Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Barack Obama at the Threshold of the Democratic Party Nomination and What it Means


Barack Obama's resounding and comprehensive defeat of Billary, Inc.. in North Carolina last night, coupled with his nearly 50/50 split of the vote in Indiana means one thing and one thing only: The race for the Democratic Party nomination is over and Obama will be the nominee. Any other course taken by the Democratic Party elite (i.e. the 'superdelegates') would mean absolute political suicide for the DP and the obliteration of any hopes of winning the national election in November. The fundamental fact that Obama now commands a mathematically insurmountable lead in every single category that matters: Overall delegate count (by nearly 200), popular vote totals (by over 600,000 votes), and total number of primaries won (by a 2-1 margin) means that if the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the superdelegates who have yet to cast their ballot choices even think about trying to circumvent, undermine, or sabotage the democratic process by unfairly giving the nomination to Billary at this point there would be such a justifiably massive backlash and protest among the base of the Democratic Party who have consistently voted in overwhelming numbers for Obama thus far (i.e. African Americans, independents of all nationalities, and young voters in general) that the Democratic Party would be utterly destroyed and McCain would waltz into the White House by default.

Thankfully, I doubt very seriously that even this Party elite would be anywhere near that stupid at this late date. No sane person in the DP wants to self destruct at this point (despite the ongoing asinine antics of the Clintons and their arrogant and now thoroughly defeated machine). So it's definitely Obama's ballgame from here until November. I just hope that the majority of the major supporters of Billary during this campaign season (e.g. white female voters, Latinos in general, and white male working and lower middle class voters) have the simple common sense and basic human decency to put aside whatever bitter and/or racist feelings and attitudes many of them have to not only cast their votes for Obama in the general election but also, and most importantly, simultaneously vote AGAINST racism and FOR their own political and economic self interest.

Because if this race for the Presidency means anything this year it means that challenging and defeating racism in the general electorate AND voting for a liberal reform candidate (Obama) against a reactionary conservative candidate (McCain) mean the exact same thing.

So what it all comes down to from June 1 on is that if over 50% of the voting public can mature enough to realize what the real stakes are in this election and not succumb to or passively accept the backward, ignorant, and destructive politics that have far too often ruled this country then we all have a genuine chance to do far more than merely elect Barack Obama. We have a real opportunity to begin the long and absolutely necessary process of actually changing the country in a truly progressive direction. So let's not allow cynicism, despair, smugness, or indifference to push us off course. In other words: LET'S NOT BLOW IT...



May 7, 2008
Obama Wins North Carolina Decisively; Clinton Takes Indiana by Slim Margin
New York Times

Senator Barack Obama won a commanding victory in the North Carolina primary on Tuesday and lost narrowly to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Indiana, an outcome that injected a boost of momentum to Mr. Obama’s candidacy as the Democratic nominating contest entered its final month.

The results from the two primaries, the largest remaining Democratic ones, assured that Mr. Obama would widen his lead in pledged delegates over Mrs. Clinton, providing him with new ammunition as he seeks to persuade Democratic leaders to coalesce around his campaign. He also increased his lead in the popular vote in winning North Carolina by more than 200,000 votes.

“Don’t ever forget that we have a choice in this country,” Mr. Obama said in an address in Raleigh, N.C., that carried the unity themes of a convention speech. “We can choose not to be divided; that we can choose not to be afraid; that we can still choose this moment to finally come together and solve the problems we’ve talked about all those other years in all those other elections.”

In winning North Carolina by 14 percentage points, Mr. Obama — whose campaign had been embattled by controversy over the incendiary remarks of his former pastor — recorded his first primary victory in nearly two months. His campaign was preparing to open a new front in his battle with Mrs. Clinton, intensifying the argument to uncommitted Democratic superdelegates that he weathered a storm and that the time was dawning for the party to concentrate on the general election.

But as Mrs. Clinton addressed her supporters at a rally in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening, it was clear the fight was not over. In the first three minutes of her address, she asked supporters to contribute money, saying, “Tonight, I need your help to continue this journey.”

