Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Open Letter on Obama Campaign & Citizen Activism

To a friend, fellow activist, and intellectual colleague:


As I said in an earlier email I really appreciate your participation in responding to my general call for various perspectives and stances on the Obama campaign. Many of your comments and much of your analysis is obviously correct when it comes to properly identifying the ideological strengths and weaknesses of Obama vis-a-vis other presidential contenders for the Democratic Party nomination. Clearly, most of what you've said here is not only intellectually accurate but irrefutable. I wouldn't argue with most of what is stated here because as you know I already agree in principle--as a fellow socialist and 'radical thinker/activist'--with the fundamental ideological and political bases of your arguments. There's clearly no denying the highly reductive, utopian, and crudely positivist aporias that motivate, confuse, and mislead so many Americans--of every nationality, "racial group", and gender identity. The questions you raise and the critiques you offer are absolutely crucial to clearly addressing and struggling through the huge maze of contradictions, blindspots, infantile motivations, and false consciousness that haunt, manipulate, and torment so many African Americans (as it does so many 'other Americans' as well). We wouldn't be intellectually honest or politically mature if we didn't admit and seriously seek to confront these limitations.

However, having said that, it appears just from your comments here that there is a crucial dimension of both theoretical and practical politics that you have neglected to acknowledge and address. And that is the paramount issue of linking one's ideological and theoretical ideas, biases, and agendas to the inherent dialectical (and dialogical) realities of grassroots activism and participation (i.e. praxis). For example: The structural reality of electoral politics vis-a-vis the much broader democratic necessity of mass-based political education and mobilization is precisely the tension between unavoidable contradictions and constraints that are the automatic result of engaging people to organize on behalf of much larger goals than merely getting someone elected. Which is to say: Every political struggle-- whether in the electoral realm or in the mass participatory fight to initiate and carry out reforms and/or various "revolutionary" agendas--must be informed and guided by the dynamic principle and disciplined recognition that as we encounter opposition, confusion, ignorance, corruption, reductionism, dogma etc. etc. we must NEVER FORGET that WE as thinkers, writers, artists, activists, CITIZENS have an obligation to engage each other in a creative discourse no matter how "uneven" and "distorted" the intellectual and political development of certain members of our various "communities" (however they are defined) are (or we THINK they are).

This means that we must always be (and remain) highly conscious, aware, HUMBLE , and VIGILANT about the evidence of these limitations and blindspots in both OURSELVES AND OTHERS because not only do we ALL have them, but we ALL must, from our collective and multivaried positions, perspectives, and experiences (desires, needs, fears, anxieties et al) engage in STRUGGLE with each other over WHAT is important and necessary and WHY. This is what real, authentic activism and theory IS. It is this particular synergy of concerns, needs, desires, and aspirations that constitutes a sound and viable PRACTICE/PRAXIS. Without this creative paradigm of thought and action we can't possibly determine HOW we are to proceed toward CRITICALLY TRANSFORMING our understanding of WHAT is to be done and WHY.

What does all this have to do with the Obama campaign and the electoral Democratic process of selecting and most importantly ORGANIZING PEOPLE AROUND a 'viable candidate'? Well, first of all it's IMPERATIVE that we not merely inform or tell people what specific CATEGORIES of thought, behavior, and belief they should deal with. We have to go far beyond just using what the radical philosopher and educator Paolo Friere brilliantly referred to as a "banking" or "receptacle" method or model of (political) education and become deeply involved and immersed instead in a dialogical and dialectical approach TO KNOWLEDGE AND ACTIVITY THAT WILL ALLOW EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE ONGOING PROCESS OF DEMANDING AND WORKING FOR REAL "CHANGE" (and not merely as a rhetorical device or empty campaign sloganeering) to realize and work toward substantive reforms and radical proposals that are much greater than the celebrity of any one candidate. This means that no matter who is the nominee--Obama or Clinton--since our preferential ideological choice--Edwards--doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of actually gaining the nomination--we must continue to struggle for and actively demand that these politicians own up to the structural and philosophical IMPLICATIONS, if not the ACTUAL CONTENT of what they say. So the real job before is much greater and much more impoertant than merely deciding "who" gets the nomination, and thus the opportunity to "run" for President. As activists, as intellectuals, as workers, as thinkers, as CITIZENS we have much bigger fish to fry. Because no matter "who gets in" from the limited field of what is frankly two rather highly compromised NEOLIBERALS at best (Obama & Hillary) WE STILL HAVE TO MAKE DEMANDS OF THEM AND PUT FORWARD OUR OWN AGENDA(S) NO MATTER WHAT. It of course it won't be "easy" or "automatic" or even "satisfying" as far as those sentiments go, but it will be a genuine mass-based struggle for REAL CHANGE THAT ADDRESS NOT ONLY REAL ISSUES AND CONCERNS, BUT REAL CONTRADICTIONS in again both "them" and "us." These are not idle or mushy sentiments. That's what real reform and real revolution are actually about and it's an endless process that we MUST continue to struggle to elevate from one level of consciousness and praxis to another. As C.L.R. James so aptly reminded us in his profound and magisterial text MODERN POLITICS (1960):

