Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Posted by Plain Dealer staff February 25, 2008 16:44PM
Michael R. White was the 55th mayor of Cleveland, serving three terms from 1990 to 2002. He wrote this essay for The Plain Dealer.
I grew up in an era of hope-not only for Black Americans but for all Americans. It occurred to me at a young age that Dr. King was speaking not just to the plight of Black Americans but to the plight of all socially dispossessed Americans regardless of race or gender. He connected the poor in Harlem to the poor in Appalachia in speech after speech and in city after city which I believe made him a great threat to those who prosper by creating division in America.
Then without warning, I watched helplessly from my parents' living room as bullets killed John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, felling the very leaders who called us to be agents and voices of change. With their deaths, my hope for a better America was dashed upon the rocks of despair.
Carl Stokes rekindled my hope and made me want to use the system to make a better way for those without a voice. My hope, rekindled by Mayor Stokes, lead me on my journey to City Hall-a journey that took me to Ohio State, to Cleveland City Council, to the Ohio Senate and finally to the Mayor's office. In my almost twenty-eight years of active politics, I sadly watched the political process slowly become a process, not of creating hope, but of sowing as much division as possible in order to garner status, power and control. This division robs us all of the change and progress we need as a country.
Six months ago, I supported Senator Hillary Clinton. My wife JoAnn and I are friends of the Clintons. President Clinton was only the second elected official, after the assassinations of the 1960s, to give me hope again. Not withstanding his personal transgressions, President Clinton loves America and tried to do as much for the same Americans that the Kennedys and Dr. King were concerned about. But, after watching the primary election process by the day and sometimes by the hour, I decided that I cannot cast my vote for Senator Clinton.
On March 4th, I'm voting for Barack Obama because I want real change in our America, and he's made me hopeful that he has the intestinal fortitude to make the change which our country so sorely needs.
As an African-American, I am proud to see Barack Obama make such an extraordinary effort to become the President of the United States. But being Black is not enough for me to vote against my friend. I am voting for Barack because he has rekindled my hope again through his experience, vision and leadership for change in a political system that has gone so awry.
Our America is in great peril and great change is needed. Whether it's the economy, our current stance in the world, a lack of health care for our citizens, the education of our children, the creation of hopelessness in our inner cities, or re-knitting the fabric of the American family, we face unparalleled challenges. If we are to be a better America that once again offers its children hope, we cannot continue down the same path of public discourse and execution. We must have a President who has the courage to challenge the status-quo and stir our inner imagination of what could be. It's that inner imagination of what can be that has made us a great nation.
Yes, Senator Obama gives me great hope, but hope is not enough when you're voting for a presidential candidate. I believe Barack Obama has the experience, ability, courage and vision to translate his call for change into a new direction for America just as other great Presidents have in the past. He is no less qualified or able than any other candidate, and the fact that he's poised to become the Democratic nominee for President is testimony to the good judgment and need for change desired by so many Americans.
On March 4th I'm casting my ballot for Barack Obama to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. I believe in my heart and soul that Senator Obama can and will bring us together as a nation, rekindling our hope and calling upon us all to be a part of the change we wish to see.
I'm sure that next Tuesday John, Bobby and Martin will be looking down upon us in Ohio and wondering if hope is still alive. Make them proud...Yes we can!
Monday, February 25, 2008
February 25, 2008
Texas Hispanics Face a Tough Choice in Primary
By GINGER THOMPSON
SAN ANTONIO — As recently as two weeks ago, Rudy Davila III, a pharmacist, was part of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political firewall, the bloc of Hispanic voters from here to the border with Mexico whom she counted on to keep her presidential campaign from collapse. But the firewall is showing signs of cracking.
The Davila family has been doing business in this overwhelmingly Mexican-American city for more than 100 years, beginning with a corner grocery that in four generations has become a $16 million medical supply company. The same neighborhoods that propelled the Davilas’ business gave rise to powerful Mexican-American civil rights organizations, whose leaders built a following that has largely remained loyal to the Democratic Party.
It was loyalty to Mrs. Clinton that initially motivated Mr. Davila to support her candidacy. He said that not only had his family’s business prospered during Bill Clinton’s time in the White House, but that he also saw improvements across the city’s impoverished West side.
Mr. Davila’s loyalty weakened, however, after Mrs. Clinton began losing primary after primary. Then, after watching the effect Senator Barack Obama had on his community last week, feelings of loyalty were overcome by a sense of pragmatism.
“The lines to get into the plaza went more than a mile,” said Mr. Davila, showing photographs his assistant had taken at the Obama rally held less than half a block from his pharmacy. “The crowd was one-third white, one-third black and one-third Latino. I had never seen anything like it in San Antonio. And I knew right then he was the best candidate to defeat the Republicans in November.”
Here in the heart of Hispanic Texas, voters like Mr. Davila are being pulled hard from both directions. It is hard to interview a Clinton supporter at a coffee shop or taco joint without next running into someone supporting Mr. Obama. A P.T.A. meeting that started with polite applause during the presentation of the bilingual spelling bee awards ended in prickly political debate.
Recent polls have found the same trend that foiled Mrs. Clinton in her string of recent losses has begun to play out in Texas. Her double-digit lead over Mr. Obama has plummeted to a virtual tie. Mr. Obama has a significant lead over Mrs. Clinton among blacks and white men. His support among white women is about even with hers. And although she still has an advantage among Latinos — an estimated 25 percent of the electorate and some of her most steadfast supporters — that gap has begun to narrow.
With the Texas primary just over a week away, political pundits are reluctant to predict how things would ultimately play out among Texas’ Latino voters. Still, there is endless hashing over how Mr. Obama has made considerable gains in such a short time with an electorate whose ties to Mrs. Clinton date to 1972, when she registered voters along the border with Mexico in support of George McGovern.
But today’s Hispanic voters are a generally younger, more educated and more affluent electorate than they were two decades ago — qualities that make them impervious to Mrs. Clinton’s big-name endorsements.
For Hispanics in South Texas who live along the border, their ties to Mexico are little more than symbolic. Lydia Carrillo of the Southwest Voters Registration and Education Project said that most Hispanics here had been in this country for generations, and that they were just as concerned about issues involving education, the economy and health care as they were about an immigration overhaul.
Veterans groups pointed out that Houston and San Antonio had suffered the second- and third-highest numbers of fatalities from the war in Iraq, after New York, so Mr. Obama’s opposition to the war from the beginning resonated strongly here.
“Predicting a winner in the March 4 primary would be foolhardy,” wrote Jaime Castillo, a columnist at The San Antonio Express-News. “Hillary’s supporters are die-hards, the kind of voters who cast ballots in every Democratic primary. Obama’s backers are energized, but their commitment is untested over the long haul. They are an amalgam of party regulars, young kids, independents and the politically disenchanted.”
Other pundits and politicians echoed Mr. Davila, saying heart had less to do with Hispanic voters’ choices than hard-headed calculations about which Democratic candidate had the better chance of winning the White House.
“Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have strong platforms,” said Representative Charles A. Gonzalez, who has endorsed Mr. Obama. “It may sound clinical, but Hispanic voters, like all voters, not only want someone who speaks to their hearts. Obama is not only the best positioned to win in November, but also to live up to the promise to unite the country.”
Those who have managed statewide campaigns in Texas said the state had two important dividing lines: the one that marked the border with Mexico and the one marked by Interstate 10 from El Paso through San Antonio to Houston that divides North Texas from the south. North of the interstate are Texas’s prosperous, racially diverse economic capitals. The south is overwhelmingly Hispanic, and poorer, though the region has enjoyed some growth since the North American Free Trade Agreement turned the Rio Grande Valley into one of the most bustling commercial zones in the world.
