February 16, 2009

From The NY Times . . . "Questions for Bill Ayers: Radical Cheer"

By Deborah Solomon
10 FEBRUARY 2009

In your new book, “Race Course: Against White Supremacy,? you and your wife, Bernardine Dohrn, describe your long struggle against racism and social injustice. Do you think Obama’s victory has put America on a new course?


The election of Obama is an important strike against white supremacy. On the other hand, if you claim we’re in a postracial society, how do you explain the fact that 40 percent of black kids under 5 live in poverty?

Continue reading "From The NY Times . . . "Questions for Bill Ayers: Radical Cheer"" »

November 5, 2008

Yes, We Did!


"Change Has Come to America"
Victory Speech by Barack Obama, 4 November 2008

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Barack Obama is the President-elect of the United States of America.

November 4, 2008

"Bush's Last 100 Days the Ones to Watch"

Jackson GrantPark.jpg
Jesse Jackson in Grant Park, Chicago, 4 November

By Jesse Jackson
From the Chicago Sun-Times
4 November 2008

The air crackles with anticipation. Fingers are crossed. It gets hard to breathe. Hope, for so long locked in a closet, begins pounding on the door.

And throwing caution to the wind, many already are talking about Barack Obama's first 100 days. Will he move directly to the Apollo investment agenda, providing money to refit buildings, implement the use of renewable energy and generate jobs in the drive to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Will he put forth a comprehensive health-care plan or begin by covering all children? Will workers finally be given the right to organize once more? How will he handle mortgage relief and/or help cities burdened by poverty?

But even as our minds, against all discipline, look beyond this day to the possible victory and change, we'd better start paying attention to another 100 days -- President Bush's last months in office.

Bush and Vice President Cheney represent a failed conservative era -- and they know it. As the administration moves into its last 100 days, there seems to be a flurry of activity: regulations to forestall Obama's new era of accountability; a flood of contracts to reward friends and lock in commitments; a Wall Street bailout that is pumping money out the door.

Consider: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is handing out $350 billion to the banks, drawing a special circle around nine banks -- including Goldman Sachs, the firm he previously headed -- as clearly too big to fail. The money apparently has no conditions, even though the entire purpose was to get the banks to start lending once more to one another and to companies and individuals.

Now it appears that banks plan to hoard the cash, to use it to help pay for mergers with other healthy banks (not weak ones), or to pay out dividends and bonuses. And Paulson, instead of publicly rebuking them, has let it be known that mergers would be a good thing.

Instead of getting the banking system working for small businesses and people again, our money is being used to consolidate the strength of a few megabanks.

There has been a rapid increase in military outlays over the last few months. Is the Pentagon being called on to help bolster the economy -- and perhaps McCain -- in these final weeks? Or, more likely, is the Pentagon pumping out money to reward its friends and lock in spending before the new sheriff gets to town?

The Washington Post reports that the White House is "working to enact an array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January."

About 90 new rules are in the works, and at least nine are considered "economically significant" because they would impose costs or promote societal benefits that exceed $100 million annually. Many will make changes that the new administration will find it hard to reverse for years to come. More emissions from power plants; more exemptions from environmental-impact statements; permission to operate natural gas lines at higher levels of pressure -- the changes could be the last calamities visited upon us by the Bush administration.

Congress -- the old one, not the new one just elected -- comes back into special session right after the election. Representatives Henry Waxman and John Conyers would be well advised to convene special hearings to try to curb what Bush has cooked up for his last 100 days. Let's not let the new dawn that is possible be dimmed by clouds left over from an old era that has failed.

An Election Day for the Ancestors . . .

Obama Back of Head.JPG

For my father who always wanted to live to see a Black democrat for president but didn't. For all the African Americans who didn't live to see this day--if it happens. For my daughter who has a chance today to know nothing but a Black democrat for president. For my momma who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina right smack in the middle of the violence of the Civil Rights Movement. For my Uncle Brother who went from sweeping the floor of a white man's store to teaching white people how to open a store.

For the white woman who called me "NIGGER!!" one day on the streets of Haverstraw, New York just cause I was there. For the boy who wouldn't stay the night after...after, because he said he never really wanted a Black girl.

For the white Polish boy from Buffalo (yes, Joe Biden, a place more forgotten than Scranton, PA) whose friends saw a young Black girl on a bus coming home from school and teased her then called her "UGLY!"--for that Polish boy now a man, my partner for life. He got off the bus and told them "I thought she was pretty" and now he says he's married her.

For me, because I need this day. I need just one day where I walk through a store with my hands deep inside my pockets, one day without the nervousness in public, one day where I don't have to worry what Black people be doing--if it's wrong or if it's exceptional.

For just one day, Obama, just one . . . .

November 1, 2008

'High Popalorum’ or ‘Low Popahirum’: Sometimes Thin Lines Between Republicans and Democrats

“[Huey Long] would tell how patent medicine men used to concoct a mixture to sell to Negroes as a hair-straightener. The makers called it ‘high popalorum’ or ‘low popahirum,’ depending on how they manufactured it. They made the first by tearing the bark of a tree down, and the second by tearing the bark up. When Huey dismissed two political rivals by comparing them to the two compounds, his amused rural listeners knew exactly what he was talking about.? (T. Harry Williams, Huey Long, Vintage 1981)

Yesterday Mark and I had our monthly brunch with David and Gail Noble. As usual there were strong hugs, immense laughter, and the engagement of four quick wits. I'm no historian, but we were sitting before one of the greatest. At the end of our brunch, I asked David to explain how Democrats became Republicans and what was the socioeconomic and political basis of the shift. Luckily the table cloth was made of paper, because by the time David was done, by the time he made his last eloquent elaboration, I had a table full of notes, which I proceeded to rip off and run away with. From what I understand, and David confirmed this, race was at the root of every economic strategy, every political shift, every social refusal or "offering." Maybe at some point I'll share his arguments and all that he discussed in response to my query, but for now I want to offer a video of a man whose name David repeated every time he began to discuss the 1930s. David called Huey Long the most radical politician of the '30s.


Each time I hear Barack Obama or Michelle Obama speak I cry--and I admittedly cry with a combination of joy and fear. My husband says that the moment Obama passes his first neoliberal policy those tears will dry up. But for now, I just want to enjoy the imagining of something different--and I do believe there will be some that's different though how much could change in just four years? Anyway, I want to keep my head on straight as I go through this election. I need to keep those tears in check. As we meander through the financial thievery of the elite and Wall St. and the elite and businessmen of the federal government, as we approach an election that I thought neither I nor my grandchildren would ever see, I want to remind myself of this comparison Huey Long once made--one based on race--between Democrats and Republicans and the thin line between them. Long reminds me that part of my work after the election will need to be finding ways to ensure that the line gets thicker or even better, to ensure that the line, the binaries become unnecessary.

October 26, 2008

"Conservatives For Change" Documentary


--From Conservatives For Change web site--

Directed by Eric Hirshberg, President & Chief Creative Officer, Deutsch/04:05

ERIC HIRSHBERG: "Conservatives Voting for Obama: In Their Own Words"
From The Huffington Post
22 October 2008

There are a number of people in my life -- some family, some friends, some colleagues -- with whom I have never agreed upon anything political. Ever. These are my political opposites. My bizarre-o twins. And they have been my adversaries in countless debates; the kind nobody ever wins, but nobody ever seems to tire of, either.

Sadly, politics have become sort of a new sports league in modern culture. We don't really listen to each other's points of view so much as we pick a side and root for it. And just as with our favorite sports teams, our faith in our parties can become blind. I have had about as much success convincing my Republican father-in-law of my liberal points of view as I have had convincing my father, an Ohio State alumnus, to root for Michigan.

But over the last few months, something unprecedented has happened. Almost all these folks have told me that, for the first time ever, they are voting for the same candidate I am: Barack Obama.

Now, these are not casual conservatives. These are people who, each in their own way, are deeply committed to their conservative beliefs. For most, this will be the first time they have voted for a Democrat in their entire lives. And when taken as a whole, they represent a fair cross section of the Republican Party. Some younger, some older. Some fiscally driven, some culturally driven. But almost all, up until now, have been intractable. Yet here we all are, staring down the barrel of a remarkably nasty presidential election, all in a rare moment of agreement. I figured this simply could not be an anomaly. Perhaps this was a groundswell.

I started asking around and found a number of my liberal friends were having a similar experience. So we asked these folks if they would appear on camera and share with the world why they changed. It seemed to me that the most convincing argument a conservative on the fence could hear might not come from a liberal, or even from Obama himself, but instead, from one of their own; a conservative who had crossed over. So we turned on the camera, and they did the rest.

I fully expected the results to be compelling and convincing. And they are. What I didn't expect was the emotional wallop these unscripted interviews deliver. A combination of deep disillusionment with the last eight years, disappointment in John McCain's candidacy, and an undeniable draw to Obama brought these people to a political decision that was deeply personal and courageous. It became clear to me that these were more than interviews. These were confessions.

This is what democracy is supposed to be. These people actually listened, considered and were open to the possibility of change. They didn't support a candidate. They actually chose one. And while I'm happy this year they are voting for "my team," they also inspired me to be more open in my own political life.

I thought we were making an ad campaign about Obama. But I think we ended up making an ad campaign about the essential ingredient that makes democracy work: an open mind. We don't belong to our political parties. Our political parties belong to us.

Go to">Conservatives For Change to see all of the videos.

October 22, 2008

John McCain Once Believed in Spreading the Wealth Around

In 2000, McCain told a constituent, "when you reach a certain level of comfort there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more."

From John Stewart's The Daily Show, "McCain Says the S-Word" /21 October 2008/02:47

October 7, 2008

"Saturday Night Live's VP Debate: With Tina Fey, Queen Latifah By Saturday Night Live"

From The Nation
5 October 2008

SNL definitely "nailed it."

September 24, 2008

"Barack Obama is IRISH!"

Written by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys/-5:00

September 23, 2008


Obama Head and Hand.jpgMcCain at Podium Thumbs

Friday, Sept. 26: Presidential debate on foreign policy and national security, moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, with the candidates standing at lecterns.

-Click here to read Obama's foreign policy philosophy & click here to read Obama's voting record on national security and the economy

-Click here to see McCain's foreign policy philosophy & click here to see McCain's voting record on national security & the economy

Thursday, Oct. 2: Vice-presidential debate, moderated by Gwen Ifill of PBS at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

-Click here to read a debate on Democracy Now on Biden's foreign policy.

-Click here for a link to an article by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation on Palin's "foreign policy."

Tuesday, Oct. 7: Presidential debate with questions on any topic from those in attendance and from the Internet, moderated by Tom Brokaw of NBC News at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, in a town hall-style format.

Wednesday, Oct. 15: Presidential debate on domestic and economic policy, moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, with candidates seated at a table.

All four debates will last 90 minutes. They will be carried live by CNN International and BBC World and will begin at 1 a.m. the following day, Coordinated Universal Time. CNN will also replay the debates 8 and 18 hours later, starting at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. UTC.

Sample starting times for the first debate: New York, 9 p.m. Friday

SOURCE: This debate schedule was taken from the International Herald Tribun.e All links come from Social Etymologies.

September 21, 2008

"Obama is Stupid and Vain, McCain is a War Hero, & If You Love America, You have to Vote Republican"

Rudolph Giuliani at the 2008 Republican National Convention in the Xcel Center in Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota

I've never "participated" in an election campaign before. I vote, but I don't believe in the process or the results. Note, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, mortgage frauds, and now, the bail-outs. But, the next morning after watching Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani and then Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention (RNC) just a couple of miles from our home, my husband and I went straight to the Obama campaign office near downtown St. Paul and signed up. They took us in the back of the office into a crowded space filled with paper, Obama signs, buttons, and fervor. The phones were ringing off the hooks, there were white and African American elders, students in their 20s in charge, an older white man in a golf outfit signing up seemingly out of desperation like us, and there were older white women with tattoos and piercings standing next to coiffed white women of with cardigans and pearls.