Clinton advisers acknowledged that the results of the primaries were far less than they had hoped, and said they were likely to face new pleas even from some of their own supporters for her to quit the race. They said they expected fund-raising to become even harder; one adviser said the campaign was essentially broke, and several others refused to say whether Mrs. Clinton had lent the campaign money from her personal account to keep it afloat.

The advisers said they were dispirited over the loss in North Carolina, after her campaign — now working off a shoestring budget as spending outpaces fund-raising — decided to allocate millions of dollars and full days of the candidate and her husband in the state. Even with her investment, Mr. Obama outspent Mrs. Clinton in both states.

For several hours, incomplete results from Lake County in Indiana — home to the city of Gary, just across the state line from Chicago — left the statewide tally in doubt. The delay meant that Mrs. Clinton did not appear on television until well after Mr. Obama, allowing him to put his stamp of victory on the evening.

With six primaries remaining on the Democratic calendar, the fight between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton now turns to Washington. The Obama campaign was poised to present a new cache of superdelegates — the party officials who may have to settle the nominating fight — as early as Wednesday to press its case that the results from Tuesday are reason enough to back his candidacy and end the torturous nominating fight.

In his speech earlier in the evening, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, congratulated Mrs. Clinton “for what appears to be her victory in the great state of Indiana.” Then, he used his televised forum to deliver a speech highlighting how he was likely to come under attack. In doing so, he made an argument for his viability in a general election, which his rivals believe has been damaged because of his association with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr..

“Yes, we know what’s coming; I’m not naïve,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences, to turn us against each other for political gain, to slice and dice this country into red states and blue states; blue-collar and white-collar; white, black, brown; young, old; rich, poor.”

“This is the race we expect” regardless of who is the Democratic nominee, he went on. “The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they will run; it’s what kind of campaign we will run.”

Democrats said they expect to see more superdelegates flow to Mr. Obama in the next few days, including perhaps some now aligned with Mrs. Clinton.

Senator Claire McCaskill, an Obama supporter from Missouri, called the results “a big, big night” for Mr. Obama given the Wright episode. “This shows he can take major blows and kind of rise above it,” Ms. McCaskill said. “I think there was a sense that she has some momentum, and I think it has just ground to a screeching halt tonight.”

Despite Mrs. Clinton’s performance, she pledged to take her campaign to West Virginia, Kentucky and the other states remaining on the primary calendar. And the campaign has been pushing the cause of seating disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan, states that were penalized for holding primaries before party rules allowed.

“You know it seems, it would be a little strange to have a nominee chosen by 48 states,” she told her supporters in Indianapolis. “We’ve got a long road ahead, but were going to keep fighting on that path because America is worth fighting for.”

The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee will convene on May 31 to settle the issue of whether to seat the delegates from those two states.

Going forward, both candidates intend to spend time in Washington, courting superdelegates and party officials.

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, an Obama supporter, said the candidate accomplished what he needed to by outperforming expectations in both states and showing that Mr. Wright was not driving off voters en masse. “The next question will be what happens with the undecided superdelegates,” Mr. Nelson said. “Will they begin to come his way? I don’t see anything to suggest they should start going her way.”

In North Carolina, Mr. Obama’s performance was bolstered by a strong black vote. He captured more than 90 percent of those voters in that state, where blacks accounted for one in three voters. But over all, Mrs. Clinton continued to draw strong support among whites, particularly older women.

The voting in Indiana and North Carolina came at the conclusion of an acrimonious two-week campaign that found Mr. Obama on the defensive over incendiary remarks by Mr. Wright. Yet there was little evidence either argument caused significant shifts in electoral patterns of previous states, with most Clinton voters saying the Wright episode affected their vote and Obama backers saying it had not.

Once again, Mrs. Clinton drew most of her support from women and older voters. Mr. Obama held onto his mainstays of support — blacks, young voters and liberals — and made small gains in Indiana with lower-income white voters who have eluded him in the past.