Political analysts said Mrs. Clinton’s base of support had been the south, and they added that she remained stronger than Mr. Obama here. But because of the complicated way Texas selects its presidential nominee — a contest that is part primary and part caucus, and which assigns delegates to state Senate districts according to turnout during the 2004 presidential contest — the regions with the largest numbers of delegates are in the north, where Mr. Obama is expected to receive significant support.
“Texas is more like the South than the West,” said Antonio Gonzalez of the Southwest Voters Registration and Education Project. “Institutions, unions, community organizations are weak. Voters are increasingly individualistic. They are not organized on either the left or the right. So a charismatic candidate can come in and run the table.”
Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund agreed, saying, “Mrs. Clinton was counting on the old ward captains, and I’m not sure they’re really there anymore.”
Mrs. Clinton has endorsements from more than 100 Hispanic community leaders, businesspeople and elected officials. She has retained considerable support among Hispanic men. But Mrs. Clinton’s staunchest support is from Hispanic women, who see their own struggles in hers.
“I think as a female she’ll have more compassion for the elderly,” said Mary Louise Arce, 63. “We’ve become a lost group. Even doctors don’t take care of us the way they take care of the young.”
Mary Perez, wife, mother of two and president of the 20,000-member student body at San Antonio Community College, served as host to Chelsea Clinton at the campus last week. She said that she identified closely with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s drive and determination and that electing a woman would make a much bigger, and better, difference to the country, than electing a black man. And as a mother without medical insurance who said she had occasionally put her own health at serious risk in order to keep the rest of her bills paid, Ms. Perez said universal health care was much more important than affordable health care.
“I blocked out the pain as long as I could,” Ms. Perez, 26, said of a recent kidney infection that she waited several weeks to treat. “And then, when I started getting 105-degree fevers, I decided to go to the hospital.”
When asked whether she was still paying off the $10,000 bill, Ms. Perez voice cracked, “Yes.”
But Mr. Obama has made an aggressive play for some of Mrs. Clinton’s southern stronghold, with forays into the Rio Grande Valley to talk to students about his plans to offer tax breaks that would defer the costs of their loans, to veterans about building more military hospitals, and to single mothers about improving public schools.
As has been the case elsewhere, the tight race between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama has produced divided loyalties in Texas.
Mary Olga Montez, a retired military aircraft mechanic, said she had been focused on keeping the peace in her house. In her 53 years of marriage to her husband, Robert, an accountant, she said they had differed on presidential candidates numerous times. But Mrs. Montez typically kept her choice to herself — until this year.
“He kept telling people that both of us were supporting Clinton, so finally, I told him, ‘No. I’m supporting Obama,’ ” recalled Mrs. Montez, 73. “I said, ‘We need change. We need something different, new ideas.’ ”
Mr. Montez, 75, said: “How soon people forget. The Clintons did a lot for African-Americans, for Hispanics, for everybody. Now it seems like everyone’s forgotten.”
Referring to his wife, he half joked, “Some people, you just want to send them to the corner with a dunce cap on.”
When asked whether all the talk of politics had put a strain on their relationship, Mrs. Montez got the last laugh. “I just feed him a good dinner,” she said, “and that’s the end of that.”
A favorite expression of many young people is "just trying to keep it real." This means they are speaking the truth and expect the same from others. Each day I get up, I wonder if Hillary Clinton is finally going to "keep it real." Or, will she continue to put one of her many personalities on front and center stage.
This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a
Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing
it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that
this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their
peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one
thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even
revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the
person to capture it.
May I describe to you my thoughts?
I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed
to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more
compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a
candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration,
and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman
has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are
allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I
would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it
might make me "proud."
In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned
myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen
intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something
that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something
I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination
which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate
it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision
naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight.
Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree
in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and
surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it,
learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.
When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a
leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with
courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his
country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it
will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself,
what it desperately needs to become in the world?
Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet
unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and
some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their
nostalgia for the womb.
There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the
man for this time.
Good luck to you and to us.
The New York Times
February 25, 2008
In Painful Past, Hushed Worry About Obama
By JEFF ZELENY
DALLAS — There is a hushed worry on the minds of many supporters of Senator Barack Obama, echoing in conversations from state to state, rally to rally: Will he be safe?
In Colorado, two sisters say they pray daily for his safety. In New Mexico, a daughter says she persuaded her mother to still vote for Mr. Obama, even though the mother feared that winning would put him in danger. And at a rally here, a woman expressed worries that a message of hope and change, in addition to his race, made him more vulnerable to violence.
“I’ve got the best protection in the world,” Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said in an interview, reprising a line he tells supporters who raise the issue with him. “So stop worrying.”
Yet worry they do, with the spring of 1968 seared into their memories, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in a span of two months.
Mr. Obama was 6 at the time, and like many of his admirers, he has only read about the violence that traumatized the nation. But those recollections and images are often invoked by older voters, who watch his candidacy with fascination, as well as an uneasy air of apprehension, as Democrats inch closer to selecting their nominee.
Mr. Obama has had Secret Service agents surrounding him since May 3, the earliest a candidate has ever been provided protection. (He reluctantly gave in to the insistent urging of Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and others in Congress.) As his rallies have swelled in size, his security has increased, coming close to rivaling that given to a sitting president.
His wife, Michelle Obama, voiced concerns about his safety before he was elected to the Senate. Three years ago, she said she dreaded the day her husband received Secret Service protection, because it would mean serious threats had been made against him.
Among friends and advisers, danger is something Mr. Obama rarely mentions.
“It’s not something that I’m spending time thinking about day to day,” said Mr. Obama, who has been given the Secret Service nickname Renegade, a way for agents to quickly identify him. “I made a decision to get into this race. I think anybody who decides to run for president recognizes that there are some risks involved, just like there are risks in anything.”
Not long ago, his advisers worried that some black voters might not support his candidacy out of a fierce desire to protect him. It was a particular concern in South Carolina, but Mr. Obama said he believed the worry was also rooted in “a fear of failure.”
Now that he has won a string of primaries and caucuses in all corners of the country, and built a coalition of black and white voters, failure would seem to be less of an issue. The fears, however, remain.
Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, raised concerns in a letter in January to officials who oversee the Secret Service. While Mr. Obama was already receiving protection, Mr. Thompson said that the intense interest in the election prompted him to make sure that Mr. Obama and the other candidates were offered adequate security.
“The national and international profile of Senator Barack Obama gives rise to unique challenges that merit special concern,” Mr. Thompson wrote. “As an African-American who was witness to some of this nation’s most shameful days during the civil rights movement, I know personally that the hatred of some of our fellow citizens can lead to heinous acts of violence. We need only to look to the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 1968 presidential candidate Robert Kennedy as examples.”
In an interview, Mr. Thompson declined to elaborate on any specific threats that had come to the attention of his committee or authorities. He said he wrote the letter to the Homeland Security Department without discussing it with Mr. Obama, whom he has endorsed.
“His candidacy is so unique to this country and so important that the last thing you would want is for him not to have the opportunity to fulfill the role of a potential presidential nominee,” Mr. Thompson said. “It’s out of an abundance of caution that I wrote the letter, rather than keep our fingers crossed and pray.”
Before Mr. Obama decided to run for president, he discussed his safety with his family. His campaign employed a team of private security guards before he was placed under Secret Service protection. Since then, he has grown fond of the agents who surround him, inviting them to watch the Super Bowl at his home in Chicago and playing basketball with them on the days he awaits the results of an election.
Mr. Obama was reticent in speaking about his security or the period in American history that is often raised — without prompting — by voters who are interviewed at campaign events. Mentions of the fate that befell President John F. Kennedy and Senator Kennedy only increased after Mr. Obama was joined on the campaign trail by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
“I’m pretty familiar with the history,” Mr. Obama said. “Obviously, it was an incredible national trauma, but neither Bobby Kennedy nor Martin Luther King had Secret Service protection.”
