Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
In America, we marry other species
Well, that certainly explains a lot ... Enjoy your dose of Fox and Friends crazy-talk.

Salon helpfully translates Brian Kilmeade's rant into human:
Kilmeade and two colleagues were discussing a study that, based on research done in Finland and Sweden, showed people who stay married are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's. Kilmeade questioned the results, though, saying, "We are -- we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other ..."

At this point, his co-host tried to -- in that jokey morning show way -- tell Kilmeade he needed to shut up, and quick, for his own sake. But he didn't get the message, adding, "See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes .... Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society."

Well, at least he didn't use the n-word...

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posted by JReid @ 12:07 AM  
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
A wise Italian judge?
A writer on Tapped makes a darned good point about intellectual honesty in the Ricci/Sotomayor debate. The right has been attacking Sotomayor for supposedly threatening to take her ethnic background into account on the bench, even though there's exactly zero evidence that she has ever done so. Meanwhile:

Of course, there is another justice who testified to how his ethnic background affected his jurisprudence, and that was Samuel Alito. Testifying in front of the Senate during his confirmation hearing, Alito said:

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

Frank Ricci, the plaintiff in that case, is Italian American, just like Samuel Alito. Was Alito thinking about "people in his own family" who "suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background" when he cast his vote in the Ricci case? Was his ruling and concurrent opinion affected by his "taking that into account" as he says he does in such cases?

There's no way to know. But what I find interesting is that no one's even asking the question

Hm. And Scalia is Italian, too. The conclusion is pretty damning:

In our national conversation, bias is something people of color and women have toward white men, not the other way around, history be damned. This isn't a new phenomenon either, based on some sort of (nonexistent) "reversal of fortune" for white men in society--they asked the same questions of Thurgood Marshall that they're now asking of Sotomayor.

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posted by JReid @ 12:54 PM  
Monday, June 15, 2009
Trapped in Dixie: SC GOP activist compares first lady to gorilla
Dissuade any remaining southern blacks from even thinking about the Republican Party? Check. Disparage the first lady by comparing her to a gorilla? Check, and double check:

And there's more South Carolina racial shenanigans to report...

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posted by JReid @ 12:58 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  
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  
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Perez Hilton is an asshole. There, I said it.
Far be it from me to start agreeing with Matt Drudge's assistant, but Andrew Breitbart is right on this one. Perez Hilton's gutter-level attacks on Miss California were out of line. I don't care how celeb-fab you think you are, or how passionate you are about gay rights. You shouldn't get to call any woman the c-word (or the b-word for that matter,) and get away with it (how desperate was the Miss USA pageant for cool points that they put such a controversial, to say the least, celeb hunter on that dais in the first place...?) If say, Mel Gibson, or Don Imus, had called a beauty contestant, or any woman for that matter, a c---, the hew and cry would have lasted for weeks, and careers would be hanging in the balance. African-American actor Isaiah Washington lost his gig on "Gray's Anatomy," alon with his career and livelihood over an anti-gay slur that doesn't come close to the "c-word" in terms of sheer repugnance (when word leaked that he and his wife would soon be kicked out of their home, Perez cheered his misfortune...) Michael Richards, formerly of "Seinfeld," committed career suicide by using the "N-word" at a comedy club. And yet, the "Queen of Mean" gets away with his slur because ... what ... Carrie Prejean's a religous rightie? ... Because she's "just a pageant girl"...? Because ... he's gay? Well he shouldn't have gotten a pass for any reason, and shame on the media, and on my side of the political spectrum for not calling him out.

Meanwhile, while onstage, she mangled the syntax, and while there is clearly growing support for gay marriage in the U.S., and Republicans risk even further diminishing themselves by continuing to harp on it, Miss Prejean's views (and those of fellow gay movement scourge, Rick Warren,) are hardly shocking. In fact, they turn out to be precisely the same as those of the president of the United States. Remember him? And millions of religious Americans, who by no means "hate" gay people, are conflicted on the issue, indeed, many struggle sincerely with it. Are all of these people c---t's and bitches, too? Or in the vernacular of a certain British MP, maybe they should all just be killed.

One thing Breitbart gets wrong in his Washington Times column, is his contention that there was no comparable backlash from pro gay marriage groups against African-Americans, who mostly oppose same-sex marriage and voted mainly in favor of Proposition 8. In fact, the attacks on African-Americans in the wake of Prop 8's passage, particularly online, were often vicious, accusatory, and sometimes, downright racist, (and sometimes scary,) repleat with cries of "you people owe us!" ... and yes, the gay community's anger WAS directed against Barack Obama, too.

Like any movement, the gay marriage cause has two sides: one reasonable and thoughtful, the other ranging from snarky and entitled to downright nasty. (Perez Hilton, it seems, belongs to the latter, and you can throw in a rather awful strain of mysogyny in his brand, too.) And yet, both sides lay claim to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (which is one reason blacks often shut down on the issue.) On that score, it's helpful to remember history with a sense of proportionality. During segregation, whites who opposed integration and "intermarriage" weren't "uncomfortable" with blacks, they wanted blacks to remain a servant class, physically separated from society and denied the basic rights of citizenship, and they held literal life and death power over an entire class of people whom many literally thought to be subhuman. Opponents of gay marriage don't want to turn gays into servants or property, they simply hold to traditional religious notions of human coupling. Not exactly equivalent. Meanwhile, the movement the gay marriage cause hopes to emulate was one Dr. King patterned after Mohandus K. Ghandi, whom I suspect would never have called even the worst of all colonialists a c---.

Cross-posted at Open Salon.

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posted by JReid @ 11:21 AM  
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  
Capitol police officers eyed during inauguration
A chilling report from the WaPo:

In the days leading up to President Obama's inauguration, U.S. law enforcement agencies huddled regularly in an effort to minimize any possible security risk to an event that promised record crowds for the country's first black president. But one agenda item led authorities to a target close to home: the ranks of the U.S. Capitol Police.

An FBI investigation that included taped surveillance had placed two off-duty veteran Capitol Police officers in the company of individuals whose racial views and capacity for violence were under scrutiny. Although the recorded discussion did not center on Obama, federal law enforcement officials wanted to ensure that the officers were not on duty covering the Capitol, where the president took the oath of office, according to two sources involved in the matter.

The FBI alerted Capitol Police officials, but some federal officials grew concerned when no immediate action was taken, according to the sources. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan voiced his frustration to then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, according to a senior federal official with knowledge of the incident. Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge, told officials that if the Capitol Police did not act, he was prepared to take the issue to members of Congress overseeing the inauguration, the senior federal official said.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. . . . But there are codes of conduct that are necessary for law enforcement and people in positions of public trust," said one senior federal official with knowledge of the episode. Common sense dictated, the official added, that the swearing-in of the nation's first black president was not a time to take chances.

... Officials have said that a principal concern was the possibility of hate crimes spurred by racial prejudice, leading them to focus investigative attention before the inauguration on any number of domestic groups with white supremacist views.

The Capitol Police suspended the two officers with pay on Jan. 19, the eve of the inauguration ceremony, pending an internal inquiry into an allegation that they associated with felons in violation of department policy, according to a senior law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the personnel matter. The official said the action was taken as soon as officials received the FBI's file and was not precipitated by Chertoff..

Yeesh... So who were they associated with?

The suspended officers have no known criminal record, a senior law enforcement official said, and colleagues said the men are well regarded within the force. The officers rose to the attention of federal law enforcement partly because of their long association with a Southern Maryland motorcycle club, the Tribes. The group is a rough-hewn band of bike enthusiasts founded more than 30 years ago by corrections officers and other law enforcement officials.

The club came under law enforcement scrutiny earlier this decade, and in January 2004, a former member, John Beal, pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges after an undercover investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Capitol Police are barred from associating with felons, a policy shared by other law enforcement agencies.

Looks like Tribes website is here. The pics are ... um ... very bikery? On the up-side, they have participated in Toys for Tots ...

While we were in D.C. we were told that there were literally hundreds of hate groups being monitored by the Secret Service, FBI and Homeland Security during the inaugural. The primary brought out many of the crazies (including at those infamous Palinite rallies) but the inauguration surely brought out even more.

Meanwhile, over at Politico: the birthers are starting to really annoy people ... and by people, I mean judges...

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posted by JReid @ 3:48 PM  
Friday, February 20, 2009
Worth watching: Barack and Curtis
Filmmaker Byron Hurt has made a compelling short documentary on the subject of black masculinity, as represented by President Barack Obama, and rapper 50 Cent. Watch:

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posted by JReid @ 3:35 PM  
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Newt gets something right
Newt Gingrich throws some kernels of truth into his latest Human Events column:
Taking President Obama At His Word
by Newt Gingrich

Presidential inaugurals are one of last aspects of our national politics that are genuinely welcoming of the American people. So much of presidential campaigning is so tightly controlled and choreographed that it works to exclude Americans. But inaugurations welcome us all in, and allow our part in the greatness of American democracy to extend beyond the voting booth.

Callista and I were fortunate enough to be present on the National Mall on Tuesday for what was a truly historic event. For as far as we could see, down the great length of the Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, there were people. Americans. Possibly the largest crowd in history for a presidential inaugural.

He goes on to say this:

Regardless of who you supported in November, it was impossible not to be moved by this event, because it said extraordinary things about the United States of America.