"All development takes place by means of self-movement, not organization by external forces. It is within the organism itself (i.e. within the society) that there must be realized new motives, new possibilities."

Change (of political economies, cultural structures, philosophical verities, ethical truths, historical patterns, community institutions, etc.) can only be realized through CONSTANT intellectual, physical, ethical, and empirical activity that dialogically engages, critiques, embraces, and opposes various forces "within the society itself." The proof of the veracity, effectiveness, or clarity of one's various "positions" lies not in our heads or even hearts but in our social, cultural, political, and 'moral' interactions and challenges with others. Aside from this kind of civic and organizational work no revolutionary or reformist change (strategically, tactically, programmatically) is possible. As we deal with the inevitable problems and limitations of what exists in the political sphere of this country--both inside and outside the electoral realm--we will have to remember that African American citizens (as well as all other Americans) are both far MORE and far LESS politically 'sophisticated' than we think they are (just as WE are as well; "Intellectuals" MUST remember that or we seriously risk turning into mere pedants, snobs, hacks, nihilists, and cynics--all of whom are enemies of any genuine revolutionary process and activity.

I have much more to say about these issues and concerns vis-a-vis Obama, Hillary, Edwards etc. but for now I'll end my windy disquisition at this point. Ultimately what's most important for us all is that we must remember THERE IS A LOT OF NECESSARY WORK TO DO AND NO ONE BUT OURSELVES CAN DO IT--BUT WE CAN'T AND SHOULD NOT DO IT ALONE. True democracy won't come about because we "always already" know what the "proper categories and understandings" are but only through constantly and critically, and assiduously looking beyond what we think we know and understand to what we must ALSO KNOW, INVESTIGATE, AND CONTEND WITH. And the absolutely essential bottomline is that we must ALWAYS SHARE WHAT WE KNOW AND ALLOW OTHERS TO SHARE WHAT THEY KNOW WITH US. This goes for the Obamas and their supporters, as well as the Clintons, and Edwards within these political spheres. Besides we have to have a broader knowledge and understanding of what to combat and oppose, as well as what to embrace and defend. We can only do that through struggle and work with the forces that actually exist. Not merely the thoughts and desires we carry around in our heads (no matter how "fancy", "deep", and "wonderful") we think those thoughts and desires are. One last James quote that I think is relevant and I'll check out for now: "One cannot change in one's head that which can only be changed in society." Later comrade brother...


P.S. When I finish my final draft for the long piece I'm currently writing on the Obama campaign and what I think it means I will send you--as well as all other participants who respond to my call-- a copy for your critical appraisal.

"At the risk of sounding ridiculous Iet me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality."

-Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

John Kerry and Obama

What did I tell you about John Kerry last week. WHAT DID I TELL YOU? Like I said, I KNEW he was out for the Clintons blood when he declared his early support for Obama! LOL LOL LOL (and then some!). Kerry is PISSED OFF BIG TIME AT THE WAY HILLARY AND BILL HAVE RUN THEIR CAMPAIGN AGAINST OBAMA. Just read his fiery email below on behalf of Obama today to give you a crystal clear idea of what he thinks and why. This letter is clearly aimed at BOTH the Republicans AND his own Party simultaneously where lies and smears about Obama (and his record) have been spreading like a deadly virus...Yeah, the campaign is getting "down & dirty" alright. That's an understatement...Stay tuned...


Begin forwarded message:

From: John Kerry
Date: January 22, 2008 4:32:35 PM PST
Subject: Swiftboating

Dear Friend,

I support Barack Obama because he doesn't seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating -- he seeks to end it.