Mark and I met the field directors for our neighborhood, a young white woman, Tess, who had moved to Minnesota just to work on the campaign and a young African American man, Nick, from the area who had a land line on one ear, a cell on the other while simultaneously working on a laptop pitched on a too-small, over crowded card table. They gave us "I want Obama to be my president because__________" handouts for our daughter to take to her elementary school, a clip board, and voter registrations forms for us to take into our mainly working class African American neighborhood in St. Paul.

Amidst the excitement in the back of the campaign office, I saw on the wall above Tess's desk the following two emails from her parents, who have remained observers of politics and thus, politically silent through the years until the 2008 RNC aired. I began to cry when I read their emails to Tess for two reasons. Because I know Obama is not going to change the country or the way the world really feels about us--completely; I know he isn't some radical change agent, not that I support any thinking that's orthodox. When I saw these emails, I couldn't help remember something my father told me in regards to a question about what he hoped for in his life just days before my father died suddenly of a heart attack about ten years ago. My father told me "Lisa, I never want to die alone" which, unfortunately, he did and then he said, "Man, I want to live to see a Black president." Now, my dad didn't mean just any Black president; he meant a democrat. So, I cried because this election and Obama's place in it is truly amazing and I cried because I'm living to see something my father dreamed of but thought might never really happen--not in his lifetime anyway and of this he was right. And, I cried because despite all of this I know Obama as president won't solve the problems that lie at the core of "American" philosophies and practices--this country is ideologically (i.e., America's cultural processes and practices) twisted, perhaps for good.

The other reason I cried was because of Tess. Born of certainly far less left parents than she, this very woman in her early twenties had moved all of her belongings here in an attempt to make this thing my father wanted to see so badly happen. And, Tess's white parents--who I believe are "middle class"--were open enough to change what the years of non-social participation had built up over decades. Some of my tears were tears of relief, because someone white, someone not a democrat had seen the farce in, the derision and danger of that convention just miles from our house. Somehow, irrational I know, I felt safer, less desperate, better.

Below are the letters from the parents of Tess, the field director at Obama's campaign office in St. Paul, MN. Thanks Tess and thanks Tess's parents for your willingness to not just hear, but listen deeply.

Dear Tess,

Keep the faith.

Palin's speech (I've only read the text) was, as you know, filled with misdirections that irritated the informed and lied to the uninformed. She reeks of desperation, and is flinging mud presumably with the hope that some of her accusations will stick; she obfuscates, in hopes that the weakness of her positions, following the disastrous last eight years, will be lost in the confusion. Her speech was mean-spirited and disrespectful to the voting electorate, the country, both political parties, and humanity.

Vent as you need, to vomit the poison. Then, when you are interacting again, with staff and the public, lead as you have, with positive expression, facts and a vision for the future. I encourage you to pity and fight her, and not to be drawn into her gutter-drama. This approach is better manners, better for your equanimity, and will be to your advantage in persuading voters—once their jingoistic spasm has passed.

Much love,



Tess adds in an email to me: "And the one from my mother who has never cared a bit about politics in her life:"

I nearly busted an artery last night listening to the speeches...Did you watch? I don't think I've ever heard so many mean-spirited, sarcastic, and down-right rude things said in my life. Basically, Obama is stupid and vain, McCain is a war hero, and if you love America, you have to vote Republican.
I've always said I would be open to voting for a Republican if I like the candidate, but I can say now that because of the tone of last night, I will NEVER vote for any Republican, ever.

-K, that's all.

September 2, 2008

CNN's Campbell Brown Takes On Tucker Bound, McCain Aide, Regarding the Hypocrisy around "Experience" in the Sarah Palin Choice for Republican VP

Now, CNN is certainly not the most critical "news" agency, but last night the terrific, direct, and unrelenting questions CNN's Campbell Brown fired at McCain aide Tucker Bound were to be lauded. Brown laid the groundwork for Bound to demonstrate to the CNN public that the Republican campaign is running on thin air, if not thin ice.

August 31, 2008

"Annenberg Challenge a Radical Enclave? Gimme a Break! There is Nothing to Condemn about Ayers’ Leadership Over the Past 20 Years"

Finally a reporter with some sense on the Ayers - Obama "relationship." Thank you, Linda Lenz!

real-barack1.jpgCrown.jpgphWeberA1d.jpgBill Ayers 5.jpg
Above, some of the other members who were on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge with Bill Ayers and Barack Obama

From left to right: Barack Obama, Dem. Presidential Nominee; Susan Crown, VP of Henry Crown & Co. Note that the Crown family has a $2 billion stake in General Dynamics, a defense industry contractor with which the family business, Material Service Corporation, merged in 1959; Arnold Weber, President Emeritus of Northwestern University and board member of Diamond Consultants, a management and technology firm; and Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago.

From the Chicago Sun Times
30 August 2008

Somewhere in the afterlife, Walter Annenberg must be shaking his head and wondering what in the world is going on in Chicago. First, the Sun-Times and the Tribune gave up precious inches of their dwindling news space to report that the University of Illinois at Chicago was refusing — and then later agreed — to release documents detailing Sen. Barack Obama’s role in a nonprofit education project "started" by William Ayers, a founder in the 1960s of the radical Weatherman group, which embraced violence as an anti-war tactic.

The project in question was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a pairing of nonprofit organizations and schools funded by the late publishing magnate and mainstream Chicago foundations. Ayers had been one of the authors of Chicago’s proposal to get a slice of Annenberg’s $500 million multi-city school reform grant, and Obama was the project’s first board chairman.

The issue of Obama’s role arose when a blogger for National Review raised questions about his relationship with Ayers, a favorite election-year target of conservatives. The blogger felt quite sure that the pair were much closer than Obama intimated when he said he knew Ayers "from the neighborhood" where both live. The blogger hinted darkly that the pair were really ideological soul mates and that Obama was aligned "with Ayers’s radical views on education issues."

When the appointed hour arrived for release of the documents, reporters, camera operators and bloggers descended on the hapless university library staff to pore over hundreds of files of grant proposals, meeting minutes and reports — a "media frenzy," the Tribune called it.

And what did the muckrakers find? Horrors, Obama had attended meetings and retreats with the author of The Good Preschool Teacher and To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher. He had actually rubbed shoulders — can you believe it? — with a distinguished professor of education who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. He had probably even shared a cup of coffee, as only a co-conspirator would, with this professor, whose writings describe good schools as places that are "organized around and powered by a set of core values" and "effectively meet students where they are and find ways to nurture and challenge them to learn."

In other words, Obama does, indeed, know Bill Ayers as more than just a guy from the neighborhood. So do a host of civic leaders in Chicago. For example, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge board included Susan Crown of the General Dynamics Corp. family; Patricia Graham, former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Arnold Weber, past president of Northwestern University and of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. Indeed, just about everyone active in Chicago school reform in the early days saw Ayers as a colleague. No one ever accused them of being radical because of their association with Bill Ayers.

Whatever one thinks of Ayers’ actions 40 years ago, there is nothing to condemn, and much to admire, about his leadership and commitment over the past 20 years in making schools better places to teach and learn. And there is nothing to condemn, and much to applaud, in Obama’s close association with those efforts.

Some of the reporters assigned to dig into the Annenberg archives felt a little silly about it all, I’m told. Their editors should too.

Linda Lenz is the founder and publisher of Catalyst Chicago, an education newsmagazine published by Community Renewal Society.

August 25, 2008

Michelle Obama's 2008 Democractic Convention Speech


Originally published 11:04 p.m., August 25, 2008, updated 10:46 p.m., August 25, 2008
Text of Michelle Obama's speech at the convention
The Associated Press ASSOCIATED PRESS

Prepared remarks of Michelle Obama, partner of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, for her address to the Democratic National Convention on Monday night in Denver, as released by the Obama campaign:

OBAMA: As you might imagine, for Barack, running for president is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother Craig.

I can't tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I've felt his presence in every grace-filled moment of my life.

At six-foot-six, I've often felt like Craig was looking down on me too _ literally. But the truth is, both when we were kids and today, he wasn't looking down on me _ he was watching over me.

And he's been there for me every step of the way since that clear February day 19 months ago, when _ with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change _ we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that's brought us to this moment.

But each of us also comes here tonight by way of our own improbable journey.

I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector and my lifelong friend.

I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

I come here as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world _ they're the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. Their future _ and all our children's future _ is my stake in this election.

And I come here as a daughter _ raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother's love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.

My dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing _ even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.

He and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child can receive: never doubting for a single minute that you're loved, and cherished, and have a place in this world. And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college. So I know firsthand from their lives _ and mine _ that the American dream endures.

And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he'd grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves. And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children _ and all children in this nation _ to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

And as our friendship grew, and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to the work he'd done when he first moved to Chicago after college. Instead of heading to Wall Street, Barack had gone to work in neighborhoods devastated when steel plants shut down, and jobs dried up. And he'd been invited back to speak to people from those neighborhoods about how to rebuild their community.

The people gathered together that day were ordinary folks doing the best they could to build a good life. They were parents living paycheck to paycheck; grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income; men frustrated that they couldn't support their families after their jobs disappeared. Those folks weren't asking for a handout or a shortcut. They were ready to work _ they wanted to contribute. They believed _ like you and I believe _ that America should be a place where you can make it if you try.

Barack stood up that day, and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about "The world as it is" and "The world as it should be." And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is _ even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves _ to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?

It's the story of men and women gathered in churches and union halls, in town squares and high school gyms _ people who stood up and marched and risked everything they had _ refusing to settle, determined to mold our future into the shape of our ideals.

It is because of their will and determination that this week, we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history _ knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country:

People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift _ without disappointment, without regret _ that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they're working for.

The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

The young people across America serving our communities _ teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters _ and sons _ can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

People like Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do _ that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

That is why I love this country.

And in my own life, in my own small way, I've tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us _ no matter what our age or background or walk of life _ each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.

It's a belief Barack shares _ a belief at the heart of his life's work.

It's what he did all those years ago, on the streets of Chicago, setting up job training to get people back to work and afterschool programs to keep kids safe _ working block by block to help people lift up their families.

It's what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.

It's what he's done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs and benefits and health care _ including mental health care.

That's why he's running _ to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to build an economy that lifts every family, to make health care available for every American, and to make sure every child in this nation gets a world class education all the way from preschool to college. That's what Barack Obama will do as President of the United States of America.

He'll achieve these goals the same way he always has _ by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn't care where you're from, or what your background is, or what party _ if any _ you belong to. That's not how he sees the world. He knows that thread that connects us _ our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future _ is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree.

It was strong enough to bring hope to those neighborhoods in Chicago.

It was strong enough to bring hope to the mother he met worried about her child in Iraq; hope to the man who's unemployed, but can't afford gas to find a job; hope to the student working nights to pay for her sister's health care, sleeping just a few hours a day.

And it was strong enough to bring hope to people who came out on a cold Iowa night and became the first voices in this chorus for change that's been echoed by millions of Americans from every corner of this nation.

Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams; that Barack will fight for people like them; and that Barack will finally bring the change we need.

And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love.

And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own. And one day, they _ and your sons and daughters _ will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country _ where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House _ we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

So tonight, in honor of my father's memory and my daughters' future _ out of gratitude to those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment _ let us devote ourselves to finishing their work; let us work together to fulfill their hopes; and let us stand together to elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

August 2, 2008

"Running While Black"


2 August 2008
By BOB HERBERT, New York Times

Gee, I wonder why, if you have a black man running for high public office — say, Barack Obama or Harold Ford — the opposition feels compelled to run low-life political ads featuring tacky, sexually provocative white women who have no connection whatsoever to the black male candidates.