Dictators Take Heed: In a Single Generation, the Son of an African Immigrant Rose in America to Be Leader of the Free World

The first thing the Obama inaugural said was how far American has come in a short time.

There are people alive today who were once not allowed to sit at a lunch counter, not allowed to stay at a hotel, and prevented from exercising their right to vote by virtue of the color of their skin. These Americans saw an African American man democratically assume the most powerful office in the world on Tuesday. What an extraordinary breakthrough.

And the second message about America sent by the Obama inauguration was aimed straight at the heart of all the dictators, theocrats, oligarchs and military strongmen who rationalize their tyranny with the excuse that their people aren’t “ready” for democracy: In the course of a single generation, the son of an immigrant from a poor country in Africa rose in America to be the leader of the free world.

After that he goes on with some drivel about Obama's rhetoric being "center right" and some malarky about the free market. Anyway, the first bit was good.

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posted by JReid @ 5:39 PM  
Saturday, November 08, 2008
What the butler saw
Eugene Allen served in the White House for three decades.

The LA Times has a moving, beautifully written account of Eugene Allen, a black man who served as White House butler to eight presidents. An excerpt:
President Truman called him Gene. President Ford liked to talk golf with him. He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week.

"I never missed a day of work," Allen said.

He was there while racial history was made: Brown vs. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.

When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Allen, 89, recalled of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better."

In its long history, the White House -- note the name -- has had a complex and vexing relationship with black Americans.

"The history is not so uneven at the lower level, in the kitchen," said Ted Sorensen, who served as counselor to President Kennedy. "In the kitchen, the folks have always been black. Even the folks at the door -- black."

Read the rest here. You'll be glad you did.

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posted by JReid @ 3:28 PM  
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Thanks for nothing, Hughley
DL Hughley's new CNN show isn't funny ... and that's just half the problem

See, this is what happens when the suits try to figure out what "the young folks" are into -- you know, like when your parents try to dress like you...?

DL Hughley got a show on CNN and Roland Martin didn't. Go figure. And not surprisingly, white critics love it, black critics don't. Why? One word: buffoonery. It's the last thing black people want to see at a time when we are about to elect our first black president. It's "Amos and Andy" at a time when we want "Hardball":

The fight to be taken seriously -- not just cast in slapstick crap comedies or as crack addicts, is as real as rain for black actors; just as the fight to make and release music that isn't about guns, money and hoes is real for black musicians (not to mention those of us trying to convince program directors that black people can do talk radio for non-black audiences...) The corporate execs still don't get it -- maybe because ... wait for it ... there's not enough diversity up there.

Paul Porter (of IndustryEars) gets it exactly right:
CNN, over the weekend debuted "DL Hughley: Breaks The News", the only African American hosted cable news program. Hughley, reverted back to his early BET "Comic View"days, lacking the intellectual clarity he often displays on Bill Maher or even recent CNN appearances. DL's material was immensely stereo typical, but calculated programming that continues to stifle mainstream media perceptions. CNN's attempt of a Flava Flav style of African American entertainment is an alarming step backward for a respected news organization.

It's easy to point the not funny finger at DL Hughley but the real story is who's behind the camera. While this election cycle has shown a diverse collection of analyst and pundits, media ownership and equity of power in television and radio are far from equitable.

While people of color make up 33% of the American population, less than 7% are owners and even fewer are in decision making positions.Yes, there are plenty of Black anchors and reporters on cable and network news but the content they report continually falls short. Perception has replaced reality, millions of Americans are yearning for more, while receiving less.

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posted by JReid @ 8:53 AM  
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  
Thursday, October 16, 2008
John McCain's African-American cousins
My radio co-host Elgin Jones (one of the finest reporters in South Florida or anywhere,) has an incredible story up about John McCain's black relatives in Mississippi -- the ones McCain apparently doesn't acknowledge. Here's a clip:
When Theresa McCain started the family reunions in the late 1980s or early ‘90s (neither he nor his wife is sure of the exact starting date), only black family members attended. But as word spread about the gatherings, white members of the McCain family got involved. Today, the reunion has expanded to the point where it is becoming a community event.

The reunion’s website, has pictures, postings and other information about the family gatherings. While Sen. McCain’s brother, Joe, and many of his other white relatives attend the reunions, family members say Sen. McCain has never acknowledged them, or even responded to their invitations.

More about the family:
William Alexander McCain fought for the Confederacy

Sen. John McCain’s great, great grandfather, William Alexander McCain (1812-1863), fought for the Confederacy and owned a 2000-acre plantation named Waverly in Teoc. The family dealt in the slave trade, and, according to official records, held at least 52 slaves on the family’s plantation. The enslaved Africans were likely used as servants, for labor, and for breeding more slaves.

William McCain’s son, and Sen. John McCain’s great grandfather, John Sidney McCain (1851-1934), eventually assumed the duty of running the family’s plantation.

W.A. “Bill” McCain IV, a white McCain cousin, and his wife Edwina, are the current owners of the land. Both told the South Florida Times that they attend the reunions. They also said the McCain campaign had asked them not to speak to the media about the reunions, or about why the senator has never acknowledged the family gatherings.

In addition to distancing himself from his black family members, John McCain has taken several positions on issues that have put him at odds with members of the larger black community.

While running for the Republican Party nomination in 2000, he sided with protesters who were calling for the rebel battle flag to be removed from the South Carolina statehouse, only to alter that position later.

"Some view it as a symbol of slavery. Others view it as a symbol of heritage,” John McCain said of the flag. "Personally, I see the battle flag as a symbol of heritage. I have ancestors who have fought for the Confederacy, none of whom owned slaves. I believe they fought honorably.’’

Novelist Elizabeth Spencer, another white cousin of John McCain, noted the slaves the family owned in the family’s memoirs, Landscapes of the Heart. Sen. McCain has acknowledged reading the book, but claims to have only glossed over entries about their slaves.

“That’s crazy,” said Spencer, who also attends the reunions in Teoc. “No one had to tell us, because we all knew about the slaves. I may not vote, because I don’t want anyone to think that I have an issue with John, but I don’t want to see him become president because I think Obama is entirely adequate, and it’s time for a Democrat.’’

Read the whole thing here.

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posted by JReid @ 5:10 PM  
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
RADAR splains...
Why McCain called Barack Obama "that one."

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posted by JReid @ 12:44 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
The redneck card
Harumphing wingers have taken to the airwaves, blogs and print pubs to express their outrage that anyone would dare suggest that they ... THEY ... would ever do or say anything racist regarding Barack Obama's candidacy!
[Pro-lynching country singer Toby] Keith has trained his sights on Barack Obama, attacking him in language that startled even the notoriously reactionary radio jock Glenn Beck. During Keith's appearance on the July 30 broadcast of Beck's show, he remarked, "I think the black people would say he [Obama] don't talk, act or carry himself as a black person."

"What does that even mean?" the audibly shocked Beck replied.

"Well, I don't know what that means," Keith drawled, "but I think that that's what they would say. Even though the black society would pull for him I still think that they think in the back of their mind that the only reason he is in [the general election] is because he talks, acts and carries himself as a Caucasian." (Audio)

And I'm sure Keith knows that based on all the members of "the black society" that he's in contact with on a more or less daily basis whilst his grandpappy's stringin' em up, I reckon...


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posted by JReid @ 10:51 PM  
Saturday, July 26, 2008
House to consider slavery apology
Brace yourself for some ignorant, racist commentary online. The slavery apology issue is working its way through Congress.


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posted by JReid @ 11:45 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  
Friday, July 04, 2008
'Senator No' heads for the big cotton wagon in the sky
Helms celebrates victry in 1972. From a March 9 story in the Washington Post

Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms is dead at age 86. Says the WaPo:

He supported prayer in the public schools, free enterprise in business, a strong military, a balanced budget and "decency, honor and spiritual and moral cleanliness in America." In 1989, he drew national attention for an attack on the National Endowment for the Arts after it funded works he considered homoerotic and anti-Christian.

To his opponents, Helms was divisive, mean-spirited, race-baiting and manipulative. He was a pioneer of negative television attack ads, which he used frequently and effectively in his political campaigns.

When Helms announced in 2001 that he was retiring from the Senate, Washington Post columnist David S. Broder described him as "the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country."

Helms's opposition to social change and what he considered legislative overstepping led to his nickname of "Senator No," a title he wore he came to relish. In 1977, he angrily denounced a treaty advanced by President Jimmy Carter to turn over the Panama Canal to the country of Panama. He blocked nominations for federal office, withheld funding for the United Nations, opposed gun control and threatened to cancel federal support for arts groups and school busing. A staunch opponent of Communism, he sought to isolate Cuban leader Fidel Castro and refused to relent on strict U.S. trade embargoes of Cuba.

And the Raleigh News & Observer serves up some memorable Helms quotes, courtesy of the Associated Press. Take this one, for instance:

"Well, there is no joy in Mudville tonight. The mighty ultraliberal establishment, and the liberal politicians and editors and commentators and columnists, have struck out again." — Helms after defeating black Democrat Harvey Gantt for Senate in 1990.
Lovely. Here's one to bring a tear to your eye on this Independence Day:

"I shall always remember the shady streets, the quiet Sundays, the cotton wagons, the Fourth of July parades, the New Year's Eve firecrackers. I shall never forget the stream of school kids marching uptown to place flowers on the Courthouse Square monument on Confederate Memorial Day." — Helms writing in 1956 on life in his hometown of Monroe, N.C.

