction charge, and a 50-50 deadlock on the perjury charge, on February 12, 1999. [Photo at left from]

During the time of impeachment, Bill Clinton continued to exercise the full powers of his office, including operating a joint military campaign with Great Britain that was actively bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Senate did not move to curb his powers. And Clinton felt no burden to stop making appointments during that awful period in his presidency, including the following additions to his State Department:

On December 28, 1998, he appointed Eric James Boswell to a career diplomatic security post in the Office of Foreign Missions.

On December 29, he made a recess appointment of James F. Dobbins to a career post at the Office of European and Canadian Affairs.

And because the impeachment sideshow was just the end of a full year of fruitless investigation by Starr, and sensational media coverage, it's helpful to look at the entire year of 1998, when Clinton managed to make a number of appointments to the federal bench, all of which were acted on by Congress, even as Clinton was "under a cloud." Those included:

*Vote 190+: June 30, 1999
Keith Ellison Southern District of Texas
Gary Feess Central District of California
Stephen Underhill District of Connecticut
W. Allen Pepper Northern District of Mississippi
Karen Schreier District of South Dakota

Vote 262: September 8, 1999
Adalberto Jordan Southern District of Florida
Vote 263: September 8, 1999
Marsha J. Pechman Western District of Washington

Vote 307: October 5, 1999
Ronnie L. White Eastern District of Missouri

Vote 308: October 5, 1999
Brian T. Stewart District of Utah

Vote 309: October 5, 1999
Raymond C. Fisher 9th Circuit

And Congress didn't even hint at not seating them. In fact, 1998 marked the high water mark for roll call votes on Clinton judicial nominees - there were 13 such votes on lower court picks, more than any year in the Clinton presidency. And by the end of his second term, Clinton had put more judges on the bench than any president before him: fully 47% of those actively serving on the court.

What's the point? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the midst of a pretty ugly scandal; and he is attracting the gaze of the excitable press corps. But he made his Senate appointment before he has been convicted of anything, and before he has even been impeached. By what grounds, legal or ethical, can Harry Reid (who didn't seem to mind seating Clinton appointees during the president's impeachment, and worse, who had no trouble seating the treacherous Joe Lieberman, gavel and all, deny Blago's appointment of Roland Burris?


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posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Harry Reid's Waterloo
The Chicago Sun-Times delivered a swift kick in the giblets to our good friend Harry Reid this past week, reporting that he, like Rahm Emanuel, talked to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about a certain vacated Senate seat. However, while Rahm's wish-list was multi-cultural, the one proffered by our friendly neighborhood Mormon from Nevada, was most certainly not, at least according to Blago aides:

Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.

Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.

[Links added by me.] If you click them, you'll discover what Jackson, Davis and Jones have in common, and what Duckworth and Madigan do. (Hint: the latter two are both women...) But wait! There's more:

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.

Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.

The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.

The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.

So it seems that the Blago "Senate seat for sale" controversy is more complicated than first thought. Clearly, the governor was getting pressure from multiple sources, including Harry Reid, to appoint this person and not that one. So now, should we feel comfortable with Reid opposing Attorney General Roland Burris so strenuously, when we now know, or at least we can infer, that he was dead set against the appointment of three African-Americans, on the very Clinton primary-like basis that "they can't win?" Hm. And guess who Dick Durbin, who was on "This Week" this morning spouting off against the Burris appointment, was supporting for the Senate appointment? Duckworth. Go figure. These guys had, shall we say, a preference, which seemed to suggest doubt that a black candidate, or at least that these three black candidates, could win statewide in two years. But guess what? Burris has done just that -- multiple times.

In the end, Harry Reid will likely do what he always does: he will fold, and hinted as much this morning on "Meet the (pliant) Press" with David "Softball" Gregory. He will have to. It will be tough to physically block Burris from entering the vaunted Senate chamber with the likes of David "The John" Vitter swilling around in there, and with that body having brought home the treacherous Joe Lieberman, hoisted on Reid and Durbin's shoulders, and toasted the felonious Ted Stevens on his way out the door. Hell, Burris would probably be the cleanest guy there.

UPDATE: Reid on MTP this morning had the cheek to mention Danny Davis twice, among the list of "fine people," Burris included, who he'd be more than happy to welcome to the Senate, if only Blago would do the right thing and resign. So now, the Senate majority leader has given to himself, and to his partner in this affair, Lisa Madigan supporter Dick Durbin, the power to force a sitting governor to resign, before said governor has been either impeached or convicted of a crime. Really? You might find this clip from Reid's statement in 1998 on the Ken Starr investigation, and the House's impeachment of President Bill Clinton:

No prosecutor of integrity, of principle, of fairness would have tried to bootstrap a sexual affair into something criminal. A truly independent prosecutor would not make deals time after time with organizations established to embarrass the President, cavort with attorneys for Paula Jones, do business with Linda Tripp and others to entrap the President. A fairminded prosecutor would not have leaked salacious details to the press in an effort to force the target to resign from office. And, most fervently, a principled prosecutor would have the common sense and the common decency not to misuse their office to go all out, no holds barred, to `get' that targeted individual out of pride, anger and envy.
Now, it is not Pat Fitzgerald who is trying to force Blago to resign, it's Harry Reid, former trial lawyer. Meanwhile, Reid claimed that Blagojevich's camp is "making it up" and distorting his calls to Blagojevich and his alleged pooh-poohing the three black Illinoisians from the Senate. To defend himself against a Politico article that suggested he didn't want a black replacement for Obama, he pulled out the old "some of my best friends," argument, saying he'd served in the Senate with Carole Mosely Braun and worked hard to get Ron Kirk elected in Texas. Uh-huh...


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posted by JReid @ 10:47 AM  
Friday, January 02, 2009
Democrats poised to commit fundamental error on Burris
It's hard to believe that Rod Blagojevich could be considered a winner, well, ever, after his nasty travails with Patrick Fitzgerald and his handy wiretap, but it appears that Blago has found a way to win one against an admittedly easy target: Harry Reid and the wussified Senate Democrats.
Reports that the Dems plan to block Blago's choice to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, one Roland Burris, by any means necessary, have taken on dramatic proportions:
The Democratic leadership's current contingency plan for next week is reportedly for Burris to be met at the chamber by a doorman telling him he's not allowed inside. If he still tries to go in, armed police officers could intervene to get him away. Burris told the Los Angeles Times that he wants to avoid a scene and have all of this negotiated before he arrives, but it's unlikely that he could negotiate his way towards actually being seated.

And even if Burris does manage to physically enter the chamber, there are still a whole lot of avenues to keep him from being sworn in. The Senate is expected to launch a Rules Committee investigation to determine the legitimacy of his appointment, thus delaying him from being seated. They'll look at everything from the facts of the Blagojevich scandal to Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White's refusal to sign the certificate of appointment. Every undotted "i" and every uncrossed "t" will be scrutinized.

At that point, Burris might just be able to go to court and force the Senate to admit him. Many legal scholars believe he has a genuine case here. But even this could take a while -- which would appear to be the whole point.
Really? Do they really plan to do all of tthat? For real for real??? Because if they do, we will have the intriguing mental picture of the party that used to be the party of segregation sending armed police-like figures to stand at the Senate chamber door, George Wallace-style, to keep a black man from taking up the seat being vacated by the first black president of the United States, who was also the lone black member of the United States Senate, who was nominated to the presidency by the former party of segregation. If the circular irony is killing you, join the club.

Read the whole post here.

UPDATE: Oh my damn, I agree with Pat Buchanan again... except that he completely misses the irony that while the Dems had just one black Senator, the GOP has had none. Nada. And they don't have a single African-American in the House of Representatives, either, and precious few Hispanics. Then again, the GOP isn't on record as being the party of inclusion...

UPDATE 2: A lawyer comments on the almost certain legality of the Burris nomination, as does a professor of election law. The verdict: seat the guy, already. BTW, Burris appeared on PBS' News Hour tonight, and made a very strong case for taking the job. Did I mention that he's the former Illinois attorney general, and ergo, an attorney...?

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
Monday, December 29, 2008
Chip, the magic chairman

Consider this my official endorsement of Chip Saltsman to be the new RNC Chairman. Why? Because in my opinion, despite all the furor he's creating over his song choices, Saltsman best exemplifies the values of today's GOP. Why?

For starters, he's doesn't seem to be a serious person. And for decades now, the Republican Party has become more and more anti-intellectual, retrograde and unserious. Example: during the recent presidential campaign, rather than taking on Barack Obama on issues of substance (economic policy, foreign policy, etc.) Steve Schmidt and company accused Obama of being ... golly! ... a celebrity ... (well duh...) and of "palling around with terrorists," something no serious person believed. And the lack of seriousness from the opposition party could be further summed up in two words: Sarah Palin.

So Saltsman, with his silly CD full of screwball comedy bits like "Barack the Magic Negro," fits the bill. In fact, the Barack song is a great example of conservatism today. The Los Angeles Times column that it's based on, titled "Obama the 'Magic Negro,'" was written in March 2007 by a black guy (actually, a mixed race guy like Obama,) and media critic named David Ehrenstein, who was making serious and interesting points about Obama's candidacy and race in America. A clip:
The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."

Poitier really poured on the "magic" in "Lilies of the Field" (for which he won a best actor Oscar) and "To Sir, With Love" (which, along with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," made him a No. 1 box-office attraction). In these films, Poitier triumphs through yeoman service to his white benefactors. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is particularly striking in this regard, as it posits miscegenation without evoking sex. (Talk about magic!)

... And what does the white man get out of the bargain? That's a question asked by John Guare in "Six Degrees of Separation," his brilliant retelling of the true saga of David Hampton — a young, personable gay con man who in the 1980s passed himself off as the son of none other than the real Sidney Poitier. Though he started small, using the ruse to get into Studio 54, Hampton discovered that countless gullible, well-heeled New Yorkers, vulnerable to the Magic Negro myth, were only too eager to believe in his baroque fantasy. (One of the few who wasn't fooled was Andy Warhol, who was astonished his underlings believed Hampton's whoppers. Clearly Warhol had no need for the accouterment of interracial "goodwill.")

But the same can't be said of most white Americans, whose desire for a noble, healing Negro hasn't faded. That's where Obama comes in: as Poitier's "real" fake son.
The parody, on the other hand, was written and performed by a white guy and conservative comedian named Paul Shanklin. It tackles the deep, existential question of whether Al Sharpton thought Obama is really black. let's compare Shanklin's lyrics:
Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper
Said he makes guilty whites feel good
They’ll vote for him, and not for me
‘Cause he’s not from the hood.

See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,
Or me, or Farrakhan
Have talked the talk, and walked the walk.
Not come in late and won!
And Ehrenstein's:
The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged "inauthenticty," as compared to such sterling examples of "genuine" blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
Sorry, but aren't good parodies supposed to be at least half as interesting as the things they mock? There are other reasons think our friend Chip should become RNC chair. Here are a few:

1. He's not black. The GOP can only have one black spokesmodel at a time. Michael Steele and Ken Blackwell cancel each other out. Besides, the Republican Party has become so racially polarizing, and so tinged with scary, racist rallies, generic race-baiters, Alaskan secessionists and creepy bald guys, I doubt that either Steele or Blackwell would have much credibility with the rank and file. Even if they were accepted as party leader, either man would appear to all the world like a token, and the GOP needs genuine outreach to people of color, and much better ideas, not tokens.

2. He's from the South. At this point, the Republican Party is essentially a southern party, down to their decided preference for foreign automakers who locate south of the Maxon Dixon with an eye toward tanking American wages. A regional party should have a regional chairman, from a representative state (sorry, Jim Greer. Florida is a bit too cosmopolitan at the lower geographic end. And a state with so many prominent Latinos just won't fit in with the Dixiefide party you belong to.)

3. He ran Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. Ergo, he's both evangelical-friendly and prone to losing national elections. At this point, everyone in the GOP is one or the other (or both.)

4. He's clueless. This was his response to the hubbub over his holiday CD:
"Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on the 'Rush Limbaugh Show.'
Um ... if you thought that the column was "irresponsible," what makes you think the parody isn't?

and last but not least:

5. He's an equal opportunity offender (just like his pal Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the GOP.) After all, the Grand Old Party has not just turned off black folk. They've also spurned Hispanics, young voters, the middle class, smart people, scientists, non-xenophobes and anyone who opposes the Iraq War or doesn't worship George W. Bush. In short: everybody except the Palinites. So is it any wonder that while "Barack the Magic Negro" is getting all the attention, the rest of the CD is no great shakes either:
The CD, called "We Hate the U.S.A," blasts liberals with such musical greats as “Barack the Magic Negro,” first played on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, "John Edwards' Poverty Tour," "Wright Place, Wrong Pastor," "The Star Spanglish Banner" and "Love Client #9."
Great work, Chip. You've done your party a great service. You'll make a mighty fine chair.

UPDATE: Read this editorial. I wish I'd written it. It concludes:

The 1992 redistricting piled up non-white voters into congressional districts dubbed "minority-majority," to increase non-white representation in Congress. Republicans eagerly embraced the new take on voting rights, as they felt it would make dozens of white-majority districts less competitive for Democrats. There was also much hand-wringing among Democrats for the same reason, and some even argued that there was no point in increasing non-white representation in Congress if it meant that the party would never again regain power. Obviously, things have turned out quite differently for the Democrats, whose Congressional majority is now as strong as it has been in decades, thanks in part to its robust diversity, and to a growing indifference to race and ethnicity.

It is no coincidence that at the same time, the GOP has shriveled into a more uniform party than at most times since the 1960s. Like a restricted country club that would rather die than change, the Republican Party is marginalizing itself for the sake of the white men who run it. "Barack The Magic Negro" and Palm Beach aryanists are just the more bizarre manifestations of a party that has wallowed for so long in the privileges of its white male supremacy that it does not even realize that everyone has left the plantation, and they are not coming back.

But the whole thing is worth your time. Check it out.

UPDATE 2: Huck Thin defends the Chipster:

Chip should have been more careful in his selection of Christmas gifts, but no one who knows him would ever suggest that he in any way would purposely disparage other people. Chip knows how sensitive such issues are. It shouldn’t be the main factor in the RNC race.

I mean some of his best friends are Magic Negroes...

UPDATE 3: The GOP plans a January retreat, to search for its soul on racial issues ... no really, they're going to do that.

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posted by JReid @ 2:30 PM  
Saturday, October 25, 2008
John McCain's Tawanna Brawley moment
McCain volunteer Ashley Todd made it all up

Should John McCain have to spend the next ten years or more answering the question, "should you apologize to America for the Ashley Todd hoax?" I'll bet Al Sharpton is asking himself that question with no small amount of irony tonight. Todd, of course, is the Pittsburgh, PA McCain campaign college Republican volunteer who made up a story about being attacked, robbed, and sexually abused by a "6 foot 4 black man" at an ATM, and then having a backwards (mirror, anyone?) "B" carved into her face with a knife. The right bought the story hook, line and sinker, and between Matt Drudge (and his pals at Politico), talk radio and Fox News, it became a winger sensation, while threatening to touch off new racial tensions in the process.

Like the McCain-Palin rallies, it was ugly, and focused on "us" versus "them," in which "they" are alien, scary, and "not white." And like much that emanates from Camp McCain, the story was a complete and total hoax, for which Ms. Todd now faces legal jeopardy.

Brawley, you'll recall, was the New York City teenager who in November, 1987, claimed that she was abducted for four days, repeatedly raped and smeared with feces by a band of white men, including a cop named Daniel Pagones. The incident happened when I first moved back to New York (from Denver, Colorado) on my break from college. Like Al Sharpton, I believed Tawanna Brawley, so I'll forgive John McCain believing Ms. Todd. (Even 20 years later, Brawley's family still believes her story, and by the way, I've interviewed one of her attorneys, who does too.) But like Sharpton, McCain did more than believe. Not only did the Senator and presidential candidate call the young woman, his campaign in Pennsylvania actively pushed the story around to reporters, ramping up the spectacle of ogrish, black Obama supporters on the rampage, looking for young, white women to ravage, by supplying -- not passing on, but supplying -- the media with the lie that the "B" on Ms. Todd's face stood for Barack. If that reminds you of the bad old days of false rape accusations, followed by the lynchings of black men, you're where I am. But there have been other outrages that ended short of lynching.