Spare me any more drivel about the high-mindedness of John McCain. You knew something was up back in March when, in his first ad of the general campaign, Mr. McCain had himself touted as “the American president Americans have been waiting for.?

There was nothing subtle about that attempt to position Senator Obama as the Other, a candidate who might technically be American but who remained in some sense foreign, not sufficiently patriotic and certainly not one of us — the “us? being the genuine red-white-and-blue Americans who the ad was aimed at.

Since then, Senator McCain has only upped the ante, smearing Mr. Obama every which way from sundown. On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran an extraordinary front-page article that began:

“For four days, Senator John McCain and his allies have accused Senator Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.?

Evidence? John McCain needs no evidence. His campaign is about trashing the opposition, Karl Rove-style. Not satisfied with calling his opponent’s patriotism into question, Mr. McCain added what amounted to a charge of treason, insisting that Senator Obama would actually prefer that the United States lose a war if that would mean that he — Senator Obama — would not have to lose an election.

Now, from the hapless but increasingly venomous McCain campaign, comes the slimy Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ad. The two highly sexualized women (both notorious for displaying themselves to the paparazzi while not wearing underwear) are shown briefly and incongruously at the beginning of a commercial critical of Mr. Obama.

The Republican National Committee targeted Harold Ford with a similarly disgusting ad in 2006 when Mr. Ford, then a congressman, was running a strong race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee. The ad, which the committee described as a parody, showed a scantily clad woman whispering, “Harold, call me.?

Both ads were foul, poisonous and emanated from the upper reaches of the Republican Party. (What a surprise.) Both were designed to exploit the hostility, anxiety and resentment of the many white Americans who are still freakishly hung up on the idea of black men rising above their station and becoming sexually involved with white women.

The racial fantasy factor in this presidential campaign is out of control. It was at work in that New Yorker cover that caused such a stir. (Mr. Obama in Muslim garb with the American flag burning in the fireplace.) It’s driving the idea that Barack Obama is somehow presumptuous, too arrogant, too big for his britches — a man who obviously does not know his place.

Mr. Obama has to endure these grotesque insults with a smile and heroic levels of equanimity. The reason he has to do this — the sole reason — is that he is black.

So there he was this week speaking evenly, and with a touch of humor, to a nearly all-white audience in Missouri. His goal was to reassure his listeners, to let them know he’s not some kind of unpatriotic ogre.

Mr. Obama told them: “What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky.?

The audience seemed to appreciate his comments. Mr. Obama was well-received.

But John McCain didn’t appreciate them. RACE CARD! RACE CARD! The McCain camp started bellowing, and it hasn’t stopped since. With great glee bursting through their feigned outrage, the campaign’s operatives and the candidate himself accused Senator Obama of introducing race into the campaign — playing the race card, as they put it, from the very bottom of the deck.

Whatever you think about Barack Obama, he does not want the race issue to be front and center in this campaign. Every day that the campaign is about race is a good day for John McCain. So I guess we understand Mr. McCain’s motivation.

Nevertheless, it’s frustrating to watch John McCain calling out Barack Obama on race. Senator Obama has spoken more honestly and thoughtfully about race than any other politician in many years. Senator McCain is the head of a party that has viciously exploited race for political gain for decades.

He’s obviously more than willing to continue that nauseating tradition.

June 19, 2008

Satirical Video: "I'm Voting Republican"

By synthetichuman, 03:28

June 8, 2008

"Your Whiteness is Showing: An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who are Threatening to Withhold Support From Barack Obama in November"

By Tim Wise
5 June 2008

Tim Wise.jpg

This is an open letter to those white women who, despite their proclamations of progressivism, and supposedly because of their commitment to feminism, are threatening to withhold support from Barack Obama in November. You know who you are.

I know that it's probably a bad time for this. Your disappointment at the electoral defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton is fresh, the sting is new, and the anger that animates many of you--who rightly point out that the media was often sexist in its treatment of the Senator--is raw, pure and justified.

That said, and despite the awkward timing, I need to ask you a few questions, and I hope you will take them in the spirit of solidarity with which they are genuinely intended. But before the questions, a statement if you don't mind, or indeed, even if (as I suspect), you will mind it quite a bit.

First, for those of you threatening to actually vote for John McCain and to oppose Senator Obama, or to stay home in November and thereby increase the likelihood of McCain winning and Obama losing (despite the fact that the latter's policy platform is virtually identical to Clinton's while the former's clearly is not), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and increase the odds of his winning (despite the fact that he once called his wife the c-word in public and is a staunch opponent of reproductive freedom and gender equity initiatives, such as comparable worth legislation), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and help ensure Barack Obama's defeat, as a way to protest what you call Obama's sexism (examples of which you seem to have difficulty coming up with), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

Your whiteness is showing.

When I say your whiteness is showing this is what I mean: You claim that your opposition to Obama is an act of gender solidarity, in that women (and their male allies) need to stand up for women in the face of the sexist mistreatment of Clinton by the press. On this latter point--the one about the importance of standing up to the media for its often venal misogyny--you couldn't be more correct. As the father of two young girls who will have to contend with the poison of patriarchy all their lives, or at least until such time as that system of oppression is eradicated, I will be the first to join the boycott of, or demonstration on, whatever media outlet you choose to make that point. But on the first part of the above equation--the part where you insist voting against Obama is about gender solidarity--you are, for lack of a better way to put it, completely full of crap. And what's worse is that at some level I suspect you know it. Voting against Senator Obama is not about gender solidarity. It is an act of white racial bonding, and it is grotesque.

If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women--you know, the ones who aren't white like you and most of your friends--but rather, like white men! Needless to say it is high irony, bordering on the outright farcical, to believe that electorally bonding with white men, so as to elect McCain, is a rational strategy for promoting feminism and challenging patriarchy. You are not thinking and acting as women, but as white people. So here's the first question: What the hell is that about?

And you wonder why women of color have, for so long, thought (by and large) that white so-called feminists were phony as hell? Sister please...

Your threats are not about standing up for women. They are only about standing up for the feelings of white women, and more to the point, the aspirations of one white woman. So don't kid yourself. If you wanted to make a statement about the importance of supporting a woman, you wouldn't need to vote for John McCain, or stay home, thereby producing the same likely result--a defeat for Obama. You could always have said you were going to go out and vote for Cynthia McKinney. After all, she is a woman, running with the Green Party, and she's progressive, and she's a feminist. But that isn't your threat is it? No. You're not threatening to vote for the woman, or even the feminist woman. Rather, you are threatening to vote for the white man, and to reject not only the black man who you feel stole Clinton's birthright, but even the black woman in the race. And I wonder why? Could it be...?

See, I told you your whiteness was showing.

And now for a third question, and this is the biggie, so please take your time with it: How is it that you have managed to hold your nose all these years, just like a lot of us on the left, and vote for Democrats who we knew were horribly inadequate--Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, right on down the uninspiring line--and yet, apparently can't bring yourself to vote for Barack Obama? A man who, for all of his shortcomings (and there are several, as with all candidates put up by either of the two major corporate parties) is surely more progressive than any of those just mentioned. And how are we to understand that refusal--this sudden line in the proverbial sand--other than as a racist slap at a black man? You will vote for white men year after year after year--and are threatening to vote for another one just to make a point--but can't bring yourself to vote for a black man, whose political views come much closer to your own, in all likelihood, than do the views of any of the white men you've supported before. How, other than as an act of racism, or perhaps as evidence of political insanity, is one to interpret such a thing?

See, black folks would have sucked it up, like they've had to do forever, and voted for Clinton had it come down to that. Indeed, they were on board the Hillary train early on, convinced that Obama had no chance to win and hoping for change, any change, from the reactionary agenda that has been so prevalent for so long in this culture. They would have supported the white woman--hell, for many black folks, before Obama showed his mettle they were downright excited to do so--but you won't support the black man. And yet you have the audacity to insist that it is you who are the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party, and the one before whom Party leaders should bow down, and whose feet must be kissed?

Your whiteness is showing.

Look, I couldn't care less about the Party personally. I left the Democrats twenty years ago when they told me that my activism in the Central America solidarity and South African anti-apartheid movements made me a security risk, and that I wouldn't be able to get clearance to be in some parade with Governor Dukakis. Yeah, seriously. But for you to act as though you are the indispensible voters, the most important, the ones whose views should be pandered to, whose every whim should be the basis for Party policy, is not only absurd, it is also racist in that it, a) ignores and treats as irrelevant the much more loyal constituency of black folks, without whom no Democrat would have won anything in the past twenty years (and indeed the racial gap favoring the Democrats among blacks is about six times larger than the gender gap favoring them among white women, relative to white men); and b) demonstrates the mentality of entitlement and superiority that has been long ingrained in us as white folks--so that we believe we have the right to dictate the terms of political engagement, and to determine the outcome, and to get our way, simply because for so long we have done just that.

But that day is done, whether you like it or not, and you are now left with two, and only two choices, so consider them carefully: the first is to stand now in solidarity with your black brothers and sisters and welcome the new day, and help to push it in a truly progressive and feminist and antiracist direction, while the second is to team up with white men to try and block the new day from dawning. Feel free to choose the latter. But if you do, please don't insult your own intelligence, or ours, by insisting that you've done so as a radical political act.

June 3, 2008

Obama Victory Speech

Tuesday, 3 June 2008
St. Paul, Minnesota

Obama Victory 608.jpg

Tonight Minnesota, after 54 hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.

Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

Thousands of miles have been travelled. Millions of voices have been heard.

And because of what you said - because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another - a journey that will bring a new and better day to America.

Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.

I want to thank all those in Montana and South Dakota who stood up for change today. I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign - through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls.

And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for president.

At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for office.

I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better.

They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.

And that is particularly true for the candidate who has travelled further on this journey than anyone else.

Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she is a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.

I congratulate here on her victory in South Dakota and I congratulate her on the race she has run throughout this contest.

We've certainly had our differences over the last 16 months.

But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning - even in the face of tough odds - is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fuelled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency - an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be.

And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, and we will win that fight, she will be central to that victory.

When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen.

Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honour to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided.

Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time.

There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about a change of party in Washington, it's about the need to change Washington.

There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.

All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply.

But at the end of the day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard.

You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else.

You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing.

We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future.

And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say - let us begin the work together.

Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St Paul with a very different agenda.

They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically.

I honour, we honour, the service of John McCain, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine.

My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.

Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.

It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95% of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.

It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college - policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.

It's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians - a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.

So I'll say this - there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new.

But change is not one of them.

Because change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged.

I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years - especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must.

It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.

It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home.

It's time to refocus our efforts on al-Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century - terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

That's what change is.

Change is realising that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy - tough, direct diplomacy where the president of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for.

We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world.

That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy.

That's what the American people demand.

That's what change is.

Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it.

It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a middle-class tax break to those who need it, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation.

It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was president.

John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy - cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota - he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.

Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill, he'd understand that she can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy.

She needs us to pass health care right now, a plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it.

That's the change we need.

Maybe if John McCain went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he'd understand that we can't afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators.

That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future - an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

That's the change we need.

And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St Paul, Minnesota, or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, Louisiana, he'd understand that we can't afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education and recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support and finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American.

That's the change we need in America.

That's why I'm running for president.

The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a good thing, that is a debate I look forward to.

It is a debate the American people deserve on the issues that will help determine the future of this country and the future of its children.

But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division.

What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon - that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize.

Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first.

