Friday, June 13, 2008

American Racial Psychosis--The Real Danger Facing Barack Obama and his Family





June 12, 2008

Fox Forced to Address Michelle Obama Headline

For the third time in less than three weeks, Fox News Channel has had to acknowledge using poor judgment through inappropriate references to Senator Barack Obama.

The network has released a statement saying it should not have referred to Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle, as “Obama’s Baby Mama,’’ as it did on Wednesday in an on-screen headline commonly called a “chyron.”

“A producer on the program exercised poor judgment in using this chyron
during the segment,” Bill Shine, a Fox News senior vice president, said in a statement.

The chyron appeared during a discussion between the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin and the Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly about political attacks against Mrs. Obama. It read in full, “Outraged Liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s baby mama!” It was first publicized on Wednesday by Alex Koppelman of Salon.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as one “chiefly in African-American usage” that refers to, “The mother of a man’s child, who is not his wife nor (in most cases) his current or exclusive partner.”

Earlier this week, the Fox News anchor E.D. Hill had apologized for raising the possibility that the Obamas affectionate fist bump during the senator’s victory rally in St. Paul on June 3 was “a terrorist fist jab.’’ Two weeks prior, the Fox News analyst Liz Trotta said she regretted making a joke about a possible assassination of Mr. Obama.

Her mea culpa followed that of former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas a week earlier after he made a similar crack at a gathering of the National Rifle Association.

In other news, Fox News Channel announced today that it was hiring Mr. Huckabee as a contributor.


To All Americans (and ESPECIALLY white, Latino, and Asian American citizens in this country):



Michelle Obama becomes GOP target
By: Carrie Budoff Brown
June 13, 2008

It’s less than a week into the general election campaign, but already Michelle Obama is a Republican target.

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger leveled the first blow, introducing Republican John McCain’s wife at a fundraiser this week as someone who is “proud of her country, not just once but always.” Obama wasn’t mentioned by name, but the audience got it.

The dig signaled the start of what Democrats expect will be a concerted effort to cast Michelle Obama — and, by extension, Barack Obama — as an unpatriotic radical. It also pointed out the urgency to define Michelle Obama to general election voters before the opposition goes too far in doing it for her, strategists said.

“We live now in an era where everything and everyone is fair game,” said Douglas E. Schoen, who was a pollster and adviser to former President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000. “It is certainly the case that Teresa Heinz Kerry was probably not an asset in John Kerry’s campaign, at least publicly, and the jury is still out on how the public will view Michelle Obama.”

Despite being a steady presence at her husband’s side on primary election nights, and sitting for occasional media interviews, Michelle Obama remains an unfamiliar figure to most voters, strategists said. When she campaigned in recent months, it was almost always alone and in small settings. The most sustained attention she received on cable news shows was for her controversial February statement leaving the impression that she wasn’t proud of her country until this year.

“There is no reason to expect her to have a brand. But the campaign needs to start doing that,” said Erik Smith, a Democratic strategist and aide to former Rep. Richard Gephardt during his 2004 presidential campaign. “Defining Michelle Obama goes a long way in defining Barack Obama. I am sure it is a campaign priority.”

Indeed, when the campaign launched a website today to combat rumors about Barack Obama's patriotism, his religion and his family, the first entry dealt with his wife.

Other efforts are on tap. She joins the candidate Friday for a roundtable in Ohio with senior citizens and appears as a guest host next week on "The View," the popular daytime talk show, giving her access to friendly, high-profile platforms. Campaign aides said they are “staffing up across the board,” including for Michelle Obama — a move that Schoen said reflects the need to “manage the image and utterances of the spouse.”

The heightened scrutiny “requires a level of staffing and attention to detail that goes beyond what spouses have typically gotten,” Schoen said.

Most voters likely won't decide which candidate to support based on wives. Only 22 percent of respondents in a Rasmussen Reports survey released Wednesday said their perception of the spouse is very important to how they vote. But the more people learn about her, the more people understand her husband, strategists said.