Indeed, the assassination of Senator Kennedy in 1968 prompted Congress to authorize protection of major presidential and vice presidential candidates. In this campaign, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has had Secret Service protection from the beginning, because she is a former first lady. None of the other candidates had protection during their primary campaigns.
“Some candidates are bigger targets than others — any transition candidate or change candidate has a higher profile,” said former Senator Gary Hart, who received protection as a Democratic presidential contender in 1984 and 1988. “The evocation of the same excitement surrounding John and Robert Kennedy triggers both negatively and positively.”
The Secret Service does not discuss details of its protection, including whether Mr. Obama is receiving more protection than Mrs. Clinton.
Gerald Posner, author of books on the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. King, said he did not believe that Mr. Obama was under a significantly higher risk than President Bush or Mrs. Clinton. The fears are more openly discussed, he said, because he is the first black candidate to come this close to winning a major party’s presidential nomination.
“Barack scares those of us who think of the possibility of an assassination in a different way,” Mr. Posner said. “He represents so much hope and change. That is exactly what was taken away from us in the 1960s.”
Here in Dallas, those memories were raised in conversation after conversation with several of the 17,000 people who came to see Mr. Obama at a rally last week.
“Right around the corner is the John Kennedy Memorial; everyone all around me was talking about it,” said Imogene Covin, a Democratic activist from Dallas. “In the back of my mind, it’s a possibility that something might happen because he’s something to gawk at right now. But you know why I think he will be safe? He has a broad range of people behind him.”
That afternoon, Mr. Obama’s motorcade passed Dealey Plaza and the Texas Book Depository building, where the fatal shot was fired at President Kennedy in 1963. Several campaign aides looked out their windows, silently absorbing the scene.
Not so for Mr. Obama, who later said he had not realized he was passing the site. And no one in his car pointed it out.
“I’ve got to admit, that’s not what I was thinking about,” he said. “I was thinking about how I was starting to get a head cold and needed to make sure that I cleared up my nose before I got to the arena.”
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2008 2:28 PM by Mark Murray
Filed Under: 2008, Obama
From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
LORAINE, OHIO -- At a press conference here today, Obama claimed that Hillary Clinton had to take responsibility for the passage of NAFTA, because "she has essentially presented herself as co-president during the Clinton years."
Asked why Obama was attacking Clinton on NAFTA when neither candidate held an elected office to influence the passage of that legislation, Obama fired back saying that the "premise" of Clinton's candidacy "has been 35 years of experience, including eight years in the White House."
He argued that Clinton takes credit for "every good thing that happened" and said that it allowed her to be attacked on the bad as well.
To hear Baraka's speech follow the link below or the "Audio" link on the left.
A Black President? Sure. But If We Don't Do Nothin' He Won't Do Nothin'
Presidential Politics 2008 - Obama
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
a speech by Amiri Baraka, recorded earlier this month in Newark
Give Obama a break, some of his supporters argue. He's got to get elected first. Tell them he can't be seen acknowledging the needs of Black America for job creation on a vast scale, for an end to foreclosures, the repeal of No Child Left Behind, the equitable rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, and lowering of the prison population and cutting military budget to free up money for these and other human needs.
Poet, playwright and longtime activist Amiri Baraka has a different take on the Obama candidacy, and the responsibility of the politically conscious. In this speech he cautions those who imagine Obama will make a difference without a strong left movement pressuring and pushing him further and faster than he and his corporate backers really want to go.
"Even if there's gonna be a black president," said Baraka in Newark early this month, "if we don't do nothin' he won't do nothin'... the less we do, the less we can expect Obama to respond to us..."
Baraka took to task those who criticize Obama without actually organizing anything on the ground in their communities. "The question," he said, "is what will you do, where will you go with the one opening that they leave you which they claim is democracy."
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The Political Wonder That Is Obama
Posted February 21st, 2008 by PTZeleza
It has been a dazzling performance, historic in its possibilities: a black man electrifying America’s imagination, pulverizing the ferocious Clinton machine, collecting electoral victories with deceptive and decisive ease, seemingly unstoppable on his amazing journey to the U.S. presidency. That is the political wonder that is Barack Obama. It is an incredible story that has confounded pundits and scholars within the country and appears incomprehensible to many outside the United States. I have been watching this intriguing political drama with growing incredulity ever since Senator Obama declared his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, the home of the revered Abraham Lincoln, in January 2007, through the long season of silly preoccupations with his blackness and serious concerns about his electability, during his first astounding victory in Iowa on January 3 and his bitter defeat in New Hampshire five days later, to his stunning successes on Super Tuesday, and his subsequent momentum sealed in an unbroken chain of victories in ten states from Virginia to Maine, Wisconsin to Hawaii.
Read more: http://www.zeleza.com/blogging/u-s-affairs/political-wonder-obama
Friday, February 22, 2008
The Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate won 65.6 percent of the expatriate American vote. Rival Hillary Clinton was supported by less than half that number with 32.7 percent.
This is the first U.S. primary ever to allow voters to pick their candidate online. About half of the more than 22,000 votes were cast over the internet, says Jody Hedeman Couser, a Democrats Abroad spokeswoman.
Voters were also able to cast their ballots by fax and mail.
But U.S. citizens from 164 countries and territories -- for the first time ever in this process -- voted for their candidate online. Voters literally chimed in from the ends of the earth -- even all the way from Antarctica. That voter was Adam Lutchansky, who is an American on a scientific expedition.
"The online Democrats Abroad Global Primary expanded the frontier of voting opportunities, and it works easily, even from the harshest continent on Earth," Lutchansky said in a statement issued by Democrats Abroad Thursday.
"With the U.S. image so badly damaged by the present administration, American Democrats living overseas were eager to have their voices heard," said Christine Schon Marques, International Chair of Democrats Abroad in Geneva. "Across the board we saw an enormous diversity in participation, including many first-time voters."
The upshot of the global primary: Obama will be allocated an additional 2.5 delegate votes for the Democratic National Convention in August, and Clinton will be allocated two. Another 2.5 will be determined at an April convention in Vancouver, British Columbia. Democrats Abroad also hold four votes.
Obama currently leads with 1,319 delegates, 161 of whom are superdelegates, according to numbers compiled by CNN. Clinton has 1,250 delegates, 234 of whom are superdelegates. 2,025 are needed to win.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer
For the Democrats: Obama
BARRING SOME UNFORESEEABLE EVENT, the Democratic Party is about to make history. Its presidential nominee this November will be either the first woman or the first African-American to carry the standard of a major political party. With the contest between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois a virtual deadlock, Ohio Democrats on March 4 can play a critical role in this historic decision.
As usual with intraparty battles, the policy and ideological differences between Clinton and Obama are slight. Both share the party's liberal traditions on social and domestic issues. Both are committed to expanding health coverage and to closing the gap between rich and poor. Both oppose the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq. Both promise to break America's addiction to carbon-based fuels.
Given these similarities, Ohio Democrats have to ask themselves which candidate is more likely, first, to win the White House, and, then, to persuade a closely divided country to embrace his or her vision of change. Put even more pointedly: Who is more likely to change the world of a child born in 2008?
The answer, we think, is Barack Obama.
Although Obama stands on the precipice of a historic breakthrough, his personal story is a classic only-in-America saga: A white mother from Kansas. A black father from Kenya. A childhood in multi-ethnic Hawaii. Scholarships to Ivy League schools. Work as a community organizer and later a law professor in Chicago. Two terms in the Illinois Senate, then a landslide election to the U.S. Senate. An electrifying keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
That speech laid out the template for this campaign. He has challenged America to move beyond rigid racial, religious or partisan divides to focus instead on shared, national goals. It's a message that appeals to young voters and independents, to disillusioned Democrats eager to regain a sense of possibility and, yes, hope.