We are always Americans first.

Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself.

I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools.

I've sat across the table from law enforcement officials and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent 13 innocent people to death row.

I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the false labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes.

And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.

And so it must be for us.

America, this is our moment. This is our time.

Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long.

I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations.

But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.

This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

Thank you, Minnesota, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

May 24, 2008

And Now . . . Allusions to "Assassinations"

Below is Keith Olbermann's response on his MSNBC show, Countdown, regarding Hillary Clinton's latest discursive faux pas.


Hillary Clinton's RFK Assassination Remark


May 6, 2008

"The Empire Strikes BARACK"

This video is absolutely hilarious! Dang, politics in the U.S. sure are ridiculous . . .

"The second installment in The Obamacles: a unique chronicling of the 2008 presidential election" by (5:00)

May 3, 2008

"Race to the Bottom: How Hillary Clinton's Campaign Played the Race Card--and Drove a Wedge into the Feminist Movement"

Clinton two fingers.jpghillary laughing.jpgClinto with Finger.jpg


This article appears in the 19 May 2008 edition of The Nation.

1 May 2008

In the course of Hillary Clinton's historic run for the White House--in which she became the first woman ever to prevail in a state-level presidential primary contest--she has been likened to Lorena Bobbitt (by Tucker Carlson); a "hellish housewife" (Leon Wieseltier); and described as "witchy," a "she-devil," "anti-male" and "a stripteaser" (Chris Matthews). Her loud and hearty laugh has been labeled "the cackle," her voice compared to "fingernails on a blackboard" and her posture said to look "like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court." As one Fox News commentator put it, "When Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, Take out the garbage." Rush Limbaugh, who has no qualms about subjecting audiences to the spectacle of his own bloated physique, asked his listeners, "Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?" Perhaps most damaging of all to her electoral prospects, very early on Clinton was deemed "unlikable." Although other factors also account for that dislike, much of the venom she elicits ("Iron my shirt," "How do we beat the bitch?") is clearly gender-specific.

Watching the brass ring of the presidency slip out of Clinton's grasp as she is buffeted by this torrent of misogyny, women--white women, that is, and mainstream feminists especially--have rallied to her defense. On January 8, after Barack Obama beat Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, Gloria Steinem published a New York Times op-ed titled "Women Are Never Front-Runners." "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House," Steinem wrote. Next came Clinton's famous "misting-over moment" in New Hampshire in response to a question from a woman about the stress of modern campaigning. For that display of emotion, Clinton was derided, on the one hand, as calculating and chameleonlike--"It could be that big girls don't cry...but it could be that if they do they win," said Chris Matthews--and, on the other, as lacking "strength and resolve," as her Democratic rival John Edwards put it, in a jab at the perennial Achilles' heel of women candidates. Riding a wave of female sympathy, Clinton won New Hampshire in what was dubbed an "anti-Chris Matthews vote."

Thus, feminist opposition to the sexist treatment of Hillary Clinton has morphed into support for the candidate herself. In February Robin Morgan published a reprise of her famous 1970 essay "Goodbye to All That," exhorting women to embrace Clinton as a protest against "sociopathic woman-hating."


In the Los Angeles Times, Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake, wrote of older female voters fed up with the media's dismissive treatment of Clinton: "There are signs the slumbering beast may be waking up--and she's not in a happy mood." A recent New York, magazine article titled "The Feminist Reawakening: Hillary Clinton and the Fourth Wave" described how "it isn't just the 'hot flash cohort'...that broke for Clinton. Women in their thirties and forties--at once discomfited and galvanized by the sexist tenor of the media coverage, by the nastiness of the watercooler talk in the office, by the realization that the once-foregone conclusion of Clinton-as-president might never come to be--did too."

The sexist attacks on Clinton are outrageous and deplorable, but there's reason to be concerned about her becoming the vehicle for a feminist reawakening. For one thing, feminist sympathy for her has begotten an "oppression sweepstakes" in which a number of her prominent supporters, dismayed at her upstaging by Obama, have declared a contest between racial and gender bias and named sexism the greater scourge. This maneuver is not only unhelpful for coalition-building but obstructs understanding of how sexism and racism have played out in this election in different (and interrelated) ways.

Yet what is most troubling--and what has the most serious implications for the feminist movement--is that the Clinton campaign has used her rival's race against him. In the name of demonstrating her superior "electability," she and her surrogates have invoked the racist and sexist playbook of the right--in which swaggering macho cowboys are entrusted to defend the country--seeking to define Obama as too black, too foreign, too different to be President at a moment of high anxiety about national security. This subtly but distinctly racialized political strategy did not create the media feeding frenzy around the Rev. Jeremiah Wright that is now weighing Obama down, but it has positioned Clinton to take advantage of the opportunities the controversy has presented. And the Clinton campaign's use of this strategy has many nonwhite and nonmainstream feminists crying foul.

While 2008 was never going to be a "postracial" campaign, the early racially tinged skirmishes between the Clinton and Obama camps seemed containable. There were references by Clinton campaign officials to Obama's admission of past drug use; the tit-for-tat over Clinton's tone-deaf but historically accurate statement that Martin Luther King needed Lyndon Johnson for his civil rights dreams to be realized; and insinuations that Obama is a token, unqualified, overreaching--that he's all pretty words, "fairy tales" and no action.

From the point of view of Obama's supporters, the edge was taken off some of these conflicts by the mere fact of his stunning electoral success, built as it was on significant white support. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton and an Obama volunteer, recalls that for black Americans "Iowa was an astonishing moment--watching Barack win the caucus felt like Reconstruction. There was something powerful about feeling as though you were a full citizen." In democracy, Harris-Lacewell explains, "the ruled and rulers are supposed to be the same people. The idea that black folks could be engaged in the process of being rulers over not just black folks but over the nation as a whole struck me as very powerful."

Soon enough, however, that powerful idea came under attack.

"More than any single thing, that moment with Bill Clinton in South Carolina represents the rupture that was coming," says Harris-Lacewell. The moment occurred in late January, when the former President compared Obama's landslide win, in which he received a major boost from African-American voters, to Jesse Jackson's victories there in 1984 and 1988. Because the former President offered the comparison unprompted, in response to a question that had nothing to do with Jackson or race, the statement was widely read as chalking up Obama's win to his blackness alone and thus attempting to marginalize him as a doomed minority candidate with limited appeal. Obama was now "the black candidate," in the words of one Clinton strategist quoted by the AP.

Obama Resonds to Bill Clinton's Jesse Jackson Comment (2:08)

By March, multiple videos of Wright, Obama's former pastor, had popped up on YouTube and had begun to play on an endless loop in the right-wing media. "God damn America for treating your citizens as less than human," Wright inveighed, reciting a litany of racial complaints. And he said in his sermon immediately following 9/11, "America's chickens are coming home to roost."

According to Smith College professor Paula Giddings, author of a new biography of Ida B. Wells, Ida: A Sword Among Lions and the Campaign Against Lynching, Wright's angry invocation of race and nation tapped into a reservoir of doubt about the very Americanness of African-Americans. "American citizenship has always been racialized as white. Who is a true American? Are African-Americans true Americans? That has been the question," she says.

In Obama's case--given his mixed-race lineage, his Kenyan father, his experiences growing up in Indonesia, his middle name (Hussein)--questions about his devotion to America carry a special potency, as xenophobia mingles with racism to create a poisonous brew. The toxicity is further heightened in this post-9/11 atmosphere, in which an image of Obama in Somali dress is understood as a slur and e-mails claiming that he is a "secret Muslim" schooled in a madrassa spread virally, along with rumors that he took the oath of office on a Koran. The madrassa and Koran canards have been thoroughly debunked, but still they persist--and few have been willing to stand up and say, So what if he was a Muslim? For her part, Clinton, asked on 60 Minutes whether Obama was a Muslim, said, "There is nothing to base that on, as far as I know."

Giddings calls the Wright association a "litmus test" that Obama must pass, saying, "It will be interesting to see if a man of color, a man who's cosmopolitan, can be the quintessential symbol of America" as its President.

Obama initially responded to that challenge with his speech in Philadelphia on March 18. While condemning Wright's words, he placed them in a historical context of racial oppression and said, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." (More recently, of course, Obama did renounce him.) But in the Philadelphia speech, called "A More Perfect Union," Obama also outlined a racially universal definition of American citizenship and affirmed his commitment to represent all Americans as President. "I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together--unless we perfect our union by understanding that we have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction."

A mere three days after Obama spoke those words, Bill Clinton made this statement in North Carolina about a potential Clinton-McCain general election matchup: "I think it'd be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics." Whether or not this statement constituted McCarthyism, as one Obama surrogate alleged and as Clinton supporters vigorously denied, the timing of the remark made its meaning quite clear: controversies relating to Obama's race render him less fit than either Hillary or McCain to run for president as a patriotic American. A couple of weeks later, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen went so far as to call on Obama to make another speech, modeled after John F. Kennedy's declaration in 1960 that, despite his Catholicism, he would respect the separation of church and state as President--as though Obama's blackness were a sign of allegiance to some entity, like the Vatican, other than the United States of America.

In the Democratic debates, enabled by the moderators, Hillary Clinton has increasingly deployed issues of race and patriotism as a wedge strategy against her opponent. First, in the debate in Cleveland on February 26, she pressed Obama not only to denounce but to reject Louis Farrakhan--to whom he was spuriously linked through Reverend Wright, who had taken a trip with the black nationalist leader in the 1980s. In style as well as content, that attack was a harbinger of things to come. In the most recent debate, ABC's George Stephanopolous and Charles Gibson peppered Obama with questions such as, "Do you believe [Wright] is as patriotic as you are?" and, regarding former Weatherman Bill Ayers, a Chicago neighbor and Obama supporter, "Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?" Time after time, Clinton picked up the line and ran with it. "You know, these are problems, and they raise questions in people's minds. And so this is a legitimate area...for people to be exploring and trying to find answers," she said, seeming to abandon her argument that these issues are fair game now only because they will be raised by Republicans later and thus are relevant to an evaluation of Obama's electability.

The Wright, Farrakhan and Ayers controversies have been fueled by a craven media, and ABC's performance in the debate has rightly been condemned. But given that Clinton is the one who is running for President and who purports to represent liberal ideals, her complicity in such attempts to establish guilt by association is far more troubling. While she has dealt gingerly with the matter of Wright in the wake of his recent appearance at the National Press Club--accusing Republicans of politicizing the issue--she also took pains to remind reporters that she "would not have stayed in that church under those circumstances."

It's disappointing, to say the least, to see the first viable female contender for the presidency participate in attacks on her black opponent's patriotism, which exploit an anxious climate around national security that gives white men an edge both over women and people of color--who tend to be viewed, respectively, as weak and potentially traitorous. Says Paula Giddings, "This idea of nationalism and patriotism pulling at everyone has demanded hypermasculine men, more like McCain than the feline Obama, and demanded women whose role is to be maternal more than anything else."

For Hillary Clinton, the gendered terrain of post-9/11 national security politics has been treacherous indeed. As Elizabeth Drew observed in The New York Review of Books, Clinton took steps in the Senate, like joining the Armed Services Committee, "to protect herself from the sexist notion that a woman might be soft on national security." As a 2002 study by the White House Project, a women's leadership group, found, "Women candidates start out with a serious disadvantage--voters tend to view women as less effective and tough. Recent events of war, terrorism, and recession have only...increased the salience of these dimensions." Clinton has been quite successful in allaying these concerns, although she faces a Catch-22: her reputed toughness and ruthlessness have helped ratchet up her high negatives. The White House Project study found that a woman candidate faces a unique tension between the need to show herself "in a light that is personally appealing, while also showing that she has the kind of strength needed for the job she is seeking."