Ironically, Ms. Todd's hoax comes almost 19 years to the day after a Boston man, Charles Stuart, shot his pregnant wife to death in their car and told police a black guy did it.

And who can forget Susan Smith, the North Carolina woman who in 1994 drowned her two adorable children by leaving them strapped into her sinking car, and then blamed the ubiquitous black carjacker?

But back to the McCain campaign. Per TPM, it turns out only two entities had custody of the now famous photos of Ms. Todd's alleged injuries:

The photographer who took the photos of Ashley Todd's self-inflicted injuries, only gave copies of the digital photos to the Pittsburgh police, and to her employers, the College Republicans.

This means there is no way the College Republicans and the McCain campaign was not involved in pushing this story, because Matt Drudge was up with the photo before the Pittsburgh Press even had access to them.

Here's the quote from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (emphasis mine):

Mr. (Dan) Garcia took the widely published picture of Ms. Todd with her injuries. He said he took several photographs with a digital camera to document what had happened. He said he only gave copies of the photos to police and Ms. Todd's employer, the College Republicans. One photo appeared on The Drudge Report on Thursday, setting off a storm of media attention.

Which means that the College Republicans, who are working on behalf of the McCain campaign, passed the story to Drudge. The rest, as we say, was history. The level of involvement that has been revealed regarding the McCain campaign puts the lie to the notion that they were simply hapless dupes, wanting to believe a young would-be victim. They were active participants in this hoax, and I return to my original question: should John McCain have to spend the next decade answering for that, as Rev. Sharpton did with Tawanna Brawley? After all, had police behaved in this case they way they did in the Stuart and Smith cases, hundreds of black men might have been rousted across Pittsburgh, some even harassed, because of this young woman's story. Some crazed Palinite might have decided to take matters into his own hands, and hurt somebody out of racial animus and a quest for revenge. This incident put lives in danger, though thanks to the professionalism and skepticism of the Pittsburgh police, it was quickly exposed as a hoax. And it added one last sickening chapter to the sorry end of John McCain's political career. (CNN gets kudos for ignoring it, too.) I'll let Fox News honcho Ron Moody sum it up for me:
"If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain's quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."


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posted by JReid @ 8:56 PM  
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Empire strikes b(l)ack
Republicans try to minimize the Powell endorsement as being all about race ... and they fail. First off, Collin Powell is about as racial a character as Mr. Rogers. In fact, the only people who have ever hawked Powell's racial characteristics were Republicans, who have for eight years demanded that black people praise George W. Bush for appointing him and Condi Rice. Powell has managed to stand so far above the racial fray, that before Barack Obama came along, he was considered the non-white person most likely to become president. Now that he has made his decision, Republicans can't try to drop him in the Jesse Jackson juice now.

And yet, Powell (and Obama) are emblematic of an emerging problem for the GOP, as articulated by the very fish-out-of-wateresque Reihan Salam:

Obama embodies a younger, more urban, more ethnic America, the America that is taking shape in our elementary schools. As a born-and-bred Brooklynite, this is my America, and it is one that has been largely absent from our national leadership during the long era of Republican dominance. Though Republicans have struggled mightily to look more like America, Colin Powell and Condi Rice can't change the fact that the GOP has increasingly become the party of evangelical Southern white men. It certainly doesn't help that Powell, a self-described Rockefeller Republican, has just endorsed Obama.

Because I share many of the values of evangelical Southern white men--a love of free enterprise and the movie Red Dawn among them--I feel comfortable in their presence, but I've never been under the illusion that I'm one of them.

And that, my friends, is the rub.

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posted by JReid @ 8:23 AM  
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Right on, John Lewis
The McCain campaign is in a huff over a statement from one of the three "wise men" John McCain claimed in that Rick Warren confab that he would consult in the White House if he were to become president: Georgia Congressman, and civil rights icon, John Lewis, who on Saturday ripped into the McCain-Palin ticket, accusing the campaign of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division." Referring to 1960s-era Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Lewis said in a statement on Saturday:
"As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

"During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

"As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."

To which the McCain campaign whinged:

"Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.

"I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America."

To which Lewis and the Obama campaign added:
Clarifying his remarks later Saturday, Lewis said his statement "was a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior."

"I am glad that Sen. McCain has taken some steps to correct divisive speech at his rallies. I believe we need to return to civil discourse in this election about the pressing economic issues that are affecting our nation."

Obama's campaign said Obama "does not believe that John McCain or any policy criticism is any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies" but said Lewis was "right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric."

So here's the thing. The McCain campaign is brimming with fake outrage over Lewis' remarks, but then the same day, what we can now call "the trouble" happens again...

The Iowa Independent reports that a minister who spoke at John McCain’s rally in Davenport, IA today injected a divisive statement into his invocation. Here’s what Pastor Arnold Conrad said:

I would also add, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.

Forcing the McCain campaign to "repudiate" again...
"While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama's judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief." - Wendy Riemann, Midwest Regional Communications Director

And McCain has another problem. What Rep. Lewis said isn't even the first time someone has raised the possibility that McCain and especially Sarah Palin, are systematically bringing the nut-jobs out of the woodwork. Chris Matthews has said it, as have David Gergen, Joe Klein, Bob Shrum and any number of commentators and analysts, some of whom I've chronicled here. Just this weekend, right wing talker Mike McConnell compared the McCain-Palin rallies to excursions into "Hooterville," and suggested that the only people still attending, and still interested in Bill Ayers, are people named "Jebediah and Jethro." And McCain has apparently realized himself that he's got to begin walking the crazies back from the grassy knoll. And McCain's troubles with his angry mob of followers are now an international story. No backing away from it now.

Here at home, just today, we have Frank Rich opening his column like this:
IF you think way back to the start of this marathon campaign, back when it seemed preposterous that any black man could be a serious presidential contender, then you remember the biggest fear about Barack Obama: a crazy person might take a shot at him. ...
Is what John Lewis said any more jarring than that? I think not.

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posted by JReid @ 6:31 PM  
Friday, October 10, 2008
Can the McCain campaign reign in the mobs?

Anger and frustration, even rage, have become the prevailing emotions at rallies for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin (not to mention their latest ads.) That's the storyline almost anywhere you look. And it's not a good look for a campaign that at this stage, has to bank on swing voters not being completely turned off by the spectacle of angry, vicious mobs hurling epithets at Barack Obama. From Politico sums it up:
The raw emotions worry some in the party who believe the broader swath of swing voters are far more focused on their dwindling retirement accounts than on Obama’s background and associations and will be turned off by footage of the McCain events.

John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist, said top Republicans have a responsibility to temper this behavior.

“People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, the differences with Sen. Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared to Sen. McCain,” Weaver said. “And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive.”

“Sen. Obama is a classic liberal with an outdated economic agenda. We should take that agenda on in a robust manner. As a party we should not and must not stand by as the small amount of haters in our society question whether he is as American as the rest of us. Shame on them and shame on us if we allow this to take hold.”

But, if it were up to them, such hard-edged tactics are clearly what many in the party base would like to use against Obama.
The anger is spilling over at campaign events such as the one in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the now infamous "angry man" held forth:
“It's time that you two are representing us, and we are mad,” reiterated the boisterous Republican at McCain’s town hall in Wisconsin Thursday. “So go get 'em!”

"I am begging you, sir, I am begging you — take it to him," pleaded James T. Harris, a local talk radio host at the same event, earning an extended standing ovation.

“Yosemite Sam is having the law laid down to him today in Waukesha, Wis.,” quipped Limbaugh on his show Thursday, referring to the GOP nominee. “This guy, this audience member, is exactly right,” the conservative talk show host said of the first individual.
The problem for Team McCain is that their current strategy only works with the base, which is shrinking, while the spectacle of shrieking, angry ralliers turns off key voting blocks, including suburban swing voters and Hispanics, or even conservative blacks (immigrants in particular) who can't possibly feel comfortable aligning themselves with what looks like a party driven in part by racial fears and animus. With Republican party identification declining, you can't win a national election with lower middle class whites alone (and even if you can pull it off this year, that strategy is clearly, demographicaly, a long term loser.)

Meanwhile, sane conservatives are weighing in:

Columnist Kathleen Parker says, "call off the pit bull":

... Neither McCain nor Palin would dare mention Obama's middle name, Hussein, but they can play up Obama's past associations and let others connect the dots. Terrorist. Muslim. Dangerous. Other.

It is legitimate to question character and dubious associations -- and William Ayers is certifiably dubious. The truth is, Obama should have avoided Ayers, and his denouncement of Wright was tardy. But this is a dangerous game.

The McCain campaign knows that Obama isn't a Muslim or a terrorist, but they're willing to help a certain kind of voter think he is. Just the way certain South Carolinians in 2000 were allowed to think that McCain's adopted daughter from Bangladesh was his illegitimate black child.

But words can have more serious consequences than lost votes and we've already had a glimpse of the Palin effect.

The Post's Dana Milbank reported that media representatives in Clearwater were greeted with taunts, thunder sticks and profanity. One Palin supporter shouted an epithet at an African-American soundman and said, "Sit down, boy."

McCain may want to call off his pit bull before this war escalates.

Former Michigan Gov. Roger Milliken (who endorsed McCain during the primary):

"He is not the McCain I endorsed," said Milliken, reached at his Traverse City home Thursday. "He keeps saying, 'Who is Barack Obama?' I would ask the question, 'Who is John McCain?' because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me.

"I'm disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues."

Milliken, a lifelong Republican, is among some past leaders from the party's moderate wing voicing reservations and, in some cases, opposition to McCain's candidacy.
Those include former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee, who comes from an old GOP family and whose father was Yale classmate of George W. Bush's father:

McCain campaigned for Chafee's unsuccessful re-election bid in 2006, but Chafee said he is concerned McCain has swung to the right, a divisive strategy that could make it difficult for him to govern.

"That's not my kind of Republicanism," said Chafee, who now calls himself an independent. "I saw what Bush and Cheney did. They came in with a (budget) surplus and a stable world, and look what's happened now. In eight short years they've taken one peaceful and prosperous world, and they've torn it into tatters."

As for McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate, "there's no question she's totally unqualified," Chafee said.

Bob Eleveld:

Bob Eleveld is a former Kent County Republican chairman who led McCain's West Michigan campaign in 2000. This year, he has remained mum unless asked.

"I'm not supporting either of them at this point," he said. "Suffice it to say there are a number of people who have been strong Republicans in the past, including party chairs, who feel as I do."

He declined to name them.

In the past, McCain was more of a moderate known for his straight talk, Eleveld said.

"I think the straight talk is gone," he said, describing himself as a member of the party's moderate wing. "I think he's pandering to the Christian right. That's some straight talk from me."

David Frum (who is still voting for McCain):

American voters are staggering under the worst financial crisis since at least 1982. Asset values are tumbling, consumer spending is contracting, and a recession is visibly on the way. This crisis follows upon seven years in which middle-class incomes have stagnated and Republican economic management has been badly tarnished. Anybody who imagines that an election can be won under these circumstances by banging on about William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright is … to put it mildly … severely under-estimating the electoral importance of pocketbook issues.

We conservatives are sending a powerful, inadvertent message with this negative campaign against Barack Obama's associations and former associations: that we lack a positive agenda of our own and that we don’t care about the economic issues that are worrying American voters.

... and he adds this:

Those who press this Ayers line of attack are whipping Republicans and conservatives into a fury that is going to be very hard to calm after November. Is it really wise to send conservatives into opposition in a mood of disdain and fury for a man who may well be the next president of the United States, incidentally the first African-American president? Anger is a very bad political adviser. It can isolate us and push us to the extremes at exactly the moment when we ought to be rebuilding, rethinking, regrouping and recruiting.

I’m not suggesting that we remit our opposition to a hypothetical President Obama. Only that an outgunned party will need to stay cool. A big part of Obama’s appeal is his self-command. It’s a genuinely impressive quality. Let’s emulate it. We’ll be needing it.

David Gergen:

"One of the most striking things we've seen in the last few day, we have seen it at the Palin rallies and we saw it at the McCain rally today," said David Gergen, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday evening. "And we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is a free-floating sort of whipping-around anger that could really lead to some violence. And I think we're not far from that."

Gergen's remark came hours after John McCain and Sarah Palin held a rally in Wisconsin that saw attendees pleading with them to go on the attack against Barack Obama over his past associations and "socialistic" behavior. Earlier in the week crowd members at other McCain-Palin events have screamed out that Obama is a terrorist, has committed treason, and should be killed.

"I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now," said Gergen. "I think it's really imperative the candidates try to calm people down."

Christopher Buckley (son of William F.) speaking about the hate directed back at conservative intellectuals on behalf of McCain-Palin, and announcing that he's endorsing Obama:
My colleague, the superb and very dishy Kathleen Parker, recently wrote in National Review Online a column stating what John Cleese as Basil Fawlty would call “the bleeding obvious”: namely, that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. She’s not exactly alone. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who began his career at NR, just called Governor Palin “a cancer on the Republican Party.”

As for Kathleen, she has to date received 12,000 (quite literally) foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails. One correspondent, if that’s quite the right word, suggested that Kathleen’s mother should have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster. There’s Socratic dialogue for you. Dear Pup once said to me sighfully after a right-winger who fancied himself a WFB protégé had said something transcendently and provocatively cretinous, “You know, I’ve spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks.” Well, the dear man did his best. At any rate, I don’t have the kidney at the moment for 12,000 emails saying how good it is he’s no longer alive to see his Judas of a son endorse for the presidency a covert Muslim who pals around with the Weather Underground. So, you’re reading it here first.

Then there are the once-McCian-friendly members of the media, including Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates:
The saddest thing about many Republicans isn't just that they disagree with liberals on race--it's they are largely ignorant on race. When the McCain campaign cast the spell of diabolical jingoism, they have no idea of the forces they are toying with. We remember Martin Luther King's murder as a sad and tragic event. Less remembered is the fact that ground-work for King's murder was seeded, not simply by rank white supremacy, but by people who slandered King as a communist.

This was not some notion bandied about by conspiracy theorist, but an accusation proffered by men who were the pillars of the modern Republican Party:
As late as 1964, Falwell was attacking the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "civil wrongs" legislation. He questioned "the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations." Falwell charged, "It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed."
Falwell was not alone. These men didn't kill Martin Luther King, but they contributed to an atmosphere of nationalism, white supremacy and cheap unreflective patriotism that ultimately got a lot of people killed. Confronted with Aparthied South Africa, men like Helms and Falwell used the same "communist" defense. While Mandella wasted away in prison, they dismissed the whole thing as a communist plot.

Let me be clear--This is the ghost that McCain Campaign is summoning. This is the Ring Of Power that they want to wield. The Muslim charge, the "Hussein" thing is nothing more than today's red-baiting, and it is what it was then--a cover for racists.
And Joe Klein:

But seriously, folks, I'm beginning to worry about the level of craziness on the Republican side, the over-the-top, stampede-the-crowd statements by everyone from McCain on down, the vehemence of the crowds that McCain and Palin are drawing with people shouting "Kill him" and "He's a terrorist" and "Off with his head."

Watch the tape of the guy screaming, "He's a terrorist!" McCain seems to shudder at that, he rolls his eyes... and I thought for a moment he'd admonish the man. But he didn't. And now he's selling the Ayres non-story full-time. Yes, yes, it's all he has. True enough: he no longer has his honor. But we are on the edge of some real serious craziness here and it would be nice if McCain did the right thing and told his more bloodthirsty supporters to go home and take a cold shower. But McCain hasn't done the right thing all year. His campaign is appalling, as the New York Times editorial board said today--and more, it is a national disgrace.