Gotta love those cotton wagons ... Oh, and who can forget this classic:

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing." — Helms responding in 1956 to criticism that a fictional black character in his newspaper column was offensive.
We're gonna miss you, Jesse.

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posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Stupid human tricks
Proving the age-old chestnut that racists can't spell to be entirely true, vandals spray misspelled insults targeting Barack Obama on city vehicles in Orlando, then damn Hillary Clinton with likely ungrammatical faint praise.

Reports Orlando's WFTV:
Phrases including “Obmama smokes crack” and others phrases with racial slurs were written in blue spray paint on the white city cars and trucks.Other vehicles appeared to have had their gas tanks tampered with.Along with the paint, hundreds of business cards were left on windshields.The cards contain criticism of Obama on one side, and support for Hillary Clinton and her family on the other side. The same cards were left on channel nine vehicles in Daytona Beach several weeks ago.

The vandalism happened the same night the Obama campaign kicked off its Florida organization with parties across the state.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that 24 vehicles were damaged in all, including 23 owned by the city. The vandals did about $10,000 worth of damage, added some new catch phrases to the American lexicon, and according to the paper, for once, John McCain was not ignored.
According to pictures from the scene, the vandals tagged notes such as "Obama smokes crack." They left business card-sized notes that disparaged Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama on one side, while supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton on the other.

The cards also included statements like "Legalize Marijuana/Stop Building Prisons," "Ladies I'm Single Some Girl Step Up" and "How About Them Gators." They were signed by "CR."
I hereby accuse Karl Rove's cleverly disguised alter ego: "Carl" Rove. Here's some video of the vandals' work, for you to enjoy.


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posted by JReid @ 4:14 PM  
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  
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
He's done it!
At just before 9:00 tonight, Barack Obama officially became the Democratic Party's nominee for president. Incredible. Stunning. Fantastic. Good show, America!

Mark Nicholas picks up on the Chris Matthews reference to Desmond Tutu, and his reaction to the peculiar American drama regarding race. And he links to the Tutu op-ed that says it all:

When I first came to this country in '72, I was quite shaken, actually, by the intensity of feeling that African-Americans had. And I said I couldn't understand: Why are they so bitter, why are they so angry?

There, in South Africa (under apartheid), they told you, "You're nothing, and we're going to treat you like the nothing you are. And don't ever hope to think that you have a chance of being treated differently."

Here, you say to them, "You're equal, and the sky's the limit." And they keep bumping their heads against this thing that's stopping them from reaching out to the stars. And so I understood that it was the illusion of equality -- which is still the case.

You've got all of that going against you, and yet you produce (Obama). Where else in the world would you ever have had anything like that? I mean an African-American being not just a credible candidate but one who has galvanized -- I mean, the number of young people who have come out and said, "Yes, we think it is actually possible to have a different kind of society." Only here.
Read the full Desmond Tutu article here.

And enjoy tonight. It's one hell of a big night for America.


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posted by JReid @ 9:29 PM  
Monday, May 19, 2008
Robert Byrd endorses Obama
Perhaps the most poignant endorsement so far comes from West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, a Klansman in his youth, and a supporter of a black candidate for president, today.

Ben Smith has the news, and a stirring passage from Barack Obama's autobiography about his first time meeting Byrd, whom right wingers caricature, but who renounced his ties to his racist past long ago, and whose rempentance should be no less accepted than any other sinner's. Byrd's endorsement has heavy symbolism, not for politics, but for this country.


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posted by JReid @ 2:21 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  
Sometimes, the future looks bright
The stories I've read and heard anecdotally about young, eager college students getting the cold water of racism thrown over their heads in West Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania as they campaigned for Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton's race baiting comments about "hard working white Americans," plus WV's 2 in 10 who "voted white" yesterday, can really get you feeling down about the state of race relations in this country. But sometimes, a story turns your frown around. Like the one about the white valedictorian of Morehouse College:

From his first day at Morehouse College — the country's only institution of higher learning dedicated to the education of black men — Joshua Packwood has been a standout.

His popularity got him elected dorm president as a freshman. His looks and physique made him a fashion-show favorite. His intellect made him a Rhodes Scholar finalist. His work ethic landed him a job at the prestigious investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in New York City.

But it's his skin that has made all of this an anomaly. This month, Packwood is set to take the stage and address his classmates as the first white valedictorian in Morehouse's 141-year history.

The 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., will graduate Sunday with a perfect 4.0 GPA and a degree in economics.

He could have gone elsewhere, to a school like Columbia, Stanford or Yale, but his four-year journey through Morehouse has taught him a few things that they could not, and he makes it clear that he has no regrets.

"I've been forced to see the world in a different perspective, that I don't think I could've gotten anywhere else," he said. "None of the Ivies, no matter how large their enrollment is, no matter how many Nobel laureates they have on their faculty ... none of them could've provided me with the perspective I have now."

Impressive credentials

When Packwood applied to Morehouse, he had frequent conversations with George Gray, an alumnus who was a recruiter at the school. Gray was impressed by Packwood's credentials and spent months trying to talk the sought-after senior into choosing Morehouse over other elite schools.

"He had outstanding numbers," said Gray, now director of admissions at historically black Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. "He was the kind of kid we were looking for to be a presidential scholar."

After several conversations, Packwood began to suspect that Gray had no idea that he was white. His suspicions were confirmed when one of Gray's calls caught Packwood in the middle of track practice.

"Don't let the white kids walk you down," Gray quipped.

"Wait," Packwood re-sponded. "You know I'm white, right?"

Silence. Uneasy laughter. Confirmation.

"The challenge was to get the best student that we could, and Josh definitely fit that," Gray said.

And for Packwood, knowing that he had been picked on his merits, and not as a token white recruit, made the difference. ...

Yes we can.

And he's cute, too!

Packwood was on the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning and was very impressive. He'll do well at Goldman Sachs, and in life. Way to go, Brother Josh. And don't let the haters (check the comments in this story) walk you down.


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 AM  
Friday, May 02, 2008
The Clyburn smackdown, part 2: Wright back at ya
House Democratic Whip James Clyburn stays feisty, with some new verbal ammo, this time aimed at Jeremiah Wright:
"I have a daughter the same age as Barack Obama," said Clyburn, the most senior African American in Congress. "I've tried to provide shoulders for her to stand on. And I was absolutely saddened when it became clear to me Rev. Wright, rather than providing a shoulder for his parishioner to stand on, was engaged in some kind of knee-capping operation. That's not the kind of anatomical analogy we ought to be involved in."

He took particular umbrage with Wright's suggestion that attacks on him were attacks on the black church, writ large. But, said Clyburn, if Wright had done grievous damage to Obama, the candidate would not have picked up the endorsements over the past two days from former Democratic Party chief Joe Andrew or Rep. Baron Hill, who represents a conservative district in Southern Indiana.

"Just because one sets out to do damage doesn't mean it will be successful," Clyburn said. "I don't think it was successful."

Meanwhile, a NYT story on Indianapolis voters offers a telling insight into the minds of upscale Hoosier voters, and their projection of the attitudes of their downscale brethren:
INDIANAPOLIS — In the cafes, gift stores and the gourmet dog biscuit shop in this city’s neighborhood of Broad Ripple Village, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s name draws all sorts of responses — sighs, rolling eyes, laughter, grim silence.

But many people, like Clyde H. Crockett, a retired law professor who was sipping a drink in a coffee shop here on Thursday, said his thoughts about Mr. Wright would have no bearing on his decision — still unfinished — about whom to vote for in Indiana’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

“Why should it?” Mr. Crockett said. “No one should be tainted because of Reverend Wright.”

The shoppers in Broad Ripple and in the neighborhoods nearby reflect a demographic group — mostly white, highly educated, professional, artsy, relatively well-off, politically independent — that has leaned toward Senator Barack Obama in other states and one that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will hope to gain an edge with here, in a state that polls show as almost evenly split.

But in interviews here on Thursday, voters said Mr. Wright’s highly publicized comments and the responses and echoes that have followed had had little bearing on them.

Supporters of both Democratic candidates said that they did not think the Wright episode should change the race but said, again and again, that they feared it might in other, less cosmopolitan areas of Indiana where they thought people might be searching for some acceptable explanation for not voting for a black candidate.

Mr. Crockett, who said he was leaning ever so slightly toward Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, his wife’s preferred candidate, said he worried that Mr. Obama’s ties to his former pastor could harm him among voters in the far southern part of the state, the small towns, the more conservative enclaves.

“I think Reverend Wright will give a lot of people an excuse not to vote for Obama,” Mr. Crockett said. “They’re looking for an excuse, and this will be it.” ...

And as they say, "as goes Indiana..."

UPDATE: Okay, I know I called this post the "Clyburn smackdown," but way to go John Kerry, smacking down MSNBC the other day!

Nice work, Senator!