Of course, Clinton's decision to play the hawk may have had other motivations. Perhaps she really believed that voting to authorize the war in Iraq was the right thing to do (which is, arguably, even more worrying). But her posture in this campaign--threatening to "totally obliterate" Iran after being asked how she would respond in the highly improbable event of an Iranian nuclear strike against Israel, for example--has at least something to do with a desire to compete on a macho foreign policy playing field. It's the woman in this Democratic primary race who has the cowboy swagger: the nationalist and militaristic rhetoric, the whiskey-swilling photo-ops, the gotcha attacks for perceived insults to a working-class electorate (as in "Bittergate") that is usually depicted as white and male.

Clinton has, to be sure, faced a raw misogyny that has been more out in the open than the racial attacks on Obama have been. But while sexism may be more casually accepted, racism, which is often coded, is more insidious and trickier to confront. Clinton's response to "Iron my shirt" was immediate and straightforward: "Oh, the remnants of sexism, alive and well." Says Kimberlé Crenshaw, law professor at Columbia and UCLA and executive director of the African American Policy Forum, "While sexism can be denounced more directly, that doesn't mean it's worse. Things that are racist have yet to be labeled and understood as such."

While on occasion Obama's campaign has complained of racial slights, Obama himself has avoided raising the charge directly. Even so, Clinton supporters make the twisted claim that it is Obama who has racialized the campaign. "While promoting Obama as a 'post-racial' figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics," wrote Sean Wilentz in The New Republic in an article titled "Race Man." Bill Clinton recently groused that the Obama camp, in the controversy over his Jackson remark, "played the race card on me."

As for the way the Clinton campaign has dealt with race, Crenshaw says, "It started with a small drumbeat, but as the campaign has proceeded, as Hillary has taken part in things, more people are really seeing this as a 'line in the sand' kind of moment."

Among the black feminists interviewed for this article, reactions to the declarations of sexism's greater toll by Clinton supporters--and their demand that all women back their candidate out of gender solidarity, regardless of the broader politics of the campaign--ran the gamut from astonishment to dismay to fury. Patricia Hill Collins, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland and author of Black Feminist Thought, recalls how, before they were reduced to their race or gender, the candidates were not seen solely through the prism of identity, and many Democrats were thrilled with the choices before them. But of the present, she says, "It is such a distressing, ugly period. Clinton has manipulated ideas about race, but Obama has not manipulated similar ideas about gender." This has exacerbated longstanding racial tensions within the women's movement, Collins notes, and is likely to alienate young black women who might otherwise have been receptive to feminism. "We had made progress in getting younger black women to see that gender does matter in their lives. Now they are going to ask, What kind of white woman is Hillary Clinton?"

The sense of progress unraveling is profound. "What happened to the perspective that the failures of feminism lay in pandering to racism, to everyone nodding that these were fatal mistakes--how is it that all that could be jettisoned?" asks Crenshaw, who co-wrote a piece with Eve Ensler on the Huffington Post called "Feminist Ultimatums: Not in Our Name." Crenshaw says that, appalled as she is by the sexism toward Clinton, she found herself stunned by some of the arguments pro-Hillary feminists were making. "There is a myopic focus on the aspiration of having a woman in the White House--perhaps not any woman, but it seems to be pretty much enough that she be a Democratic woman." This stance, says Crenshaw, "is really a betrayal."

Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, attributes this go-for-broke attitude to the mindset of corporate feminism. "There's a way in which feminists who have been seriously engaged in electoral politics for a long time, the institutional DC feminist leadership, they are just with Hillary Clinton come hell or high water. I think they have accepted, as she has accepted, a similar career trajectory. They are not uncomfortable with what has gone on in the campaign, because they see electoral campaigns as mere instruments for getting elected. This is just the way it is. We have to get elected."

The implications of all this for the future of feminism depend significantly on the outcome of the primary, says Kissling. "If Clinton wins, the older-line women's movement will continue; it will be a continuation of power for them. If she doesn't win, it will be a death knell for those people. And that may be a good thing--that a younger generation will start to take over."

Many younger women, indeed, have responded to the admonishments of their pro-Hillary second-wave elders by articulating a sophisticated political orientation that includes feminism but is not confined to it. They may support Obama, but they still abhor the sexism Clinton has faced. And they detect--and reject--a tinge of sexism among male peers who have developed man-crushes on the dashing senator from Illinois. "Even while they voice dismay over the retro tone of the pro-Clinton feminist whine, a growing number of young women are struggling to describe a gut conviction that there is something dark and funky, and probably not so female-friendly, running below the frantic fanaticism of their Obama-loving compatriots," wrote Rebecca Traister in Salon.

It's not just young feminists who have taken such a nuanced view. Calling themselves Feminists for Peace and Obama, 1,500 prominent progressive feminists--including Kissling, Barbara Ehrenreich and this magazine's Katha Pollitt--signed on to a statement endorsing him and disavowing Clinton's militaristic politics. "Issues of war and peace are also part of a feminist agenda," they declared.

In some sense, this is a clarifying moment as well as a wrenching one. For so many years, feminists have been engaged in a pushback against the right that has obscured some of the real and important differences among them. "Today you see things you might not have seen. It's clearer now about where the lines are between corporate feminism and more grassroots, global feminism," says Crenshaw. Women who identify with the latter movement are saying, as she puts it, "'Wait a minute, that's not the banner we are marching under!'"

Feminist Obama supporters of all ages and hues, meanwhile, are hoping that he comes out of this bruising primary with his style of politics intact. While he calls it "a new kind of politics," Clinton and Obama are actually very similar in their records and agendas (which is perhaps why this contest has fixated so obsessively on their gender and race). But in his rhetoric and his stance toward the world outside our borders, Obama does appear to offer a way out of the testosterone-addled GOP framework. As he said after losing Pennsylvania, "We can be a party that thinks the only way to look tough on national security is to talk, and act, and vote like George Bush and John McCain. We can use fear as a tactic and the threat of terrorism to scare up votes. Or we can decide that real strength is asking the tough questions before we send our troops to fight."

As comedian Chris Rock quipped, Bush "fucked up so bad that he's made it hard for a white man to run for President." Rock spoke too soon: many are hungry for a shift, but the country needs the right push to get there. Unfortunately, from Hillary Clinton, it's getting a shove in the wrong direction.

About Betsy Reed

Betsy Reed is the executive editor of The Nation. She is the editor of Unnatural Disaster: The Nation on Hurricane Katrina, a collection of the magazine's coverage of the storm and its aftermath published by Nation Books on the hurricane's one-year anniversary. She also edited the anthology Nothing Sacred: Women Respond to Religious Fundamentalism and Terror[Download review as PDF], published by Nation Books in 2003.

April 30, 2008

Obama Denounces Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Below are videos and a transcript of Obama's denunciations of Rev. Wright

29 April 2008 (1:29)

March 2008 (3:40)

Transcript of Senator Obama Comments on Rev. Wright
Winston Salem, North Carolina
29 April 2008


Before I start taking questions I want to open it up with a couple of comments about what we saw and heard yesterday. I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That’s in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That’s who I am. That’s what I believe. That’s what this campaign has been about.

Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.
His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I’ve already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, he’s built a wonderful congregation, the people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministry’s reach beyond the church walls. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States’ wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me, they rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this, I — we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided; that, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past. I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country; that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments. What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about, it is not what I think America stands for, and I want to be very clear that moving forward Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign’s about, I think will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point, I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It’s never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It’s not about Reverend Wright. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children, and that’s what we should be talking about. And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me. So with that, let me take some questions.

Yeah, go ahead.

Q and A:

Q: Why the change in tone from yesterday when you spoke to us on the tarmac yesterday –

BO: I’ll be honest with you, because I hadn’t seen it yet.

Q: That was the difference?

BO: Yes.

Q: Have you heard the reports about the AIDS comment?

BO: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was that he had given a performance and I thought, at the time that it would be sufficient to re-iterate what I had said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a — it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that — that’s — that contradicts who I am and what I stand for and what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion, somehow, that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I’m about knows that I’m about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the commonality in all people. And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakahn is — has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs. Jeff?

Q: What do you expect or what do you plan do about this right now, to further distance yourself? Do you think you need to do that? What does that say about your judgment for superdelegates who are trying to decide which democratic nominee is better? Your candidacy has been based on judgment. What does this say?

BO: Well, look, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years. I understand that I think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously during the first stage of this controversy. I think he felt vilified and attacked, and I understand that he wanted to defend himself. You know, I understand that, you know, he’s gone through difficult times of late and that he’s leaving his ministry after many years. And so, you know, that may account for the change but the insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his performance in the question and answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me. It surprised me. As I said before, this is an individual who has built a very fine church and a church that is well-respected throughout Chicago. During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted. And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church. So, you know, I think what it says is that, you know, I have not — you know, I did not run through — run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years, but I don’t think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

Q: What affect do you think it’s going to have on your campaign?

BO: That’s something that you guys will have to figure out. Obviously we’ve got elections in four or five days. So we’ll find out. You know, what impact it has. Ultimately, I think that the American people know that we have to do better than we’re doing right now. I think that they believe in the ideas of this campaign. I think they are convinced that special interests have dominated Washington too long. I think they are convinced that we’ve got to get beyond some of the same political games that we’ve been playing. I think they believe that we need to speak honestly and truthfully about how we’re going to solve issues like energy or health care and I believe that this campaign has inspired a lot of people. And that’s part of what, you know, going back to what you asked, Mike, about why I feel so strongly about this today. You know, after seeing Reverend Wright’s performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for what — for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems. You know, now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together, and that’s what we’ve been doing in this campaign and you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.

Q: Did you have a conversation with Reverend Wright?

BO: No.

Q: What’s going to happen with the distraction?

BO: I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed, as a consequence of this. I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. I don’t — more importantly — I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people and with the American people And obviously, he’s free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that — well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.

Q: I’m wondering, I don’t know what — I’m wondering — [inaudible]

BO: Well, the new pastor, the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful, young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community. This — I’ll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss, but because this has become such a spectacle. And, you know, when I go to church, it’s not for spectacle, it’s to pray and to find — to find a stronger sense of faith. It’s not to posture politically. It’s not to — you know, it’s not to hear things that violate my core beliefs. And so, you know, and I certainly done want to provide a distraction for those who are worshipping at Trinity. So as of this point, I’m a member of Trinity. I haven’t had a discussion with Reverend Moss about it, so I can’t tell you how he’s reacting and how he’s responding. Okay? Kathy?

Q: Senator, I’m wondering to sort of follow on Jeff’s question about why it’s different now. Have you heard from some of your supporters, you know, you have supporters who expressed any alarm about what this might be doing to the campaign?

BO: Look, I mean, I don’t think that it’s that hard to figure out from if it was just a purely political perspective. You know, my reaction has more to do with what I want this campaign to be about and who I am. And I want to make certain that people understand who I am. You know, in some ways what Reverend Wright said yesterday, directly contradicts everything that I’ve done during my life. It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I’ve worked on politically. It contradicts what I’ve said in my books. It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I’ve been saying on this campaign trail. And what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part, and we’re all a part, and try to make something constructive out of it. But there wasn’t anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was, was a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth. And you know, I can construct something positive out of that. I can understand it. I, you know, the — you know, the people do all sorts of things and, as I said before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a leader in the South Side. I think that the church he built is outstanding. I think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons. He provided, you know, valuable contributions to my family. But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough. That’s a show of disrespect to me. It’s — it is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.

Q: Did you discuss with your wife after having seen Reverend Wright …

BO: Yeah, she was similarly angered. Joe?