The Rasmussen survey showed Michelle Obama, at this point, as a more polarizing figure than Cindy McCain. Forty-eight percent of voters hold a favorable impression of the presumptive Democratic nominee’s spouse, while 42 percent view her unfavorably, including a “startling” 25 percent with a very unfavorable opinion, Rasmussen wrote in its release.

Cindy McCain earned a favorable assessment from 49 percent of voters and an unfavorable review from 29 percent, including 10 percent who held a very unfavorable opinion.

Michelle Obama receives lower ratings than first lady Laura Bush did during the 2004 campaign but fares better than did Heinz Kerry, whose numbers dropped as Election Day drew closer. Obama is drawing comparisons to another presidential spouse: Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, like Obama, was 44 years old, was Ivy League-educated, earned more money than her husband and raised a child in the spotlight. Clinton also became a lightening rod for the conservative right.

But unlike 1992, the debate isn’t a proxy battle about the traditional bounds for women. Obama, to a greater degree than Clinton, makes her family life the centerpiece of her public image, talking frequently about family-work life balance and her two young daughters.

This time, the criticism is rooted in a combustible mix of race and patriotism.

The Obama campaign and PolitiFact, an independent fact-checking website, have debunked chain e-mails in the last month claiming she advocated racial separatism in her college thesis. Long the domain of rumors about her husband, the e-mails also focused on her February remark: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.”

Michelle Obama later clarified her statement, saying that her pride was in the political process and that she was “absolutely” always proud of the country.

The Tennessee Republican Party picked up on the remark, however, and posted a Web video last month that juxtaposed her statement with average voters claiming pride in their country.

The video reaped considerable national media attention and drew a sharp response from Barack Obama (“Lay off my wife,” he said at the time). He did the same last week when he was forced to respond to rumors of a video showing his wife using a derogatory term for white people.

“There is dirt and lies that are circulated in e-mails, and they pump them out long enough until finally you, a mainstream reporter, asks me about it,” Barack Obama said to a reporter who asked about the purported video, for which there is no evidence to support its existence. “That gives legs to the story. If somebody has evidence that myself or Michelle or anybody has said something inappropriate, let them do it.”

His comments followed a month of chatter from conservative pundits that the video's release was imminent. The fact that Barack Obama was personally pressed on the matter is said to be a reason why the campaign launched the website, which states on the front page: "No Such Tape Exists."

Chris Lehane, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, said the Obama campaign faces a choice similar to the one they faced with Hillary Clinton. As she, too, became a target of Republicans, “we made the decision to put her out there and not go into the bunker,” Lehane said.

The campaign gave her “an entire support system,” including more than a dozen aides, he said. By the late summer, attacks on Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention backfired as polls showed the criticism had turned off moderate and independent voters.

“They are going to try to make her a focal point of the campaign,” Lehane said of Michelle Obama. The McCain campaign will likely avoid attacks, but independent expenditure groups “will take selectively used phrases, manipulate and exploit them.”

The biggest concern for McCain, said a Republican media consultant, “will be controlling renegade county chairmen and people who have a tendency to be less disciplined about the right thing to say."

“This is an area where people have to be extremely careful," said John Brabender, who is serving as an informal adviser to the McCain campaign. "Voters have grown to believe that spouses are often well off-limits.”

Campaign aides said they expect Michelle Obama to maintain her schedule of several days a week on the campaign trail, at least until her daughters finish the school year. They view her as Barack Obama’s best character witness, introducing him as a father and a husband, and making connections with other women, particularly as the campaign attempts to lock down Clinton voters.

Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, said the Arizona senator is “committed to running a respectful campaign” that is focused on the issues. Bounds, however, did not respond to a request for comment on Eagleburger’s remark.

“She is more likely to be an issue during the slow summer months than the real campaign after Labor Day,” Brabender said. “It is a distraction that campaigns can just not afford.”

© 2008 Capitol News Company, LLC


Just how sleazy and criminal is the Republican attack on Obama going to get? GUESS....


Rezko: Feds pushed for dirt on Obama
By KENNETH P. VOGEL | 6/12/08

Rezko was a prominent fundraiser for Obama’s campaigns for state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, though not for Obama’s presidential campaign.