Obama's frequent talk of hope strikes some people as naive. It leads others to question his toughness. But Obama understands something his critics do not: Change requires vision and optimism, shared sacrifice and mutual trust. Hope can sustain those elements; a presidency defined by political tactics cannot.
Hillary Clinton is an exceptionally bright and accomplished woman. Only a fool could dispute that. It would be nice if Obama's policy proposals were as meaty as those she has put forward. It's no wonder she wants Democrats to see this race as a choice between resumes.
But in a campaign where history matters, she carries an inordinate amount of baggage. Who wants to relive the soap operas of the 1990s?
Bill Clinton says his wife excelled at "making positive changes in other people's lives." Consider that construction. Then listen as Obama talks of bringing people together to change their own lives.
America needs a fresh start. Barack Obama is the Democrat to provide it.
Feb. 16, 2008, 2:09AM
The Chronicle endorses the senator from Illinois for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
The presidency of the United States is a powerful bully pulpit. The occupant of the White House must not only issue orders, but also inspire and advocate for all Americans.
Of the two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Chronicle believes Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is best-qualified by life experience, skill and temperament to be the standard bearer for his party. In a conference call, Obama told the Chronicle editorial board that "more than any other candidate, I can bridge some of the partisan as well as racial and religious divides that have developed in this country that prevent us from getting things done."
Those who have viewed the numerous campaign debates know there's not much to separate Obama from his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Either could ably represent the Democratic Party. Both candidates favor ending the war in Iraq by withdrawing combat troops and initiating regional negotiations to stabilize the country. Both would press for dramatic strides toward providing all Americans with health insurance.
Both support a cap and trade system to begin reducing America's carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Each promises to initiate multibillion-dollar efforts to promote conversion of the economy to clean energy technologies. They favor securing our borders, initiating comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to earned legal status for those already here who are working and contributing to their communities.
However, there is a decisive difference. Obama vows to reach out to independents and Republicans with a message of inclusion and cooperation. He offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground. Those who insist on vitriol and obstructionism would be marginalized.
On several issues vital to Houstonians, Obama's positions need elaboration. He recognizes the need to maintain U.S. pre-eminence in space but said he wanted to study the costs and benefits of human space exploration — an exercise that should convince him of the space program's long history of indispensable contributions.Obama said he did not expect the leaders of the energy sector to vote for him. He needs to realize that the energy sector must be a large part of a cooperative effort to develop alternative fuels and avoid an energy crunch.
The 46-year-old Obama has expanded his base of support, winning new legions of supporters. The more people see and hear him, the more they like him. As the Hawaiian-born son of a Muslim Kenyan father and an Anglo Midwesterner, the devoutly Christian Obama transcends race and religion. His life has been one of involvement with disadvantaged Chicago residents, excellence at Harvard Law School and eight years as an Illinois state senator. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, only the third African-American to serve there since Reconstruction.
Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies.
The passion and excitement that Obama has brought to the race can only stimulate more citizens to participate in the electoral process. The Chronicle urges Texas Democrats to cast what could be decisive ballots for his presidential nomination.
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Posted on Thu, Feb. 21, 2008
More blacks than Hispanics may vote in Texas Democratic primary
John Moritz | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 21, 2008 05:57:40 PM
AUSTIN, Texas — Although Hispanics outnumber African-Americans in Texas by 3 to 1, more blacks than Hispanics may turn out to vote in the state's Democratic primary on March 4 because they're fired up about Barack Obama.
The emergence of Illinois Sen. Obama as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination has generated more excitement among African-American voters than leading black Texas Democrats have ever seen. And if, as they suspect, black voters turn out in greater numbers than do the Hispanics whom Hillary Clinton's counting on, her hopes for victory could be crushed.
"This year, it is a force of nature that doesn't appear to need a whole lot of help from people like me," said Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor who in 2002 became the first African-American in Texas to win a major-party nomination for the U.S. Senate. "The black vote is going to turn itself out."
Rep. Marc Veasey, an African-American Democrat from Fort Worth and Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman, the chairman of the African-American Legislative Caucus in Texas, expressed the same sentiment. All three support Obama.
New York Sen. Clinton kicked off her effort in Texas last week with a high-powered tour through South Texas, where the Hispanic vote is considered crucial to her hopes for victory. In California on Feb. 5, she won the Hispanic vote 2 to 1, and that propelled her to a comfortable win over Obama.
The Clinton campaign circulated a memo last week suggesting that Hispanic turnout this year would likely surpass the 24 percent mark it reached in 2004, and that Clinton once again expects to run up the score in that constituency.
But Kirk and others said that blacks this year could account for 25 percent to 30 percent of the Democratic turnout. Veteran strategist Kelly Fero, who's white and neutral in the presidential contest, said it could be even higher.
"It's plausible that African-American turnout could push north of 40 percent in the Democratic primary," Fero said.
Such turnout would likely diminish or erase the 7- to 10-point lead Clinton has enjoyed in recent polls of Texas primary voters. Kirk, who lost the 2002 Senate election to Republican John Cornyn, said he expects Obama to win 80 percent to 90 percent of the African-American vote next month.
"As these primaries go on, you see him gaining strength among the black voters," Kirk said. "I have got to believe that trend will continue when he gets to Texas."
Veasey, who represents a heavily African-American district on Fort Worth's east side, said enthusiasm to vote is at an all-time high. But support for Obama among Veasey's constituents wasn't automatic when the race began. Older voters felt more loyalty to Clinton, in part because of their affection for former President Bill Clinton, while younger voters were drawn to the 46-year-old Obama, Veasey said.
"We were kind of split between Hillary Clinton and Obama," he said. "But something happened after South Carolina (where Obama won big on Jan. 26). It was like, hey, this guy can win this thing. You started seeing everyone — young, old, everyone — just move to Obama."
The divided loyalty among African-American voters was on display Wednesday when Obama was rallying supporters in Dallas.
"I was hoping this would never become a black or white issue," said Leala Green, an African-American voter. "I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King when he marched in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early 1960s when I was a student.
"And I defend Hillary Clinton," she added. "But I am going to vote for Obama. Once I started listening to him, I knew I would vote for him."
At a Bill Clinton rally in Tyler last week, Dexter Jones was holding out hopes for the best of both worlds for the African-American community.
"I wish they were both on the ticket together," said Jones, 41
He said that it's unfortunate if the Clintons are feeling somewhat betrayed by the black community, which was a cornerstone of the couple's support during Bill Clinton's White House years.
"I think the Clintons have the support of some of the African-American community, but it seems that many are turning to Obama," said Jones, who's still undecided. "Barack Obama has a great message — that we can be anything we want to be."
Coleman, a state lawmaker since 1991 who's helped the campaigns of countless Texas Democrats over the years, said he appreciates the conflict that some in the African-American community feel. He was a supporter of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards before he shifted to Obama.
"This is a powerful election year for all Democrats, but maybe especially so for African-Americans," he said. "We have not only a chance but a real chance to put one our own in the White House. People come up to me all the time and say they never expected to see this in their lifetime.
"I never expected to see this in my lifetime," he added. "I'm 46. I grew up when Texas was still segregated. A lot of us did. So are we going to turn out and vote? Hell, yeah."
TEXAS BY THE NUMBERS
Exact figures breaking down Texas Democratic primary voters by race or ethnicity were not available. But here are some demographic figures for the Texas population as a whole from the Census Bureau in 2006. Percentages exceed 100 because people may be of more than one race or ethnicity:
* White: 82.7 percent
* Hispanic: 35.7 percent
* Black: 11.9 percent
* Asian: 3.4 percent
(Moritz reports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Star-Telegram staff writer Anna Tinsley contributed to this report.)
McClatchy Newspapers 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Michelle Obama Clarifies 'Proud' Remark
Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2008
By: Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - (AP) The wife of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama sought Wednesday to clarify her comment that for the first time she's really proud of her country.