This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.

As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove's twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone's character just to win an election. But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it's not enough to complain about a past we can't change when our challenge is to win the future -- which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears.

The truth matters, but how you fight the lies matters even more. We must be determined never again to lose any election to a lie.

This year, the attacks are already starting. Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by email. These attacks smear Barack's Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of "Swiftboat" style anonymous attacks.

These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we've learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked.

But not this time -- we're fighting back.

And when I say "we," I mean that literally. I know Barack is committed to fighting every smear every time. He'll fight hard and stand up for the truth. But he can't do it alone.

We need you to email the truth to your address books. Print it out and post it at work. Talk to your neighbors. Call your local radio station. Write a letter to the editor. If lies can be spread virally, let's prove to the cynics that the truth can be every bit as persuasive as it is powerful.

The Obama campaign has created a place where you can find the truth you'll need to push back on these smears and a way to spread the truth to all of your address book.

Take action here:

So when your inbox fills up with trash and the emails of smear and fear, find the facts, and help defeat the lies.

Barack Obama is committed to bringing our country together to meet the challenges we face, but he knows that power gives up nothing without a struggle -- and to win the chance to change America, we must first defeat the hateful tactics that have been used to tear us apart for too long.

With your help, we can turn the page on an era of small, divisive politics -- but only if next time you hear these attacks on Barack, you take action immediately:

The fight is just heating up -- we won't let them steal this election with lies and distortions.

Thank you,

John Kerry

Monday, January 21, 2008

Angry Response to CNN Race/Gender Election Story

Trust me: The only reason CNN and other white media are engaging in these asinine games is because they want to help sabotage the election(s) and obscure the real issues. Just as their awful reactionary coverage always does...As usual far too many Americans (of whatever color) take the bait like these women did in this ridiculously contrived "story." SAME BULLSHIT, DIFFERENT DAY...

Latino Vote

An email from my sister Regina asks:

Kofi, one of the political analyst said Hispanics also tilted the Nevada vote in Hilary's favor...what do you think about that? The analyst said many of the Culinary Union members are Hispanic; this unions leadership endorsed Obama...

My response:

As I said in a couple of my earlier emails Latinos in this country are very divided and splintered as an ethnic voting bloc (UGLY EXAMPLE: A whopping 43% of them voted for BUSH in 2004--Can you believe that?). It's always been a profound MYSTERY to me why so many Latinos (I never use the racist term "Hispanics"; as a great Puerto Rican poet and writer from New York that I know named Miguel Algarin always says--"What is this bullshit? "His-Panic/" I'm nobody's PANIC!") don't seem to really understand where their own actual political and economic interests really lie. They have even less power and wealth than we have, after all. I find these backward attitudes and values especially true of MEXICAN-AMERICANS--many of whom want to be "white" and "upperclass" so damn bad they actually DELUDE themselves that they can pull it off by voting like a reactionary WASP or changing their name from say, GOMEZ, to GUNTHER OR GAINS. Far too many Mexican Americans (the largest Latino group in the country) are also very RACIST toward blacks. I found this out in a depressingly empirical way when I made the MORTAL MISTAKE of "living in the ridiculous city of Los Angeles for three years from 1992-1995. As you probably know relations between them and our people are at an ALL TIME LOW right now as we speak--even though they finally have a Mexican-American mayor. Obviously we and them SHOULD be involved in a national progressive coalition of people-of-color BUT you and I both know how DEADLY AND VIRAL RACISM IS. So the result is once again DIVIDE AND CONQUER for the wealthy white ruling class who of course DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT EITHER "NIGGERS", "WETBACKS', OR "SPICS." Obama is just the victim of the absurd political fallout from all that. I wish the fuck EVERYONE WOULD WAKE UP FROM THIS BULLSHIT--but, ALAS (Our Ass?) that's AmeriKKKa for ya...


If Obama Doesn't Get the Nomination....

One of my sisters asked me:

If Obama does not win the Democratic Nomination heading into the General Election, who do you plan to vote for?