Imprisoned Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko has accused federal prosecutors of improperly pressuring him to implicate Barack Obama in a corruption case.

In a letter to the U.S. District judge who presided over his trial, Rezko, who was convicted this month of 16 corruption-related counts, including fraud and money laundering, called prosecutors “overzealous.” And he singled out what he said were their efforts to get him to turn on Obama, an Illinois senator and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“They are pressuring me to tell them the ‘wrong’ things that I supposedly know about Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama,” Rezko wrote in an undated letter released by the court this week. “I have never been party to any wrongdoing that involved the governor or the senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes. I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people.”

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, wouldn't comment on Rezko's allegation.

Rezko was a prominent fundraiser for Obama’s campaigns for state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, though not for Obama’s presidential campaign.

Though Obama was not implicated in any wrongdoing in the Rezko case, his name was mentioned sporadically during Rezko’s trial.

Obama’s campaign released a statement after the letter was made public, stressing that Obama hasn’t been accused of “any improper action or conduct involving Tony Rezko” and reiterating that he hasn’t been contacted for an interview or for any information about Rezko. “Nothing in this letter indicates anything to the contrary.”

Still, Republicans have seized on the relationship between the two, which includes a real estate deal that enlarged the Obama’s Chicago homestead, to question Obama’s judgment.

Blagojevich — who, like Obama, staked out an image as a political reformer — repeatedly found himself the subject of plenty of unwanted scrutiny during the trial, which prosecutors used to detail a complicated pay-to-play scheme involving state government boards and commissions.

Chicago media have reported that Rezko is being pressured to cooperate with ongoing investigations of Blagojevich’s campaign and administration.

But Rezko’s lawyer, Joe Duffy, told the Chicago Tribune that he did not know of any investigation into Obama’s dealings with Rezko.

“I'm not aware of any impropriety related to Rezko and Obama,” Duffy told the Tribune. "At no point has the government ever asked me a single question about Obama or any wrongdoing involving Rezko and Obama."

It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to try to get defendants to implicate more powerful or wealthy officials, said Stan Brand, who has represented scores of public officials both in private practice and as legal counsel to the U.S. House.

“Prosecutors are always interested in trading up,” Brand said. “They put subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle pressure on people.”

But proving that “they’ve actually crossed an ethical line and asked this guy to embellish or shade the truth in a way that’s helpful to them in some other case,” Brand said, is “a very difficult case to make absent some express coercion, which is very rare.”

The letter, apparently written during the two-month trial, was actually a plea to allow Rezko to see his family.

But its allegations about pressure to implicate Obama will surely give ammunition to partisans on both sides.

For Democrats, Rezko’s claim dovetails with allegations that the Department of Justice targeted high-profile Democrats.

For Republicans, it will be used to suggest Obama’s relationship with Rezko drew warranted federal scrutiny.


This is the actual country and world we live in...Don't forget that...PASS THE WORD...


June 5, 2008

Secret Service Detains Artist Over ‘Assassination’ Exhibit

New York City police detectives and Secret Service agents briefly detained and questioned an artist on Wednesday morning as he installed an exhibition with the title, “The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama.”

The artist, Yazmany Arboleda, tried to set up the exhibition in a vacant storefront at 264 West 40th Street in Midtown Manhattan, and had finished stenciling letters of the title on the plate glass windows at street level.

The police and Secret Service agents arrived about 9:30 a.m., and building workers quickly covered over the title with large sheets of brown paper and masking tape.

At first, police officers would not permit Mr. Arboleda to speak with reporters. But later, Mr. Arboleda, 27, talked about his exhibition in an interview.

“It’s art,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be harmful. It’s about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media.”

Mr. Arboleda said the exhibition was to open on Thursday and run all day. The interview ended abruptly as Mr. Arboleda was led to the Midtown South police precinct station for questioning.

Shortly after 11:30 a.m., Mr. Arboleda called reporters to say he had been released. “The Secret Service had to do a whole questionnaire with me,” he said. “It was about an hour of questioning. They asked if I owned guns, if I was a violent person, if I had ever been institutionalized.”