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posted by JReid @ 3:01 PM  
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Wright, meet bus
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, like Tavis Smiley, is about to learn a powerful lesson about Black America: the consensus inside the community, to the extent there is a consensus, can turn on a dime. Black America was skeptical of Barack Obama, until it wasn't. Black America was with Hillary, until they weren't. And Black America supported Rev. Jeremiah Wright against the media, until yesterday. In the wake of his gratuitous performances in Detroit and Washington, Wright will soon learn that he went a bridge too far. (As I keep saying, he should have left it at Bill Moyers.) And given the choice between salvaging Jeremiah Wright and salvaging a potential President Barack Obama, I think it's a safe bet that all over America tonight, most Black Americans are choosing Barack.

Update: Youtuber Obamamania mashes up Jeremiah's revenge, featuring scenes from the Barack-Wright divorce:


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posted by JReid @ 6:41 PM  
The Wright controversy comes full circl
"An insult to me, and a disrespect to what I'm trying to do in this campaign..."

You might say Barack Obama just couldn't take it anymore. The Democratic front runner just finished making a statement and taking questions on the subject of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who horrified the media and Obama supporters Sunday with a speech in which he made fun of the Kennedys, following by a talk at the National Press Club Monday in which, most pundits agree, he pitched his former parishioner directly under the bus -- the wheels, not the tall gap underneath. Well today, Barack isn't the only one feeling the wheels on his back.

I think this has been the single best thing to happen to Obama in weeks.

Why? Because after watching his pastor seize the spotlight for two days, after an absolutely wonderful interview on PBS that should have ended the matter, Barack Obama has a license to get mad. And in getting mad at Jeremiah Wright, he can finally give the teeming masses of the mainstream media what they are downright demanding -- a no-holds-barred, unambiguous denunciation and rejection of Jeremiah Wright. Like it or not, Obama had to do it, eventually. More importantly, it was pretty obvious from his tone of voice that at this point, he also wanted to do it, which was not true during that speech in Philadelphia. The very personal breach between the two men puts real, not artificial or political, distance between Obama and what clearly would be his biggest nemesis in the campaign. It still probably will be. The right will not be mollified by anything Barack does. they will still try to hang him with Wright's statements, right into November. But Obama has now gotten license to jettison Wright, and with him, the fear factor that had begun to cloud his campaign. And when I say fear, I mean middle America's fear of Barack Obama, and the possibility that he's not "one of us... he's one of them..."

So there we are. Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright have thrown each other overboard.

Can we please go back to politics now?

Update: Tamryn Hall, MSNBC's late morning anchor (who has the best haircut in the business, by the way,) just finished explaining the ABCs of church in Chicago to Andrea Mitchell.

Hall is from Chicago, and attended Trinity Church, just like Obama. She just backed up Obama's contention that he didn't see the side of Wright that we all saw on Monday. She also pointed out that for Blacks who move to Chicago, there are two major churches they are often told are the ones to attend, and one is Trinity. She made the common sense point that just because the minister marries you and performs the baptisms of your kids, doesn't make them your spiritual advisor. And no, it also doesn't mean you go to church every single Sunday. I can tell you that I have no relationship whatsoever with the minister who married Jason and me. Ditto with the Episcopalian priest who baptised my daughter. And while I am a member of one of those major, social center churches Tamryn spoke of, here in Miami, I couldn't tell you everything that my very prominent pastor believes, nor could I tell you what he preaches every week.

Oh, common sense ...


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posted by JReid @ 1:38 PM  
The NYDN's Errol Louis uncovers what could be a Clinton dirty trick on the Rev. Wright front:
Shortly before he rose to deliver his rambling, angry, sarcastic remarks at the National Press Club Monday, Wright sat next to, and chatted with, Barbara Reynolds.

A former editorial board member at USA Today, she runs something called Reynolds News Services and teaches ministry at the Howard University School of Divinity. (She is an ordained minister).

It also turns out that Reynolds - introduced Monday as a member of the National Press Club "who organized" the event - is an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a blog linked to her Web site- Reynolds said in a February post: "My vote for Hillary in the Maryland primary was my way of saying thank you" to Clinton and her husband for the successes of Bill Clinton's presidency.

The same post criticized Obama's "Audacity of Hope" theme: "Hope by definition is not based on facts," wrote Reynolds. It is an emotional expectation. Things hoped for may or may not come. But help based on experience trumps hope every time."

In another blog entry, Reynolds gives an ever-sharper critique of Obama: "It is a sad testimony that to protect his credentials as a unifier above the fray, the senator is fueling the media characterization that Rev. Dr. Wright is some retiring old uncle in the church basement."

I don't know if Reynolds' eagerness to help Wright stage a disastrous news conference with the national media was a way of trying to help Clinton - my queries to Reynolds by phone and e-mail weren't returned yesterday - but it's safe to say she didn't see any conflict between promoting Wright and supporting Clinton. ...

Here's Reynolds' blog, which strangely enough, doesn't use the spacebar between paragraphs... Reading through a March 17 post on Rev. Wright, you get the clear impression that she is a supporter of the pastor, if not of his parishioner, Obama. An example (with paragraph breaks provided for your amusement):
Pastor Wright is being brutally trashed for his controversial sermons. The mainstream media are the guilty culprit in all of this partly because of ignorance of the historic role of the Black Church, which was born out of the crucible of slavery, lynching and Jim Crow, If those injustices had not been raised with passion, blacks would still be on the plantation, a point that Trinity’s new pastor Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, nicely raised in an interview on CNN.

Secondly, Pastor Wright seems so radical because so many churches aren’t saying anything. Instead of preaching and organizing against the unjust war in Iraq that has claimed more than 4,000 U.S. lives and 30,000 Iranian lives, the cradle to grave prison industrial pipeline, inadequate education, and other social ills, so many mega-church leaders are hooping about prosperity and allowing politicians drive through photo ops in their churches without holding their feet to the fire.

Wright stands out because so many others are sitting down. There are not many churches where the social gospel of Dr. King is preached. The media have watered down the volumes of King’s sermonic contributions to "I have a Dream," although King spoke out strongly against such issues as the Vietnam War just as Wright is campaigning against the horrors of the ill-fated war in Iraq today.
I have no way of knowing what Ms. Reynolds' motives were in organizing the Wright appearance in D.C. But I think it's safe to say that she is a strong advocate of his, and of the idea of confrontational Black politics, which puts her in the same camp as people like Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton: pro-Wright, not so much on Barack...


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posted by JReid @ 11:26 AM  
Monday, April 28, 2008
Larry Korb should know
Above: a picture you won't find of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity,
Dick Cheney or any of the chicken hawks attacking Jeremiah Wright
and questioning his patriotism.

I'm privileged to know Lawrence Korb, who served as undersecretary of defense for manpower during the Reagan administration and who now is a senior fellow at the Democrat-leaning Center for American Progress. Dr. Korb remains a Republican, if an iconoclastic one on the subject of Iraq, and he is, in my experience, the smartest analyst on the subject of the war. I met him in December 2003 during a brief journalism fellowship in Maryland, and he was my number one "go to guy" on Iraq when I was with Radio One. I say that to say that Korb's opinion is one I deeply respect. So when I noticed that it is he who co-authored (with fellow military veteran and CAP staffer Ian Moss -- Korb is a Navy man, Moss a former Marine,) this editorial, I took particular notice. So should you:
In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery. For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, who has been in the news for comments he made over the last three decades.
The two men go on to disagree with some of Wright's statements, but they add a very important caveat:
... Some of the Wright's comments are inexcusable and inappropriate and should be condemned, but in calling him "unpatriotic," let us not forget that this is a man who gave up six of the most productive years of his life to serve his country.

How many of Wright's detractors, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to name but a few, volunteered for service, and did so under the often tumultuous circumstances of a newly integrated armed forces and a society in the midst of a civil rights struggle? Not many.

While words do count, so do actions.

Let us not forget that, for whatever Rev. Wright may have said over the last 30 years, he has demonstrated his patriotism.
Thank you, Dr. Korb.


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posted by JReid @ 3:48 PM  
Let Wright be Wright
MSNBC and their regular contributors from the print media are in full lather over Rev. Jeremiah Wright's appearances on PBS, in front of the Detroit branch of the NAACP over the weekend (transcript here), and at the National Press Club this morning. "Why doesn't he just stay away!" moaned Chris Matthews. "How much does this hurt Barack Obama!?" quizzed Andrea Mitchell, and the morning anchors have been filling in the angst gap all morning and afternoon long. He's unrepentant! they're saying. And it burns... He's making more sound bytes to use against Obama! Hooray!!!

Will someone phone the media and inform them that Rev. Wright is not on the ballot in November, nor is he controllable by the Obama campaign? The worst thing about Wright's reemergence, while it has shown him to be a full human being, and a thoughtful, intelligent one at that (who also served in the military for six years, during the same period when Dick Cheney was chalking up six draft deferments to get out of going to Vietnam) and in that way has be rehabilitative, is that it has given the annoying chattering classes yet another chance to bray at Obama that he must, once and for all, distance himself from Wright, eject him from the island, and wrap himself in the biggest goddamned ... ooh ... let's try that again ... God Bless America flag he can find at Costco.

Clearly, the media will never walk away from the Wright sideshow. They're just enjoying it too much. But Obama must find away to walk away, and to make it clear that it is his name, and his beliefs, that will be on the ballot in November.