Well said. John McCain must now decide: he can dive in further into the muck and become a political Michael Savage, or he can try to salvage some shred of the integrity that he has mostly shredded during this most inglorious campaign.

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posted by JReid @ 1:05 PM  
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
A New York Times article Sarah Palin won't use in her stump speech
The Times' editorial board takes the McCain campaign to the woodshed:

It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.

They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison. ...

... Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.

That line follows passages in Ms. Palin’s new stump speech in which she twists Mr. Obama’s ill-advised but fleeting and long-past association with William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground and confessed bomber. By the time she’s done, she implies that Mr. Obama is right now a close friend of Mr. Ayers — and sympathetic to the violent overthrow of the government. The Democrat, she says, “sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Her demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses. A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled “kill him!” as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.

Mr. McCain’s aides haven’t even tried to hide their cynical tactics, saying they were “going negative” in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis — and by implication Mr. McCain’s stumbling response.

We certainly expected better from Mr. McCain, who once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics. He was driven out of the 2000 Republican primaries by this sort of smear, orchestrated by some of the same people who are now running his campaign.

And the tactic of guilt by association is perplexing, since Mr. McCain has his own list of political associates he would rather forget. ...

In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. McCain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again that he has little else to talk about. He long ago abandoned his signature issues of immigration reform and global warming; his talk of “victory” in Iraq has little to offer a war-weary nation; and his Reagan-inspired ideology of starving government and shredding regulation lies in tatters on Wall Street.

But surely, Mr. McCain and his team can come up with a better answer to that problem than inciting more division, anger and hatred.

No, as a matter of fact, they can't...

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posted by JReid @ 11:39 AM  
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Shock and awe (and race baiting)
If you want to beat a Republican, it's a good idea to know their strategy. We've talked a lot about the McCain campaign admitting that it is going to attempt to "turn the page" on talk of the economy by mounting a scorched earth, personal attack campaign against Barack Obama. Well, an email sent out by Human Events today underscores the strategy. After several paragraphs of boilrtplsyr drivel about the Democratic candidate's "dangerous liberalism", fictional opposition to guns, big spending proposals and fantasized mania for abortion, comes this bit, which starts with a strange, but newly standard, right wing endorsement of Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton was late in recognizing the threat Obama posed to her campaign, but once she did, her strategy worked.

When Hillary exposed Obama publicly, her campaign saw a major turnaround.

Hillary won every major state primary in the nation with the sole exception of Obama's home state of Illinois.

And even though Obama was "anointed" by the media and Democratic elites, Hillary went on to win eight of the last 10 Democratic primaries.

How did Obama beat Hillary for the nomination?

Well, using a loophole in Democratic rules, he was able to rack up large majorities in caucus states where he outspent and out organized her.

But in large, contested states she won almost every time. Why? Because when Democrats heard what Obama really stood for, they turned on him.

Make no mistake about it: If we let Americans know the truth about Obama, John McCain can win this election!

But we must employ Hillary Clinton's strategy.

We must expose Obama for the dangerous radical he is.

... This is why the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee is moving to implement a "shock and awe" strategy against Obama in key states.

We plan to take out powerful television ads, Internet ads and other communications to inform Americans about the dangers posed by Barack Obama.

... As a political action committee, we can accept up to $5,000 in donations per contributor.

A $5,000 donation can help us saturate a key market for a full day with television ads.

Why the Hillary Love? Could it be a not-so-subtle appeal to those the media said Hillary spoke to? In other words, this is about ginning up the fears of white voters -- lower middle class white voters, to be precise. But wait, there's more. The right has another weapon in its arsenal to use to stir up white rage against Obama, and her name is Sarah (my teenage daughter's marrying a f***in redneck) Palin. As the AP's Douglass K. Daniel sums up:

WASHINGTON (AP) - By claiming that Democrat Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists" and doesn't see the U.S. like other Americans, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin targeted key goals for a faltering campaign.

And though she may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret.

First, Palin's attack shows that her energetic debate with rival Joe Biden may be just the beginning, not the end, of a sharpened role in the battle to win the presidency.

"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. A deliberate attempt to smear Obama, McCain's ticket-mate echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.

"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," she said. "We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism."

Her reference to Obama's relationship with William Ayers, a member of the Vietnam-era Weather Underground, was exaggerated at best if not outright false. No evidence shows they were "pals" or even close when they worked on community boards years ago and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama early in his career.

Obama, who was a child when the Weathermen were planting bombs, has denounced Ayers' radical views and actions.

So what's a little lying between friends? Well...

Palin's words avoid repulsing voters with overt racism. But is there another subtext for creating the false image of a black presidential nominee "palling around" with terrorists while assuring a predominantly white audience that he doesn't see their America?

In a post-Sept. 11 America, terrorists are envisioned as dark-skinned radical Muslims, not the homegrown anarchists of Ayers' day 40 years ago. With Obama a relative unknown when he began his campaign, the Internet hummed with false e-mails about ties to radical Islam of a foreign-born candidate.

Whether intended or not by the McCain campaign, portraying Obama as "not like us" is another potential appeal to racism. It suggests that the Hawaiian-born Christian is, at heart, un-American.

Most troubling, however, is how allowing racism to creep into the discussion serves McCain's purpose so well. As the fallout from Wright's sermons showed earlier this year, forcing Obama to abandon issues to talk about race leads to unresolved arguments about America's promise to treat all people equally.

Oh, so that's who Sarah was winking at: racist white people ... The desperate McCain campaign has been using a subtly racist argument to take Obama down for months, only now, it's about to get real un-subtle. As a friend of mine said recently, the slogan of the McCain campaign could well be boiled down to: "Forget the economy. Vote to keep the White House white."


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posted by JReid @ 3:49 PM  
Friday, September 05, 2008
That minority thing
A new site tracks the Obama-Palin double standards...


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posted by JReid @ 5:45 PM  
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Here we go ...
I had two friends today tell me that they thought last night's raucous GOP convention reminded them of a Klan rally -- between the sea of old, white faces in the crowd, and the angry, taunting speeches on the dais (and the crowd's Germany c.a. 1939 response...)

Well if you thought this election was not going to be about race, you must be completely cocooned in your state of Obama-love. Outside the bubble, we all know what-a-gwan.

First up: a Georgia Congressman drops the "uppity" bomb. See if you see a pattern here:
Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”
Said it, meant it. Yup-yup... and remember the time ...?
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that Obama's middle name – Hussein – is relevant to the public discourse surrounding his candidacy, saying in March that if Obama were elected, "Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror."

At an April 12 event in his district, Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama: “I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.”
Georgia is a southern state Obama is playing hard for. Iowa is one he's winning. It's sad to say, but there are still some white folks in this country who can't abide the thought of a black man leading the nation, and who want to preserve the literal meaning of "White House." Do me a favor and throw Sean Hannity into that bucket, would you? "Take the bone out of your nose" Limbaugh, too. And particularly for older white women (a minority, hopefully...) who feel that way, Sarah Palin is the trap door that allows them to "make history," just like the Obama voters, and in their own minds, prove they're not the retrograde throwbacks that they are. Time to keep it real.


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posted by JReid @ 9:18 PM  
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Morning notes: Bill Clinton's super-duper sour grapes
Man, that guy can hold a grudge! Bill Clinton is talking, and he still sounds awfully bitter about the primaries during an interview from Africa with ABC's Kate Snow on "Good Morning America":
over the past six days. On Monday, the former President will address the World AIDS Conference in Mexico.

At times, he appeared to grow testy as he discussed his wife's failed bid for the nomination and was asked if he deserves at least some of the blame for his wife's losses.

Clinton at first said he did not want to rehash events of the past year because it "interferes with the issue which is who should be elected in November." But then he offered a lengthy defense of his own role and chastized the media for its coverage.

When asked, "Do you personally have any regrets about what you did, campaigning for your wife?" Clinton, at first, answered, "Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about."

But then he added, "There are things that I wish I'd urged her to do. Things I wish I'd said. Things I wish I hadn't said.

"But I am not a racist," he continued. "I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally."
He also described South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn as a "used to be" friend. Jeez.
And when asked whether Barack Obama is qualified to be president, the former POTUS didn't exactly give him a ringing endorsement:
... asked if the Illinois senator is ready to be president, Clinton spun, "You could argue that no one is ever ready to be president." He went on to discuss how he learned things on the job, how the presidency is full of pressure. Clinton finished his evasive response by admitting that Obama can "inspire" and by observing in a a tone that sounded slightly condescending, "And he's smart as a whip, so there's nothing he can't learn."

Hug much?


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posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
McCain speaks to NAACP, poll update
Reuters reports that John McCain was warmly received at the NAACP convention. Unfortunately for him, he'll only walk away with about 1-3 percent of African-American votes in November.

By the way, have you heard the one about Barack Obama not being stupid enough to write jokes about? Yes, I admit it, I am going to miss Dubya and his endless cast of nitwits...

Meanwhile, a CBS/NYT poll shows that America's racial divide is as sharp as ever, according to the paper, Obama's polling success so far notwithstanding:
In the survey, 83 percent of blacks had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 31 percent of white voters.
The poll shows that the essence of the divide is that a preponderance of white Americans believe that racial discrimination is a thing of the past, which black people make too much of, while most black Americans feel that racial discrimination is very much a thing of the present, which white people make too little of:

On the status of race relations, 59 percent of black respondents thought they were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites who thought the same way.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,796 adults showed that 39 percent of blacks said there had been no real progress in recent years in getting rid of racial discrimination. Only 17 percent of whites said the same thing.

Twenty-seven percent of whites said too much had been made of problems facing black people, while half of blacks said not enough had been made of racial barriers faced by black people.

What's ironic, is that some of the same white folks who say too much is made of racism harbor concurrent, negative, and I dare say racist, views of black people. If you don't believe me, read any comment thread under any online story about Barack Obama, or almost any other prominent social or political figure.

Update: The Obama camp is disputing the Times reporting, saying that the full poll disagrees with the paper's headline about Obama "not closing the racial divide." (H/T to the HuffPo.) TMP Election Central reports:

The Obama campaign sent over a detailed critique of the story, which concludes from the poll that Obama isn't closing the divide on race. The story's lead reporter was the paper's top political writer, Adam Nagourney.

"The NYT story about their poll ignores multiple and significant pieces of data that actually indicate a trend much different from that which the story suggests," the critique reads. It goes on to list "some straightforward points from their data that are omitted from the story."...

a) More white voters say Obama cares about people like them, than say the same thing about McCain by 31 to 23

b) On the essential issue in this campaign - bringing about change in Washington - Among white voters, Obama is seen as the change agent by 52% to 30%

c) Obama's 31% favorable rating among white voters is virtually identical to McCain's, which is at 34%.

d) By a 2 to 1 margin over McCain, white voters are more likely to say that Obama would improve America's image in the world

e) "Racial dissension" around Mrs. Obama's 24% favorable rating among whites is an extremely odd description given that Mrs. McCain's favorable rating among white voters is 20%.

f) Enthusiasm for Obama's candidacy is roughly 2.5 times higher among white voters than is enthusiasm for McCain's.

Read the rest on TPMEC.

Last but not least, let's go to the horse race. Nationally, here's how the race looks:

Gallup DTP (7/14)474310
NYT/CBS (7/7-14)45%39%16%
Newsweek (7/9-10)44

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posted by JReid @ 3:32 PM  
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
He said WHAT???
John McLaughlin is probably thanking his lucky stars that he's not nearly as famous as Jesse Jackson, or as well-noticed as the New Yorker... If he was, he'd be catching hell today for referring to Barack Obama as ... wait for it ... an "Oreo."

On the edition of the syndicated program The McLaughlin Group that aired the weekend of July 11-13, while discussing recent comments made by the Rev. Jesse Jackson about Sen. Barack Obama, host John McLaughlin said: "Question: Does it frost Jackson, Jesse Jackson, that someone like Obama, who fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo -- a black on the outside, a white on the inside -- that an Oreo should be the beneficiary of the long civil rights struggle which Jesse Jackson spent his lifetime fighting for?"

Responding to McLaughlin's question, panelist and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Peter Beinart said: "Who knows what Jesse Jackson is thinking? But that's a completely unfair depiction of Barack Obama." Later in the discussion, Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women's Forum, said: "I want to go back to the point you made about whether or not Obama is an Oreo, because if Barack Obama is an Oreo, then every member of this generation of African-Americans is an Oreo, because we stand on the shoulders of the people who fought for our rights, and all of us say that you cannot blame 'the man' or white racism for everything that ails the black community."

Watch it for yourself!

Meanwhile, Barack goes to the NAACP and restates his call for parental responsibility (transcript), in a speech where he also detailed the failures of both government and Wall Street. But here's the part that will make TV:
So yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Washington. And yes we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves. Now, I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch – none of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives.

That’s how we’ll truly honor those who came before us. Because I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown versus Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents. And I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere. That’s not the freedom they fought so hard to achieve. That’s not the America they gave so much to build. That’s not the dream they had for our children.

That’s why if we’re serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities. That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – and to help our synagogues and churches and community centers feed the hungry and care for the elderly. We all have to do our part to lift up this country.


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posted by JReid @ 11:46 AM  
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The Jesse and Al show
Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been reeeeeal quiet during this presidential campaign, possibly not wanting to throw Barack Obama off of his message of newness. Well, this morning, thanks to Jesse's verbal slip-up, they're back! Both men were on MSNBC this morning attempting to explain, mitigage and distance themselves from, Jesse's "cut of his nuts" gaffe on Fox. (FNC must just be killing themselves with laughs, watching MSNBC, their arch nemesis, forced to play video credited to "The O'Reilly Factor" over, and over, and over again...) Jackson is obviously worried about his legacy, and scrambling to associate himself with a candidate who so far, has had few dealings with him (though Jackson's son is a different story.)

On this morning's First Read, Chuck Todd comments on the Jackson gift that keeps on giving:
Obviously, this fight is helpful for Obama among white voters who have never been comfortable with how Jackson practices identity politics. Also, the news helped bury the FISA story, which was creating some minor headaches for Obama. A few other things we’ve learned from this episode. One, Jesse's nervous about his own standing in the black political community, which is why he worked so hard to get ahead of this story. (After all, if Bill Clinton can become persona non grata with blacks for attacking Obama, so too can Jesse.) Two, there's a generational divide inside the black community on this debate over the government’s role in lifting up blacks vs. personal responsibility. Here's a booking challenge to folks: Go ask Bill Cosby to pick sides in this debate.
Yeah, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, it was only a matter of time before Jackson, who apparently was miffed at Barack for challenging black fathers, got tagged for his 'baby mama drama..."
...Obama's recent comments about Black fathers not abandoning their children and accepting moral responsibility in our lives is a lesson you apparently needed to learn when you were younger. If you had, it may not have caused you to cheat on your wife and father a child out of wedlock with a former staffer.

Maybe that's what really bothered you about Obama's message to the church that Black fathers should be responsible for their children; you certainly haven't been.

Living in Los Angeles I have watched your ten year old daughter Ashley Laverne Jackson grow up. Over the years I have had the pleasure to spend several holidays with your daughter including Christmas, her birthday parties and other milestones in her life. I will never turn my back on Ashley her mom and their family. It's about providing friendship, support and love to them while you have been missing in action.

Your daughter has never traveled or taken a trip with you, you have an annual birthday party in Beverly Hills every year where your entire family is welcome but your youngest child has only attended it once. She has had very little contact with her siblings and has never even met her big brother Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, who apparently doesn't want anything to do with her. And allegedly (I believe it to be true ), he was the one to leak the scandal to the media concerning your affair. Now don't get me wrong, Obama is not above reproach. He is a politician and is fair game to be fairly criticized by you or anyone else. But to personally attack Obama is crossing the line. Obama is not talking down to Black people; he wants you and other dead beat dads to spend time and care for your children properly. The destruction of the Black family and absentee fathers is a major problem in our community.