Mr. Arboleda said he answered “no” to the questions. Nonetheless, he said, the Secret Service asked him to take down the exhibition’s title from the window.

“I’m renting that space; the space was allocated for an exhibition, and it’s my right to put those words up,” he said. “They said it could incite someone to do something crazy, like break the window. It’s terrible, because they’re violating my rights. If someone breaks a window, they’re committing a crime.”

He added: “The exhibition is supposed to be about character assassination. It’s philosophical and metaphorical.”

Eric Joza, the manager of the 40th Street building, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, said of Mr. Arboleda: “I had no idea what he was going to do. All I knew is that he was an artist and was going to use the store.”

Special Agent Eric P. Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, emphasized in a telephone interview that the agency was not seeking to shut down the show.

“We did not shut down that exhibit or request that anybody else shut it down,” Agent Zahren said. “This was brought to our attention, we went out there and had a conversation with the individual, but we did not shut it down.”

Speaking to reporters around noon, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Mr. Arboleda had been questioned because the police wanted to determine his motives. “Obviously, they could be interpreted as advocating harm to protectees,” Mr. Kelly said. “Both of the senators, of course, are now being provided Secret Service protection.”

According to Web sites on Mr. Arboleda’s shows, including, he was born in Boston in 1981 and lives in New York City. His family moved to Medellín, Colombia, shortly after he was born, and lived there until 1992. He holds a master’s degree in architecture and has been trained in photography, painting, fashion design and graphic design.

Comments touching on assassination during this political season have hit a nerve, and the safety of Senator Obama, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, has been an issue. When he was assigned Secret Service coverage in May 2007, it was the earliest point in a campaign that a candidate had been given protection.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An Open Letter to Certain White American Women Voters--Your Whiteness is Showing


Every single word in the following essay is not only TRUE but way overdue. To say I agree 100% with every single syllable by Mr. Wise is understating it by a very wide margin. There are so many white (and Latino and Asian) Americans who are completely fulla shit about the ugly reality of their heartfelt anti-African American racism that not even a massive national enema could possibly eradicate it at this very late date in our collective history.

As Sister Souljah (remember her?) once said so powerfully and accurately way back in '92 when "the first black minstrel President" (a certain blackedup and arrogant political cretin by the name of Bill Clinton) denounced her in order to publicly humiliate Jesse Jackson (he succeeded):


Ain't that the truth?...


An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who Are Threatening to Withhold Support from Obama in November

Your Whiteness is Showing
By Tim Wise
June 7 / 8, 2008
Counterpunch magazine

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.

Tim Wise is the author of: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (Soft Skull Press, 2005), and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (Routledge: 2005). He can be reached at:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

One Historic Night, Two Americas


Still more outstanding evidence of why Frank Rich (former award winning drama critic and author of the extraordinary 2006 book "The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America") remains one of the finest writers and most insightful political journalists in the United States.


New York Times
June 8, 2008

WHEN Barack Obama achieved his historic victory on Tuesday night, the battle was joined between two Americas. Not John Edwards’s two Americas, divided between rich and poor. Not the Americas split by race, gender, party or ideology. What looms instead is an epic showdown between two wildly different visions of the country, from the ground up

On one side stands Mr. Obama’s resolutely cheerful embrace of the future. His vision is inseparable from his identity, both as a rookie with a slim Washington résumé and as a black American whose triumph was regarded as improbable by voters of all races only months ago. On the other is John McCain’s promise of a wise warrior’s vigilant conservation of the past. His vision, too, is inseparable from his identity — as a government lifer who has spent his entire career in service, whether in the Navy or Washington.

Given the dividing line separating the two Americas of 2008, a ticket uniting Mr. McCain and Hillary Clinton might actually be a better fit than the Obama-Clinton “dream ticket,” despite their differences on the issues. Never was this more evident than Tuesday night, when Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain both completely misread a one-of-a-kind historical moment as they tried to cling to the prerogatives of the 20th century’s old guard.