The good news for Barack is that Camp Clinton doesn't dare touch this one, given their side's already diminishing reputation with Black voters. It will be left to right wing talk radio and the GOP to join the media in keeping this dog of a story alive.

The bad news is that the story will stay alive. It just taps too deeply into white America's most primal fear about black people, and particularly black men: that they haven't gotten over those 400 odd years of slavery, Jim Crow and lynching ... and they want revenge. That's why the John Stewart joke about enslaving white people was so poignant. It's why white pundits are all but foaming at the mouth demanding that Obama begin mouthing the safe platitudes about the greatness of America that they are used to. And it's why Rush Limbaugh on his show today was sputtering about blacks demanding "100 years of payback!" and reparations! if the U.S. were to apologize for slavery. Even in Jefferson's time, white people feared that one day, blacks would exact their revenge on them, perhaps violently. That's why the repression of blacks after the civil war, including their right to vote, was so urgent, and why the most vicious, official violence against blacks dragged on into the latter part of the 20th century. (The same fears coursed through South Africa in the waning days of apartheid in South Africa.) Only now, the fear is economic -- reparations, economic advantage via affirmative action, etc., and it is psychic -- "they'll just hold it over my head forever!"

It's also irrational. And it suggests that perhaps African-Americans aren't the only ones walking around with a chip on their shoulder regarding race.

Did I mention that the Rev. is writing a book?


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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Thank you, Bill Moyers
PBS' Bill Moyers conducted a thoughtful, intelligent interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright last night that yielded some interesting information, and finally fleshed out the man who has become a media caricature of the ultimate Scary Black Man.

Who knew that Wright, a former Marine and Navy medic, once tended to then President Lyndon Johnson, which is how he met Moyers, who was Johnson's press secretary (Moyers proves, unlike Stephanopoulos, that it IS possible to go from political flak to serious journalist with your integrity in tact.)

That was fascinating information for me, as was the overall story of Wright's ascent to the ministry. He is clearly a serious person with serious ideas, not the cook that talking airheads like Tucker Carlson pretend he is, based on their exhaustive, 30-second knowledge of him.

And Moyers, thankfully, played longer clips of the now infamous sermon snippets that are burning up "the Youtube," and which will form the basis of the GOP war against Barack Obama and the Democratic Party's nominees down-ticket this fall. I hope it will be a revelation to many recalcitrant white voters to find that when Wright uttered the words "God damn America," he was speaking in a fuller context of "governments that can fail and that can lie," and should not be worshipped as if they are God (I'm talking to you, GOP...) and that when he said that on 9/11, "America's chickens [came] home to roost," he was citing a white ambassador, Edward Peck, who served during the Reagan administration. He even says, "that's a white ambassador who says that, not Jeremiah Wright..."

I doubt that any of this will move the mainstream media, which now has it's narrative, and won't dare change it, lest they look stupid, or worse, wrong. They will zero in on the part of the interview where Wright appears to praise Louis Farrakhan for the work he does in the community (next big Youtube clip: "Farrakhan is like E.F. Hutton: when he talks, Black folk listen." I guarantee it. Never mind that, as the WaPo's Colbert King points out in a column today, Hillary Clinton has someone in her camp who's much closer to Farrakhan than either Wright or Barack Obama, and he's a white guy named Ed Rendell...) And they'll continue to harp on what Dan Abrams insists was Wright "throwing Barack Obama under the bus" by saying that Obama, as a politician, does the things that politicians do.

Well knock me over with a feather.

Mostly, the MSM won't be satisfied because Wright did not subject himself to a harangue by one of the pit bull "journalists" nursed by cable news, whose job is not so much to probe, as to accost, their subjects. "He wasn't asked the tough questions," they'll say; questions like, "why do you hate America?", "how can you utter the words "God damn America" from the pulpit?", "would you stay in a church if YOUR pastor uttered words that sound to so many like unpatriotic and racist rants?", "You were a Marine, were you loyal to America then?" and of course, "Do you understand why so many Americans are offended by the words you used, and do you want to take this opportunity to apologize to them?"

Had Stephanopoulos gotten his hands on Wright, he might even have asked him whether he's ever worn a flag pin...

Oh well. At the end of the day, I am grateful to PBS for continuing to provide a platform for Mr. Moyers, who is one of the last remaining Big Men in news. Good for him, and good for Jeremiah Wright, who represented himself well last night. Members of the media, and the public, will have to be left to their own judgment.



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posted by JReid @ 11:13 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  
Monday, April 14, 2008
Now THAT's a major political gaffe!
Dan Abrams came to the rescue tonight, and with a little help from Lawrence O'Donnell mocked the "bittergate" story with all the snidery it deserves (though it did look like he was about to give poor Pat Buchanan a heart attack...) I think it's time for the MSM to find something more interesting to talk about ... like a REAL political gaffe that merits the attention of the media beastie:

Davis apologizes for calling Obama 'boy'

U.S. Rep Geoff Davis apologized Monday for calling presidential contender and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama “boy” during a Northern Kentucky dinner over the weekend.

“My poor choice of words is regrettable and was in no way meant to impugn you or your integrity," Davis wrote in a letter that staffers said was hand-delivered to Obama’s U.S. Senate office. "I offer my sincere apology to you and ask for your forgiveness.”

Davis continued: “Though we may disagree on many issues, I know that we share the goal of a prosperous, secure future for our nation. My comment has detracted from the dialogue that we should all be having on legitimate policy differences and in no way reflects the personal and professional respect I have for you.”

The word “boy” is considered extremely offensive by many African-Americans, as it was used by Southern whites in the Jim Crow South to assert racial superiority.

Um, ya think???

The offending comment was first reported on the Herald-Leader’s political blog, Pol Watchers. (Click here to listen to Davis' remarks.)

Davis spoke at the Northern Kentucky 4th Congressional District Lincoln Day Dinner, also attended by Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning.

Davis compared Obama, a Democratic contender for president, and his message to a “snake oil salesman.”

He said in his remarks at the GOP dinner that he also recently participated in a “highly classified, national security simulation” with Obama.

“I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button," Davis said. "He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.” ...

Um ... mainstream media? A little help here? If you didn't use the link above, let me give it to you again, so you can listen to the audio. Note the applause and laughter after he calls Obama "that boy." Who was this guy speaking to, a Klan rally? And by the way, this clod is from Kentucky, so don't tell me he didn't understand what he was saying. Clearly he knows that a George "Macaca" Allen defense won't work, and that's why he fell on his sword today.

But what's really interesting are the comments below the story. Note the wingers whining about how the "PC police" jump ... on ... every ... thing ... you ... say ... meanwhile, they're busy jumping on what Barack said, claiming he's disparaging small town people, while beeyatching that poor Geoff didn't mean to disparage anyone.

I think you've got to be a Republican to understand. Look for the MSM to completely ignore this one, even with the Drudge link. Too much like an actual controversy. Better to stay with the idiotic "bittergate" story. Hillary likey much better.

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 PM  
Friday, March 28, 2008
For the first time, Condi speaks on race
I've never heard Condi Rice comment this extensively on the issue of race. Her comments came during an interview with the Moonie Ed Board ... sorry, I mean the Washington Times editorial board:
"Black Americans were a founding population," she said. "Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That's not a very pretty reality of our founding."

As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, "descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that."

"That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today," she said.

Race has become an issue in this year's presidential campaign, which prompted a much-discussed speech last week by Sen. Barack Obama, one of the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination.

Miss Rice declined to comment on the campaign, saying only that it was "important" that Mr. Obama "gave it for a whole host of reasons."

But she spoke forcefully on the subject, citing personal and family experience to illustrate "a paradox and contradiction in this country," which "we still haven't resolved."

On the one hand, she said, race in the U.S. "continues to have effects" on public discussions and "the deepest thoughts that people hold." On the other, "enormous progress" has been made, which allowed her to become the nation's chief diplomat.

"America doesn't have an easy time dealing with race," Miss Rice said, adding that members of her family have "endured terrible humiliations."

"What I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn't love and have faith in them — and that's our legacy," she said.

Miss Rice also said that what "attracted" her to candidate George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign was not foreign policy, but his "no child left behind" initiative, which she said gave equal opportunities to black and white students.
What's interesting about Condi Rice is how slippery her actual beliefs are. I've talked to people in Washington who are sharp critics of Bush but who claim that she is reasonable and quite a lovely person -- hardly the hard line "Vulcan" she is portrayed as on the left.
I've talked to people who knew her back when she was a Democrat, a Gary Hart fan and a liberal, and who claim that she is essentially a mercenary, throwing aside her real views in order to accrue power with the Republican Party. I know people who despise her as a traitor to Black America -- an embarrassment, as the Boondocks famously labeled her, and an Aunt Tom.

At the end of the day, Condi Rice is, fundamentally, an enigma. She's the woman who shopped for Ferragamos and slipped off to watch "Spamalot" while New Orleans' Ninth Word washed into oblivion. But she also has a family history steeped in the struggle for equality and dignity for Black Americans. She has ties to Denver University, where my mother taught for a time, and she and I both play classical piano. And she was taught by Madeleine Albright's father, Josef Korbel, who was a Democrat, though his views on "freedom on the march" are subject to interpretation. She was a terrible National Security Adviser, and seemed clearly outmatched by the vice president, Rumsfeld and the other uberhawks. She has been a middling secretary of state, with few real accomplishments to show for her sojourn with George W. Bush (then again, nobody who's hung around that clod has much to show for it after nearly two terms.) We don't know much more about her than that (unless you believe the stuff about her being Dubya's girlfriend ... she'd have to have pretty poor taste in men...)