It's a problem that King spoke out and fought against. 40 years after King's murder I can see why King didn't trust you.
Yikes! And yes, the writer of that broadside, Najee Ali, hit Jackson on the King's blood smeared on his shirt 40 years ago, too. It's not going to be fun being Jesse for the next little while... Al, meanwhile, seems really starved for stuff to do.

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posted by JReid @ 10:43 AM  
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Thank you, Reverend Jackson
Jesse Jackson jumps all in Barack Obama's pants, and for Obama supporters, it feels so good.

First the story: apparently, Jackson, after an interview on Fox News (always a mistake if you don't want to risk looking foolish,) made a crass comment decrying Obama's penchant for demanding personal responsibility from black fathers. Let's start the story with the inevitable apology:
The reverend said Wednesday that he had said Obama's speeches "can come off as speaking down to black people" and that there were other important issues to be addressed in the black community, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.

"And then I said something I thought regretfully crude but it was very private and very much a sound bite and a live mic," Jackson told CNN.

The remarks apparently include a reference to male genitalia.

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, who has been booked on the Fox program "The O'Reilly Factor" to respond to Jackson's comments, reported that Jackson recalled his remark as, "The senator is cutting off his you-know-what with black people."
Well... that's not exactly correct. What Jackson apparently whispered to fellow guest Alvin Poussaint, was that "Barack (has) been talking down to Black people ... I want to cut his nuts off..." Fox is taking full advantage, having aired the comments this evening (MSNBC just aired the tape, too. I have to say it's a bit anti-climactic, what passes for "so outrageous we can't even speak the words" these days...) Oh, and since this is a story involving black people, cue the idiot racist commenters! Jesus, they're everywhere...

Of course now, Jackson is falling all over himself with apology, and he's touched off a non-transcript transcript war that spans two cable networks:
... Jackson gave an interview to rival network CNN expressing regret for his comments, which he said he made as part of a discussion about Obama's calls for more personal responsibility during appearances before black churches.

"I said it can come off as speaking down to black people," Jackson said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"And then I said something I felt regret for -- it was crude," he added. "It was very private, and very much a sound bite -- and a live mike. And so I feel -- I find no comfort in it, I find no joy in it. So I immediately called the senator's campaign to send my statement of apology to repair the harm or hurt that this may have caused his campaign because I support it unequivocally."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the Democratic presidential contender accepted Jackson's apology.

"As someone who grew up without a father in the home, Sen. Obama has spoken and written for many years about the issue of parental responsibility, including the importance of fathers participating in their children's lives," Burton said in a statement. "He also discusses our responsibility as a society to provide jobs, justice and opportunity for all. He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Rev. Jackson's apology."

CNN did not report the exact words Jackson used during the Fox interview. Anchor Wolf Blitzer said the language was "so crude" that the network could not air it.

Jackson said he hoped his remarks would not be taken out of context or construed as a lack of support for Obama's campaign.

"Any hurt or harm I caused his campaign, I apologize, because I have such high regard for him," he said. "I cherish his role -- the role he's played in making the nation better and making the world rejoice."
And while the Obama campaign is being kind (privately, they've got to be doing high-fives, with Jackson having provided them with their "Sista Souljah" moment by becoming Sista Souljah...) Jackson's own son, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois (an Obama national co-chair, at that,) blasted him with both barrels today:
In a statement released by his office, Jackson Jr. said he was "deeply outraged and disappointed in Rev. Jackson's reckless statements about Sen. Barack Obama."

"His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career," the congressman said.

"Rev. Jackson is my dad and I'll always love him," he said. "He should know how hard that I've worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. So I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."


Bottom line on this one: anything that puts distance between Obama and figures like Jackson (or Al Sharpton, with whom Jackson is inexorably linked in the minds of paranoid white people,) is good for Barack. And it never hurts to take shots for demanding too much personal accountability. The contretemps shows Obama to be a man of the center, a stalwart for moral rectitude, and a leader with whom the "old guard" of the civil rights movement doesn't necessarily find common cause. Whatever your views of the civil rights old guard, politically, score this one a big win for Obama.

UPDATE: Here's the video:


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posted by JReid @ 7:08 PM  
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The bitter end
Let me start by saying that from my experience, the vast, vast majority of Hillary Clinton supporters are reasonable, intelligent people who understand politics, and have a sense of fair play. They get that elections are won, and elections are lost, and at the end of the day, what matters most is the future of our country, not the future of our favorite political figure. In the past two election cycles, none of my favorite candidates has won. In 2000, I liked Bill Bradley. In 2004, I was Wes Clark all the way, even volunteered for him. I was extremely unhappy with the guy who won the '04 primary, and still went to work for an organization dedicated to getting him elected president. When Kerry lost, it really sucked.

But you move on, and deal with the situation you've got. Most Hillary supporters are doing just that. The candidate is too, and in gracious fashion. If nothing else, the Clintons understand politics.

So what's with some of their supporters? Some of them are downright loony.

There are the "enemies listers," who are taking names, vowing to kick ass later... From the International Herald Tribune:
For proof, look no further than Doug Band, chief gatekeeper to former President Bill Clinton.

Band keeps close track of the past allies and beneficiaries of the Clintons who supported Obama's campaign, three Clinton associates and campaign officials said. Indeed, he is widely known as a member of the Clinton inner circle whose memory is particularly acute on the matter of who has been there for the couple — and who has not.

"The Clintons get hundreds of requests for favors every week," said Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. "Clearly, the people you're going to do stuff for in the future are the people who have been there for you."

McAuliffe, who knows of Band's diligent scorekeeping, emphasized that "revenge is not what the Clintons are about." The accounting is more about being practical, he said, adding, "You have to keep track of this."
Ack! Should people be hiding their bunnies? Then, there are the bitter enders of the feminist sort, who demand apologies, from the media, and from the Obama campaign, for the anti-womanism that supposedly brought Hillary down (not the votes, no, not the votes, the misogyny!). From this really angry reporter lady named Erbe:
The Democratic National Committee either doesn't get it or refuses to admit it. Nothing short of a lengthy, detailed mea culpa by the DNC and by Obama himself, directed to Clinton supporters for the sexist name-calling and personal, nasty characterizations Clinton was alone forced to endure, will do. Even that may not persuade these voters to consider supporting the party this fall. The DNC, Democratic Party leaders in Congress, and Obama should have been at her side, calling her treatment by the media (and even by some Obama supporters) unacceptable.

According to most polls, something in the range of 20 to 25 percent of her 18 million supporters say they'll vote for Senator McCain in November. That's 4.5 million votes—too many to take for granted. Yet taking them for granted is just what the party and Obama are doing. When CNN's Candy Crowley asked Obama how he would appeal to disaffected Clinton voters, he missed the mark entirely, giving a standard set of policy proposals.

I appeared on one of the cable news networks over the weekend, paired with a political reporter from a major newspaper. We were asked whether her supporters would kiss and make up with the Obama camp and end up throwing their support to the Illinois senator in the general election. He said, dismissively, "yes." I responded that with all due respect I thought he was quite wrong. But his laissez-faire attitude typifies that of the bulk of the MSM, the Democratic Party, and the Obama campaign.

We won't know how her supporters will vote until after the general election and its exit polls. Those who sit it out won't even be counted in exit polls. My feeling is just as the MSM underestimated the reaction to anti-Clinton remarks would generate, and the DNC overestimated voters' party loyalty, that no one has a clear read on what comes of all this. The party may have created a miniboom in Republican registration—disaffected Democrats who will never vote for a Democratic candidate again.

Never? Never ever ever? Damn.

Then we get into the really wacky weeds. You simply have to read this absolutely insane piece in something called the (San Francisco) City Edition, which was sent to me by Clinton bitter ender Carolyn Kay. It's long, but it's worth a read. To summarize, Barack Obama is a criminal terrorist ally planted by Karl Rove who also reverse engineered the Democratic primaries and caucuses so that Obama would get more pledged delegates out of a system designed by Harold Ickes but really run by Fox News, which the Clinton camp said was their preferred network and which attacks Obama relentlessly but which actually was helping him win bcause Tony Rezko's banker is Obama's banker and his friends are guarded by Blackwater... Seriously. Here's just the log line:
"Strategy involves G.O.P. crossover voting to take out Clinton, marketing newcomer Obama, stripping battleground delegates, inciting violence at the convention, and (if necessary) declaring martial law to prevent November's general election. Meanwhile, revelations about the Illinois senator's ties to Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko and two Iraqi agents are downplayed by the press. For their part, Democratic Party leaders persist in efforts to circumvent the nominating process, even as Karl Rove emerges as a player at Rezko's trial."
Wow. It gets crazier from there...

Evidence of a covert campaign to undermine the presidential primaries is rife, so it's curious that many within both the Democratic and Republican parties have ignored the actual elephant in the room this year. That would be Karl Rove. Long accused of rigging the two previous presidential elections, this master of deceit would have us believe he's gone off to sit in a corner and write op-eds this time around.

Not so. According to an article in Time magazine last November, Republicans have been organized in several states to throw their weight behind Senator Barack Obama, hoping to deprive Senator Hillary Clinton of the Democratic nomination. While Rove's name isn't mentioned in the story, several former fundraisers and strategists for President Bush are identified. Together, these gentlemen helped flush Obama's coffers with cash early on in the race, something the deep pockets had not done for any candidate in their own party. With receipts topping $100 million in 2007, the freshman senator from Illinois achieved a remarkable feat, given that most Americans only first heard of him in 2005.

To expedite the Rove strategy, a website and discussion forum called Republicans for Obama formed in 2006. The executive director of New Hampshire's Republican Party, Stephen DeMaura, later established an even larger cyber enclave on Facebook in 2007 called “Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)”. At the same time, the Obama camp launched its own initiative targeted at Republican voters. Called "Be a Democrat For a Day", the campaign included a video that was circulated in Florida, Nevada, Vermont and elsewhere explaining the process of re-registering with the local voter registrar's office. In addition, many states nowadays hold open primaries, allowing citizens to vote for any candidate, regardless of their party affiliation. In Nebraska, for instance, the mayor of Omaha publicly rallied Republicans and Independents to caucus for Obama on February 9th. In Pennsylvania, Time reported on March 19th that Obama was running radio ads in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia asking Republicans to register as Democrats and then vote for him in the state's April 22nd primary.

The tactic, called crossover voting, has allowed Obama to open up an unsurmountable lead in pledged delegates. Republicans for Obama was certainly not bashful in making its case in an email appeal linked to its home page before the March 4th contests. "Since Texas has an open primary," the appeal read, "Republicans and Independents should sign in at their polling place and request a Democratic ballot. They should then vote for Barack Obama... Just think, no more Clintons in the White House." Then there was Iowa, which held the nation's first caucus on January 3rd. Here G.O.P. winner Mike Huckabee received just half as many votes as Clinton, who finished third behind Obama and John Edwards. [SIDEBAR: of course, finishing third -- not her fault -- a conspiracy --- read on...]

Of the 17 states holding open primaries, Obama has won 13 of them. And an analysis of the caucus results to date shows that a disproportionate sum of delegates has been awarded to Obama, with red states - which normally vote Republican in the general election - exercising undue influence on the process. For instance, his 13,700 vote margin in the Nebraska caucus netted him 8 pledged delegates, whereas Clinton netted 9 delegates from her 204,000 vote victory in Ohio's primary. In Texas, which holds both a primary and caucus, Obama gained 5 more pledged delegates than Clinton, despite the fact that she won the election by a 100,000 vote margin. And although Clinton won the Nevada caucus, the Obama camp somehow managed to finagle more pledged delegates at the state convention held after the vote.

Never mind that it was Hillary who won Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania, meaning that if there was a conspiracy afoot, it failed... and the rules under which Obama got more delegates out of his states won were crafted by none other than Harold Ickes, who once managed Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign... There's more:

And so we step through the looking glass into a Rovean wonderland. Last year, at the same time Clinton commanded a huge lead in the national polls, political analysts and professional strategists retained by CNN and other broadcast networks began hammering across the notion that "the voters don't like her". Incorporating the use of psychological branding, adjectives like "divisive", "polarizing", and "untrustworthy" have been repeated over and over in connection to Clinton in the same manner that "biological warfare" and "weapons of mass destruction" were disseminated in the lead-up to the Iraq War. In addition, beginning on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the senator from New York has been roundly derided in the media as the losing candidate. Before Indiana-North Carolina primaries on May 6th, the term "panderer" was added to list of press buzzwords, ostensibly in response to Clinton's senate bill to transfer the federal gas tax to the oil companies.

Much of this pejorative terminology, by the way, traces back to a cadre of right-wing, neoconservative ideologues who keep the studio seats warm at Fox News Channel. "There is no candidate on record, a front-runner for a party's nomination, who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has," Rove told Reuters last August. Joining Fox as a part-time election analyst last February, he forgets to mention each time he dwells on this theme that the conclusion is borne of a tautology.

Until recently, Obama himself invariably recited Rove's "high negatives" comment in press interviews whenever discussing Clinton. His often bitter criticism of her, along with other "Washington insiders", who he says want to "boil and stew all the hope out of him", represents a staple of his core political message. The other half of the stump speech, known as the I'm-a-uniter-not-a-divider pitch, is reminiscent of the Bush 2000 campaign, which Rove managed. Perhaps that's not surprising when you discover that one of Obama's speechwriters is Ben Rhodes, the brother of Fox News VP David Rhodes. (Marisa Guthrie, of BC Beat, reported this connection.) You may recall that on election night in November 2000, it was Fox that called Florida for Bush, even though the other networks declared Gore the winner based on the exit polls. How Fox knew the polls were wrong in advance of the votes being counted has never been explained.

And the G.O.P. links to Obama don't end there. The Times of London reported on March 2nd that Obama had interviewed conservative Republican lawmakers Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar for key positions in a future cabinet. "Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary." the story revealed. "Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a 'stretch'." Lugar, who placed Obama's name on his nuclear non-proliferation bill two years ago, is being evaluated as a potential secretary of state.

Hang on, wasn't it HILLARY who during the campaign warmed up to Fox News, and even Richard Mellon Scaife? Obama was slammed by FNC by giving them no quarter, while Hillary's team praised them as the only truly fair network. So who's side was whose? It continues:

Although Obama says he has always opposed the Iraq War, he appears to be linked to Bush Administration policy there through his principle political benefactor in Chicago, Tony Rezko. Rezko received a contract to build a power plant in Iraq through a college chum appointed as the new Minister of Electricity in 2003. Like other Iraqi exiles recruited for posts by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremmer, Aiham Alsammarae absconded hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds as part of a crime spree dubbed "The Mother of all Heists" by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft. Currently wanted by Interpol (but apparently not the U.S. Government), Alsammarae now lives in Illinois, where he has donated several times to Obama's presidential campaign. ...

... At the time of his U.S. senate run, Obama was a relatively minor player who had lost a congressional race against African American incumbent Bobbie Rush in 2000. Obama's first significant campaign donor in the 1990's was the Chicago power broker and developer Tony Rezko, whom he met while still in law school. On graduating from Harvard, Obama hired on with a community nonprofit agency called Project VOTE, where he organized voter registration drives. He later joined the law firm Miner Barnhill & Galland, whose clients included Rezko, and taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago.

As an attorney, Obama represented a low-income senior housing project that Rezko managed with a partner company owned by Allison Davis, Obama's boss. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "In addition to the development fees, a separate Davis-owned company stood to make another $900,000 through federal tax credits." The article described slumlike conditions in the apartments that included no heat, leading the City of Chicago to sue the partnership in 1994 for contract violations. Obama defended the landlord in court.