All presidential candidates, Mr. Obama certainly included, are egomaniacs. But Washington’s faith in hierarchical status adds a thick layer of pomposity to politicians who linger there too long. Mrs. Clinton referred to herself by the first-person pronoun 64 times in her speech, and Mr. McCain did so 60 times in his. Mr. Obama settled for 30.

Remarkably, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. McCain had the grace to offer a salute to Mr. Obama’s epochal political breakthrough, which reverberated so powerfully across the country and throughout the world. By being so small and ungenerous, they made him look taller. Their inability to pivot even briefly from partisan self-interest could not be a more telling symptom of the dysfunctional Washington culture Mr. Obama aspires to mend.

Yet even as the two establishment candidates huffed and puffed to assert their authority, they seemed terrified by Mr. Obama’s insurgency, as if it were the plague in Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” Mrs. Clinton held her nonconcession speech in a Manhattan bunker, banishing cellphone reception and television monitors carrying the news of Mr. Obama’s clinching of the nomination. Mr. McCain, laboring under the misapprehension that he was wittily skewering his opponent, compulsively invoked the Obama-patented mantra of “change” 33 times in his speech.

Mr. McCain only reminded voters that he, like Mrs. Clinton, thinks that change is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. He has no idea what it means. “No matter who wins this election, the direction of this country is going to change dramatically,” he said on Tuesday. He then grimly regurgitated Goldwater and Reagan government-bashing talking points from the 1960s and ’70s even as he presumed to accuse Mr. Obama of looking “to the 1960s and ’70s for answers.”

Mr. Obama is a liberal, but it’s not your boomer parents’ liberalism that is at the heart of his appeal. He never rattles off a Clinton laundry list of big federal programs; he supports abortion rights and gay civil rights with a sunny bonhomie that makes the right’s cultural scolds look like rabid mastodons. He is not refighting either side of the domestic civil war over Vietnam that exploded in his hometown of Chicago 40 years ago this summer, long before he arrived there.

He has never deviated from his much-quoted formulation in “The Audacity of Hope,” where he described himself as aloof from “the psychodrama of the baby boom generation” with its “old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago.” His vocabulary is so different from that of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain that they often find it as baffling as a foreign language, even as they try to rip it off.

The selling point of Mr. Obama’s vision of change is not doctrinaire liberalism or Bush-bashing but an inclusiveness that he believes can start to relieve Washington’s gridlock much as it animated his campaign. Some of that inclusiveness is racial, ethnic and generational, in the casual, what’s-the-big-deal manner of post-boomer Americans already swimming in our country’s rapidly expanding demographic pool. Some of it is post-partisan: he acknowledges that Republicans, Ronald Reagan included, can have ideas.

Opponents who dismiss this as wussy naïveté do so at their own risk. They at once call attention to the expiring shelf life of their own Clinton-Bush-vintage panaceas and lull themselves into underestimating Mr. Obama’s political killer instincts.

The Obama forces out-organized the most ruthless machine in Democratic politics because the medium of their campaign mirrored its inclusive message. They empowered adherents in every state rather than depending on a Beltway campaign hierarchy whose mercenary chief strategist kept his day job as chief executive for a corporate P.R. giant. Such viral organization and fund-raising is a seamless fit with bottom-up democracy as it is increasingly practiced in the Facebook-YouTube era, not merely by Americans and not merely by the young.

You could learn a ton about the Clinton campaign’s cultural tone-deafness from its stodgy generic Web site. A similar torpor afflicts, which last week gave its graphics a face-lift that unabashedly mimics and devoted prime home page real estate to hawking “McCain Golf Gear.” (No joke.) The blogs, video and social networking are static and sparse, the apt reflection of a candidate who repeatedly invokes “I” as he boasts of his humility.

Mr. Obama’s deep-rooted worldliness — in philosophy as well as itinerant background — is his other crucial departure from the McCain template. As more and more Americans feel the pain of spiraling gas prices and lost jobs, they are also coming to recognize, as Mr. Obama does, that the globally reviled American image forged by an endless war in Iraq and its accompanying torture scandals is inflicting economic as well as foreign-policy havoc.