In both states, the candidates’ final arguments centered on a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline tax, which Mrs. Clinton proposed as an economic lift for voters and Mr. Obama derided as a political gimmick.

At this stage in the nominating fight, most voters seemed to have settled on their preferences before the battle intensified. Only a quarter of voters in Indiana decided whom to support in the last week, and a majority backed Mrs. Clinton, while one in five voters in North Carolina also decided late, and most of them backed Mr. Obama.

The country’s economic condition was listed as the chief concern of the Democratic primary voters. About 9 in 10 voters in Indiana and 8 in 10 voters in North Carolina said the economic slowdown had affected their family at least somewhat.

At least three in five voters in both states said the economy was the most important problem facing the country, according to surveys of voters leaving polling places that were conducted in both states by Edison/Mitofsky for the television networks and The Associated Press.

In Indiana, about 8 in 10 voters were white and about 15 percent were black. Six in 10 of the whites voted for Mrs. Clinton; about 9 in 10 blacks favored Mr. Obama.

Reporting was contributed by Patrick Healy, Carl Hulse, Dalia Sussman and Megan Thee.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Truth & Consequences in American Politics Today: Two Journalists Speak


The following two excellent articles, one by the distinguished political journalist and former Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson from 1964-1968, Bill Moyers (from his award-winning program of political and cultural commentary Bill Moyers Journal on PBS), and the other an incisive and well written analysis of the media's central and often divisive role in the presidential race (and especially the primary war between Democratic Party opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) by an independent black political news journalist (Andre Stephens) are also two of the very few national news articles about Obama and Wright throughout the country that actually tells the real truth about what's not being said and desperately needs to be in this entire incident.


Bill Moyers Journal on PBS
May 2, 2008

Welcome to the Journal.

I once asked a reporter back from Vietnam, "Who's telling the truth over there?" "Everyone, he said. "Everyone sees what's happening through the lens of their own experience." That's how people see Jeremiah Wright. In my conversation with him on this broadcast a week ago and in his dramatic public appearances since, he revealed himself to be far more complex than the sound bites that propelled him onto the public stage. Over 2000 of you have written me about him, and your opinions vary widely. Some sting: "Jeremiah Wright is nothing more than a race-hustling, American hating radical," one viewer wrote. A "nut case," said another. Others were far more were sympathetic to him.

Many of you have asked for some rational explanation for Wright's transition from reasonable conversation to shocking anger at the National Press Club. A psychologist might pull back some of the layers and see this complicated man more clearly, but I'm not a psychologist. Many black preachers I've known — scholarly, smart, and gentle in person — uncorked fire and brimstone in the pulpit. Of course I've known many white preachers like that, too.
But where I grew up in the south, before the civil rights movement, the pulpit was a safe place for black men to express anger for which they would have been punished anywhere else; a safe place for the fierce thunder of dignity denied, justice delayed. I think I would have been angry if my ancestors had been transported thousands of miles in the hellish hole of a slave ship, then sold at auction, humiliated, whipped, and lynched. Or if my great-great grandfather had been but three-fifths of a person in a constitution that proclaimed, "We the people." Or if my own parents had been subjected to the racial vitriol of Jim Crow, Strom Thurmond, Bull Connor, and Jesse Helms. Even so, the anger of black preachers I've known and heard about and reported on was, for them, very personal and cathartic.

That's not how Jeremiah Wright came across in those sound bites or in his defiant performances this week. What white America is hearing in his most inflammatory words is an attack on the America they cherish and that many of their sons have died for in battle ? forgetting that black Americans have fought and bled beside them, and that Wright himself has a record of honored service in the Navy. Hardly anyone took the "chickens come home to roost" remark to convey the message that intervention in the political battles of other nations is sure to bring retaliation in some form, which is not to justify the particular savagery of 9/11 but to understand that actions have consequences. My friend Bernard Weisberger, the historian, says, yes, people are understandably seething with indignation over Wright's absurd charge that the United States deliberately brought an HIV epidemic into being. But it is a fact, he says, that within living memory the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a study that deliberately deceived black men with syphilis into believing that they were being treated, while actually letting them die for the sake of a scientific test. Does this excuse Wright's anger? His exaggerations or distortions? You'll have to decide or yourself. At least it helps me to understand the why of them.