Later, as a state senator, he wrote endorsement letters on behalf of Rezko to government agencies allocating funds to build other housing projects. (Years later, the fact that sued slumlords were still receiving taxpayer funds would raise eyebrows in Chicago, but apparently no one lodged any serious objections at the time.) In fact, a 2007 Chicago Tribune article reported that Rezko's firm got contracts to rehab 30 buildings, including 11 in Obama's state legislative district on the South Side. Edward McClelland, writing for, noted that "Rezko, after all, built part of his fortune by exploiting the black community that Obama had served in the state senate, and by milking government programs meant to benefit black-owned businesses."

While it may be unclear why Obama would continue his relationship with Rezko after this point, it's indisputable that he did. In 2005, while Rezko was under investigation by federal authorities for fraud, Obama approached him for help in purchasing a $2 million Georgian-revival home in the historic Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. The property deal involved splitting the land into two lots, with Rezko buying the large side yard for $625,000. Obama and his wife Michelle then acquired the parcel that included the mansion, paying $300,000 less than the asking price. The Chicago Tribune reported the details of this unusual arrangement in November 2006.

Although no laws were broken in the transaction, the New York Times reported that the Obama property deal may have been an attempt by the developer to shield assets from creditors in several individual lawsuits pending at the time. Even more hair-raising, Rezko - who was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time - received a $3.5 million loan in April, 2005 from a longtime business associate, Nadhmi Auchi. Auchi is a London-based Iraqi exile and one of the world's richest men, according to Forbes. He's also the former moneyman for Saddam Hussein, the Sun-Times reports.

Okay, so after all that, we establish that no laws were broken. Do go on...

According to The Times of London, "Mr. Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe." Rezko and Auchi are current partners in a major 62-acre land development in Riverside Park in Chicago. The Times also reported on February 26th that Auchi lent Rezko additional funds shortly before the purchase of the Obama property. "Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007."

Interestingly, Obama's unusual mortgage lender visited Chicago in 2004. (The State Dept. has never explained how he got a visa.) A reception in his honor was attended by both Rezko and Emil Jones, president of the Illinois state senate and a key player in Obama's 2004 U.S. senate bid, according to a CNN report. Obama himself attended the Auchi gathering, held at the posh Four Seasons, but says he doesn't recall meeting the man and was at the hotel that day on other business. A prosecution witness at the Rezko trial in Chicago testified on April 14th that Obama met Auchi during a party at Rezko's home April 3, 2004.

And the skeletons continue to pile up in the closet. Another Iraqi ex-patriot connected to Obama, Aiham Alsammarae, posted more than $2.7 million in property as collateral to help spring Tony Rezko from jail in April, according to a story in the Sun-Times. This was an odd development, since Alsammarae is (or was) wanted by Interpol for the theft of $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction funds. Newsweek reported on March 17, 2008 that Alsammarae'a son sent several faxes to Obama's office in Washington in 2006, complaining that his father was being unjustly held in a Baghdad jail in 2006.

In December of that year, Alsammarae escaped. Regarding this incident, the New York Times reported that "Iraqi officials initially blamed the Americans and later claimed that a private security detail used by Mr. Alsammarae when he was a minister was responsible, saying that a fleet of S.U.V.’s filled with “Westerners” pulled up to the jail and spirited him away, perhaps with the complicity of some of his jailers." (The security firm Blackwater guarded Alsammarae during his time in government.)

The Sun-Times has quoted an Obama spokesperson as characterizing the faxes sent to the senator's office as "a routine request from a constituent." Iraq's former Minister of Electricity, however, boasted that he escaped 'the Chicago way'", according to the New York Times. From the luxury of his compound in Illinois, Alsammarae donated online to the candidate in January, February and March of this year. The Sun-Tmes recently verified that a warrant for the fugitive's arrest remains active, but U.S. officials would not disclose what the warrant is for.

A man of multiple talents, Alsammarae also claims to have brokered a peace dialog with two Sunni militant groups in Iraq in 2005. According to the Washington Post, he "said the groups, which he identified as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujaheddin Army, were willing to enter negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi officials." Alsammarae also told the Post that he lead his ownpredominantly Sunni political group called the Iraqi National Council Front. He also claims that his conviction for corruption has been vacated. (CNN interviewed Alsammarae in January 2006. Scroll halfway down the page to read the transcript.)

Not to be left out of the party, Rezko contracted in 2005 to build a power plant in Iraq with his friend's help, but the project was later given to another firm due to an apparent kickback scheme uncovered by U.S. authorities. A private blog called RezkoWatch has also reported that Rezko submitted a second proposal to build a training facility for Iraqi power plant security guards in Illinois.

How such business dealings might impact Obama's position on American troops stationed in Iraq, if he's elected president, is unknown.

But here's the strangest twist of all in the Rezko affair (so far): the federal prosecutor in the Chicago trial is Patrick Fitzgerald, the former special counsel in the Valerie Plame C.I.A. leak case. If you remember, a much anticipated indictment against Karl Rove never materialized in that earlier episode. Instead, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby was tried and convicted on four counts of lying under oath. (His sentence was later commuted by President Bush.) Whether Fitzgerald is delaying indictments of Chicago Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama on orders from the Bush Administration is a matter of speculation. Curiously, on April 23rd, Rove's name came up when a witness testified that in 2004, G.O.P. heavyweight Robert Kjellander lobbied Rove to replace Fitzgerald in the case because a vigorous prosecution might hurt Republicans, according to a report ABC News posted on its website. The allegation defies logic, however, since Fitzgerald had specifically been tapped by the President to handle the Plame incident.

First of all, how did Rezko's banker magically turn into Obama's banker, without actually lending Barack any money? And if he was being guarded in Iraq, while holding a government position, by U.S. firm Blackwater, doesn't that make him our guy? And what, in the end, is the point being made? Precisely what is it that Patrick Fitzgerald should want to prosecute Barack Obama for? This kind of nuttery is passing for journalism in a real, live newspaper, folks, though obviously not a very good one.

This is sheer lunacy, and it's not coming from the right, but from people supposedly on our side.

Welcome to crazy town.

Now, that's not to say that there are not genuine concerns by serious women about gender bias, and about what they saw as attacks on Hillary that had a nasty, gender twist. But make no mistake, there were plenty of racist bombs thrown during the campaign as well, including some from within Camp Clinton. And with Youtube, and Zazzle, and all the ways to spew out a poorly thought through message, you've just got to cope with a certain amount of ugliness in the zeitgeist. I don't think it helps either black folk or women (of which I'm one of each) to moan about it now. Campaigns get ugly. Hell, Howard Dean was compared to Osama bin Laden by other Democrats when he ran, and then he was derided as a screaming lunatic, based on one unidirectional mic. But when campaigns end, they end, and those who really believe that their party has the best plans for the country unite, suck it up, and work together to win.

It's time to put, not party, but country before the cult of personality. I was very disappointed by the Clintons during this race, and have caught myself saying that if she won, I'd skip the presidential ballot for the first time since I turned 18. But I really didn't mean it. In the end, I'm a voter. I'm a supervoter. And I would have voted for the ticket.

Here's hoping we can put away the conspiracy theories and at least agree on that.


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posted by JReid @ 10:10 AM  
Monday, June 09, 2008
A thoughtful discussion on race and the 2008 campaign
The political ascendancy of Barack Obama has brought a lot of issues into focus, when it comes to the always thorny issue of race. We've discovered that there are racist Democrats as well as racist Republicans, that black voters initially chose based on loyalty (Clinton) and only cleaved to ethnic pride when Obama proved to them that white people would vote for him. And we've learned that the issues of racial grievance, on both sides, are potent draws for media attention, but not necessarily useful in defeating a black candidate (as both the Clintons and the Reverend Wright-obsessed mainstream media recently found out.)

To that end, in the New York Times today, journalist Marcus Mabry analyzes the particular challenges facing Mr. Obama, and comes to the conclusion that the dividing line on race may be the number 45 -- those below that age, who are part of the hip-hop generation, are more "un-self consciously multicultural," and thus, less phased by Obama's race. Those roughly older than that are more touchy about race, and more susceptible to a race-based reasoning for voting against him. From Mabry's very smart column today:
Millions of African-Americans celebrated Barack Obama’s historic victory, seeing in it a reflection — sudden and shocking — of their own expanded horizons. But whether Mr. Obama captures the White House in November will depend on how he is seen by white Americans. Indeed, some people argue that one of the reasons Mr. Obama was able to defeat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was that a large number of white voters saw him as “postracial.”

In other words, Mr. Obama was black, but not too black.

But where is the line? Does it change over time? And if it is definable, then how black can Mr. Obama be before he alienates white voters? Or, to pose the question more cynically, how black do the Republicans have to make him to win?

Social observers say a common hallmark of African-Americans who have achieved the greatest success, whether in business, entertainment or politics — Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson and Mr. Obama — is that they do not convey a sense of black grievance.

Clearly, Mr. Obama understands this. Until his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, forced race into the political debate, Mr. Obama rarely dwelt on it. He gave his groundbreaking speech on race only in response to the Wright controversy.

Indeed, after he effectively won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, he left it to the media to point out the racial accomplishment, and the relative he thanked most emotively was the woman who raised him: his white grandmother.

There is a reason for this. Race is one of the most contentious issues in American society, and, as with many contentious issues, Americans like to choose the middle path between perceived extremes. “In many ways, Obama is an ideal middle way person — he is just as white as he is black,” said Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College.

John McWhorter, who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, put it more bluntly: “White people are weary of the kinds of black people who are dedicated to indicting whites as racists. So, to be ‘too black’ is to carry an air about you that whites have something to answer for.”

That was the root of Mr. Obama’s Jeremiah Wright problem. Mr. Wright spewed exactly the kind of angry racial repudiation that many whites associate with black leaders.

Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, argues that the one arena where black grievance is acceptable is in music, particularly in hip-hop, where an estimated 70 percent of listeners are white. But the generation exposed to hip-hop, mostly under 40, are part of what Mr. Patterson calls a growing “ecumenical” American culture that is unselfconsciously multiracial.

This Obama Generation came of age in the post-civil-rights age when color, though still relevant, had less impact on what one read, listened to or watched. It was the common crucible of popular culture, he said, that forged a truly American identity, rather than the “salad bowl” analogy cherished by diversity advocates.

Mr. Obama’s campaign so de-emphasized race that for most of the 17-month nomination contest much of the news media became obsessed with the question of whether he was “black enough” to win black votes.

Most African-American Democrats were for Hillary Clinton early on, until voters in Iowa proved to them that whites would support a black candidate.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said that Mr. Obama, unlike the immediate successors of Martin Luther King Jr., understood the importance of language and the need to frame social debate in a way less likely to alienate whites.

“In the absence of Martin Luther King,” he said, “I think the void was filled by Stokely Carmichael, James Bevel and Jesse Jackson,” who did not use language as well. “With all respect to my father, 40 years later, this is the first time we have gotten back to a very thoughtful and careful approach to language.”

But a crucial difference between Dr. King and Mr. Obama, said the King biographer Taylor Branch, was that Dr. King sought to point out hypocrisy and shame white people into changing the system.

It was not simply framing and language choice that has helped Mr. Obama reach white people. He is genuinely of a different place and time than the generation of black leaders forged in the civil rights struggle. His story is, in part, an immigrant’s story, devoid of the particular wounds that descendants of American slaves carry.

His father was a black Kenyan and his mother a white American. His mixed-race heritage is less discomfiting to whites, Mr. McWhorter said, than the more common source of black Americans’ mixed-race blood: the miscegenation of slavery.

Mr. Obama’s generation of black political leaders have benefited from the gains of the civil rights movement, and are now attempting to broaden them. They include Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark; Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington; Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts; and former Representative Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee. They attended top schools, often in the Ivy League and often law school as well, and began their public-service careers in community organizing rather than in national civil rights organizations. ...
Read the whole thing. It's well worth it. The bottom line, Obama will be successful with many older, less educated white voters to the extent he can convince them that he has no race-based grievance with them, and they will reject him to the extent that they suspect he does, and it somehow hiding it. We'll see if that analysis pans out.


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posted by JReid @ 9:52 AM  
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Michelle Obama: The 'whitey' tape
Just when you though it was safe to go back on the campaign trail ... courtesy of Wonkette, via Balloon Juice and the rest of the investigative blogosphere, here it is ... the tape ... Team Obama ... doesn't want you to see...

Oh, for SHAME!!! ;) Thank GOD Fox News is on the case...


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posted by JReid @ 9:20 PM  
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The media spins out of control
I love the way the mainstream media (perhaps more correctly termed the "corporate media," gets an eyeful of the New York Times and suddenly, spins on a dime. Don't know if you caught Norah O'Donnell's act tonight on MSNBC, but she was spinning out of control, walking back from weeks of political race-baiting during her ever stranger primary night impersonation of Frank Luntz (this week in a black cocktail dress and way too formal necklace, no less...) Suddenly, after apparently reading this piece in the New York Times (as it seems everybody in punditland did today,) she discovers that wait! West Virginia white voters aren't RACIST ... they're REPUBLICANS!

So what did the Times say that has so many pundit heads exploding?
...Consider the media shorthand for both Kentucky and West Virginia, where Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by huge margins. These are hard-working, real Americans, the Clinton camp says, and a Democrat can’t win without them.

In fact, both West Virginia and Kentucky have gone against the national tide of the last 8 years and have been trending Republican. Also – and this needs to be said – a significant percentage of the voters in both those states have now indicated that they may not vote for a fellow Democrat simply because he’s black.

Pollsters know that people lie about race; voters rarely come out and say they will not vote for someone because he’s black. Instead, they say things like we’re hearing from West Virginia and Kentucky – that “race is a factor.”

In Kentucky, over 25 percent of Clinton supporters said race was a factor in their vote – about five times the national average for such a question. Clinton, if she really wanted to do something lasting, could ask her supporters why the color of a fellow Democrat’s skin is so important to their vote.

Now, consider the argument that a Democrat needs these states. In 2000, George Bush won West Virginia 52 to 46 percent. Four years later, he’d increased his margin to 56-43.

In Kentucky, Bush won 57-41 in 2000, and padded that to 60-40 four years later.

Appalachia, we now know, is Clinton’s heartland – but it does not resemble the Democratic landscape. If these are Democratic states, there’s some strange serum in the local brew at party headquarters.

On to Oregon, where Obama won by double digits. A bunch of chai tea sipping elitists, with zero body fat, living in hip lofts while working at Nike, yes? No. Well, they do like running, and tea. Oregon is one of the nation’s whitest states – just under 2 percent of residents are black – but rich it is not. The state is below the national average in both per capita income and median household income.

This suggests that Obama doesn’t have a white working class problem so much as a regional problem, in a place where Democrats won’t win anyway. ...

Now think ... how many times this afternoon and tonight did you hear a cable talker use the phrase, "Obama doesn't have a white working class problem, he's got a regional problem...?" I'll count them for you: Norah O, David Gregory, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are just four of the analysts who came up with that ephiphany tonight.

Do tell. You mean the third of white voters who indicated THEMSELVES that they are in actuality, McCain voters just participating in the Democratic primary to vote down the black guy won't vote for Barack in the fall any more than they supported him in the spring? REALLY? And Hillary, after all her pandering and stroking "hard working white folk" may not be turning out white Democrats, but rather, McCain voters, in the primary?

Well I'll be a unicorn's horse shoe.

And white people who aren't self-described racists WILL vote for Obama, even though he isn't entirely white? But ... if the media can't keep obsessing over racial voting ... I suppose we'll just have to hear about CLASS and REGIONAL voting bias FOR THE REST OF THE CAMPAIGN...

Stop the world, I want to get off.

No really, stop the world, I wanna get off.