On Monday, Michelle Obama told an audience in Milwaukee that "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change." Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential contender John McCain, later sought to capitalize on the remark, saying "I have, and always will be, proud of my country."
Asked by WJAR-TV if she would like to clarify her comment, Obama replied that she has been struck by the number of people going to rallies and watching debates, as well as record voter turnouts.
"What I was clearly talking about was that I'm proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process," she said.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Robert Newby, Ph.D.
Central Michigan University
The sharp division between Barack Obama and the Clintons is a political struggle of historic importance. This election has the potential of being a major triumph for a transcendent “new politics” and changing “the face” of America, on the one hand, or being a political debacle that could be the ruin of the Democratic party, on the other. The struggle on one side of this division is an entrenched “politics as usual” of the Clintons. The struggle on the other side is Barack Obama’s more idealist political movement for “change” and a new America. As stated by one of Obama’s high-level operatives, “We are here to change the country….” By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is the very essence of politics as usual. The Party machinery, particularly the traditional Democrats allied to the eight years of the Bill Clinton presidency, made her the inevitable nominee. Having the glamour and appeal of being the first woman president, and having a war chest that was to be unrivaled, her campaign was assumed to be won through the traditional and established party connections, politics as usual. Also, understand that key to the success of Democratic party nominees is the party’s most loyal constituency, African Americans. As a part of that politics as usual and the candidacy of the wife of “the first black president,” this core constituency of the Democratic party was to be a given. With these assumptions guiding the Clinton campaign, there was a short-sightedness as to the depth of the crisis and what the times call for.
The disaster of the Bush administration has given both conservative and Republican a bad name. Black America and a broad cross-section of Americans, generally, oppose the belligerence exemplified by the War in Iraq. Black America and a broad section of Americans want an end to the corruption and waste. Black America and a broad cross-section of Americans want a halt to the meanness of the racism and “class warfare” being waged against Americans, particularly the working class and the poor. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are just the most blatant example of this attack on the so-called middle class. Current polls show that 75% of the nation thinks the country is going in the wrong direction. What the Obama candidacy represents is a transformation from the nearly thirty years of conservatism and the politics of division. “Change” has been his theme from “day one.” He seeks a change for a hopeful future, not regurgitating battles of the past. What was an electoral campaign has morphed into a political movement that is spirited and broad based. Even more he has been bequeathed the charismatic leadership of John Kennedy. Charismatic leaders have passionate followers. Consequently, his campaign has the promise of transformative change.
For the Clinton campaign, the problem is perceived to be a need for a change of administration. The failures of the Bush administration have led to widespread deep-seated resentment, a resentment to the point that Republicans have little credibility. This next election in all likelihood will spell doom to conservatism and the Republican Party, at least temporarily, if not for a more enduring period. More than anything else, the debacle of the war in Iraq, along with all of its moral and constitutional violations, there is a general feeling out there that Americanism has been violated – in our names. It is imperative that the approach to the war be wrested from the Bush/Cheney aggression. Unfortunately, another Clinton presidency is more continuity than change. That is the problem. Given the nation’s politics since 1980, what is needed is not a just a change in administration but a change in politics in America. As Obama says, “now is the time for change” and that “we are the change we have been waiting for.” It is this need for a new politics, not politics as usual, that is the short-coming of the Clinton candidacy.
As Barack points out , now is the time for another “transformative” president. First, having experienced nearly thirty years of the mean-spirited white nationalist “Reagan Revolution,” including the presidency of George W. Bush, a presidency many argue has been the worst in history, the demand for change has captured the sentiment of the American people, black, white, young, old, men and (white) women, with the exception of those over 50. Second, having an opportunity to make that change take the form of a whole new vision for America come in the package of a charismatic African American whose very being, as the nation’s president, would represent an America that is new! In addition to his charm and “good speeches,” Barack Obama is a very bright man. With Obama as president, America would see itself differently. In contrast to America’s current image abroad, an Obama presidency would elevate exponentially America’s image in the world. The Europeans, the Africans, the Asians, the Latin Americans will be charmed by him. The look of his rallies show “a new America” and as the victories mount all across the nation, Barack Obama’s campaign has ignited a movement. In the face of this new “hope” for America, politics as usual will have its consequences, including the possibility of deep long lasting divisions in the Democratic party.
Even though Bill Clinton has had a checkered past with Black America, being tabbed by Toni Morrison as America’s first “black president,” has had some salience. As a consequence of this characterization and the perceptions surrounding it, Bill Clinton’s ties into the black community are deeply rooted. Do we need any more validation than the fact that the office of this Past President is in Harlem? His biography has made him a friend and ally of the black community. Prior to the campaign, it was expected that Hillary Clinton would have the support of a community that perceives her to be an advocate on their behalf. That expectation notwithstanding, the Obama candidacy has obliterated the notion of Hillary being the “rightful heir” of the black vote. Obama stands in the way of the nomination of Hillary and therefore Clinton power. This explains the “race distinction” that erupted surrounding the South Carolina primary. In fact, more than any other block of voters, the key to a Clinton victory was support from the black community. As a result of brilliant campaign organization, the white voters of Iowa freed the blacks in South Carolina from the dilemma that they might be throwing away their votes. The Iowa victory provided a confidence in the African American community that an African American can win! Consequently, the black vote that was the key to the Clinton candidacy has been derailed by an African American who is capturing the hearts and minds of an American populace that seeks a new political climate in Washington.
This contest for the Party nomination finds a division within the African American community. Hillary Clinton found her African American support among the party loyalists and entrenched leaders in the black community. Many of these supporters are “mainline” Democrats, including the New York party loyalists, as opposed to more grassroots and anti-war Democrats whose politics demand a more fundamental change in America’s political agenda. These ties go deep as one would expect given the Clinton presidency in the era of right wing rule that began with the Ronald Reagan. Among these ties are the many African Americans who had appointments in the Clinton administration and their associates. Clinton did change the face of Washington with his appointments. As stated by Obama, the Clintons have been the most powerful force in the Democratic party in the last 20 years. The ties with the African American community have not been limited to Bill Clinton’s presidency. Throughout the years, the Clintons have been involved in and committed to civil rights causes. Clinton was the first sitting President to visit Africa. He was willing to offer an apology for slavery. He tried to have the nation engage in a conversation about race. For a number of years Hillary was on the board of directors for Mariam Wright Edleman’s the Children’s Defense Fund. Edleman, a close associate of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, has an important legacy when it comes to advocacy for children of the poor, particularly the black poor. The Clintons do have their pedigree. These are the credentials of the Clintons when it comes to those mainline African American Democrats who support her.
Not being beholden to the party elite, the Barack Obama candidacy has engendered overwhelming grassroots support in black communities. To head off this groundswell of support in the pivotal state of South Carolina, key black Clinton supporters, Congressman John Lewis and BET founder, Robert Johnson, were sent out to make vicious attacks on Obama. In more subtle ways, Bill Clinton attempted to marginalize Obama, as well. South Carolina became the writing on the wall. With the black vote going to Obama, Clinton lost her inevitability to become the nominee. Obama’s success in the black community is creating a schism between those more establishment Democrats who are supporting Hillary and their constituencies. The interesting thing is that the elected officials and party leaders are super delegates. Which means, who they support is not a academic exercise. One way or another, the votes of the super delegates are likely to decide the nominee. How can a Clinton supporter use their vote for Hillary at the convention when 70-80% of their districts voted for Obama? A few weeks ago, Congressman Lewis was strident in his criticism of Barack. In the Georgia primary his constituency went about 80% for Obama. He was the first to switch from Clinton to Obama. There will be others.