My response:

If Obama doesn't get the nomination I AIN'T VOTING. The BEST AND MOST PROGRESSIVE candidate in this entire race as I said from the beginning was and is JOHN EDWARDS but he never had a SNOWBALL'S CHANCE IN HELL OF WINNING EITHER THE NOMINATION OR THE GENERAL ELECTION because this country is TOO DAMN CONSERVATIVE to elect him.. Which is primarily why I endorsed Obama as a viable alternative since he and Hillary have--at the end of the day--virtually the same politics. But because Obama was young, independent, and black I thought he deserved a shot to see if he could and would stand up to the Republican Party and FIGHT for his agenda--NO MATTER WHAT. I was never naive enough to think however that Obama or ANYONE ELSE could possibly do it without a large, supportive MASS base behind him DEMANDING political change. My problem with Hillary has always been that I NO LONGER TRUST HER (and Bill) TO IDEOLOGICALLY AND POLITICALLY STAND UP TO AND FIGHT the Republicans (who are going to--as always--viciously ATTACK ANYONE the Democrats choose)...

In any event I'm personally gonna stand on principle and simply REFUSE to vote for the "lesser of two evils" in the general election. That loser's strategy hasn't worked for 40 years so there ain't no sense in beating that "dead horse" any longer. Of course, Hillary would be "better" than ANY Republican candidate (for what that's worth) but I AIN'T VOTING FOR HER which means I wouldn't vote at all if she is the Democratic nominee. The Clintons HAD THEIR CHANCE from 1992-2000. It'stime for fresh blood...


Boo Radley & Obama

Please read this typically excellent and penetrating critical piece by my longtime Detroit friend and colleague Rayfield Waller. Makes a LOT of sense, don't it?...So folks: What do you think? Oh, BTW: Boo Radley played a prominent and pivotal role in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) with Gregory Peck as the white southern liberal lawyer and the late, great Brock Peters as the innocent black sharecropper the good white citizens of Mississippi were trying heartily to LYNCH. Boo was played by Robert Duvall...For some reason Ray has always been obsessed with Boo's spectre-like subterranean and subliminal role in the film...I wonder why?...LOL...



I am on a personal level very troubled by the Obama campaign not in and of itself but for the deep ideological underdevelopment it exposes in African American popular thought. The uncritical, utopian, and downright parochial attitudes and reactions of the working class and the masses reveals itself in the attitude that voting for Obama is a fullfillment of 'thr dream' (whatever that is) and that all Black people ought to be uncritically, unquestionaingly overjoyed about and committed to Obama as a (finally, yes) viable Black presidential candidate.

And when contrasted against any (emphasis--ANY) of the Republican candidates, yes, Obama looks pretty good, and I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. Because he's a sane alternative to them, and because he's Black like me (more or less like me). HOWEVER, he is not currently a nominee for president, he is running in the democratic primaries leading up to the democratic convention where that party (a party I do not belong to) will choose its candidate for the general election. As a PRIMARY candidate, to anyone reading news sources, anyone with a historical sense, and anyone who considers Obama's voting record as a fairly conservative Chicago machine insurgent senator, Obama leaves far too much to be desired. Of course, prominent Blacks in the left union movement, in trade union political organizations and from the old guard Black power movement (sources like BLACK COMMNENTATOR have documented these marginalized Black intellectual and political voices) have been openly voicing criticisms of Obama.

Contrasted to John Edwards, who was also a senator and who has a far more progressive voting record in the senate than does Obama, Obama is revealed to be a fairly empty signifyer. He delivers a rhetorical, empty message of cultural and racial unity and vaguely progressive proposals such as single-payer universal health care (albeit heavily controlled by top heavy government management rather than transfer payments through heavily taxing the wealthy) and withdrawal from Iraq (without a SINGLE WORD) of criticism about the huge so-called 'embassy' being built there for the purpose of future US hegemony in the region, nor a promise that he will END THE CIA AND STATE DEPARTMENT MURDERS of arabs, the illegal incursions across the boarder into Iran, and general counter-democratic manipulation of Arab states in the region and swear against any future or further neo-colonial adventurism there. In short, for someone chanting, "Change you can trust" the Brother ain't talking about changing a damn thing as president.

Edwards, however, has gone on RECORD during his nearly invisible campaign against ALL of these things, and has thrown in a proposal for a socialist universal health care system, citing Canada by NAME. Edwards has on top of that, called out by name the corporations he plans to bring to heel should he be elected. Edwards' voting record (pro working class, pro democracy and local power and control, anti-corporate and anti-intelligence regime in terms of foreign policy) begs us to entertain the possibility that he might be telling the truth about what kind or president he'd be.