Condi's comments on race offer one of the few insights into her mind. Emphasis on "few." But interesting nonetheless.

BTW, why is Condi suddenly so available? And why did she meet with the Club for Growth? Don't think GWB hasn't ruled out pushing her as a running mate for John McCain, who may want to run away from the Bush legacy, but who also may have already made his deal with the devil...

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 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  
Saturday, March 22, 2008
E.J. Dionne says it all
Today's column by E.J. Dionne Jr. contains a bit of protein wisdom:
...One of the least remarked upon passages in Obama's speech is also one of the most important -- and the part most relevant to the Wright controversy. There is, Obama said, a powerful anger in the black community rooted in "memories of humiliation and doubt" that "may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends" but "does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table. . . . And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews."

Yes, black people say things about our country and its injustices to each other that they don't say to those of us who are white. Whites also say things about blacks privately that they don't say in front of their black friends and associates.

One black leader who was capable of getting very angry indeed is the one now being invoked against Wright. His name was Martin Luther King Jr.

An important book on King's rhetoric by Barnard College professor Jonathan Rieder, due out next month, offers a more complex view of King than the sanitized version that is so popular, especially among conservative commentators. In "The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me," Rieder -- an admirer of King -- notes that the civil rights icon was "not just a crossover artist but a code switcher who switched in and out of idioms as he moved between black and white audiences."

Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

If today's technology had existed then, I would imagine the media playing quotations of that sort over and over. Right-wing commentators would use the material to argue that King was anti-American and to discredit his call for racial and class justice. King certainly angered a lot of people at the time.

Read the whole column here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:07 AM  
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  
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
More crazy James David Manning (or, will someone rid Hillary of this meddlesome nut?)
This guy is truly insane! Will Hillary distance herself from this weirdo? He even made up the name of his church: ATLAH ... says God told it to him in the middle of the night ... Here he is explaining himself in detail, including why you can't call him a racist (at the end of the video, if you can stand it all the way to the end, a woman comes on and invites you to a seminar to learn how to sell. I swear to you, it's there. Check it out:

Just to review: He doesn't think Frederick Douglas is "anything so great" ... he thinks Black people owe their eternal allegiance to the Clintons because of all the things those good white folks done for us (apparently one of those good things not being Bill opening an office in Harlem, since the Right Rev wants black Harlemites to boycott the white businesses to drive them out and to have a massive rent strike so that the city will be destroyed and ultimately abandoned to its "rightful black owners" ... he believes that blacks are weak and misguided, but that we will soon regain our "greatness!" primarily by following him ... he appears to despise white women, and yet worships one in particular (Hillary Clinton) ... and he is absolutely wild-eyed at the thought of interracial marriage ... he likes calling Barack "Barack Hussein Obama," but he gets an even bigger kick out of calling him "white trash" ... he thinks Barack has been "sent by the devil to derail you" (by "you" I mean black folk. ... I mean "negroes...") ... and he hates the bloggers and TV folk playing snippets of his Youtube without inviting him on their shows. He calls Roland Martin, publisher of the Chicago Defender and CNN contributor, a "copperhead," and he thinks that people are afraid of his intellect... actually, he kind of sounds like someone I used to work with... (ahem)

And most important of all, he wants you to send him some money.

Want to be even more frightened? Check out his bio, from the ATLAH website:

James David Manning is the energetic and visionary pastor of the ATLAH World Missionary Church located in ATLAH, New York. He has founded three schools and developed a national church ministry. He holds a PhD in philosopy, the author of The Oblation Hour book, a former Marketing Executive with Proctor and Gamble and the Ford Motor Company.

Hey, I thought Procter and Gamble was The Devil's company! (But it does kind of explain why my late Ford Expedition was such a piece of crap...)

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posted by JReid @ 10:47 PM  
Huckabee to the rescue
Just when I thought I'd get no more Mike Huckabee, he shows up on Morning Joe and makes some good bloody sense on the issue of Rev. Wright:

MIKE HUCKABEE: ... Sermons, after all, are rarely written word-for-word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say, "Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that."

MSNBC HOST JOE SCARBOROUGH: But, but you never came close to saying five days after September 11 that America deserved what it got -- or that the American government invented AIDS...

HUCKABEE: Not defending his statements.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I know you're not. I know you're not. I'm just wondering though: For a lot of people ... would you not guess that there are a lot of independent voters in Arkansas that vote for Democrats sometimes, and vote for Republicans sometimes, that are sitting here wondering how Barack Obama's spiritual mentor would call the United States the US-KKK?

HUCKABEE: I mean, those were outrageous statements, and nobody can defend the content of them.

SCARBOROUGH: But what's the impact on voters in Arkansas? Swing voters.

HUCKABEE: I don't think we know. If this were October, I think it would have a dramatic impact. But it's not October. It's March. And I don't believe that by the time we get to October this is going to be the defining issue of the campaign and the reason that people vote.

And one other thing I think we've got to remember: As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, "That's a terrible statement," I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I'm going to be probably the only conservative in America who's going to say something like this, but I'm just telling you: We've got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, "You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can't sit out there with everyone else. There's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office. Here's where you sit on the bus." And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.

Spoken like a man with sense, and sensitivity (which is why so many Republicans dislike him.)

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posted by JReid @ 10:42 PM  
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Obama Lexicon, Vol. 1
'O-gasm' - \OH-gaz-em\, noun:
The rapturous reaction one has to hearing a Barack Obama speech. Ex: Much of the nation experienced a collective O-gasm as presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama delivered the speech of his life... except the wingers... the wingers were not amused... (for a much more interesting and grown-up Red take, click here.)

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posted by JReid @ 4:40 PM  
Barack's speech
Barack Obama spoke for about an hour this morning from Philadelphia, in a sweeping address that began with an exegesis on slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination, and how it shaped the thinking of men like Jeremiah Wright. He condemned Wright's words anew, but also said that he could no longer disown him than he could disown the black community, or any more than he could disown his white grandmother, who loves him dearly, but who has also uttered racial stereotypes that "made him cringe."

He explained his own story, and the panoramic nature of his own upbringing and experience. And he painted a colorful and stark picture of what it is like to be black -- and even, what it is like for struggling whites -- in America.

He touched on the pain of blacks who have faced discrimination first hand, but also on the pain that white working class people feel at watching their jobs disappear overseas. He said the talk radio and the Reagan coalition was in part about exploiting the fears and anger of those whites. And he nailed the point on white resentment at blacks seeming to get special treatment on such things as affirmative action.

He called for an end to the racial stalemate, and said that while we can continue to discuss Wright's statements ad infinitum, or we can pull together to continue this country's path of change.

He was careful to weave throughout the speech his message of change, and the need to solve the big problems this country faces on the economy, on healthcare, on the war. And he clearly delineated his view that the country, even if not perfect, can and must be perfected in every way that we can, and that the only way to do that, is to move beyond the divisiveness of the moment.

The speech was uplifting and intelligent, unifying and on the money and I think it will do him a lot of good, with all but the most paranoid and embittered of observers.

Toe the MSNBC panel:

Pat Buchanan, of course, is not assuaged. But I wouldn't go by him (see embittered observers, above.)

Sally Quinn called the speech "extraordinary" and said she has never heard anything like it. She called it "particularly courageous of him not to totally disown his friend Jeremiah Wright," a point to which I agree, and she noted that what's best about him is that he appears to be so authentic.

Joe Scarborough was struck by Barack's understanding of white resentment at such things as busing and affirmative action, that you don't hear in polite society.

Nancy Giles, who is very good by the way, was struck by the points Barack made that so many of us can relate to, having been told as young black children that if we try to get good grades or speak well, we're "acting white."

Jonathan Capeheart called it a speech "that only Obama could give" and added that it was a speech "about things that needed to be said, about things that go to the core of the country." The same Capeheart who said he put the DOA sticker on Obama's campaign after the Wright tapes came out and who assented to Pat Buchanan's comparison of Wright and Klansman David Duke, called the speech a "truth telling moment."

I think Buchanan is on his own on this one. Barack's speech was moving. It was unprecedented, and it was exceptional, as is the candidate.

If Barack goes down now, he has gone down as a gentleman, and after having given one of the most important speeches of my lifetime.

Update: Wow, Sally Quinn just called it the "most important speech on race since Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech.'

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posted by JReid @ 11:33 AM  
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
Obama on race, divisiveness, and moving on
Sen. Barack Obama delivered the following remarks at a high school town hall meeting in Plainfield, Indiana on Saturday (h/t to TIME's Mark Halperin):
Let me just close my initial remarks by talking about bringing this country together. You know, Bobby Kennedy gave one of his most — gave one of his most famous speeches on a dark night in Indianapolis. Right after Dr. King was shot. Some of you remember reading about this speech. Some of you were alive when this speech was given. He stood on top of a car. He was in a crowd mostly of African Americans. And he delivered the news that Dr. King had been shot and killed. And he said, at that moment of anguish, he said, we’ve got a choice. He said, we’ve got a choice in taking the rage and bitterness and disappointment and letting it fester and dividing us further so that we no longer see each other as Americans but we see each other as separate and apart and at odds with each other. Or we can take a different path that says we have different stories, but we have common dreams and common hopes. And we can decide to walk down this road together. And remake America once again. ...