The Clinton/Obama loyalties have split families. Congressman Charles Rangel, who was instrumental in having the Clintons come to New York, is a central figure in Clinton politics. He had his criticism of Obama early on, as well. His wife is supporting Obama. The Rangels are not alone. The party’s other power, the Kennedys, are split over this nomination. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. is one of Obama’s National Co-Chairs. Jackie Jackson, Jackson’s wife is supporting Hillary. Jesse Jackson, Jr., from Chicago like Obama, is a key player in the Obama campaign. Professors Michael Dyson and Christopher Edley support Obama. Their wives support Hillary Clinton. There is passion in these loyalties. Ties and loyalties notwithstanding, the Obama candidacy has caught the spirit of the people. His is a new vision for America, a transformative agenda.
Obama’s strength is his transcendence, his being above the fray. Being a visionary, albeit an African American, his success would in itself transform the perception of America, internally and externally. As stated above, the Obama campaign is more than that, it is a movement. Movements take on passions. Given Obama’s charisma and unique place in history, his being “soiled” as a result of attacks is likely to leave deep scars. The Clinton campaign, including former President Bill Clinton, by playing politics as usual with a candidacy that represents a new vision is stirring deep passions and resentments. It is politics as usual to deliberately distort the message of an opponent. It is politics as usual to try to belittle your opponent as opposed to dealing with the issues. Years ago, it was politics as usual when Bill Clinton addressed Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition in 1992 and in front of this predominately black audience attacked the rapper, Sista Soulja. Under the circumstances, we all know that in the interests of black unity it is not right for a “brother” to go to another brother’s house and then embarrass him in front of his family. So, we must assume what it all comes down to is that the “first black president” was really white (or certainly reaching out to whites).
For Bill Clinton, however, as much as he is liked among black voters, his interests now are the politics of the personal, his wife and his legacy. Linked to his whiteness, his “bad cop” attacks on Obama have been aided and abetted by Hillary’s black supporters’ tactics and actions. Even though they say the attacks “have been effective,” the animosity engendered against the Clintons in the black community has been considerable. The viciousness of the attacks has toned down, but “of necessity,” given their politics as usual, negative attacks continue. For African Americans, should the Obama campaign be defeated, they are likely to be perceived to have “deferred a dream” that few ever thought possible, a black president. Langston Hughes asked and answered the question of “what happens to a dream deferred?” some years ago. Those who dash dreams, particularly if it is perceived to have been done unfairly, would be resented.
At this point, there is a general consensus that it would take “a miracle” for Hillary to catch and overtake Obama given the proportional distribution of delegates in the remaining primaries and caucuses. She will need overwhelming victories to close the pledged delegate gap between herself and Obama. Having said that, the Clinton power in the Democratic party has netted her many more of the super delegates than Obama. It is possible that this group will be the “tie-breaker.” Should the Clinton power, and their politics of the personal, overturn the will of the rank and file, including the African American community, they will be viewed as being responsible for “deferring the dream” for a “new America.” After having lost Wisconsin and Hawaii by wide margins, the conventional wisdom is that Clinton must “go negative,” if she expects to win. With Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania at stake, it is anticipated that the Clinton campaign “will do whatever it takes to win.” There is a lot of power committed to the Clinton campaign. They are committed to not losing. The consequence of attempts to discredit Obama, however, will undoubtedly cause a profound resentment towards the Clintons and the Democratic party. The consequences for the party would be dire. About that dream deferred, “… does it explode?” as Langston Hughes would wonder. It is this train wreck that the Democrats hope to avoid in August in Denver.
Robert Newby, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Central Michigan University. 2/20/2008
Wisconsin and Hawaii Add to Obama’s String of Victories
By PATRICK HEALY and JEFF ZELENY
Senator Barack Obama decisively beat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Wisconsin primary and the Hawaii caucuses on Tuesday night, accelerating his momentum ahead of crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas and cutting into Mrs. Clinton’s support among women and union members.
With the two rivals now battling state by state over margins of victory and allotment of delegates, surveys of voters leaving the Wisconsin polls showed Mr. Obama, of Illinois, making new inroads with those two groups as well as middle-age voters and continuing to win support from white men and younger voters — a performance that yielded grim tidings for Mrs. Clinton, of New York.
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain of Arizona won a commanding victory over Mike Huckabee in the Wisconsin contest and led by a wide margin in Washington State. All but assured of his party’s nomination, Mr. McCain immediately went after Mr. Obama during a rally in Ohio, deriding “eloquent but empty” calls for change.
For Mr. Obama, Hawaii was his 10th consecutive victory, a streak in which he has not only run up big margins in many states but also pulled votes from once-stalwart supporters of Mrs. Clinton, like low- and middle-income people and women.
Mrs. Clinton wasted no time in signaling that she would now take a tougher line against Mr. Obama — a recognition, her advisers said, that she must act to alter the course of the campaign and define Mr. Obama on her terms.
In a speech in Ohio shortly after the polls closed in Wisconsin, she alluded to what her campaign considers Mr. Obama’s lack of experience, and his support for a health insurance plan that would not initially seek to cover all Americans.
“This is the choice we face: One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world,” Mrs. Clinton said in the remarks, which she also planned to expand upon in a speech in New York City on Wednesday. “One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past — and one of us is ready to do it again.” Mrs. Clinton did not mention the Wisconsin results; she did, however, call Mr. Obama to congratulate him on the victory.
As Mrs. Clinton was speaking, Mr. Obama appeared on stage at a rally in Texas, effectively cutting her off as cable television networks dropped her in midsentence, a telling sign of the showmanship power of a front-runner.
“Houston, I think we achieved liftoff here,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of 20,000 people in that city as he hailed the voters of Wisconsin. “The change we seek is still months and miles away, and we need the good people of Texas to help us get there.”
With 90 percent of the electoral precincts in Wisconsin reporting, Mr. Obama had 58 percent of the vote to Mrs. Clinton’s 41 percent. On the Republican side, Mr. McCain had 55 percent to Mr. Huckabee’s 37 percent. And early returns in Washington State showed him with 48 percent of the vote to Mr. Huckabee’s 21 percent. In Hawaii, Mr. Obama had 75 percent of the vote, with 71 of precincts reporting, while Mrs. Clinton had 24 percent.
In Wisconsin, the survey of voters leaving the polls found that Democrats believed Mr. Obama would be more likely than Mrs. Clinton, by 63 percent to 37 percent, to defeat the Republican nominee in the fall.
Her latest losses narrowed even further Mrs. Clinton’s options and leaves her little, if any, room for error. Her road to victory is now a cliff walk.
By the calculation of her own aides, she now almost certainly will need to win the next two big contests, Texas and Ohio on March 4, as well as Pennsylvania on April 22 in order to maintain a viable claim to the nomination and stop so-called superdelegates from breaking for Mr. Obama. But there has been evidence this month that Mr. Obama is building momentum with each victory, and recent polls have suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s once-large lead in Ohio and Texas is shrinking.
What is more, it may not be enough at this point for Mrs. Clinton to simply win Ohio and Texas. She needs delegates to catch up with Mr. Obama; under the rules by which the Democratic Party allocates delegates, she will need to win double-digit victories to pick up enough delegates to close the gap.
Finally, Mrs. Clinton continues to struggle to find a way to try to raise questions about Mr. Obama and stop what has been a rush of voters to his side. Her Tuesday night speech about Mr. Obama’s experience level was one of her toughest yet; still, she has been making similar arguments for months now, and they have not caught fire thus far.
With his Wisconsin victory, Mr. Obama moved into a lead over Mrs. Clinton in delegates; going into the vote, he had 1,078 delegates to Mrs. Clinton’s 1,081, according to a count by The New York Times. Wisconsin had 74 pledged delegates in play, while Hawaii had 20 pledged delegates.