Thus, we can see, in the disparity between how Edwards and Obama are treated/covered, that CLASS is far more salient than RACE in this country. While the blatantly racist media cover a clown and fascist like Huckleby with more atrtention to detail and respect than they do Obama, still the media betrays its deeper raison d’être: to suppress class consciousness. Ironically, the white man, Edwards, has had his possible working class base undercut by the Black man's--Obama'--bourgeois message. Obama cuts right off the top of Edwards' base the Black and Latino and to some surprising extent even the long lost former democratic white working class constituency that would have rallied to a socialist message in terms not of race, but of unions, access to legal process, health care for the poor, full employment, an end to all wars, free education, full literacy, return to anti-trust, fairness doctrine, and NLRB standards.

Meanwhile, Black people, perennially unsophisticated politically, unaware of the details of history (even recent history ) are as short sighted, no, BLIND in their support of Obama as they were in their naive embrace of a war criminal who rather than being hailed as a 'role model' for Black women should instead by tried in the World Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity (it is Condi Rice, of course, to whom I refer).

The troubling thing? As a Black man I am expected to take none of this into account and uncritically turn my back on the civil liberties, global freedom, and unionist/socialist heritage of my people (Paul Robeson, Randall Robinson, Harry Belefonte, Angela Davis, Iris Young, Fanny Lou Haimer, Mumia Abu Jamal, Assata Shakur, Leonard Peltier--our Native American Brother, Denmark Vessy...well, you get me). I am expected to embrace Obama with no thoughts in my head and no fire in my belly.

I'm for a green party candidate, or for the Black female candidate who is currently fourteen years old living in Sandusky Ohio playing with her I-Pod and listening to Hugh Masekela who will some day be at the head of the Peoples' Independence Party with Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel as Emeriti advisors and Lani Guinier as campaign manager, Otherwise, I'll vote defensively for whoever the democratic nominee is, simply because we need to get the left hand of darkness out of the whitehouse before they kill the Earth. It would be nice if that default vote had a black face, but would be even nicer if he/she could be an insurgent humanist rather than a Chicagoan. It would be nicest of all if one could speak openly in public of one's criticisms of that Chicagoan without fear of being called a 'self hating Black man.'

Where is Boo Radley when you really need him?

Ray Waller

Newsweek: Dems Tell Bill to "Pipe Down"

MEANWHILE....Back at the ranch...Looks like "Bully Bill" (aka 'Slick Willie') is being taken to the political woodshed...LOL...

Leading Democrats To Bill Clinton: Pipe Down

By Jonathan Alter | NEWSWEEK
Jan 28, 2008 Issue | Updated: 1:43 p.m. ET Jan 19, 2008

Prominent Democrats are upset with the aggressive role that Bill Clinton is playing in the 2008 campaign, a role they believe is inappropriate for a former president and the titular head of the Democratic Party. In recent weeks, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both currently neutral in the Democratic contest, have told their old friend heatedly on the phone that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Sen. Barack Obama, according to two sources familiar with the conversations who asked for anonymity because of their sensitive nature. Clinton, Kennedy and Emanuel all declined to comment.

On balance, aides to both Bill and Hillary still see Bill as a huge net plus in fund-raising, attracting large crowds and providing a megaphone to raise doubts about Obama—even if some of those doubts are distortions. But there's concern that in hatcheting the Illinois senator and losing his temper with the news media (last week he thrashed a San Francisco TV reporter for asking about a lawsuit filed by Clinton-backing teachers union members to limit the number of Nevada caucuses), Clinton is drawing down his political capital and harming his role as a global statesman. "This is excruciating," says a member of the Clintons' circle, who asked for anonymity. "But the stakes couldn't be higher. It's worth it to tarnish himself a bit now to win the presidency."

During a December taping with PBS's Charlie Rose, a frustrated Clinton called Obama "a roll of the dice," as aides tried to end the interview. Then, in New Hampshire, he argued angrily that the story of Obama's principled position on the Iraq War was a "fairy tale," a charge few reporters bought. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the top-ranking African-American in Congress and officially neutral, found Clinton's tone insulting and said so publicly.