Q: Reverend Wright said it’s not an attack on him but an attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that? Second of all, the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, can you explain something about the anger and the sentiments, how important a strain is liberation theology and why …

BO: Well, the – first of all of all, in terms of liberation theology, I’m not a theologian. So I think to some theologians there might be some well worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation theology. I went to church and listened to sermons, and the — in the sermons that I heard — and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches — there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness, a social gospel. So a lot of people would, rather than using a fancy word like that, simply talk about preaching the social gospel and that — there’s nothing particularly odd about that. Dr. King, obviously, was the most prominent example of that kind of preaching. But you know, what I do think can happen, and I didn’t see this as a member of the church, but I saw it yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed that you lose sight of what we have in common, that it overrides everything else that we’re not concerned about the struggles of others because we’re looking at things only through a particular lens, then it doesn’t describe properly what I believe in the power of faith to overcome but also to bring people together. Now, you had a first question that I don’t remember.

Q: do you think [inaudible]

BO: you know, I did not — I did not view the initial round of sound bites that triggered this controversy as an attack on the black church. I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was. And, you know, more than anything, something that piqued a lot of political interest. I didn’t see it as an attack on the black church. I mean, probably the only aspect of it that probably had to do with specifically the black church is the fact that some people were surprised when he was shouting. I mean, that is just a black church tradition. And so I think some people interpreted that as somehow, wow, he’s really hollering and black preachers holler and so that, I think, showed a cultural gap in America. The sad thing is that, although the sound bites I, as I stated, I think, created a caricature of him and when he was in that Moyers interview though there were some things that, you know, continued to be offensive, at least there was some sense of rounding out the edges. Yesterday, I think he caricatured himself and that was — as I said, that made me angry, but also made me sad. Richard?

Q: [inaudible] talk about giving the benefit of the doubt or the Philadelphia speech and trying to create something close to that. Did you consult with him before the speech or after the speech in Philadelphia to get his reaction?

BO: I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia. Wasn’t able to reach him, because he was on a — he was on a cruise. He had just stepped down from the pulpit. When he got back, I did speak to him and the — you know, I prefer not to share sort of private conversations between me and him. I will talk to him perhaps someday in the future. But what I can say is that I was very clear that what he had said in those particular snippets, I found objectionable and offensive. And that the intention of the speech was to provide context for them but not to excuse them because I found them inexcusable.

Q: on Sunday you were asked to respond [inaudible]

BO: There’s been great damage. You know, I — it may have been unintentional on his part, but, you know, I do not see that relationship being the same after this. Now, to some degree, you know, I know that one thing that he said was true was that he was never my, quote/unquote spiritual adviser, he was never my spiritual mentor, he was my Pastor. And so to some extent how, you know, the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think was inaccurate. But he was somebody who was my pastor and married Michelle and I and baptized my children and prayed with us when we announced this race. And so, you know, I’m disappointed. All right? thank you, guys.

CSPAN Video of Rev. Wright's Remarks to the National Press Club Speech

Rev. Wright's Remarks to the National Press Club
Monday 28 April 2008

Pt. I (10:00)

Pt. II (10:00)

Pt. III (7:00)

Pt. IV (9:00)

Pt. V (10:00)

Pt. VI (7:00)

"The Politics of the Rev. Wright Controversy: A Debate with Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Adolph Reed, Jr."

30 April 2008


As the Reverend Wright controversy continues to dominate media attention, we host a debate with two guests. Melissa Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University. A Barack Obama supporter, she was a member of the Trinity United Church, and Reverend Wright was also her pastor. And Adolph Reed, Jr. is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He makes the case against voting for Senator Barack Obama in the latest issue of The Progressive magazine.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell,
Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. She is a contributing writer at and a Barack Obama supporter. She attended the Trinity United Church, and Rev. Wright was also her pastor.

Adolph Reed Jr.
, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books, including Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene and Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. He makes the case against voting for Sen. Obama in the latest issue of The Progressive magazine.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m joined now by two guests to discuss Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Senator Barack Obama.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University and the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. She is a contributing writer at and a Barack Obama supporter. She was a member of the Trinity United Church, and Reverend Wright was also her pastor. She joins us now from Princeton, New Jersey.

And joining us on the phone is Adolph Reed, Jr. He’s a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books, including Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene and Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. He makes the case against voting for Senator Barack Obama in the latest issue of The Progressive magazine.

Welcome to both of you.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Thank you. Nice to be here.

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Hi. Good morning. How’s everybody doing?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Good. I’d like to begin with Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Your reaction to the three appearances of Reverend Wright over the weekend and on Monday and to Senator Obama’s speech yesterday in reaction to his comments?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I suppose more than anything, I find it shockingly painful. I’ve found this painful since Trinity United Church of Christ, a church where I was not a member but where I did attend for the seven years during the time that I lived in Chicago—since it’s been mischaracterized, since I’ve heard Jeremiah Wright sound-bited and spoken about in such harsh ways. This has been a difficult process, I think, for all of us who love and care about Jeremiah Wright, but also a difficult process for all of us who are supporters of Barack Obama, who watch these two men, both of whom we care about, trying to figure out how to work out their personal, theological and political differences in public.

What I think ultimately is that most of what Jeremiah Wright said, while speaking, while actually speaking during these appearances, are things that I agree with and things that I think represent the very best of who Jeremiah Wright is. But in his question-and-answers, he indicated a kind of egoism and a defensiveness that this is really about him. As much as he said this is not about him, it’s about the church, there was this sense of defensiveness that I think ultimately undid so much of the important work that he’d done in the talks themselves.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And his saying that the attacks on him are in essence an attack on the black church itself?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it certainly is an attack on Trinity United Church of Christ. And over the past month as this has been in the news, many of the members of Trinity have experienced really awful hate mail. They’ve experienced bomb threats at their church. I mean, it has been an attack on that church.

I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that Jeremiah Wright stands in for the entire African American religious experience. Certainly, the prophetic tradition, the liberation tradition, the transformation tradition that he spoke about are an important element of African American religious thought, but there are lots of other elements. There’s no one black church to which we all go on Sunday morning. And so, I think it is unfair for him to imagine that he stands in for the whole black church and for the entire black religious experience.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Adolph Reed, I’d like to ask you, again, your reaction to both the appearances of Reverend Wright at this particular time in the campaign in these very public appearances and of Senator Obama’s reaction?

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Well, hi. Yeah, I guess the first thing I should say is, I certainly agree with Professor Harris-Lacewell’s last comment. I think the tendency both on—well, it’s an understandable one as a political move or a move of political rhetoric. I think the tendency to extrapolate from what is clearly a dog pile-on campaign at the national level against Wright and, by implication, his own parish, to extrapolate from that to—of taking that as a representative of an abstraction called the black church is problematic.

But I also—before I say anything else, I want to correct something in my column. It turns out that I mistakenly identified my old friend Katha Pollitt as one of—you know, the journalist—and others who had linked her support for Obama to her daughter. She was not, actually.

But anyway, I guess what I’d like to do is take a little bit of a step back from this and to rehearse a question that a colleague of mine, you know, another longtime black political scientist, posed about this issue, which is—and the question is, why should we be in a debate about whatever goes on in the church that a presidential candidate attends in the first place? And I think that that question, since—you know, because that question sort of speaks to what—you know, one of the things that’s happened in our politics and the way we talk about politics, and one of the reasons that I think that the Obama campaign is doomed to go down in flames either against McCain—and frankly, I don’t think that Clinton has a better chance of beating McCain, either.

But the answer to the question is that Obama opened himself to this by leaning to—on the premise that he can appeal to Republicans and to conservatives and by parading his personal faith around. And frankly—this is, I guess, the crux of my argument in The Progressive column—that this is precisely the tact that has been the undoing of every Democratic candidate since Dukakis, and I would frankly even include Clinton in that, were it not for the fact that Ross Perot siphoned votes away from the Republicans each time. I mean, this is what happened with Gore in 2000, it’s what happened with Kerry in 2004. You present yourself as electable because you can appeal to conservative voters, and then the Republicans attack you for not being a true conservative and can characterize you as someone who’s trying to put something over on the American people.

And when you stir the race factor into the Obama campaign—I’m sure, as Melissa knows as well as I, probably better, since she’s closer to that kind of political science—you know, I mean, not only have there been only two black people elected governor ever in the United States, none reelected, only three elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction and only one of those, a Republican from Massachusetts, reelected—and from what we’ve seen in gubernatorial and other statewide campaigns—Bradley’s campaign for governor in California, Andrew Young’s campaign in Georgia, you know, Harvey Gantt campaign—is that, you know, about this far out from the electorate, you know, where we’ve seen a number—a significant segment of white voters who sort of like the idea, like to savor the idea in their heads, like the sound of it in their mouths, that they’re prepared to vote for a black candidate, the closer it comes to the election of a black candidate being a reality, the more likely you’re going to find people finding ostensibly nonracial reasons to bail and to find him unlikable.

And I think that’s—frankly, I think that’s—from the standpoint of the national political race, I think that’s the most significant aspect of the Wright contrast now. I mean, I also agree with much, if not the vast majority, of what he had to say, frankly. And I think he’s also correct—Wright, that is—I think he’s also correct that Obama couldn’t embrace him, couldn’t do anything except distance himself from that largely astute analysis of American power and other contradictions of the governing regime of both parties, because of the warrants of trying to win an election in which the discursive center of gravity is much farther to the right.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Melissa Harris-Lacewell, precisely, the Obama campaign, from the beginning, has represented this viewpoint that America could unite and move beyond race and class divisions, beyond the bitter political divisions of the—that have separated Americans in the past. But now you have this reality that no matter how much he espoused moving beyond race, racial contradictions have become a centerpiece now of this campaign, and to some degree, his pastor has helped to keep that now in the public eye. Your response to how this whole controversy, in essence, is disproving Obama’s original premise?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I need to disagree with many of the things that my colleague has said. I do agree with Adolph’s points about—I mean, how could one disagree, they’re historical facts—about the difficulties that African Americans have had in winning statewide office and obviously the possibility of the American presidency. But I think that’s precisely why it was so important for Senator Obama to talk about his religious faith. I mean, after all, there had to be some reason that he believed in the possibility of America being a different place.

I actually don’t think it’s a matter of parading around and pretending that he has the capacity to bring together different groups of people. He has built a national, multiracial, intergenerational coalition of men and women, working class and wealthy people. That is what has happened, whereas the other two candidates, John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have mostly built largely, vastly predominantly white coalitions. And yet, they’re not having to answer questions on race. So I think that, in fact, Barack Obama’s campaign demonstrates, in its capacity to pull voters from New York to Oregon to Philadelphia, the very capacity of black and white and brown Americans to come together.

I also think that when Barack Obama began this process and had to talk about why would he have the audacity of hope to believe that it was possible in this moment to bring together this coalition, regardless of what looked like a bitterly partisan, divided country, he had to talk about his faith in God, because it is exactly that, which I think Jeremiah Wright was leaning towards in his best moments as a minister, is to say that the amazing thing about black America has been that African Americans could look out into a world as enslaved people, as Jim Crowed people, as people who saw no empirical evidence that God in fact loved them, and believe anyway that God loved them, that they had a right to be citizens in this country.

There is never a moment on questions of race in America where things are better before they get better. We always have to walk through the difficult process. That was true in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It is true in the Barack Obama campaign. I hate watching this happen. I know that this is about race. Yet I also know, if you’re going to be the first black president of the United States, whether it’s Barack Obama or some other person later on, you are going to have to learn to govern in the context of racial storms. It is never going to happen that the media and the rest of the country is all going to stand up and give you a standing ovation: “Good job for getting past race.? You’re going to have to walk through race to be on the other side of it. So I actually think the connection of race and religion are fundamental to how African Americans have the hope to engage in American politics.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Adolph Reed, you’ve been critical of the progressive credentials of Senator Obama and of everything from his community organizing experience to some of his political views. Could you explain your views on that?