Although Wisconsin borders Mr. Obama’s home state, Illinois, the primary presented a challenge because of the large share of blue-collar workers, a group that he has struggled to win over. Yet the results represented a turnaround for Mr. Obama: About one-third of voters in the Democratic primary came from union households, and they split their votes evenly between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, according to a statewide exit poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the National Election Pool.
By contrast, in the Feb. 5 primaries in New Jersey and California, two states Mrs. Clinton won, the percentage of Democratic voters from union households was also about one-third of those surveyed by Edison/Mitofsky, but they supported Mrs. Clinton more strongly than in Wisconsin.
About 6 in 10 white men voted for Mr. Obama, while white women split evenly between him and Mrs. Clinton, the polls showed. Mrs. Clinton turned in another strong performance with voters over the age of 60, meanwhile.
In forging ahead, Clinton advisers say she is determined to win strongly among women and union members in Ohio and Texas, and cited a number of factors that they were counting on: Mrs. Clinton’s performance in televised debates in each state this month, including one in Texas on Thursday; her increasingly populist message at campaign rallies; attacks by her and her advisers on Mr. Obama’s authenticity; and her continuing portrayal of him as inexperienced.
On the Republican side, Mr. McCain declared victory in Wisconsin shortly after the polls closed and continued rolling past his last major challenger, Mr. Huckabee, toward the goal of winning the 1,191 delegates needed to seal the party’s nomination.
But surveys of voters gave evidence of misgivings about his candidacy: more than 4 in 10 voters said Mr. McCain was not conservative enough; conservative voters split their votes evenly between the two men. And Mr. Huckabee won a majority of the vote of the one-third of evangelical voters who participated in the Republican primary.
Addressing a packed ballroom in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. McCain said to cheers that he would urge the nation not to be “deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history” and warned against risking “the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate.” He did not even allude to Mrs. Clinton.
Both Democrats have been increasingly sounding populist notes recently to reflect the economic concerns of voters. In her remarks in Youngstown on Tuesday night, Mrs. Clinton allied herself with Americans working on the “night shift” — a phrase that is also the title of a new advertisement that began running in Ohio on Tuesday night. The ad ends with an image of Mrs. Clinton doing paperwork, illuminated by a lamp, as a narrator says, “She’s worked the night shift, too.”
While Mrs. Clinton drew some of her largest crowds to date in Texas, her decision to spend time away from Wisconsin troubled some of her supporters, who believed she had erred in not campaigning enough in states she lost recently, like Maine.
Mr. Obama’s audiences, meanwhile, were filled with a tapestry of supporters — young and old, black and white — many of whom said they had been following the presidential race as it unfolded in neighboring states like Iowa.
Mary Liedtke, a defense lawyer in Eau Claire, Wis., said she had been a supporter of Mrs. Clinton. But in the final weeks of the Iowa caucus campaign, she said she had become inspired by Mr. Obama’s supporters.
“Some elderly women I’ve heard say, ‘I want to see a woman president before I die,’ and I know that’s why some of them are supporting Hillary,” Ms. Liedtke said in an interview after seeing Mr. Obama last weekend in her town.
“But you know what? That’s a selfish reason to vote for a president just because you want to see a woman before you die,” she added. “What about the kids coming up? I feel we should vote for the young people.”
John M. Broder contributed reporting from Ohio, and Megan Thee from New York.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com staff writer
Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) defeated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) in today's Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary, scoring a ninth consecutive victory over the New York senator.
Obama was also expected to win caucuses in Hawaii, the state in which he spent more than a decade of his youth. The Obama victory puts more pressure on Clinton, who now must win in Ohio and Texas on March 4 to sustain her campaign for the presidential nomination.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) defeated former governor Mike Huckabee (Ark.) in the Wisconsin presidential primary. McCain's convincing victory is likely to increase the pressure on Huckabee to drop from the race and clear the way for the Arizona senator to unify the party and begin preparing for an extended general election campaign.
"I will be our party's nominee for president of the United States," McCain declared at a victory speech in Columbus, Ohio, shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time. He also took time to praise Huckabee for his "impressive grit and passion."
McCain then quickly shifted to the general election and drew a biting contrast between himself and Obama. He promised to deliver far more than just an "eloquent but empty call for change" and the "confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate."
Huckabee has vowed to remain in the race until McCain surpasses the delegate threshold of 1,191 needed to secure the GOP presidential nomination.
Obama entered Wisconsin on a roll, and given the large number of liberal Democratic voters centered in Madison, was expected to win. But in recent days, Clinton has invested more campaign time and money in the state-- perhaps sensing a chance to break Obama's eight-state winning streak or exceed the modest expectations for her in advance of critical tests in Ohio and Texas on March 4.
With a small fraction of the precincts reporting in Wisconsin, Obama led Clinton, 56 percent to 43 percent, while McCain led Huckabee, 56 percdent to 36 percent.
Early exit polling suggested that the concerns and desires of the electorate in Wisconsin bear significant similarities to those in other states that have voted over the past month.
A slim majority of Democratic voters cited a candidate's desire to bring about change as the most important attribute in deciding who to support. And, the economy again trumped health care and the war in Iraq as the most pressing issue on the minds of Democratic voters.
Among Republicans in Wisconsin, the economy, too, was the leading issue. And, as was the case in other recent votes, a near-majority of those who participated in the Wisconsin GOP primary said a candidates who shared their values was the most important characteristic in making a pick.
Democrats in Hawaii as well as Republicans in Washington State are also holding votes today -- although neither the Hawaiian caucuses or the Washington primary is expected to be seriously contested. Obama is expected to romp to victory in Hawaii, where he spent his formative years. The GOP race in Washington state is likely to be very close.
Wisconsin has seen a heated campaign of late with all four major candidates vigorously campaigning in the state.
McCain and Huckabee made stops in Appleton on Monday while Clinton ventured to De Pere, Wausau and Madison, while Obama stopped in Beloit. All four candidates dodged frigid temperatures and wintry weather over the President's Day holiday in search of ever-precious votes.
The ramped-up rhetoric has been especially noticeable on the Democratic side, where Clinton and Obama have exchanged blows on television for much of the last week.
Clinton started the fracas by attacking Obama for his refusal to debate in the state; the New York Senator then upped the ante by hitting Obama on his alleged lack of solutions on health care and Social Security. Obama struck back with ads of his own that decried Clinton's negative tactics as nothing more politics as usual. And Clinton yesterday accused Obama of plagiarizing portions of a recent speech and continued to question his vows to reform the campaign finance system.
Neither side backed down in the final moments of the campaign. David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama, castigated Clinton for a "harshly negative campaign" and promised that the Illinois senator would evaluate each attack and decide on a case-by-case basis how to proceed.
Clinton was set to deliver a speech tonight in Youngstown, Ohio -- excerpts of which her campaign released even before polls closed in Wisconsin.
"Both Senator Obama and I would make history," Clinton is set to say, according to the excerpts. "But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander-in-chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans. Only one of us has spent 35 years being a doer, a fighter and a champion for those who need a voice. That is what I would bring to the White House. That is the choice in this election."
Those words suggest that Clinton will continue to aggressively make sharp contrasts between herself and Obama in the two weeks between tonight's vote and March 4.
Even as the negative rhetoric soared between Clinton and Obama, polling in the race suggests a more competitive contest than recent races in places like Virginia and Maine.
A recent independent poll conducted for WISC-TV last week showed Obama holding a fairly narrow lead over Clinton, 47 percent to 42 percent, while surveys in the state over the last two weeks have provided a mixed bag, ranging from a wider Obama lead to a narrow Clinton edge.
The reason for the disparity between polls is likely due to the unpredictability of turnout in today's primary. As is so often the case in the Midwest during the winter months, the weather is the story. The temperature in Madison was seven degrees Fahrenheit (negative seven with the wind chill) and a wind chill alert had been issued by the National Weather Service.