... we’ve got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. But what I continue to believe in is that this country wants to move beyond these kinds of divisions. That this country wants something different.

I just want to say to everybody here that as somebody who was born into a diverse family, as somebody who has little pieces of America all in me, I will not allow us to lose this moment, where we cannot forget about our past and not ignore the very real forces of racial inequality and gender inequality and the other things that divide us. I don’t want us to forget them. We have to acknowledge them and lift them up and when people say things like my former pastor said, you know, you have to speak out forcefully against them. But what you also have to do is remember what Bobby Kennedy said. That it is within our power to join together to truly make a United States of America. And that we have to do not just so that our children live in a more peaceful country and a more peaceful world, but that is the only way that we are going to deliver on the big issues that we’re facing in this country.

Well said. Read the full remarks here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:19 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  
Friday, March 14, 2008
Barack's cross to bear
Do a Youtube search of "Jeremiah Wright" and up pops a raft of more than 100 uploaded files, with warm, fuzzy titles like "Barack Obama's racist pastor" and "Jeremiah Wright promoting the hate." You've no doubt heard the snippets of sermons by now -- Wright saying, on the Sunday after 9/11 that America has "not batted an eye" when dropping bombs on Hiroshima, or "looked the other way" whilst genocide was committed against the Palestinian people ... it's all very shocking to white people (Joe Scarborough proclaimed himself positively fearful this morning on MSNBC -- fake fear alert, by the way... I doubt that Joe is actually afraid of either man) ... and even though Wright's words are not Barack's, and Barack has never expressed such sentiments himself, he has written in his autobiography about his ambivalent feelings on the subject of race -- something that just about every black person (mixed or not) can relate to, but which white folk cannot (the crazies have already seized on his memoir and his ties to Wright as proof that deep inside, Barack really does hate white people.) Barack has tried to walk a very fine line on race -- something again, blacks can relate to and whites cannot. Nonetheless, Barack is now lashed to Wright, and Wright to him, and therein lies the dilemma for Barack.

Because Wright is not just some religious leader glomming onto Obama (as was the case with Louis Farrakhan) -- in Wright's case, he apparently married the Obamas, baptised their children, and was the inspiration for the title of Barack's book, "The Audacity of Hope" -- the usual statement "distancing himself" from the statements, or the John McCain gambit of delcaring the statements "out of context" won't do. And because he has struggled so hard to keep his race from becoming the central "organizing principal" of his campaign, to paraphrase his recent comments about the history of race and politics in America, Barack will no doubt be required to do much more, and it will be painful.

I have no doubt that the Clinton campaign is the source of the sudden rehash of the Wright issue, which bubbled up about a year ago when Barack was merely an also-ran to the inevitable nominee, Mrs. Clinton. The Clintons have to do whatever it takes to render Barack un-nominatable, and totally unacceptable to the party leadership that will ultimately decide the primary election. To do that, she can't just out-debate him. She can't out-do him on healthcare. She can't out-spend him, for god's sake. So what's left is to utterly destroy his character -- define him down to a gnat, as was done to her fellow Democrat, John Kerry in 2004, so that when her campaign is finished with him, he probably couldn't win back his Senate seat, let alone the White House. Once that becomes clear to the remaining 313 or so superdelegates, they will bow their heads and cast their votes for Hillary, pledged delegates be damned.

And how better to do that than by seizing on the one thing about Barack that makes him potentially unacceptable to a certain kind of white voter -- the kind who maybe doesn't earn as much money; who maybe doesn't have it so good; who maybe would resent a slick looking black guy worth a million bucks who thinks that he can just waltz into the White House without paying his dues ... the kind of white person who resents the idea of "affirmative action" anything. Never mind that Barack accomplished all that he has through hard work and raw talent. He's not the artful speech-maker; the elegant, Kennedyesque figure who by his very background can unite the country. He's a black guy -- the kind of guy who probably took your job. Welcome to the Clinton end-game.

And so, Barack finds himself in the position of having to push away anything that speaks too strongly of him as a black man -- particularly as an aggrieved black man. (There's a clear double standard at work, since no one appears to hold it against Billy Graham that he tet-tetted with Richard Nixon in the White House about the insidiousness of media control by "the Jews." And the late Jerry Falwell and the crazed Pat Robertson are just two of the right wing loons who have blamed 9/11 not only on America but also on God himself (along with the ACLU). Still, like so many black men, Barack has to do twice as much, twice as well, just to stay in the game.

That should be simple Barack, after all, is half white. He was raised by a white woman (his mother.) He went to white schools, including two Ivy League institutions: Columbia University and Harvard Law School. And because he has no history of slavery in his family -- his black parent is African, and thus his DNA fell into the escape hatch of America's original sin -- he has no chip on his shoulder. Al and Jesse and other black leaders at first couldn't relate. Now that they can, they have to stand a healthy distance away from him, so as not to pass along "the taint."

Enter Rev. Jeremiah Wright; one of those artifacts of America's checkered racial history -- the light-skinned black guy who's angrier at the white man than the blackest black man. Select his most fiery speeches -- the one where he essentially says what Ron Paul says (that "blowback" produced 9/11) -- but who says it with that fire and brimstone syncopation that terrifies white folk. Barack has a Jeremiah Wright problem. And to solve it, he will have to dis his "spiritual mentor," and dis him good.

How can he do it and not hate himself in the morning? He can give a speech. That is not to be facetious. I really mean it. Barack gives a speech better than any politician in public life today, and his speeches have the power to move people in a profound way. He will look presidential, standing before the American people and sharing his views, and it will get such wide media coverage, he will guarantee himself an uninterrupted hour or so to make his case for president. In that speech, Barack should do four things:

1) He can talk frankly about his religious faith and beliefs. I know it makes most of us queasy, because there is supposed to be no religious test for the presidency, but in Barack's case, with 13 percent of respondents in the most recent NBC News/WSJ poll believing that he's a Muslim, the time has come.

2) He can put forth, and hopeful put to bed, his views on race, patriotism, and 9/11. In that speech, he can, in the elegant way Barack does, that while many blacks carry heavy burdens of grievance and anger against the United States because of the history of slavery and segregation, that he does not -- and he believes that it is time for the nation to heal.

3) He should talk about his mother. Barack's late mother can and should be a bridge between him and nervous white folks, who relate more to half-white Bob Marley than to Peter Tosh, and who feel more comfortable with Barack than they did with Jesse Jackson when he ran for president. It makes me ill to even talk about this, but white people are incredibly insecure when it comes to race. They need constant reassurance that we aren't mad at them. It seems rather silly, but Barack will have to talk about his mixed heritage. By doing so, he'll turn off the hard-bitten racists who rage at the thought of "race mixing" but then again, he never would have had them anyway (they vote Republican, if at all.)

4) Finally, Barack must denounce any rhetoric in the public discourse, whether in church or on talk radio or in a presidential campaign -- that divides America by race, including those by Rev. Wright. He can do so making clear that he continues to love Rev. Wright, but that it must be clear that some of the views Wright has expressed contradict his own.

That's the only course. Otherwise, he will walk right into the bear trap that the Clinton campaign has set for him. He will go down in flames with working class white voters. He will hand Rush Limbaugh a daily talking point to bludgeon him with should he become the nominee. Brace yourself for the right wing comparisons between Wright's sermons and those of militant Islamic clerics, because it's coming. And that treasure trove of Wright sermons will just keep coming, too. Barack will become the "black candidate" -- worse, the "angry black candidate." And once you go black, you never go back.

Update: Barack responds ... on the Huffpo??? The bottom line:
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.
It's unfortunate that Barack's statement, as good as it is, will not likely close this issue. In any event, he'll be on with Anderson Cooper tonight on CNN.

Update: Obama did Olbermann's show first. He said that he repudiated the comments, but would not repudiate the man. Phrase of the day: "guilt by association." Also, the campaign quickly reversed itself tonight, and Wright has been dismissed from a religious advisory committee he had served on for the Obama campaign.

Meanwhile, National Review offers some campaign advice to Hillary Clinton ... as if her team hasn't already plumbed the depths... and The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder offers some words of caution to John McCain ... as if HIS campaign hasn't been doing some plumbing of its own...

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posted by JReid @ 3:10 PM  
Saturday, February 23, 2008
From the desk of: Dick Gregory
Jason and I are watching the State of the Black Union conference (otherwise known as "Come to Tavis"...) No, Barack isn't there. (More on that another time...) And 75-year-old comedian Dick Gregory just delivered the line of the day:


"You know when I learned about the power of the Black woman? During the Kobe Bryant situation. He was accused of raping a white woman. And when he gave his wife that $4 million ring? I knew the Black woman was powerful. Because if I was accused of raping a white woman, and I gave my wife a $4 million ring...? She would have gone out and gotten two more white women ... because she would have had the good sense to know that wherever that $4 million ring came from, there's a necklace and a bracelet to go with it."