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Well, yeah. I mean, I want to say a couple things. I mean, one is, yeah, I don’t think that what Obama—well, I tend much more to Doug Henwood’s view, that what Obama has put together is not so much a coalition as a fan club, right? I mean, you don’t build a movement around a political campaign. I know I’ve heard people say that, well—you know, Kool-Aid drinkers have said that, well, you know, this could be—he could set in motion forces like those that moved FDR in a progressive direction, those that moved JFK in a progressive direction. But as Will Jones, the historian at the University of Wisconsin, has pointed out, you know, that comparison fails, because in each of those cases there were dynamic, rooted social movements that had been pushing for progressive agendas with popular bases on the ground prior to the election of the president. You know, you can’t compare—frankly, I think the comparison of the Obama coalition to either, you know, the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the Greensboro sit-ins or the Gastonia textile strike, you know, just fall completely flat, because this is a candidate- centered politics.

I think it’s also the case that—well, I mean, the connection of race and religion, I think, also very much disturbs me. I mean, there’s no intrinsic black American religious experience. I think there are a lot of us who don’t have any religion whatsoever and don’t really care about it and don’t especially want to see it in public life. And I think that’s a—you know, that’s a stance and a mood and a disposition that’s as culturally authentic among black people as anything else, if there were such a thing as cultural authenticity, which I don’t believe.

Finally, you know, the premise that our politics is—at the national level somehow has been characterized by partisan division just flies in the face of everything that we’ve seen over the last twenty-five years. I mean, what have progressives been complaining about, right? That we have basically two wings of a single party, right? It was the Clinton administration and the Democrats who have led—who have polished off the destruction of the federal government’s sixty-year commitment to direct provision of income support for the poor, to direct provision of low-income housing, that led to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, that opened up the dotcom boom, and so—and so on, that’s been as committed to a regime of public advocation and service provision as Republicans have.

And if anything, the contention that the candidate can bring us all together despite our partisan differences is the same thing that the Democrats have been claiming consistently since at least, you know, Dukakis, to be post-partisan, to be post-political. And frankly, I think it appeals—it’s an appeal that gets greatest traction among people who want to take politics out of politics, ultimately.

And I should say, Juan, too, I mean, that I realize that my response was not directly responsive to the question that you put. And that’s primarily because I don’t think that Obama—you know, that the questions about his character and his biography are all that meaningful. I mean, as I said in the same column, you know, I don’t think anybody who aspires to an office like that is going to be somebody you want to have for your brother-in-law or for your sister-in-law. I mean, I think that ultimately those character questions are misplaced. I mentioned this other perspective in my column partly just to deflate the sense that this guy could walk on water and was a whole new kettle of fish. He’s not. He’s another Democratic politician, as capable of good as the rest of them and as capable of bad as the rest of them.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Melissa Harris-Lacewell?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I do agree with Adolph that there is no question, Barack Obama does not walk on water. It’s not even clear to me that that would be the standard by which we would choose a president. I do think that there is a very easy place to stand as a progressive intellectual, and that is on the sidelines of American politics, shaking an angry fist at how the process works. And I understand and respect it. I—I mean, no one is a more beautiful, critical writer than Adolph Reed. I appreciate the ways in which he pushes us and hopefully drags us towards the left in this country.

On the other hand, here are our options: John McCain, a conservative Republican who has moved to the right in order to win his party’s nomination; Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is part of this Clinton administration, which Adolph Reed has just told us was part of this kind of entire process of moving the Democratic Party towards the right and who has ruthlessly deployed race and gender in this campaign towards her own benefit; and then there’s Barack Obama. Does he walk on water? Certainly not.

But are those of us who have decided to be part of the process, to engage in the questions of American electoral politics, simply hoodwinked and bamboozled and drinking the Kool-Aid? Absolutely not. We’re making a choice about what we believe is possible in our country. And my only point is that, of course, it is an authentic African American experience to stand without hope on the sidelines, angry about the choices, but it is also an authentic African American experience and an authentic—

ADOLPH REED, JR.: I resent that characterization by—

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: —American one to make a choice to be part of the process to choose a candidate, for good or for evil, and to support a campaign, believing that it is the best option that we have within a difficult, difficult American process.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Adolph Reed, last word, about a minute?

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Yeah, well, look, in the first place, I mean, I find that characterization unacceptable, alright? The only two options aren’t, you know, nothing or accept the two sorry choices that one has at one’s disposal. I mean, I think it’s possible to put the electoral domain in its proper place and to do what everyone has to do in that context, however frequently one has to do it, without losing sight of the fact that what we need to be trying to do at the same time is building beyond the election cycle—


ADOLPH REED, JR.: —for the kind of movement that we need in this country.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I would agree with that. I would join with you in that, absolutely.

ADOLPH REED, JR.: And frankly, I mean, you know, I think that the game is over at this point. I don’t think that either one of these candidates actually is going to be able to beat McCain. I think they’re both vulnerable in precisely the same ways and that if Clinton gets the nomination, she’s going to be undone by McCain in the same way that Obama will be. I think that the question really is which one we’ll be worse off with as a failed Democratic nominee. And I think partly because of the sort of racial narratives that are likely to attach within rightwing circles in the Democratic Party of an Obama defeat, as well as the subsequent role that he’d be likely to play in public life, that from the standpoint of progressive interests, we will ultimately be worse off with Obama as a defeated candidate than with Clinton as a defeated candidate.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Come on, Adolph. You need a little hope. Come on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: On that note, we’re going to leave the debate. I want to thank Adolph Reed, Jr., professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University.

April 28, 2008

Rev. Wright on Hillary Clinton


April 22, 2008

To Be Called Out of Name: The "Issue" of Bill Ayers & Barack Obama . . .

images-2.jpeg images-1.jpeg

Of course Obama Lost . . .
I want to begin this post by saying that of course Obama lost the Pennsylvania primary. In the weeks between primaries, the Clinton campaign threw up Rev. Wright, threw up Bill Ayers, and forced Obama into defending ideas and associations that in reality were in no need of defense. The barrage of accusations made Hillary Clinton and her associations virtually invisible. Forgotten and negated was a recent history of association with Clinton's own life partner, Bill Clinton. In the 1990s, Hillary Clinton stood by as Bill Clinton dismantled welfare in the U.S.; waffled about the definition of "genocide" regarding Rwanda's war by machete and rape; passed NAFTA and thus, opened the door to CAFTA. Bill Clinton pushed through the federal Three Strikes You're Out law and thereby ensured, ironically for these campaign times, "thirteen percent of the black adult male population . . . lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws"(1).

About Bill Ayers and Obama . . .

I am honored to have Bill Ayers as my friend. Through him; his heart; his critical work with under-resourced schools; his advocacy of all youth, especially poor and working class kids; through his past efforts to wrestle with the tangled complexities of life in the U.S.; and through our meetings in Chicago over coffee in some corner cafe, I have learned about what it means to keep one's dreams in line with acts of integrity that are not self-centered, with acts that maintain a wide frame encompassing more than just one's self. Bill Ayers is not a "terrorist." The acts he committed in the '60s as an ally to poor/working class folks of color were extreme, yes. But were not the times extreme? The U.S. was in the midst of Vietnam; the country was post-Jim Crow and many whites were actively resisting that fact; African American leaders were being openly assassinated (e.g., Fred Hampton, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Jr.) or being taken as political prisoners; African American women were being forcibly sterilized; and there was, too, the FBI's COINTELPRO . . .

FBI's War on Black America (53:00)
By Denis Mueller & Deb Ellis

Bill Ayers is kind, he is generous, he is compassionate, and he is humbly forthright, which in his case is no contradiction. Bill is a a social intellectual. Every step he and his wife Bernardine take is an effort to connect their daily lives with acts that encourage and demand respect and equity for poor and working class people in the U.S. and worldwide. Bill and Bernardine try to compel everyone around them to live up to the supposed egalitarianism this country purports, but never provides.

At one time, I had made a decision to stay out of the discussion regarding Bill and Obama. I felt, Why should I defend someone I love who needs not to be defended, who demonstrates his regard for community and people, kids, teachers, and schools each time he opens his classroom door to teach? Why add to this ridiculous fray batted about by republicans and democrats alike? But this Thursday, after seeing the documentary, The Weather Underground, Bill will speak with my undergraduate "Intro to Social Justice" class and other invited guests. So, I'm providing my comments to counter the backhanded slap (of seeming support?) Doug Rossinow (in a recent Star Tribune article posted below) and others have recently given Bill regarding Obama. I want my students to know who Bill is and I want them to see the kind of mediated nonsense produced by the weapons this insane political campaign for the presidency erects in the name of a fallacious notion of truth. And, I don't do this because Bill needs my comments. His community work around education and his work outside of this country speaks for itself. I do this because I feel this is just what you do when folks call your friends out of name.

Last year, Bill spoke with my Intro to Social Justice class after viewing The Weather Underground. And, never, not once did a student question the violence (re)presented through the film--neither the violence of Weatherman nor the local and global violence of the state to which Weatherman was responding. After watching the film students asked questions like, How did you have the courage to stand up for what you believe? Or, Would you do it differently in response to the atrocities committed by the state today? In response to the latter question, Bill responded with an emphatic Yes, because today's times necessitate a different kind of response yet one that stills needs to be provided by youth. The students asked Bill questions about their world and how to be responsible for and to it. They asked him, what can I do that is just? What can I do that is non-violent? What can I do that will make a difference? The students asked these questions because they have not and do not negate the past and they know the present isn't working for them and it isn't working for others either. Never did a student call Bill a terrorist. Never did a student question his commitment to social justice. Instead, my students sought Bill out to discover how they can do and make the present better.

What my students sensed in Bill and Bernardine through the film is their profound commitment to allied behavior; their promise to lay down their lives to make things right; to make things equal. There is a moment in the film when Bernardine discusses how she is going to stand side-by-side Blacks and others who haven't been allowed the same economic and social privileges as she. It is a moment in the film when my students literally said aloud, particularly the white ones, WHOA. And later, inevitably, they asked Bill something like How did you have the humility and the courage to admit who you were as a white person, what you came from, and what white folks needed to do to make whiteness, to make power see itself?

Bill Ayers believes in equity, voice, access, and justice--he always has. Sometimes our beliefs take us into acts of war. Unlike Bill, Bush II has allowed the extremity of his beliefs in American exceptionalism to produce multiple global wars. Our personal social "acts of war" should be more like Bill's and Bernardine's acts today: We should daily find ways to create small and large moments of justice that do no harm, that raise awareness, and that forthrightly shine the light on power and the ways in which it works in and through us.

Below is a video of the Obama-Clinton debate in Pennsylvania. The clip captures the point at which Stephanopoulos joined the bandwagon of democrats and republicans alike to produce fear and drive the campaign away from real issues like the war, the economy, education, health care, and our inadequate social relationship to each other in this country. Important to note is the fact that Stephanopoulos was Bill Clinton's campaign communications director in 1992 as well as President Clinton's press secretary. You will notice that Obama's friendship with Bill runs so deep that he calls him "a professor of English." Those who work with Bill or those who are actually his friends know that Bill is Distinguished Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at University of Illinois at Chicago. His work at UIC and as co-founder with Mike Klonsky of Small Schools Workshop focuses on urban school change and critical teaching practices.