Six out of 10 Americans do want their president to talk to Iran’s president, according to the most-recent Gallup poll. Americans are sick of a national identity defined by arrogant saber-rattling abroad and manipulative fear-mongering at home. Mr. Obama closed his speech on Tuesday by telling Americans they “don’t deserve” another election “that’s governed by fear.” Of the three candidates, he was the only one who did not mention 9/11 that night.

Mr. Obama isn’t flawless. But it’s hard to see him hitching up with Mrs. Clinton, who would contradict his message, unite the right, and pass along her husband’s still unpacked post-presidency baggage. A larger trap for Mr. Obama is his cockiness. His own tendency to preen and to coast could be encouraged by recent events rocking the Straight Talk Express: Mr. McCain is so far proving an exceptionally clumsy candidate prone to accentuating everything that’s out-of-touch about his American vision.

Mr. McCain’s speech in a New Orleans suburb on Tuesday night spawned a cottage industry of ridicule, even among Republicans. The halting delivery, sickly green backdrop and spastic, inappropriate smiles, presumably mandated by some consultant hoping to mask his anger, left the impression that Mr. McCain isn’t yet ready for prime-time radio.

But the substance was even worse than the theatrics. Incredibly, Mr. McCain attacked Mr. Obama for being insufficiently bipartisan while speaking to the most conspicuously partisan audience you can assemble in today’s America: a small, nearly all-white crowd that seconded his attack lines with boorish choruses of boos. On TV, the audience came across as a country-club membership riled by a change in the Sunday brunch menu.

Equally curious was Mr. McCain’s decision to stage this event in Louisiana, a state that is truly safe for the G.O.P. and that he’d last visited less than six weeks earlier. Perhaps he did so because Louisiana’s governor, the 36-year-old Indian-American Bobby Jindal, is the only highly placed nonwhite Republican he could find to lend his campaign an ersatz dash of diversity and youth.

Or perhaps he thought that if he once more returned to the scene of President Bush’s Katrina crime to (belatedly) slam that federal failure, it would fool voters into forgetting his cheerleading for Mr. Bush’s Iraq obsession and economic policies. This time it proved a levee too far. The day after his speech Mr. McCain was caught on the stump misstating and exaggerating his own do-little record after Katrina. Soon the Internet was alight with documentation of what he actually did on the day the hurricane hit land: a let-us-eat-cake photo op with Mr. Bush celebrating his birthday in Arizona.

Anything can happen in politics, and there are five months to go. But Tuesday night’s McCain pratfall — three weeks in the planning by his campaign, according to Fox News — should be a clear indication that Mr. Obama must accept Mr. McCain’s invitation to weekly debates at once. Tomorrow if possible, and, yes, bring on the green!

Mr. Obama must also heed Mr. McCain’s directive that he visit Iraq — as long as he avoids Baghdad markets and hits other foreign capitals on route. When the world gets a firsthand look at the new America Mr. Obama offers as an alternative to Mr. McCain’s truculent stay-the-course, the public pandemonium may make J.F.K.’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” visit to the Berlin Wall look like a warm-up act.

The dynamics of translation

by Dr. Tyrone Williams

Long before Barack Obama secured the Democratic Party presidential nomination, long before Hillary Clinton began using him as a barometer of racial parochialism, pundits of all persuasions were overtly or covertly asking and wondering one thing: Can Obama translate a party nomination into a viable national campaign? The words translate and translation are rarely used in local campaigns but they show up frequently during statewide and national election years. Their usage presumes, from the start (actually, even before the start), that a particular candidate has “limited” appeal, which in turn presupposes a “general” consensus. And as the term translation suggests, limitation and generality are both linked to language. Despite the ritualistic appeals to “personality” and “likeability,” everyone recognizes the centrality of language during campaigns, which is why the media and voters tend to focus on what words are spoken by candidates. Of course, words do not alone constitute a language. If that were true, translations would be relatively easy. But translations are hard because of the different kinds of contexts that make words “mean.” And it is precisely certain contexts that the media excises, and certain contexts that it exaggerates (or invents), in much the way that media photographs are cropped to narrow “readings” down to incontrovertible and particular meanings. Recontextualizing words from one frame of reference to another, like cropping a photograph, is a form of translation, one which always has specific political, cultural and social—in sum, historical—effects.