When the former president called Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat gave Clinton an earful, telling him that he bore some blame for the injection of race into the contest. In any event, both Hillary and Obama made peace on the race issue at the Las Vegas debate. The Clinton camp now fears that Kennedy is leaning toward Obama, according to the Clinton source, though Kennedy's office says he is making no endorsement "at this time."

Clinton aides admit the boss sometimes goes off script. Obama officials say this itself should be a campaign issue. Greg Craig, who coordinated Clinton's impeachment defense in 1998 and is now a senior Obama adviser, argues that "recent events raise the question: if Hillary's campaign can't control Bill, whether Hillary's White House could."

There is little precedent for a former president's engaging in intra-party attacks. In 1960, Harry Truman criticized the idea of a Roman Catholic president and tried briefly to stop John F. Kennedy's nomination. "I urge you to be patient," he told JFK publicly. But in 2000, former president George Bush declined to attack his son's GOP primary opponent, John McCain.

Clinton is undeterred by the criticism and will likely keep hammering Obama if he thinks it helps Hillary. "History will judge the impact on the Clinton legacy, not daily or weekly political reporters," says Matt McKenna, Bill Clinton's press secretary.

© 2008 Newsweek, Inc.

Obama's Speechwriter

This article on the speechwriter was initially posted on January 6, 2008 in NEWSWEEK or two weeks ago..While the story is impressive in a limited sense the media and many other people are making FAR too much of this. As this article justly points out Obama has always written his own speeches in the past and now of course, like all the candidates, he is far too busy so Favreau (and others) help write his speeches on the stump. What bothers me about the incipiently racist tone of so much "Gee Whiz!"/ "WOW!" commentary about it throughout the media and the Internet is that it gives the egregiously FALSE IMPRESSION that Obama's extraordinary oratorical and speechwriting prowess is DEPENDENT on this guy when nothing could be farther from the truth.

First Obama is not only a Senator, but was EDITOR OF THE HARVARD LAW REVIEW(!) and is the author of TWO bestselling books(!!)...Oh and by the way it was Obama who first put himself on the national political map when he gave his extraordinary speech at the 2004 Democratic Party Convention--WHICH HE WROTE HIMSELF...

So while it's "nice" to know that Favreau is as so many hyperbolic stories in the media and on the net is GASP! "a skinny 26 year old whiteguy" it's more than a little insulting to Obama's and other black people's intelligence that a mere speechwriter would get this kind of publicity in order to prop up the forever false and traditional racist sentiment that no black man could possibly do anything really extraordinary without a (smarter?) whiteman behind him. What a bunch of ignorant crap that is!! So while I appreciate what Favreau is doing (as far as it goes that is) I (and many other blackfolks I'm sure) can only GRIMACE and angrily shake our collective heads about this depressingly typical and blatantly transparent attempt to condescend to Obama. "Man", as we used to say when we were kids back in Detroit "WHITEBOYS ARE REALLY INSECURE, AREN'T THEY"? Just Pathetic--like always... GRRRRRR...


In His Candidate’s Voice
The speech lit a fire. Meet Obama's editor.

By Richard Wolffe | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Jan 6, 2008 | Updated: 7:22 p.m. ET Jan 6, 2008

Jon Favreau has the worst and the best job in political speechwriting. His boss is a best-selling author who doesn't really need his help, having written the 2004 speech that catapulted him onto the national stage. At the same time, the same boss also happens to be capable of delivering a speech in ways that can give his audience the goosebumps.

But Barack Obama is more than a little busy campaigning across Iowa and New Hampshire right now. So it was Favreau who led the team that wrote Obama's victory speech in Des Moines last week—a moment that prompted the TV pundits to drop months of skepticism about Obama's candidacy to make breathless comparisons with the Kennedy era.

For Favreau, a 26-year-old jean-clad staffer (who is no relation to the comedian of "Swingers" fame) who worked in Obama's senate office, the contrast with the 2004 election could not be starker.

Back then Jon Favreau had one of the worst jobs on the Kerry campaign. He was the kid who put together "the audio clips"—the bundle of overnight stories that helped the campaign's senior staff get up to speed on the latest radio news. A graduate of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., he had interned in Kerry's senate office and joined the campaign right out of college.

When Kerry's campaign showed signs of imploding—before recovering again in Iowa—Favreau was one of the few people left in the office when they needed a new speechwriter. "They couldn't afford to hire one," he recalled. "And they couldn't find anyone who wanted to come in when we were about to lose to Dean. So I became deputy speechwriter, even though I had no previous experience."