The following articles by Lynn Sweet of the Sun Times and Doug Rossinow of Metropolitan State University are the ones to which I referred earlier in this post. Both provide, as mentioned before, an obviously backhanded wave of support to both Bill and Obama by discussing the true non-issue quality of their association. Neither are profound exemplars of journalism or objectivity, but they do serve as good examples of the kind of mediated, seemingly progressive discourse that is shaping this discussion. I encourage you all to read Bill's books, to read his blog, and to understand his work past and present better. In so doing, I'm sure you see what I see.

"Obama's Ayers Connection Never Bugged Anyone"
18 April 2008 - Chicago Sun Times

PHILADELPHIA --GOP mastermind Karl Rove, commenting on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show on Thursday, chastised Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for "hanging around" William Ayers. The Daily News, one of the papers in Philadelphia, referred to Ayers as a "1960s radical" in a story about the Wednesday Democratic debate.

The debate vaulted Ayers from being a side matter in the presidential campaign to center stage just before Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. "The Clinton campaign has been agitating to try to get this in the bloodstream for some time," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Thursday. But it was ABC News' George Stephanopoulos who pressed Obama in the debate to explain why his association with Ayers would not be an issue if he were the Democratic presidential nominee.

Who is Ayers?

For Obama, perhaps a problem, because of Ayers' extremist past -- which has never bothered anyone in Chicago. That's why back in the day when Obama was starting his political career -- making a visit to the Ayers home while running for a state Senate seat, and then agreeing to being on panels with him and serve on a foundation board together -- it was no big deal, or any deal, to any local political reporters or to the editorial boards of the Sun-Times or Tribune.

Once Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, and wife Bernardine Dohrn, also in the group -- surfaced after years on the lam, they settled easily in to the village known as Hyde Park-Kenwood in Chicago, fitting into the highly political, supremely philosophical community anchored by the University of Chicago. For outsiders, it's Cambridge, Berkeley and Evanston --without a lot of chain stores. It's also the place the Obamas call home.

But Ayers, who became a scholar at the University of Illinois-Chicago, was also eventually embraced by a pragmatic son of blue-collar Bridgeport desperately trying to upgrade Chicago's chronically troubled schools: Mayor Daley, whose father's legacy was tarnished because of anti-Vietnam War protesters getting clobbered in the 1968 convention and the "Days of Rage" the next year.

Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf knew Ayers in the 1960s and re-met Ayers and Dohrn decades later. In the 1960s Wolf said he and Ayers were on opposite sides of the use of violence to effect social change. Then, Ayers thought it useful. Wolf came out of the school of nonviolence.

Wolf now is rabbi emeritus at KAM Isaiah Israel, coincidentally located across the street from the Obamas' Kenwood home. (The synagogue welcomes Obama's Secret Service agents inside to use the facilities.)

Ayers is "wonderful, compassionate, thoughtful, serious," Wolf said. I asked him to help reconcile the past and the present. "What we want is not to let bygones be bygones, but to transform ourselves into the kind of people we want to be and ought to be," Wolf said.

Obama made it seem at the debate he hardly knew Ayers. Besides serving on the Woods Fund board, in 1997 he and Ayers were to be on a University of Chicago panel organized by Michelle Obama, then an associate dean. And Ayers could reinforce Obama as an elitist: In 2002, Obama and Ayers were scheduled to be on a UIC panel with this lampoon-able title: "Intellectuals in Times of Crisis."

"Mayor Daley Defends Obama, Vouching for William Ayers"

PHILADELPHIA, PA.--Mayor Daley vouched for William Ayers on Thursday, praising the educator--and former radical-- for his work on Chicago public school reform programs and sending a strong message of reassurance to voters who may be worried about Ayers association with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), which is a non-stop topic lately on Fox News.

Daley press secretary Jackie Heard said Daley decided on his own Thursday morning to issue a statement, after seeing Ayers' name surface in the Wednesday Democratric debate, portrayed as an unrepentant former member of the Weather Underground. Daley's brother, Bill, the former Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton is an Obama backer; Daley's media consultant is David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist.

'I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep re-fighting 40 year old battles," Daley said.


There are a lot of reasons that Americans are angry about Washington politics. And one more example is the way Senator Obama’s opponents are playing guilt-by-association, tarring him because he happens to know Bill Ayers.

I also know Bill Ayers. He worked with me in shaping our now nationally-renowned school reform program. He is a nationally-recognized distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois/Chicago and a valued member of the Chicago community.

I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep re-fighting 40 year old battles.

"Flash: '60s Activism Predated Obama"
20 April 2008 - Star Tribune

Is it 2008 or 1992? When Bill Clinton ran for president, Republicans suggested he had betrayed his country when, as a student traveling in Europe in 1969, he protested against the Vietnam War in England and visited Moscow and Prague. Conservatives called Hillary Clinton a dangerous radical feminist forged in the furnace of the late 1960s.

Now, Barack Obama's association with one-time far-left militant Bill Ayers, his Chicago neighbor, is the target of attacks. But this time the attacks, while they have been nurtured in the right-wing media, have been voiced not by a Republican opponent, but by Obama's fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Irony of ironies.

I wrote a book about the "new left" radical movement of the 1960s, a story in whose closing scenes Ayers' group the Weather Underground played a violent and destructive role. I've always tried to say as little as possible about the "Weatherpeople," since there were only a few hundred of them -- amid a radical movement that numbered in the six figures -- and since they've always gotten more attention than they deserved.

The Weatherpeople were clowns who played with fire. They hoped that if they looked tough enough, a revolutionary legion from the Third World might overwhelm America and greet them as comrades. Their specialties were property damage and profanity. The emptiness of their insurrectionary slogans eventually became a line of defense: They gave warnings of when their bombs would explode; the only people they killed in that era were three of their own number.

Ayers and other Weatherveterans may have become wholesome, productive citizens since returning to polite society. If they want to support a decent, supremely realistic man like Barack Obama, then good for them. Just as Obama says, he was a kid when Ayers was doing stupid things.

Hillary Clinton -- at long last, having no shame -- suggests that Ayers' comment that "we didn't do enough," in an interview published on 9/11, was an endorsement of Al-Qaida's attack on America. She certainly knows that Ayers' interview was done before 9/11. Whatever he meant, the timing of the interview's publication was simply unfortunate.

It's actually not so ironic that Clinton is attacking Obama for associating with Ayers. The charge that the Clintons were late-'60s radicals has always been false. The truth is that there were many different '60s. Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton were young careerists who wanted to do good as they did well and rose in the political system. It was easier for conservatives to link Bill Clinton's loose personal morals to the sexual liberation that many associate with the 1960s than to find evidence of left-wing radicalism in his past.

Obama shouldn't be drawn into another round of culture wars over the memory of the 1960s. Quite possibly, he can't be. He's a post-'60s political figure. The ghosts of the 1960s continue to hover, but they aren't his ghosts.

Doug Rossinow, associate professor of history at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, is the author of The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America.

© 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

(1) Human Rights Watch Report, "United States - Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs" 12.2 (May 2000).

March 24, 2008

"The Politician & the Preacher"

By Mumia Abu-Jamal
Column written 15 March 2008 for Prison Radio

Read below and/or Download file

The recent quasi-controversy over the comments made by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of the United Church of Christ, to which Sen. Barack Obama (D.IL), both belongs and attends, has shown us how limited, and how narrow, is this new politics peddled by the freshman Senator from Chicago.

Although first popularized via the web, the Reverend's comments caused Sen. Obama to say he was "appalled" by them, and he has repudiated such remarks as "offensive."

Just what were these comments? As far as I've heard, they were that Sen. Hilary Clinton (D.NY) has had a political advantage because she's white; that she was raised in a family of means (especially when contrasted with Obama's upbringing); and she was never called a nigger.

Sounds objectively true to me.

Rev. Wright's other remarks were that the country was built on racism, is run by rich white people, and that the events of 9/11 was a direct reaction to US foreign policy.

Again -- true enough.

And while we can see how such truths might cause discomfort to American nationalists, can we not also agree that they are truths? Consider, would Sen. Clinton be where she is if she were born in a Black female body? Or if she were born to a single mother in the projects? As for the nation, it may be too simplistic to say it was built on racism, but was surely built on racial slavery, from which its wealth was built. And who runs America, if not the super rich white elites? Who doesn't know that politicians are puppets of corporate and inherited wealth?

And while Blacks of wealth and means certainly are able to exercise unprecedented influence, we would be insane to believe that they 'run' this country. Oprah, Bob Johnson and Bill Cosby are indeed wealthy; but they have influence, not power. The limits of Cosby's power was shown when he tried to purchase the TV network, NBC, years ago. His offer received a corporate smirk. And Oprah's wealth, while remarkable, pales in comparison to the holdings of men like Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet.

Would George W. Bush be president today if he were named Jorje Guillermo Arbusto, and Mexican-American? (Not unless Jorje, Sr. was a multimillionaire!)

In his ambition to become America's first Black president, Obama is in a race to prove how Black he isn't; even to denouncing a man he has considered his mentor.

As one who has experienced the Black church from the inside, politics and social commentary are rarely far from the pulpit. The Rev. Dr. Martin L. King spoke of politics, war, racism, economics, and social justice all across America. His fair-weather friends betrayed him, and the press condemned his remarks as "inappropriate", "unpatriotic", and "controversial."

Rev. Dr. King said the US was "the greatest purveyor of violence" on earth, and that the Vietnam War was illegitimate and unjust. Would Sen. Obama be denouncing these words, as the white press, and many civil rights figures did, in 1967? Are they "inflammatory?"

Only to politics based on white, corporate comfort uber alles (above all)" only to a politics that ignores Black pain, and distorts Black history; only to a politics pitched more to the status quo, than to real change.

Politics is ultimately about more than winning elections; it's about principles; it's about being true to one's self, and honoring one's ancestors; it's about speaking truth to power.

It can't just be about change, because every change ain't for the better!

March 21, 2008

Just a Little (Comic) Reminder of the Contradictions with Which We've Been Living Under the Bush Administration

The Daily Show's "Bush V. Bush"
28 April 2003

"George W. Bush squares off with himself to discuss his feelings about nation building and the international American image."

March 19, 2008

Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union'

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union'
Constitution Center
Tuesday 18 March 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

View the video

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

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

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

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way. But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

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

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

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

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.
Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

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

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

April 13, 2007

"The Democrats after November" by Mike Davis

New Left Review 43
January-February 2007

For the full article, click here.

FROM THE ARTICLE: Was the November 2006 midterm election an epic political massacre or just a routine midterm brawl? In the week after the Democratic victory, partisan spinmeisters offered opinions as contradictory as those of the protagonists in Rashomon, Kurosawa’s famously relativistic account of rape and murder. On the liberal side, Bob Herbert rejoiced in his New York Times column that the ‘fear-induced anomaly’ of the ‘George W. Bush era’ had ‘all but breathed its last’, while Paul Waldman (Baltimore Sun) announced ‘a big step in the nation’s march to the left’, and George Lakoff ( celebrated a victory for ‘progressive values’ and ‘factually accurate, values-based framing’ (whatever that may mean). [1] On the conservative side, the National Review’s Lawrence Kudlow refused to concede even the obvious bloodstains on the steps of Congress: ‘Look at Blue Dog conservative Democratic victories and look at Northeast liberal gop defeats. The changeover in the House may well be a conservative victory, not a liberal one.’ William Safire, although disgusted that the ‘loser left’ had finally won an election, dismissed the result as an ‘average midterm loss’.

April 12, 2007

"L'Étranger" by Patricia J. Williams

Obama 1.jpeg

The Nation
5 March 2007

For the full article, click here.

FROM THE ARTICLE: "American identity is defined by the experience of the willing diaspora, the break by choice that is the heart of the immigrant myth. It is that narrative of chosen migration that has exiled most African-Americans from a substantial part of the American narrative--and it is precisely his place in that narrative that makes Obama so attractive, so intriguing and yet so strange."