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posted by JReid @ 10:50 PM  
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The education of Pat Buchanan
Wow. If you TiVo'd "Hardball" tonight, skip the 5 p.m. and version and green dot the 7:00. I just watched the most stunning ten minutes of that program that I think I have ever seen. It was a conversation between Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, who has been covering the Clinton campaign, and our old friend Patrick Buchanan, author of the excellent book, "Where the Right Went Wrong," and a man who, while very bright, can loosely be said to be an unofficial captain of the white power movement. Buchanan was in such a lather over what he called put-downs of West Virginia voters on the MSNBC set, "calling them dumb and uneducated, poor, and racist," I thought his head was going to explode. He then went into a jeremiad about why the pundits don't say that Blacks who give Barack Obama 92 percent of their votes are bad people. "Maybe they said, he's one of them, and maybe the people of West Virginia said she's (meaning Hillary Clinton,) one of US." The use of "us" was a telling slip.

Chris then impressed me, trying to gently explain to Pat that given this country's 400 years of history on race, where we've had only three Blacks elected to the Senate and just a handful of governors, "and that's it," while whites have been "running everything," it's quite a different thing for Blacks to vote for someone who looks like them who could be president, then for white voters in West Virginia to "volunteer to a total stranger that race played a part in their vote."

The clincher was Matthews describing the more colorblind world his kids live in, where they have teachers, friends, and even romantic interests who are Black, "and they don't even think about it," and he said he wanted to see America become that world. Then he pointedly asked Pat, "do YOU want to see that world?" When Pat failed to answer, he asked him AGAIN. Pat stumbled out something about Martin Luther King's dream, and went right back into his red-faced rant about how poor West Virginia white folk "haven't been running anything."
I cannot wait for the Youtube on this one. 


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posted by JReid @ 7:35 PM  
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Hillary Clinton's vacation from reality
(and Terry McAuliffe's, too)

Surprise! Hillary Clinton won big in West Virginia, a state where having a college degree is almost as rare as being Black. A state where exit polls show 2 in 10 voters said race was a factor in their vote (second only to Mississippi, and 8 out 10 of them went for Hillary.) And a state where, as in parts of Pennsylvania, racist white sentiments have stunned, and in some cases unnerved, poll workers. And while the Moderate Voice wants you to know that racism is not the only reason folks in WV vote against, Obama, the fact remains that as John Cole explained back in March, racism remains a vibrant feature of the Rust Belt, which includes not only West Virginia, but also parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio, (and Indiana, too,) all of which, not coincidentally, Hillary won:
While there is racism present to varying levels in every state, what makes WV different is that there is not a presence of a large AA community who will enthusiastically balance out that vote like there are in other states. Add to it that WV is a Hillary Clinton kind of state- lots of blue-collar union types who are comfortable working with and voting the party machine. As the Clinton’s are an established name, the Clinton’s are viewed as the party candidate.

Again, I am not claiming a refusal to vote for Obama makes one racist. I am claiming that, in WV, at least, there will be a number of people who refuse to vote for him because they are in fact racist. That isn’t a smear, that is just the truth. If you can not deal with it, well, that is on you. It is also why people like me have been frequently upset throughout this campaign when we have seen what we perceive to be dogwhistles coming from the Clinton camp. Whipping up this sort of sentiment is, in my book, inexcusable.
So there was Hillary tonight, giving a defiant speech and insisting that, with certain niceties toward Obama, she's going on and going forward (Terry McAuliffe nearly burst a blood vessel arguing with Chris Matthews on this point, with Matthews trying to get him to understand that the media doesn't want her to quit, the media wants a contested convention...) 

BTW, apparently, Hillary didn't take Barack's concession phone call tonight. He left a message.


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posted by JReid @ 9:53 PM  
Friday, May 09, 2008
Hillary's reckoning
The Daily Kos posts an excellent summary of the backlash building online against Hillary's comments, summed up brilliantly by Mike Barnacle in what could be Hil's new campaign slogan: "Vote White." But one question that's not being asked, at least so far, is where are Hillary's black supporters, particularly the elected officials, on this issue? So far, I haven't heard a peep.

That one's developing...

But I also wonder whether Hillary's comments will be put through the same media wringer that Rev. Wright's sermon snippets were fed into. Will the MSM react with the same obsessive-compulsive zeal, when this time, it isn't someone the candidate knows, but the candidate herself, who has uttered the unpleasant words? I remain prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Update: on the other hand, Pat Buchanan does not surprise: he backs Hillary's race remarks four square:
Who, exactly, are the Hillocrats, half of whom said in the exit polls from North Carolina and Indiana that, if she loses the nomination, they will stay home or vote for McCain?

They are white, working- and middle-class, Catholic, small-town, rural, unionized, middle-age and seniors, and surviving on less than $50,000 a year. They are the people most belittled by the condescending commentary of Barack behind closed doors out at Sodom on the Bay.

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, (where) the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. ... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

In 40 years, two Democrats have won the presidency, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and both did so only after connecting with these folks.

People forget. In 1976, Carter ran as a Naval Academy grad and nuclear engineer, a born-again Baptist and peanut farmer from Plains, Ga., who, in Philadelphia, talked about preserving the "ethnic purity" of the neighborhoods. Clinton first ran as a death-penalty Democrat.

It was Ronald Reagan who cemented the GOP hold of these Nixon-Agnew New Majority Democrats, who are now headed back home. ...
And Pat has this advice for his former party:
Keep an eye on West Virginia. The votes Hillary gets, and the way she gets them, may provide a road map for how the GOP can hold the White House this fall, if they are not too squeamish to follow it.


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posted by JReid @ 1:26 PM  
Losing it
Is Hillary Clinton losing her bearings, or just her mind?

The junior Senator from New York's racial gaffe with USA Today is reverberating around the media world this morning, and the inimitable Peggy Noonan fires a fine opening salvo:
... The Democratic Party can't celebrate the triumph of Barack Obama because the Democratic Party is busy having a breakdown. You could call it a breakdown over the issues of race and gender, but its real source is simply Hillary Clinton. Whose entire campaign at this point is about exploiting race and gender.

Here's the first place an outsider could see the tensions that have taken hold: on CNN Tuesday night, in the famous Brazile-Begala smackdown. Paul Begala wore the smile of the 1990s, the one in which there is no connection between the shape of the mouth and what the mouth says. All is mask. Donna Brazile was having none of it.

Mr. Begala more or less accused the Obama people of not caring about white voters: "[If] there's a new Democratic Party that somehow doesn't need or want white working-class people and Latinos, well, count me out." And: "We cannot win with eggheads and African Americans." That, he said, was the old, losing, Dukakis coalition.

"Paul, baby," Ms. Brazile, who is undeclared, began her response, "we need to not divide and polarize the Democratic Party. . . . So stop the divisions. Stop trying to split us into these groups, Paul, because you and I know . . . how Democrats win, and to simply suggest that Hillary's coalition is better than Obama's, Obama's is better than Hillary's -- no. We have a big party, Paul." And: "Just don't divide me and tell me I cannot stand in Hillary's camp because I'm black, and I can't stand in Obama's camp because I'm female. Because I'm both. . . . Don't start with me, baby." Finally: "It's our party, Paul. Don't say my party. It's our party. Because it's time that we bring the party back together, Paul."

In case you didn't get what was behind that exchange, Mrs. Clinton spent this week making it clear. In a jaw-dropping interview in USA Today on Thursday, she said, "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." As evidence she cited an Associated Press report that, she said, "found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

White Americans? Hard-working white Americans? "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white," an Obama supporter said, "even with the Southern strategy."

If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party.

To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by.

"She has unleashed the gates of hell," a longtime party leader told me. "She's saying, 'He's not one of us.'"

She is trying to take Obama down in a new way, but also within a new context. In the past he was just the competitor. She could say, "All's fair." But now he's the competitor who is going to be the nominee of his party. And she is still trying to do him in. And the party is watching. ...

Meanwhile, Peggy's home paper gleefuly ruminates on the impending Clinton-Democratic Party divorce:
Like all divorces after lengthy unions, this one is painful and has had its moments of reconciliation, but after Tuesday a split looks inevitable. The long co-dependency is over.

Truth be told, this was always a marriage more of convenience than love. The party's progressives never did like Bill Clinton's New Democrat ways, but after Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis they needed his epic political gifts to win back the White House. They hated him for their loss of Congress in 1994, but they tolerated Dick Morris and welfare reform to keep the presidency in 1996. ...

Then a bunch of drivel trying to justify the Starr investigations, Monica, blah blah blah... continuing:
Slowly but surely, these Prisoners of Bill and Hill are now walking away, urging Mrs. Clinton to leave the race. Chuck Schumer damns her with faint support by saying any decision is up to her. Columnists from the New York Times, which endorsed her when she looked inevitable, now demand that she exit so as not to help John McCain. With Mr. Obama to ride, they no longer need the Arkansas interlopers.

If the Clintons play to their historic form, they will ignore all this for as long as they can. They will fight on, hoping that something else turns up about Mr. Obama before the convention. Or they'll try to play the Michigan and Florida cards. Or they'll unleash Harold Ickes on the superdelegates and suggest that if Mr. Obama loses in November she'll be back in 2012 and her revenge will be, well, Clintonian.

The difference between now and the 1990s, however, is that this time the Clinton foes aren't the "vast right-wing conspiracy." This time the conspirators are fellow Democrats. It took 10 years, but you might say Democrats have finally voted to impeach.

Not quite, Journalistas. Don't lick your chops THAT much. We Dems who have fallen out of love with the Clintons haven't suddenly seen the light on Whitewater. That, dears, was the dumbest, most useless waste of investigative effort and taxpayer money in history (not counting Iraq.) What we dislike about the Clintons is what we used to like about them, however: their never-say-die tenacity, and willingness to do just about anything to win, even if that means reviving the party's racist past. On that, there has indeed been a turnaround.


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posted by JReid @ 8:01 AM  
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Hillary Clinton: White people love me!
If George Stephanopoulos is right, and Camp Hillary is looking to force her on Barack Obama as his runningmate, the following comments should be classified "most unhelpful"...
"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

Clinton's blunt remarks about race came a day after primaries in Indiana and North Carolina dealt symbolic and mathematical blows to her White House ambitions.

So it's the white vote, huh? Want the audio to go with it?

I think it's called "losing ugly..."


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posted by JReid @ 6:03 PM  
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Live by the sword...
One more thing...

If Hillary Clinton winds up losing Indiana tonight (or this morning) -- which could very well happen with much of Gary, Indiana still to come in and a margin of around 20,000 -- the irony for her and her husband will be that the deciding margin will be black voters in that city, and in Lake County. Bill Clinton made his national reputation by making black voters fall in love with him. As his wife's chief surrogate during this campaign, he led her in a renunciation of the black vote that was so thorough, so definitive, and so grotesque, it was stunning, not least of which to black America. Now, as their campaign draws to a close, it appears that it will be the black vote that ultimately did Hillary in. Payback really is a bitch.


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posted by JReid @ 12:28 AM  
Monday, May 05, 2008
Operation anti-chaos
Having worked in media since 1998, I have to tell you I haven't seen a concerted effort at a media takedown like the one heaped on Barack Obama by the Washington press corps and cable news talking heads since the Clinton impeachment fiasco. (Howard Kurtz tries to explain why the press corps turned on Obama in his WaPo column. The Cliffs Notes version: "Saturday Night Live." Pretty pathetic.) But over the weekend, a kindly blogger at the Huffpo and a writer at the New York Times had the decency to show us the numbers. Blogs Al Giiordano:
I turn on the TV, read the political columnists (and a significant number of analytically-challenged bloggers, too) and all I hear is a bunch of white folk prattling on about their favorite narrative: "Obama's losing white voters!"

They've swallowed the Clinton racially-obsessed spin, hook, line and sinker. Some, because they are gullible, haven't an original idea in their little pea brains, and follow the pack of what everybody else is talking about. Others, because they like to toss around knowing falsehoods. Nary a superdelegate can go on Fox News without being berated by an anchorperson screeching (this is pretty close to an exact quote): "But your duty as a superdelegate is to select the most electable and that's Hillary Clinton!" That these anchorpersons are Republican partisans openly cheering for Senator Clinton is our first clue of the game afoot. One of the major successes of Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos is that it has got all the right-wing pundits and reporters marching lockstep behind the effort to give Clinton enough oxygen to keep slashing away at Senator Obama, who remains the prohibitive likely Democratic nominee.

And when Clinton wins state primaries that, because of demographics, she was always going to win - last week, Pennsylvania and next week, Indiana - they then wave that event up like a blood-soaked flag as proof of their narrative: See? See? We told you so! White people won't vote for Obama!
But do the numbers bear that out? Apparently not. From a New York Times op-ed by Charles Blow:
The question is this: Have white Democrats soured on Obama? Apparently not. Although his unfavorable rating from the group is up five percentage points since last summer in polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News, his favorable rating is up just as much.

On the other hand, black Democrats’ opinion of Hillary Clinton has deteriorated substantially (her favorable rating among them is down 36 percentage points over the same period).

While a favorable opinion doesn’t necessarily translate into a vote, this should still give the Clintons (and the superdelegates) pause. Electability cuts both ways.

And he's got charts. Natch.


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posted by JReid @ 4:19 PM  
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Good news and bad news for Democrats in Louisiana House race
The good news for Democrats is that yet another Republican House seat changed hands yesterday, as a long-held Louisiana House seat switched to the D column. The bad news, is that to win the seat, the candidate had to put miles of distance between himself and the party's potential standard-bearer:
Don Cazayoux, a state representative, defeated Woody Jenkins, a small-newspaper publisher and former legislator long associated with religious-right causes in Louisiana, by 49 percent to 46 percent, in a tight race for a seat left open by the retirement of Richard Baker, a Republican.

Mr. Cazayoux portrayed himself as little different from Mr. Jenkins on social issues, overcoming the Republicans’ depiction of him as a “liberal” in lock step with figures like the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Barack Obama, who shared billing with him in a barrage of Republican attack advertisements.

...Mr. Cazayoux, a low-key member of the State House and a former prosecutor, fit the conservative model Democrats deployed successfully in the 2006 elections when they took seats from Republicans. He was close to Mr. Jenkins on social issues like abortion and guns; he spoke approvingly of Senator John McCain; he rarely if ever mentioned the Democratic presidential candidates; and he suggested he would buck his party if the district’s interests seemed to call for it.

Mr. Jenkins and the Republicans, on the other hand, sought to tie Mr. Cazayoux to his party’s national standard-bearers at every opportunity, especially Ms. Pelosi. Television advertisements paired Mr. Cazayoux with Mr. Obama, and called him a “liberal” — a description that fit uneasily with Mr. Cazayoux’s voting record in the State House of Representatives. He raised nearly twice as much money as his Republican rival, his fund-raising bolstered by Congressional Democrats eager to take the seat.
Lesson for the Dems: a "50 state strategy" won't work in November. There are clearly places -- mainly in the old, Republican South, where Barack won't be able to help candidates win, and where instead, he (with Rev. Wright and all the other media/talk radio driven drivel) will be used against Democrats. Of course, the Louisiana race proves the tactic won't always work, but Team Obama would be wise to pick a running mate who would be more useful in parts of the country outside the South, where the southern political model will be in play (I'm thinking rural Pennsylvania, Ohio and the like, since the Dems aren't winning back the South -- not this year, and certainly not with a black candidate, though Virginia could be an exception, giving the changing demographics there. Outside of that state, the South isn't THAT evolved...)


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posted by JReid @ 8:56 AM  
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Race and the Democratic primary
It was a fantasy to think that we would get through an election featuring the first truly viable Black candidate without running smack dab into the issue of race in America. And while its customary for the media narrative to depict Democratic voters as more open minded and "liberal" and Republican voters as more conservative and thus more likely race-insensitive, the uncomfortable but very real fact is that some, though by no means all, older white voters of both political persuasions are uncomfortable voting for a candidate who isn't white. White race-pattern voting is the gigantic elephant in the room; and many younger, less educated, less well off white voters feel the same way.