When Kerry lost in 2004, Favreau thought he was finished with politics. "After the Kerry campaign, after all the backbiting and nastiness, my idealism and enthusiasm for politics was crushed," he said. "I was grateful for the experience I got, but it was such a difficult
experience, along with losing, that I was done. It took Barack to rekindle that."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clinton's Nevada Win

This result and others to come also indicate that Latino voters are far more supportive of the Clintons than Obama. That of course is bad news for Obama given the other large blocs of voters supporting Hillary--white women, unions, and older Democratic Party members mostly 60-75) who are white males. Remember what the late, great historian and political theorist Harold Cruse (1916-2005) said about American ethnicity, "race", and political power in both the classic "The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual" (1967) and in some ways even more relevant "Plural But Equal" (1987)? These texts are both profound statements on what is happening NOW. In fact in many ways they're political prophecy. As always there's no substitute for KNOWLEDGE...


January 19, 2008
Clinton Defeats Obama in Nevada

LAS VEGAS – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, capturing strong support from women voters and adding a fresh boost of momentum to her campaign as the Democratic presidential race heads to South Carolina, where she is engaged in a fierce battle with her rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Mrs. Clinton’s victory in Nevada – her second straight win over Mr. Obama – underscored her strength among Hispanic voters, who comprise a large share of the electorate in several upcoming states, as the campaign expands into a coast-to-coast series of 22 contests on Feb. 5.

The New York senator had 51 percent of the vote to Mr. Obama’s 45 percent, with just over 90 percent of the state’s caucuses reporting. John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, faded to a distant third place with 4 percent of the vote.

“I guess this is how the West was won,” Mrs. Clinton told her supporters during a victory rally at the Planet Hollywood hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Speaking over loud cheers, she added: “We will all be united in November. I don’t think politics is a game. I don’t think elections are just another day in the calendar.”

Mr. Obama, in a terse statement, barely acknowledged his defeat. “We ran an honest, uplifting campaign in Nevada that focused on the real problems Americans are facing, a campaign that appealed to people’s hopes instead of their fears,” he said. “That’s the campaign we’ll take to South Carolina and across America in the weeks to come, and that’s how we will truly bring about the change this country is hungry for.”

Mr. Obama said that he received more national delegates in Nevada than Mrs. Clinton because of his strong performance across the state, “including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled.”

But some election officials said they were confused about Mr. Obama’s claim that he more delegates than Mrs. Clinton.

“I don’t know why they’re saying that,” said Jill Derby, president of the Nevada State Democratic Party, referring to the Obama campaign. “We don’t select our national delegates the way they’re saying. We won’t select national delegates for a few more months.”

In terms of the popular vote, Mrs. Clinton won most of her support in Nevada’s southern counties, while Mr. Obama was more popular in the north. Clark County, home to Las Vegas and its influential union blocs, was supporting Mrs. Clinton by an 11-point margin with 93 percent of its caucuses reporting.

Mr. Edwards’s campaign issued a statement that described the senator as an underdog “facing two $100 million candidates” and emphasized his platform against lobbyists and special interests.

“The nomination won’t be decided by win-loss records, but by delegates, and we’re ready to fight for every delegate,” the statement said.

State party officials said more than 107,000 Nevada voters attended the caucuses. It is the third state in the row to achieve record-setting turnout in the Democratic presidential nominating fight, which party strategists believe is a referendum on the Bush administration and a strong call for a new direction in Washington.

Before leaving town, the candidates made separate stops to visit hotel and casino workers, making a final appeal for support.

Voters across Nevada poured into hundreds of neighborhood precincts across the state, as well as a handful of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, to voice their preference in the Democratic presidential campaign.

In a brief morning stop by the Mirage casino and hotel, Mr. Obama was asked whether the outcome would influence voters in South Carolina, where Democrats will vote next Saturday.

“All these things add up,” Mr. Obama said.

Nevada, the third stop in the Democratic presidential nominating fight, was perhaps the most mysterious among the early-voting states. There was no clear front runner, no reliable polling data, and no institutional history. All candidates worked feverishly to manage – usually lowering – their expectations.