But in this multimedia age the pulpit isn't only available on Sunday mornings. There's round the clock media — the beast whose hunger is never satisfied, especially for the fast food with emotional content. So the preacher starts with rational discussion and after much prodding throws more and more gasoline on the fire that will eventually consume everything it touches. He had help — people who for their own reasons set out to conflate the man in the pulpit who wasn't running for president with the man in the pew who was.

Behold the double standard: John McCain sought out the endorsement of John Hagee, the war-mongering Catholic-bashing Texas preacher who said the people of New Orleans got what they deserved for their sins. But no one suggests McCain shares Hagee's delusions, or thinks AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality. Pat Robertson called for the assassination of a foreign head of state and asked God to remove Supreme Court justices, yet he remains a force in the Republican religious right. After 9/11 Jerry Falwell said the attack was God's judgment on America for having been driven out of our schools and the public square, but when McCain goes after the endorsement of the preacher he once condemned as an agent of intolerance, the press gives him a pass.

Jon Stewart recently played a tape from the Nixon White House in which Billy Graham talks in the oval office about how he has friends who are Jewish, but he knows in his heart that they are undermining America. This is crazy; this is wrong -- white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't.

Which means it is all about race, isn't it? Wright's offensive opinions and inflammatory appearances are judged differently. He doesn't fire a shot in anger, put a noose around anyone's neck, call for insurrection, or plant a bomb in a church with children in Sunday school. What he does is to speak his mind in a language and style that unsettle some people, and says some things so outlandish and ill-advised that he finally leaves Obama no choice but to end their friendship. We are often exposed us to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I've never seen anything like this ? this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner before our very eyes. Both men no doubt will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we are paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burckhardt, who said "beware the terrible simplifiers".

Reverend Wright Not Obama's Problem; Media Is
by Andre Stephens
Black Star News
May 3, 2008

[Elections 2008: Our National Hypocrisy]

When Barack Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright appeared on Bill Moyers Journal last week, it was a chance for him to respond to charges of preaching racist and anti-American sermons.

I can only imagine that as Reverend Wright looked for a venue to speak out against the perceptions being advanced by the main stream media about him, he chose Bill Moyers Journal not only because of what Mr. Moyers is, but because of what he isn’t. Mr. Moyers is an ordained minister and a former press secretary in Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

What he is not, is part of mainstream media.

In fact, back in 2005 Moyers old show, Now With Bill Moyers, was the focus of an attack by the right-wing for what they described as “left wing bias.” Moyers was one of the few journalists that bothered to challenge the Bush administration’s assertions of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction in the build up to the invasion of Iraq. In short, Bill Moyers is a reasonable journalist that tries to examine all sides of an issue. He is not prone to sensationalism or “gotcha” tactics.

By now, everyone has seen the video of Reverend Wright’s sermon in which he exclaims “God damn America”. Predictably, the media used the occasion of Wright’s interview with Moyers to replay the video that had already been played and analyzed ad nauseam.

One of the biggest flaws with today’s television media is that they have decided to divest in true investigative reporting and invest in opinion and debate. The airwaves are full of pundits that all have agendas. Finding the facts related to any given issue becomes a huge challenge for the audience.

With regards to Reverend Wright’s sermons, all of the pundits started the conversation from the same flawed premise----that Reverend Wright’s comments were despicable.

Guest pundits whose agenda was to insulate Senator Barack Obama from Wright’s comments bashed the reverend. Hillary Clinton’s people saw Wright’s comments as an opportunity to attack Obama and bash Wright. The Republicans, well, they were being Republicans.