By the way, it's unremarkable that older white women strongly back Hillary -- many of these women see Hillary as perhaps the best, and maybe last, chance in their lifetimes to see a woman ascend to the White House (just as it's unsurprising that so many black and young voters favor Obama.) But for white voters who are not invested in the history-making aspects of her campaign, one has to ask whether racial tribalism is playing a part in their voting decisions. I think it certainly did in Pennsylvania, and probably in Ohio -- less so in more homogeneous states like Iowa and Wisconsin, where whites and blacks don't bump into one another as much, and thus don't butt heads. It's time for the media to confront the fact that for many white people, voting for a black candidate, whose name sounds Muslim at that, and whose pastor is afrocentric and whose wife isn't Betty Crocker and who doesn't mouth the kinds of jingoistic platitudes that have become standard issue campaign fare, is, as Obama chief strategist David Axelrod says in this very smart NYT piece, "a lot of change."

For a colder splash of water, check out this Kansas City Star piece. It contains the word "colored." Yep. There are still folks out there using that one.


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posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
Saturday, April 12, 2008
It had to happen...
Not surprised to hear that Tavis Smiley has quit the Tom Joyner Morning Show over the firestorm surrounding his repeated criticisms of Barack Obama. Joyner is an Obama supporter, and he has recently become much warmer with people like Al Sharpton, who very shrewdly dropped his early attacks on Barack and became tactically neutral, and Michael Baisden, who's unabashedly pro-Obama. Here's the story:

One of Sen. Barack Obama's toughest African American critics is quitting his long association with a national radio show after facing a backlash from the program's listeners.

Tavis Smiley said yesterday he will resign in June as a twice-weekly commentator on the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" after more than 11 years with the program. He cited fatigue and a busy schedule in a personal call to Joyner on Thursday night, but Joyner indicated otherwise on his program and in his blog yesterday, writing: "The real reason is that he can't take the hate he's been getting regarding the Barack issue -- hate from the black people that he loves so much."

Smiley has taken on Obama in a series of commentaries that began as the Democrat from Illinois emerged as the party's front-runner for the presidential nomination in early January. Days after Obama's win in the Iowa caucus, Smiley warned on Joyner's show: "Don't fall so madly in love [with Obama] that you surrender your power to hold people accountable. . . . I'm not saying overlook Senator Obama, but you now better be ready to look him over."

That commentary brought a hail of critical phone calls and e-mails down on Smiley, who replied two days later on the Joyner show that he stood by his criticism. "It's all about accountability," he said at the time.

Since then, amid mounting counter-criticism, Smiley has stepped up his critiques, contending that Obama wasn't sufficiently attentive to issues involving African Americans.

He was also critical of Obama's decision not to attend an annual forum, the State of the Black Union, that Smiley hosted in February in New Orleans. Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, accepted Smiley's invitation to the event. When the Obama campaign offered Michelle Obama, the senator's wife, as a substitute speaker, Smiley said publicly the offer was unacceptable.

He also rebuked Obama this month for not traveling to Memphis for the 40th anniversary ceremonies marking the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and for Obama's decision to distance himself from controversial remarks made by the Obama family's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. ...
Roland Martin, another up and comer in the Black commentary world, has also implied that Tavis is used to getting accolades, and can't take the barbs, but it's easy to say that when you're not on the receiving end. I have sharply disagreed with and been disappointed by what has come across to me as "hateration" on Obama by Smiley (I've even reported on it.) In many ways, Tavis seems to resent the fact that Obama's "post-racial" candidacy (or his formerly post-racial candidacy) makes people like him, for whom racial politics is the stock and trade, appear less relevant.

However, I'm reluctant to jump on the "get Smiley" bandwagon, perhaps because I was doing a talk radio show in the early days of the Obama campaign, and remember defending Barack on the air against far greater and more voluminous bashing from my callers, co-host and bosses, than I heard support. I also recall that the majority of Black Americans were ardent Hillary supporters, and actually rejected Barack's candidacy until he managed to win the lily white state of Iowa. Only then did the mass of Black folk relent, and back down on the cat calls of "he's not Black enough." The only difference is, Tavis kept talking when the others jumped on the bandwagon.

Tavis, like Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, and God knows, BET's Bob Johnson, strikes me as a man on the wrong side of history, fighting against the furtherance of what had appeared to be their own dreams, by so doggedly resisting Barack's candidacy (Lewis excepted -- he seems to be genuinely struggling, because of the aforementioned group, he seems to be the only one who knows he's on the wrong side of history...) But Smiley's commentaries have been a highlight of the Tom Joyner show, which otherwise, I must admit I don't listen to. So in that sense, I'm sorry to see him go.

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posted by JReid @ 12:16 AM  
Friday, April 11, 2008
Fake outrage of the week: Obama and the bitter white people
This has got to be the dumbest "scandal" I've ever heard of. To be honest, as cynical as I am about the media, I can't believe that this is even a story, or that Keith Olbermann ... MSNBC ... the sanity network ... would bother to make this breaking news. First, the set up, courtesy of ABC News:
In the midst of an assault from his rivals, a defensive Barack Obama said Friday that many working-class Americans are angry and bitter over economic inequalities and have lost faith in Washington — and, as a result, vote on the basis of other issues such as gun protections or gay marriage.

The Illinois senator's analysis of what motivates working-class voters came after chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton accused him of looking down on such voters. Clinton rebuked Obama on Friday for similar remarks he made privately last Sunday to a group of donors in San Francisco.

"People don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody is going to help them," Obama told a crowd at a Terre Haute, Ind., high school Friday evening. "So people end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. They take refuge in their faith and their community, and their family, and the things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington."
I see nothing controversial in that. In fact, I hear some version of that on "Hardball" about every other day. So what did Barack orignially say, that caused such a firestorm? Let's go to the folks who broke the story: The Hillarycentric Huffington Post:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them... And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

So ... if Barack is "looking down" on these voters, as HRC later accused him of, then what do you make of the guy who wronte "What's the Matter With Kansas?" a book all about people voting against their economic interests and turning to marginal social issues instead. And isn't what Hillary is really pissy about is that Barack included her husband's administration as one of the periods during which people fell through the cracks?

By the way, tanks alot, HuffPo, for exploiting the Obama statement for link ratings. It came as part of an extended piece by Mayhill Fowler on Obama's travels in the Keystone State, but Ariana & Company chose to elevate it as the headline. Nice work.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp has responded ... by essentially ignoring Hillary and going after John McCain (the other front in this Friday, slow news day war of words):

"Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities. And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent,” said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

But back to my original point. What morons in the media find it perfectly reasonable to ask whether Michelle Obama is "angry" and "bitter," and various pundits feel free to drone on and on about hte bitterness of lower middle class whites in the aftermath of Barack Obama's speech on race, but if Barack Obama says precisely the same thing, in I have to say, rather mundane fashion, it's somehow a scandal. Why? Because Camp Hillary says so?

Give me a break.

The real reason the MSM cares about this story is that it fits the narrative the East Coast elite media has written about Barack: that he is an elitist who only attracts elitists, and who can't connect to the common man. Like the "bowling-gate" story, it reinforces the notion of the Chris Matthews crowd -- an elite, wealthy East Coast bunch whose children go to Ivy League schools, but who style themselves as men with the common touch who can still belly up to the bar and have a cold one with the boys -- even though they haven't actually done so in a generation and now enjoy a good, fine wine and cigar -- that somehow Barack is the sell-out that they are not. Except that they are.

This whole notion of wanting the president to be a "common man" doesn't even jibe with American history. America has a history of preferring aristocratic presidents -- from Teddy Roosevelt, the ultimate elite sportsman, to FDR to JFK to Ronald Reagan. We've only fallen in love with the "Bubba concept" since Bill Clinton, who chumped Bush I with the help of the media, who exposed the former veep as a man who didn't know the cost of a loaf of bread. But right after Clinton, Americans turned around and elected Bush's blue-blood son, knowing that he was an elite, Ivy league educated SON OF A FORMER PRESIDENT, but falling for the completely phony media-enabled narrative that he is some sort of common Rancher Joe. Give me a break.

The only reason Bush gets away with the "regular guy" gag is because the mainstream media suck-ups let him get away with it. And they are doing the same thing with Hillary "$109 million" Clinton and John "Married to a Liquore Heiress' McCain. Apparently, Ivy educated reporters feel inadequate in the manliness department, and so they project whatever qualities they think are common and manly onto the politicians they enable.

Unfortunately for Barack, he is too much like the members of the media for them to feel good about loving him.

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posted by JReid @ 11:37 PM  
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Wright on (and on)
The Sunday talk shows focused, not surprisingly, on Barack Obama's "rough week," and the two things that made it less rough: his phenomenal speech on race, and the endorsement he received from Bill Richardson.

On the race issue, an interesting discussion took place on CNN's "Reliable Sources," where finally, someone addressed the issue of the media's sound bite mentality, and general ignorance on the issues of race and Black churches. The latter point was made by CBS reporter Byron Pitts, who is black, and whom Kurtz introduced at the top of the show, remarkably as having just come from church... don't believe me, believe the transcript:
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about race, the media and the campaign, in New York, Byron Pitt, national correspondent for CBS News. In Tampa, Eric Deggans, media critic for "The St. Petersburg Times." And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on the Salem Radio Network.

Byron Pitts, as a black journalist who just came from church this Easter morning, do you look at this furor over Jeremiah Wright's remarks differently than white journalists? Are you less offended, perhaps?
And he speaks so well, too! (eyes rolling...)
BYRON PITTS, CBS NEWS: Oh, I think so. I mean, I've been black for 47 years, I was baptized in the Baptist Church when I was 12 years old. And so Reverend Wright said why -- much of why it was offensive, those are comments I've heard in church before, and I'm mindful of the context, that I think many of my colleagues who are white, they don't have that context.

Like, I was just looking at the clip you showed. All those commentators, all those reporters, were white. They have a different life experience. They have a different context. And I think this story speaks to the lack of diversity in major news organizations, that you have people speaking from a position of ignorance, because they don't understand the black church, that can't bring the context that we as journalists are supposed to bring to a news event.

KURTZ: A good point about diversity, but in one of your reports this week, you said that critics have called Reverend Wright's sermons anti-American. That critics have called them. I mean, this is a guy who said...

PITTS: Sure.

KURTZ: ... "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genociding (ph) his people of color," who said, "God damn America," who said, "U.S. of KKKA."

Why push it off on critics?

PITTS: Well, I think there's some people -- I mean, I think there's some people who have the position that they disagree with much of what Reverend Wright said, but for some people, there is some basis of truth. I mean, I'm mindful of, you know, during Hurricane Katrina, there were people initially in that community who thought maybe the government had blown up the levee there, because, in fact, in New Orleans history, that in fact had happened.

For many people in black America, they remember how there's a time when our government injected black men with syphilis, I believe, that those kinds of thing occur. So, one of the things I thought that Barack -- a point that he made in his speech is how you have in the church, in the black church, there's this wealth of love, compassion, and truth, and some ignorance. And it's a world that if you're a pastor, that you have to navigate that world.
After that, the St. Pete Times' media critic, Eric Deggans (whom we used to book frequently on the morning show,) helpfully pointed out that the media coverage of Jeremiah Wright's now infamous speech clips, excluded the context in which the remarks were made -- context which could easily have been provided by playing longer sections of the 20-minute sermons, or by posting the transcripts. Deggans provides the former on his blog, and as it turns out, during the most "shocking" statement -- "God damn America," Wright was actually quoting someone else. Whoops...!
ERIC DEGGANS, "ST. PETERSBURG TIMES": Well, I think the biggest problem that we have here is that people haven't actually looked at what Reverend Wright said. On my blog, the feed for "The St. Petersburg Times," I've actually put up longer clips of the two controversial speeches, the 9/11 speech, and the speech in which he said, you know, an expletive, "America."

And when you see the actual sermons, you see that he's trying to make some very explosive points about America, but he's leading up to them in a way where those statements make a little more sense. And in fact, the "chickens coming home to roost" comments he made about 9/11, he was quoting someone else. And the ABC News report that initially revealed this made it seem as if those were his words.

And you know, as much as I like Byron, you know, the reference to black men being injected with syphilis, what actually happened is that they had syphilis and they weren't treated for it by a government program. And I think one of the problems we have in this debate is that journalists are not getting to the heart of what's actually going on here, taking a step back and really explaining these issues to the American people.

KURTZ: All right.

DEGGANS: What we're doing is taking the emotional part of it and constantly putting it before people in order to gin up a conversation that may be based on false assumptions.
One of the other guests, reporter Byron Pitts, even caught useless talker Michael Medved trotting out the old "Barack is so articulate" meme, making the point that what white people fear about Rev. Jeremiah Wright is his tone of voice -- while Barack rather soothes them because he plays against type -- you know, black Americans, though born and raised here, only speak proper English as some sort of parlor trick...

Back to Eric's blog. A portion of it bears reprinting:

Because Rev. Wright deserved a better defender than I -- or, frankly Barack Obama -- have been during this nonsense. A look at these clips, which present much larger excerpts of Wright's speeches, shows that his seemingly damning statements came during passionate speeches about America's history of racial oppression and America's history of killing innocents while exacting military revenge against enemies.

One of Rev. Wright's most controversial comments -- the statements about "chickens coming home to roost" after 9/11 -- was his quote of a white ambassador speaking on Fox News Channel. Why didn't the TV news reporters tell us this?

...including the so-called "investigative reporters" among them, who claim to have easily obtained tapes of the sermons, but who couldn't be bothered to watch the entire tapes? Did they just scan forward to the offending remarks? Or did they just go by the Youtube? Either way, you'd think a "responsible" news outfit or two would see fit to make the whole sermons available, or at least the transcripts, on their websites, no? Or to seek that context themselves, rather than simply absorbing the Wright story for its horse race value? Oh wait, we're talking about the American media... Here's one of the clips (Eric posts two of them). The theme, interestingly enough, given even Barack's formulation that Wright is mired in the past, is "governments change, but God does not":

More on that white ambassador from Sam Stein at the Huffpo:

Meet the man who inspired Reverend Jeremiah Wright's now famous tirade about America's foreign policy inciting the terrorist attacks of September 11.

His name is Ambassador Edward Peck. And he is a retired, white, career U.S. diplomat who served 32-years in the U.S. Foreign Service and was chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq under Jimmy Carter -- hardly the black-rage image with which Wright has been stigmatized.

In fact, when Wright took the pulpit to give his post-9/11 address -- which has since become boiled down to a five second sound bite about "America's chickens coming home to roost" -- he prefaced his remarks as a "faith footnote," an indication that he was deviating from his sermon.

"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday," Wright declared. "He was on Fox News. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true: America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Wright then went on to list more than a few U.S. foreign policy endeavors that, by the tone of his voice and manner of his expression, he viewed as more or less deplorable. This included, as has been demonstrated in the endless loop of clips from his sermon, bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuking "far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye."

"Violence begets violence," Wright said, "hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism."

And then he concluded by putting the comments on Peck's shoulders: "A white ambassador said that yall, not a black militant, not a reverend who preaches about racism, an ambassador whose eyes are wide open and is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice... the ambassador said that the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have, but they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them... let me stop my faith footnote right there."

And yet, this contextualization of the Wright quotes will itself remain a footnote of this story, because the media, having issued a soundbite meme, rarely takes it back. So where does Rev. Wright go to get his reputation back?

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posted by JReid @ 1:34 PM  
Friday, March 21, 2008
Oy, vey! ... I mean NOT oy, vey!
The mainstream media has fallen for the simplistic narrative, now suggesting that merely being photographed with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as, AHA! ... Bill Clinton was back in the Monica mess days of 1998, is akin to sending your pre-teen son to Michael Jackson's house to play. Even the Huffpo has gone in for the simple-minded victimology and oversensitivity which has apparently become the province of white people, who seem to see anti-white racism everywhere they turn. In this case, pro-Hillary blogger Taylor Marsh gotchas Barack over using the incendiary! phrase, "typical white person" ... as IF!!!