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posted by JReid @ 3:24 PM  
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The Obama dilemma, part two
I had a front row seat to the late adoption of Barack Obama's candidacy by Black folk. I can still remember having to defend Barack against streams of angry callers -- all of them Black -- and from my own program director at the time (at Radio One Miami), who were calling him a phony, not really Black, and accusing him of never having fought for civil rights "the way Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have." Black folk were supremely skeptical of Obama. I can recall conversations with two very prominent African-Americans, one in the clergy, one in the media -- neither of whom I'll name -- who expressed sentiments about Obama that were so negative, no downright nasty, that I was frankly shocked. One of the two has taken to doing gauzy interviews with the candidate ... the other has conspicuously warmed to his candidacy...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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posted by JReid @ 11:56 PM  
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Ed Rendell's straight talk express
I've often wanted to ask a white person if it bothers them when this sort of thing occurs, or is it a blunt statement of truth that should be unremarkable, even in 2008... from Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (with a hat tip to the CarpetBagger Report):
Gov. Ed “Don’t Call Me ‘Fast Eddie’ ” Rendell met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week to talk about his latest budget. But before turning the meeting over to his number-crunchers, our voluble governor weighed in on the primary fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and what the Illinois senator could expect from the good people of Pennsylvania at the polls:

“You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate,” he said bluntly. Our eyes only met briefly, perhaps because the governor wanted to spare the only black guy in the room from feeling self-conscious for backing an obvious loser. “I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was — well-spoken [note: Mr. Rendell did not call the brother “articulate”], charismatic, good-looking — but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so.”

I know I have a habit of sometimes zoning out in these meetings, but it sounded to me like Mr. Rendell had unilaterally declared Pennsylvania to be Alabama circa 1963. Was he suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist in ways that folks in the states Mr. Obama has won so far aren’t?
Similar things are said by Black people, oh, like every day (along with the statement "I hope Barack doesn't win because somebody's gonna kill him.") When I hear it, I usually dismiss it as the old fashioned thinking of someone who doesn't know anyone from the MTV generation. But of course, I could be wrong. Hell, a year ago, I thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable...

The point, however, is that this race is shifting, and in some ways tossing out, all of the old paradigms. Exit polls suggest that Barack Obama may be taking about 48 percent of the White vote, a plurality of the blue collar vote, plus 70 percent of Independents and almost all of the Republicans who crossed over. If Barack CAN win so-called "downscale whites" after all, then the Rendell statement may be true, but it may be less true today than it was, say, ten or twenty or thirty years ago.

If it is less true, I think part of the reason may be that white men in particular, especially those in the cities and suburbs, have acclimatized themselves to Black men -- on the job, in the gym, on ESPN, on the athletic field, and in other facets of every day life. In fact, in some ways, a Black man like Barack, who is accessible and not overtly "racial," is probably more acceptable in some blue collar white households than a feminist woman (especially one who is running a more and more explicitly "female" campaign.) From ABC News:
In the Democratic contest in Virginia, preliminary exit poll results indicated that Obama not only won 9 in 10 African-Americans, but split white voters with Hillary Clinton. That came on the strength of his support from white men, who favored him by more than a 10-point margin. Obama has won or tied Clinton among white men in 12 previous contests for which we have exit poll results, and in seven of them, won the race. (The four he lost include California and Arizona, where Hispanics made the difference for Clinton. In Virginia, Hispanic voters were far fewer in number.)
Just a thought.

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posted by JReid @ 8:17 PM  
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The race on race
The Clinton camp is trying to beat back a fresh tide of negative press over Hillary's rather ill-advised remarks about MLK vs. LBJ in the civil rights struggle. Camp Clinton is blaming the Obama team for the hubbub, and on the right flank, Big Bill is walking the media back from that "fairy tale" fairy tale (he really didn't call Barack's candidacy a product of the imagination, he was talking about the notion that Obama was always against the Iraq war, but there you go ... the media cycle is sound bite driven, and both Clintons should know that by now...)

Whatever the facts regarding the comments, they come on the heels of that "drug dealer" flap which emanated from a Clinton staffer, and they have brought something new -- and very old -- to the Democratic Party: racial tension. It's something the party dealt with half a century ago, but it's a new phenomenon for the modern party. And who would have ever thought the racial tensions would surround people with the last name Clinton... Worse, for Hillary, the drama is playing out in the worst possible place: South Carolina, at the worst possible time (the vote is January 26th).

I earlier speculated in this post, and this one, that the Obama-Clinton race may finally expose a fault line within the Democratic Party as regards race. Black voters are assumed to be Democratic enthusiasts almost as a matter of DNA, but if you peel the onion, you'll find a lot of resentment there -- Black folk feel routinely taken advantage of (at election time) and then taken for granted when the voting is done. Democrats seem to magically appear in the Black community (usually in church) six weeks before an election, and then, just as magically, they disappear after Election Day. But one thing that the punditocracy could always count on: the fact that Black voters love the Clintons -- or at least we love Bill.


The Obama candidacy is forcing many Black voters to question even that construct. Sure, we did well during the 1990s, and I personally am a big fan of the Clintons. But one has to ask oneself, with a strong, credible, qualified candidate like Barack Obama on the table, why should we feel compelled to repay the Clintons -- yet again -- for their decades-old largesse? What do we owe them? What do we owe the party? And do they not reciprocally owe us the opportunity to see the party's leadership expanded to include people who look like us?

As I've said before, the Barack Obama candidacy is the start of a long, possibly painful reorganization of the African-American political mind. It's a good thing, and a necessary thing.

Change, after all, is good.

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posted by JReid @ 12:31 AM  
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I wonder...
...if Hillary's win tonight, and the way it slammed the breaks on the euphoria over Obama's big win in Iowa, could be the thing that starts to break the spell the Clintons have over Black voters. Which way will they lean in South Carolina, particularly given some of the more caustic comments that have come from Camp Hillary (not to mention that drug dealing bomblet...) and Hillary's enduring hold over much of the Congressional Black Caucus?

Internal polling within both the Clinton and Obama camps showed Obama winning by 10 plus margins (as did my predictions), and it's causing some analysts to wonder whether the polls were wrong because white respondents weren't being quite honest about the way they would vote (commonly called the "Bradley effect"...) If that perception begins to take hold, will Black voters take their frustrations out on Hillary ... or on the Democratic Party writ large, particularly in November if Hillary is the nominee? I will confess to a feeling of disappointment over Barack's second place finish tonight -- I had begun to imagine him as the nominee, and had begun to shed a bit of my cynicism about the utility of the politics of bi-partisanship (my husband can tell you I generally don't believe it can be done. Barack damned near convinced me...) I imagine that many other Black voters are feeling the same way tonight, even if we rather like the Clintons... How that plays out in the next two primaries is anyone's guess...

And given Hillary's wide victory margin with New Hampshire women (read, white women) ... could we soon see the beginnings of a fracture of the Democratic coalition along the lines of Black voters, young voters and Democratic leaning independents versus white women voters?

And there's yet another variable, with the Nevada primary coming up next Tuesday: Latino voters. Where, oh where, do THEY wind up?

It gets even more interesting from here...

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posted by JReid @ 12:43 AM  
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Big Mouth strikes again
Bill O'Reilly is shocked ... SHOCKED! ... that an upscale soul food restaurant in Harlem isn't a scene out of a BET music video! Said Orally:

"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming 'M-Fer -- I want more iced tea.' " Oh, my God.
What's worse, Orally made the comments while talking with Juan Williams, an otherwise perfectly respectable commentator. ... yeesh...

Now that Bill is reaping the whirllwind for his stupid comments, he's not getting mad, he's getting FURIOUS ... at Media Matters...
Maybe next time, Juan should take Bill-o on a field trip to see some Black children playing ... he'll be pleasantly surprised to find they're not playing tag with AK's...!

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posted by JReid @ 7:31 PM  
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Where we are
With the Jena 6 protests scheduled for today, I thought I'd repost this article that I included in headlines yesterday:
Key Republican leaders are encouraging the party's presidential candidates to rethink their decision to skip presidential debates focusing on issues important to minorities, fearing a backlash that could further erode the party's standing with black and Latino voters.

The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the "All American Presidential Forum" organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) all cited scheduling conflicts in forgoing the debate. The top Democratic contenders attended a similar event in June at Howard University.

"We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."

Making matters worse, some Republicans believe, is that the decision to bypass the Morgan State forum comes after all top GOP candidates save McCain declined invitations this month to a debate on Univision, the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States. The event was eventually postponed.

"For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney."
Ain't it interesting? A bit more:
But while the GOP campaigns have generally offered no public rationale other than timing for missing the forums, an adviser to one suggested they had little to gain from attending an event such as Smiley's.

"What's the win?" said the adviser, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "Why would [the candidates] go into a crowd where they're probably going to be booed?"

Giuliani, Romney and McCain also declined to appear at events sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Urban League, which Smiley said suggests a pattern of ignoring minority voters. He said debate organizers will set up lecterns showing the names of the absent candidates.

"When you reject every black invitation and every brown invitation you receive, is that a scheduling issue or is it a pattern?" he asked. "I don't believe anybody should be elected president of the United States if they think along the way they can ignore people of color. That's just not the America we live in."

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posted by JReid @ 7:26 AM  
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