Once the media declares that you are a villain, there’s not much one can say to change their opinion. Reverend Wright had been universally labeled an extremist. Today’s media doesn’t see putting stories in their proper perspective and context as part of their responsibility. News broadcasts all seem to omit the same facts and include the same rhetoric, regardless of which channel. Pundits seek to increase their stardom by competing to see who can appear to be the most obnoxious.

With regard to the Reverend Wright story, the networks found pundits of all shapes, sizes and colors to express outrage at Wright. The networks love nothing more than finding Black pundits to confirm their perceptions when other Blacks are involved. This allows them to easily dismiss opposing views. What they’re really saying is, “The Black guy even says he’s offended by Wright’s comments.” (Without elaborating that “This is our Black guy.”)

That explains why the media’s review of Reverend Wright’s appearance on Moyers’ show featured a single clip of Wright responding to Moyers’ question about his reaction to some of the things Barack Obama said about him during Obama’s speech in Philadelphia.

Reverend Wright’s response was, “He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. Those are two different worlds.”

Even without the benefit of seeing the entire interview at the time, my reaction to the clip was that it seemed like a reasonable response to me. However, most of the mainstream media used Wright’s comments as some sort of slight directed at Barack Obama. I can personally witness that The Today Show, CNN and MSNBC had some form of “Reverend Wright Continues to be a Problem for Barack Obama” as their top story.

When I finally saw Bill Moyers’ interview of Reverend Wright in its entirety, my reaction was that anyone who saw this interview and still regarded Reverend Wright as un-American or racist was never going to be a Barack Obama supporter one way or the other.

Wright was insightful, intelligent and inspiring. It must have taken a tremendous effort on the part of whoever decides what the next day’s news will be to pick an excerpt out of that interview to use against Wright and Obama.

Much to my surprise, Reverend Wright even provided a reasonable explanation for his now infamous, “God damn America” statement. Bill Moyers showed the entire clip, not just the part repeated on television. In short, Wright was preaching about the downfalls of great civilizations throughout history, due to their moral collapse. His point was that God will not bless a government or country that commits atrocities against its own people and, or, other countries. He was saying that if we continue on the path we are on, God will not bless America, it will instead, damn America.

So what’s really behind all of the coverage of Reverend Wright? What better way to minimize Barack Obama’s appeal than to link him to a scary, radical Black man?

Last year I wrote an article in which I stated that I didn’t think a Black man named Barack Hussein Obama had a chance to be President of the United States. It wasn’t because of Obama. It was because of my belief that there are too many whites that would never support a Black president. Our country is still in denial of its racist past and present. To be fair, I don’t think Hilary Clinton has a “snowballs chance in hell” of becoming president either.

Even though Blacks are only 12% of the total U.S. population, fear of a Black reprisal has impacted policy in this country since the slaves were freed. That’s why it’s perfectly legitimate in the minds of some whites to compare the Nation of Islam with the KKK. While I don’t agree with all of their practices, I defy anyone to name a White person that was killed at the hands of the Nation of Islam. By contrast, countless Blacks were lynched, burned and beaten at the hands of Klansmen. All Blacks have to do is talk scary to be compared to Whites that murder.

Obama detractors understand this. All they have to do is create the appearance of Obama having relationships with perceived Black radicals to put an end to his candidacy. I believe that’s referred to as “playing the race card.”

Lastly, Id like to see Obama stand up to this whole Reverend Wright situation by asking Hillary Clinton what she thinks of the 8,000-members that attend Wright’s church? Does she believe they are ignorant, misinformed sheep? Did she not notice their acknowledgement of Reverend Wright’s words? Does she understand that there are millions of Black, former Clinton supporters across the country that agree with everything Wright said in his sermon?

If Obama really is interested in inclusion, perhaps he should stop acting embarrassed by Reverend Wright’s comments and challenge Hilary and the rest of the country not to reject Wright and his comments, but help bridge the gap between the folks that agree with Wright and folks that are scared of him.

Reverend Wright is not Obama’s problem. The media’s insistence on creating controversy to further their own individual and corporate agendas is what Obama is up against.

Black Star News columnist Stephens can be reached at