And this as MSNBC reports on the critical story of John McCain's wing-man, Joe Lieberman, taking a dive over his pal's confusion of the Jewish holiday of Purim with ... wait for it ... Halloween! I feel a rental of "Cocoon" coming on...!

Still from the 1985 film "Coccon"

Still from the 2008 film, "Hey you kids, get off OUR lawn...!"

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posted by JReid @ 12:53 AM  
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Obama will give his speech
I hate to say I told you so. But I told you so. The speech begins less than an hour from now. I'm assuming at 10 or 10:30 EST.


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posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
Monday, March 17, 2008
You're the one!
Every election year, the press anoints a new, hot swing constituency: the "soccer mom," the "security mom," the "NASCAR dad..." Well this year's belle of the political ball has been chosen, and it's white men. Enjoy your time in the spotlight guys!

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posted by JReid @ 9:30 AM  
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The church fights back (or, why are white people so squeamish?)
I have been thinking that the United Church of Christ, to which Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago belongs, ought to be offended at the mainstream media's demonization -- as if the church were some sort of radical sect akin to Wahabism. To the main UCC body's credit, they are not taking the demonization lying down -- and they shouldn't. The right has a tradition of overreacting to what they see as a war on Christianity everywhere they turn. Well, what we have going at present is a kind of war on this denomination, along with a bludgeoning of a man widely considered to be a top Biblical scholar, and the basis of selected portions of selected sermons. On Stephanopoulos' show this morning, George Will smugly declared it a certainty that Barack Obama was in the pews when some horrid racist bromide was uttered by Wright, and the other talking heads on the panel -- with the exception of Donna Brazille -- bobbleheaded in assent.

The plain fact is, that if Rev. Jeremiah Wright had said precisely the same things -- that the United States has routinely bombed other countries, looked the other way at the killing of Palestinians and that we supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa -- all true statements -- but had said them without the trademark volume and drama of a preacher, his statements would have been almost unremarkable:
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye...We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
What am I missing? Is it offensive to say that we bombed two Japanese cities? I mean, we did do that, didn't we? As for the Palestinians, this is something you can hear said on any street corner in Europe, or from your average UK back bencher. And hell, our sitting vice president opposed sanctioning South Africa and pushed to have the African National Congress -- that's Nelson Mandela's African National Congress -- designated a terrorist organization. Are these things not true? And are blacks only allowed to bring them up if we do so in a pleasant tone of voice?

Wright also said some other things being characterized as shockingly racist by white observers:
“Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Wright said. “Hillary would never know that. “Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”
Forgive me for the insensitivity, but precisely what is racist about that statement? To say that the above statement is racist, you'd have to believe that either 1) the U.S. is not primarily run by rich white people, and that it is instead a coincidence that historically, the president, vice president, most of the Congress and the heads of most major corporations have, in fact, been rich and white. 2) Hillary HAS been called a nigger, and 3) Hillary IS a member of a group that was been defined by the United States as a non-person.

Another "racist" statement from Wright:
“Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.”
I've heard worse things about Bill Clinton out of the mouths of Fox News anchors. Are they racist, too?

As for the "God damn America" comment, which has so appalled our friends in the press, how is that statement any different from this one by the late Jerry Falwell, during an interview on Pat Robertson's show just two days after 9/11:
And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
For his part, Robertson put out a press release just after 9/11 making it even plainer:
We have allowed rampant pornography on the Internet, and rampant secularism and the occult, etc. to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered by our society. We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, "We are going to legislate You out of the schools and take Your commandments from the courthouses in various states. We are not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We are not going to allow the Bible or prayer in our schools." We have insulted God at the highest level of our government. Then, we say, "Why does this happen?" It is happening because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us. Once that protection is gone, we are vulnerable because we are a free society.
Translation: God has damned America. [Hat tip to Too Sense]

And then there's presidential candidate and fundraising rock star Ron Paul, who has said something on this order repeatedly, and on television:

Ron Paul: To me, if you overthrow a regime it’s an act of war, and it backfires on us. It has never served us well over the last 100 years. It’s sort of like what we did with 1953 by installing the Shah. We worked with the regime, we worked the British then, and we’re still suffering the consequences…

You’re saying overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953 and putting in the Shah led to the hostage-taking and 9/11?

Ron Paul: Absolutely.

That's from an interview last August with the magazine Human Events. And we all remember this moment from one of those infernal debates last fall:
Ron Paul: Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there- we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East - I think Reagan was right. We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.

Goler: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

Ron Paul: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, 'I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They have already now since that time have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.
[Hat tip to] And yet, Ron Paul has not been castigated as a hate-mongering racist. What gives?

The problem is, frankly, the clips of Rev. Wright frighten white people in America because of his tone of voice. There's a reason why white folks like Al Roker and dislike Al Sharpton. One is soothing and friendly seeming, the other seems like he might hit you back.

I wrote in this post that politically, Barack would have to distance himself from Wright, just as he did. But every black person in this country has heard, or has said, or thought, something on the order of what Wright said in those controversial clips. It's just that white people are so oversensitive on the subjects of race and American history, they can't stand to even hear the words "we bombed Hiroshima," let alone hearing them in a tone of voice that they find somehow frightening (too loud, too hot, too angry seeming... makes them nervous.) And let's not even get started on the Palestinian issue, which has become so lobbied to death, one is not even permitted to mention the suffering of the Arabs on the West Bank or Gaza or to breathe a word of criticism of Israel's policy in that regard, lest you be condemned as anti-Semitic. This despite the fact that such criticism has often come from black South Africans like Desmond Tutu, a leading voice in favor or divesting from Israel, and a man who knows a thing or two about apartheid.

That's why Barack can't win. He has to be Al Roker enough for white people, and yet Al Sharpton enough for brothas, a feat which can't really be accomplished without a core diagnosis of schizophrenia.

I really have come to the conclusion that what white Americans want, and perhaps need, is absolution. They want a collective amnesia to wash over the country, so that they never have to hear about such troubling things as racism again -- even if it remains in practice throughout much of the country (don't believe me? Just check the message boards beneath almost any story involving a black person accused of a crime. You'll have to wash your ears out afterward. And if that's not enough, process for a moment the fact that for many white Americans, the mere fact that 90 percent of blacks support Obama is enough to make them NOT support him. Explain that, would you?) White people want to be reassured that we're not mad at them anymore. That we're "over it" and will allow them to proceed apace without, as Barbara Bush put it, troubling their beautiful minds with such things.

Unfortunately for white America, that's not so easy for most black folk to do.

Anyhow, back to the church: Trinity's new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss II, vigorously defended Rev. Wright in this morning's service, with lots of reporters in the pews, and the church put out a strongly worded statement:

Chicago, Ill. (March 15, 2008) — Nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.

“Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ. This does not include weekday worship services, revivals and preaching engagements across America and around the globe, to ecumenical and interfaith communities. It is an indictment on Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite,” said the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.

During the 36-year pastorate of Dr. Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ has grown from 87 to 8,000 members. It is the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination.

“It saddens me to see news stories reporting such a caricature of a congregation that has been such a blessing to the UCC’s Wider Church mission,” said the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, in a released statement. “ … It’s time for us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends.”

Trinity United Church of Christ’s ministry is inclusive and global. The following ministries have been developed under Dr. Wright’s ministerial tutelage for social justice: assisted living facilities for senior citizens, day care for children, pastoral care and counseling, health care, ministries for persons living with HIV/AIDS, hospice training, prison ministry, scholarships for thousands of students to attend historically black colleges, youth ministries, tutorial and computer programs, a church library, domestic violence programs and scholarships and fellowships for women and men attending seminary.

Moss added, “The African American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery and the legacy of prophetic African American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken marginalized victims of social and economic injustices. This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world.”
With all that's happened, good for them. I think both Obama and the church are doing what they need to do, however out of concert they appear to be for now.

By the way, it should be pointed out, and it's no small thing, that the majority of UCC churches ... are majority white.

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posted by JReid @ 5:27 PM  
Appointment radio: Tavis on Tom Joyner's show Tuesday
I don't normally listen to the Tom Joyner Morning Show -- just not my cup of tea. But I will be listening this Tuesday, for Tavis' commentary. (When I did used to listen to the TJMF, it was only for Tavis' bit, and then I'd turn to the talk stations...)

Reason for change? I was reporting at an event tonight (yeesh, it's late ... revise that to Saturday night...) where Tavis was receiving an honorary doctorate from Florida Memorial Univesity, a South Florida HBCU. Well... let's just say Tavis went off on Barack Obama for, in his words, "throwing Rev. Jeremiah Wright under the bus."

He had a lot to say, but you'll have to wait for my South Florida Times article to get the full skinny.

Until then, set your car radio for Tom Joyner's show on Tuesday...

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posted by JReid @ 1:56 AM  
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Ferraro shoots the shark
After a day and a half of fighting the future, and even insisting that Barack Obama and his campaign should thank her ... yes, THANK her... for her comments ... Miss Bitter (a/k/a Geraldine Ferraro) finally quits the Clinton campaign. Rule number one of public relations: resign quickly and get the issue behind you. Note to Gerri, this really doesn't count as quickly...

Gerri is saying she is stepping aside, not because of her regrettable comments, but because the Obama campaign is "spinning her as racist." Really? What if I told you she's said it before...
The cite is an April 15, 1988 Washington Post story (byline: Howard Kurtz), available only on Nexis.

Here's the full context:
Placid of demeanor but pointed in his rhetoric, Jackson struck out repeatedly today against those who suggest his race has been an asset in the campaign. President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don't ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race." 
Note how Reagan and Ferraro ran a parallel attack campaign against Jackson back in 1988, note the whining that the press wasn't been as tough on him because he's black ... well I'll be damned! Clinton was right! For the Clintons, this IS just like Jesse Jackson in 1988! Ladies and gentlemen, the shark is dead. Good night, you've been a wonderful audience...

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posted by JReid @ 5:51 PM  
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Mississippi by the numbers
There's lots of talk about Barack Obama's racially polarized victory in Mississippi tonight (90 percent of the black vote, 24 percent of the white...) but there is more to the victory than that:

Barack padded his popular vote margin by some 80,000 votes -- important, because taking the lead in the popular vote is a lynchpin of Camp Clinton's comeback strategy.

The tally (with 91 percent of precincts reporting):

Obama - 223,041 (60%)
Clinton - 143,643 (38%)

He pads his delegate lead, too, netting 7-8 more delegates than Hillary will by night's end.

And he gets another psychological victory, allowing his campaign to reclaim the momentum that was muddled by the Texas and Ohio results (though he did get more delegates out of Texas than Hillary.)

The punditocracy is pouring over the exit polls as we speak, though I didn't hear Norah O'Donnell talk about these:

  • Voters who had a "strongly favorable" view of John McCain went for Clinton 70% to 25%, as did 50% of voters who had a somewhat favorable view. Meanwhile 78% of voters who had a "strongly unfavorable" view of McCain went for Barack -- a testament to how much good Hillary's "kitchen sink" campaign has done for the Republican nominee.
  • Onlly 7% of voters said the gender of the candidates was most important to them, but those who did say that went for Barack 64% to 36%
  • Majorities of both Clinton and Obama supporters said that the other candidate is not "honest and trustworthy. Hillary actually lost the "honest and trustworthy" vote overall, 49% no to 50% yes, while Obama overwhelmingly won the question, 70% to 29%.
In other words, the negative tone of the campaign is sinking in among voters, who are becoming more and more polarized between the two contenders. Some of the numbers seized upon by the cable folks:

  • Clinton won white Democrats 70% to 23$, white Independents 55% to 40%, and interestingly, Republicans, 76% to 24%, suggesting there was some mischief-making afoot (Republicans made up just 13% of the total vote.)
  • Obama won 68% of liberals, 61% of moderates, and lost 53% of conservatives.
  • Hillary won voters for whom electability was the most important attribute, by a slim 52% to 48%.
  • White men went for Hillary 68% to 30%, while white women split 71% to 23% for Hillary.
  • Obama won every age group except those 60 years of age and older, but only because of the black vote. Hillary won every white age group from 30 to 60. (There was no data on the split among the 6% of Mississippi voters who were under 30.)
  • Voters by 61% to 36% said that Clinton attacked Obama unfairly. Only 39% said Obama attacked unfairly.
The race numbers stand out most tonight, particularly as the campaign heads to Pennsylvania -- dubbed "Pittsburgh and Philly with Alabama in the middle" by none other than James Carville -- in just six weeks. The Clintons are poisoning the well all the way to PA, whipping their white, female supporters into an anti-Obama frenzy and blatantly seeking to create a white firewall against the upstart candidate who is "stealing" Hillary's birthright. That means Barack will have to wage a strong, smart campaign in the Philadelphia suburbs, and among young, college aged voters, to offset what will surely be a certain amount of retrenched anti-Black voting by older, white Pennsylvanians.

Here we go...

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 PM  
If you thought Geraldine Ferraro was going to back down and slink off into the distance following her nasty remarks about Barack Obama's supposed racial advantage (cue the sound of Black men laughing all over the U.S., and cue the video of Her Bitterness here...) in the campaign, think again:

"I have to tell you that what I find is offensive is that everytime somebody says something about the campaign, you're accused of being racist," Ferraro told Fox News Channel.

" 'Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?' "

Yes, how IS that? And what's with the Clinton campaign's love affair with Fox News? Watch Bitter Betty do her Fox thang with Greta Van Susteren here:

(The wildest part is that bit at the end where the old gal threatens that Obama "had better be careful about alienating people like her," whom he will want to raise money for him if he's the nominee. As if ... Barack ... needs ... her help ... with money...)

Ferraro did at least have the sense to admit that had SHE been a white man, she would have never made Walter Mondale's ticket in 1984. Mm-hm. And then, came the unkindest cut of all: the Clinton campaign pushed its Black campaign manager out front to actually defend Ferraro's remarks, which, to be clear, were essentially that Barack Obama is an affirmative action hire for the Democratic Party, unqualified in every other way to be the nominee, save the color of his skin. He's not beating Hillary because he's getting more votes or because he's raising more money, or because he's a more interesting, more compelling candidate than Hillary. He's beating her because he's a Black man, (and because the patrimonious media hates women.) It's the Rush Limbaugh argument shaken up and shoved into the mouths of a white woman; the feminist's revenge against the notion of A MAN "taking" the White House run away from them. On to Ms. Williams. Her statement today read as follows:
"In January, NBC’s Tim Russert confronted Senator Barack Obama with a four page memo from his campaign characterizing statements they claimed the Clinton Campaign had made about race. Asked in hindsight whether he regretted pushing this story, Senator Obama said:

'Well, not only in hindsight, but going forward. I think that, as Hillary said, our supporters, our staff, get overzealous. They start saying things that I would not say. And it is my responsibility to make sure that we’re setting a clear tone in our campaign, and I take that responsibility very seriously, which is why I spoke yesterday and sent a message in case people were not clear that what we want to do is make sure that we focus on the issues.'

We agreed then. We agree today. Supporters from both campaigns will get overzealous. Senator Clinton today reiterated that when asked about Geraldine Ferraro’s recent comments: “I do not agree with that and you know it’s regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides say things that veer off into the personal. We ought to keep this focused on the issues. That’s what this campaign should be about.

Senator Obama’s campaign staff seems to have forgotten his pledge. We have not. And, we reject these false, personal and politically calculated attacks on the eve of a primary. This campaign should be about the leadership we need for a better future and these attacks serve only to divide the Democratic Party and the American people."
Wow. The Clinton campaign is blaming the Obama campaign for making this about race? They are either that good, or pristinely evil.

As for Hillary, she's mildly unamused by Ms. Ferraro's fulminations. Emphasis on the "mild."

If I'm Barack Obama, I'm re-hiring Samantha Power.

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posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
Monday, February 25, 2008
The White man's burden
The Republican National Committee is cautioning its members not to do anything racist or sexist during the Fall presidential campaign. Well if you have to say it...

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posted by JReid @ 3:41 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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