The very act of translation opens up an aperture through which we glimpse the dynamics of history as an endless replaying of the slave-master dialectic—that is, the slavemaster and Master—or Mister—Slave. That is, one language, however defined, is always “master” and one language is always “slave.” One translates from one language into another for those who cannot—do not—will not—speak the language of origin. Capability, status and volition straddle the nurture/nature divide aslant—as though one “leg” were shorter than the other, as one though one language were “taller” (perhaps closer to divinity), as though one linguistic system were “normal,” another, “disabled.” One does not have to be conscious of this intrinsically unequal relationship between any two languages; inequality is the presupposition of translation.

Consider the examples of two men: Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Among all the accusations and finger-pointing, I want to cite three commentaries that illustrate the ends of translation—and the beginning of the slave-master dialectic. In his New Republic essay “Cool We Can Believe In” novelist/poet Paul Beatty attempts to pin down Obama’s apparent invulnerability to closet skeletons, his anti-Tar Baby immunity, to that most ineffable of blues and jazz attitudes-sans-attitude—cool. This updated stoicism, for Beatty, is the very antithesis of translation—it does not convert, change or represent. It is before all morality, outside any ethos. It is the analogue to reading a poem in a language you do not understand. Or as Adam Clark, a theologian at Xavier University, put it: “The language of the black church that conveys this oppositionality [to empire] does not translate well into the arena of presidential politics. It was never intended to.” Cool cannot be translated—you either get it or you don’t. And so, writes Kofi Natambu, both men should have simply agreed to disagree. I concur but such a possibility depends on black men recognizing—no, remembering—that they are individual black men. But a preacher and a politician have a hard time remembering this since, in their chosen professions, they presume to speak for others, to surrender their individual selves for a larger cause. Of course, as everyone from the editors of the New York Times to FOX News has recognized, it would not have mattered much anyway since, truth to tell, in America there are no individual black men or women allowed in public. There are only translators who speak at least two languages, and those dead, as dead as Latin, as labor, so goes the story. The facts of his particular case aside, Mike Tyson’s arrest and conviction on rape charges several years ago was read by the media itself (and no doubt certain segments of the American public) as a referendum on the O.J. Simpson case, on that black man having “gotten away” with murder. I repeat: there are no individual black men or women allowed in public.

Ethnic minorities and women have known this for sometime, which is one reason why this particular presidential nomination race was so bitter. The fact is, rightly or wrongly, gender politics does figure into American public life—including elections—which does not obviate its racial politics (cf. Tyson and Simpson above). This dynamic is never easily “translated” from one sphere into the other, for as my comments above about translation in general suggest, translation between two “languages” (e.g. the black church and hegemonic “public” discourse, gender and race) is never performed on an even playing field. One language is always presumed “inferior” to the other (e.g., the American fascination with British English and royalty, the Diana cult, etc.). The Obama-Clinton campaigns thus resembled, all too cannily, the Susan B. Anthony-Frederick Douglass debates and ugly back-and-forth recriminations of the 19th century, a debate over “who” deserved the vote first—black men or white women, a debate which erased black women, as Sojourner Truth reminded both Anthony and Douglass. To argue over which was “worse”—the race-baiting or the subtle (and not so subtle) woman-baiting—is to fall into the translation trap, to assume that one has to choose one “language”(race or gender) over another.

If translation always presumes an uneven playing field, then it will not be difficult to judge which “language” plays the role of the inferior in the upcoming presidential campaign. The fact that John McCain doesn’t even have to deal with the question of “translation” speaks volumes. Obama will have to put black people and other people of color, to say nothing of working class people and young people in general, on the back burner, so goes the conventional political wisdom. But what if there is no dominant language out there? What if there are only particular ethnic, gender and economic groups all vying for their share of that ever-dwindling American pie. What if one refused to pick? What is translation in that scenario?

Dr. Williams is a poet, literary theorist, cultural critic, and Professor of English at Xavier University in Ohio.