The Democratic caucus, never even a minor factor in past primary seasons, has historically attracted only the party faithful; only about 9,000 people participated in the 2004 caucuses at a handful of sites. Party officials were uncertain about turnout on Saturday, but preliminary reports suggested that participation was significantly higher.

At the Flamingo hotel, one of the at-large caucus sites on the Las Vegas Strip, it was a chaotic scene. Inside the Sunset Ballroom, 245 voters registered their attendance before breaking off into their preference groups.

Maids and cooks, bellmen and bartenders – nearly all of whom wore their uniforms and matching nametags – were standing more than 20 deep. To attend the caucus, they took an hour lunch break, but as the proceedings stretched beyond the allotted time, some of the voters asked if they could leave.

A boxed lunch was served and the proceedings were translated into Spanish.

“No matter what happens at the end of this, we will leave as friends and Democrats will be working together,” the temporary chairwoman of the caucus said, standing at the front of the ballroom. “We want everyone to feel they can choose their own candidate without intimidation.”

Brenda Santiago, a housekeeper at nearby Harrah’s hotel and casino, arrived shortly before Noon. Although she is a member of the Culinary Workers Union, which supported Mr. Obama, she said she had been determined to choose her favorite candidate on her own.

And that, she said, was Senator Clinton.

“I have my own opinions,” said Ms. Santiago, 46. “Hillary has more experience – and she has Bill!”

The strength of Mr. Obama’s endorsement by the Culinary Workers Union remained an open question. The Clinton campaign had denounced the at-large precincts in casinos as unfair, but inside the Sunset Ballroom of the Flamingo Hotel, Mrs. Clinton received support from 121 people and 25 delegates, compared to 120 for Mr. Obama and 24 delegates.

The Clinton corner, dominated largely by women, cheered when the results were announced.

Nevada was chosen by the Democratic Party to hold an early contest, along with South Carolina, to increase both geographic and racial diversity. Still, as other states decided to move their primaries to Feb. 5, and the nation has focused on the traditional early states, Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada had remained in the shadows, with fewer candidate visits and national attention.

That shifted after Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton split their earlier contests, and the culinary union here, which has about 60,000 members and is extremely influential in the Democratic stronghold of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and hopes to play a major role in the race, threw its endorsement to Mr. Obama in a suddenly-relevant rubber match.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton both had offices around the state, including the Republican strong hold of Elko county, and campaign staff workers have fought for Hispanic, working class and suburban voters.

Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting from New York.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Primary in California

Here's the answer to the question of Independents voting in the California Primary: YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A DEMOCRAT PARTY MEMBER TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PRIMARY AS A VOTER. PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE CAREFULLY--ESPECIALLY THE THIRD & FOURTH PARAGRAPHS BELOW. Obama lost in Nevada saturday because of the white female voting bloc and the political stranglehold the Clintons have on the traditional Democratic Party union blocs. In addition, as I predicted the Clintons are playing some VERY DIRTY POLITICS AND ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED--Now don't you wish Toni Morrison had never flippantly referred to him in 1998 as "our first black president" (an idiotic canard unfortunately endorsed by far too many black people who are old enough to know better-- OF COURSE BILL IS THE RINGLEADER AND HILLARY IS HIS EVER LOYAL CO-CONSPIRATOR (just like always).... (see NY Times article which I will forward right after this note).


Begin forwarded message:

From: "Mitchell Schwartz,"
Date: January 20, 2008 6:17:28 PM PST
Subject: Quick reminder for California

Friend --

If you want to participate in the California Democratic primary on February 5th, you must register to vote by this Tuesday, January 22nd.

Make sure you are registered, and then forward this email to your friends, family, and neighbors. Remind them that they need to be registered if they want to support Barack.

Remember, you do not need to be a Democrat to participate in the primary. Republicans and unaffiliated voters who choose "Decline to State" as their party preference can vote for Senator Obama.

Once someone is registered as "Decline to State," here's how it works:

Unaffiliated voters must specifically request a Democratic ballot. If they are voting in person, they can request the ballot at the polling place.
If they are voting by mail, they must contact their County Elections Officer and request a Democratic ballot by January 29th:
Our campaign wants as many Californians as possible to participate in the Democratic primary -- to support Barack, but also to reconnect with the political process.

For the full rules on registering to vote, visit the website of the California Secretary of State:

Make sure you are registered and spread the word,


Mitchell Schwartz
California State Director
Obama for America