In the 2004 Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary, which was held on Feb. 17, 826,250 people cast votes, with Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) winning a narrow 40 percent to 34 percent victory over former senator John Edwards (N.C.).
Obama has won eight straight contests since the two candidates essentially split the 22 state contests on Feb. 5. That winning streak has given Obama a lead in the pledged delegate count and a boost of momentum heading into the crucial March 4 votes when Texas and Ohio are set to hold primaries.
Clinton has suggested that Ohio and Texas are must wins for her campaign and a stronger than expected showing in Wisconsin tonight could give her a big boost heading into those races. An Obama blowout in Wisconsin, however, coupled with his expected win in Hawaii later tonight would make it ten consecutive victories and add to the Illinois senator's delegate edge.
At stake tonight in Wisconsin are 74 pledged delegates for Democrats. Hawaii will allocate 20 delegates in its caucus. Obama currently has 1,112 pledged delegates and another 164 superdelegates for a total of 1,276, according to the Associated Press. Clinton has 979 pledged delegates and 241 superdelegates, a total of 1,220.
The Republican race in Wisconsin has been somewhat quieter. Polling shows McCain with a comfortable but not substantial lead over Huckabee.
Although both candidates have spent time and resources in the Badger State, the last real fight on the Republican side appears to be in Texas, where polling shows McCain with a slight edge over Huckabee. Wisconsin will allocate 40 delegates in the primary. The primary contest in Washington State -- which follows on a caucus in the state earlier this month -- will yield 19 delegates.
It's not clear how long Huckabee will remain in the race or whether tonight's results will have any impact on his decision. Heading into the Wisconsin vote, McCain had 851 delegates to 242 for Huckabee. Former governor Mitt Romney (Mass.), who dropped out of the contest earlier this month, retained 277 delegates.
When asked about the mathematical impossibility of beating McCain, behind whom the entire party establishment has largely coalesced, Huckabee is prone to answer: "I didn't major in math. I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them."
Research Editor Alice R. Crites, Polling Director Jon Cohen and Polling Analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report
Monday, February 18, 2008
Reactions to Tavis "make America better" Smiley's blunder can be found at the link below the article.
Black Commenter, Criticizing Obama, Causes Firestorm
By Darryl Fears
Tavis Smiley, the bestselling author of the "Covenant With Black America," is in a world turned upside down. He said he's being "hammered," "barbecued," and is "catching hell" from black Americans for suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made a major mistake by declining to speak at the State of the Black Union event that Smiley plans to host next week in New Orleans.
"There's all this talk of hater, sellout and traitor," Smiley said to me in a telephone interview. Smiley even mentioned getting death threats, but wouldn't elaborate. He said his office has been flooded with angry e-mails. "I have family in Indianapolis. They are harassing my momma, harassing my brother. It's getting to be crazy," Smiley said.
Smiley's problems started early this month after he invited Obama to speak at the State of the Black Union, an event Smiley founded nine years ago. Held annually during Black History Month and broadcast by C-Span, the event gathers a Who's Who of black intellectuals, pundits, activists, entertainers and politicians to discuss and brainstorm about where black America is and where it is headed. This year's topic is "Reclaiming Our Democracy, Deciding Our Future."
The State of the Black Union has grown into a key event for black people since its start, but as Smiley has discovered, Obama's presidential run is far more highly regarded.
As the first black person to have a legitimate shot at a presidential nomination, defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton's rich campaign juggernaut, Obama is virtually a third civil rights movement, the manifestation of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. His candidacy has produced a fervor in black America born of centuries of wanting. Nearly every black vote that Clinton thought was hers at the beginning of the race has been siphoned by Obama.
Each of the presidential candidates were invited to speak, but only Sen. Hillary Clinton accepted. Clinton is desperate to bolster her flagging campaign with a larger share of the black vote after losing all but a small percent to Obama. Smiley said he wants the candidates to focus on the issues that black Americans care about.
If the blogosphere is any reflection, however, black America believes Smiley should check his ego. Commenters would much rather see Obama campaigning against Clinton in Texas and Ohio than at Smiley's confab in Louisiana, a state he's already won. Critics burned up Internet chat rooms, taking turns at denouncing Smiley. Pundit Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an Obama supporter, authored a biting anti-Smiley opinion on TheRoot.com (which is owned by Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive), entitled, "Who Died and Made Him King?"
A fan of Smiley commented on one blog, saying, "Tavis, Ya Killin' Me, Man." An angrier writer headlined his comment, "This is just dumb." "This man is involved in the fight of his life for the presidency of the UNITED STATES, not black states," he wrote of Obama. "I don't know if Tavis got the memo, but Hillary is leading in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the governor said that his white folks won't vote for a black." Other comments would likely be blocked by Net Nanny and can't be printed on the Web pages of a family newspaper.
For Smiley, the tumult is a major turnabout. Until now he was a darling commentator in black America. His passion for the people endeared him to many. People listened to his commentaries on the popular Tom Joyner Morning Show, and snapped up so many copies of the "Covenant" that it made the top ten lists of the both the New York Times and the Washington Post. When Smiley talked, black people listened.
"One of my friends said, 'you are being barbecued in the blogosphere,'" Smiley said. He told Black America Web writer Michael Cottman's that "I'm catching hell." In our interview, Smiley said: "This is the first time in my entire career that I have found myself in this kind of relationship with some folk in black America. I now know what it feels like to have the weight of the Internet world bearing down on you. Man, it's an eye opener when you get caught in the middle of it."
Obama's campaign said he called Smiley twice on his cell and office phones. Smiley said he returned the calls but got no response.
On the Tom Joyner Morning Show recently, Joyner brought up the controversy during an interview with Obama, relating how Smiley was taking heat for saying he thinks Obama doesn't want to talk about issues black people care about.
Obama chastised Smiley, but spoke as if the two were friends. "I'm going to have to call Tavis up and straighten him out on this," Obama said. He said he's addressed issues that Smiley cares about, such as health care and eliminating the legal sentencing disparity that allows judges to send mostly black crack cocaine offenders to prison with sentences that are five times longer than powder cocaine offenders who are mostly white and Latino.
Obama followed up with a letter to Smiley, dated Feb. 13. In it, Obama explained why he declined the invitation, saying that he needed to campaign in states that Clinton must win to in order to topple her candidacy.
"I will be on the campaign trail every day in states like Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin talking directly to voters about the causes that are at the heart of my campaign and the State of the Black Union forum such as affordable housing, economic opportunity, civil rights and foreign policy," Obama said in his letter. He had offered to have his wife, Michelle, speak in his stead at the State of the Black Union, but Smiley had declined. "I ask that you reconsider," Obama wrote. "Michelle is a powerful voice for the type of reach change America is hungry for."
Smiley responded in a commentary on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, condemning Obama's decision with his usual strong, passionate, rapid-fire delivery. He recounted the gist of his statement in the interview. "I think it is a miscalculation on his part not to appear and a missed opportunity."
"I love Barack Obama and I love black people," Smiley said. "I celebrate his past accomplishments and I celebrate his future aspirations. I never wanted to stand in the path of his growth."
However, he said, "My job is to ask the critical question, to raise these issues and keep these guys focused. There are some people who are disappointed that I'm not jumping up and down saying, 'Vote for Barack Obama.' That's not my role as a journalist. That's not what I do."
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama
THE curse continues. Regardless of party, it’s hara-kiri for a politician to step into the shadow of even a mediocre speech by Barack Obama.
Senator Obama’s televised victory oration celebrating his Chesapeake primary trifecta on Tuesday night was a mechanical rehash. No matter. When the networks cut from the 17,000-plus Obama fans cheering at a Wisconsin arena to John McCain’s victory tableau before a few hundred spectators in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Va., it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.
But he has it even worse than Mrs. Clinton. What distinguished his posse from Mr. Obama’s throng was not just its age but its demographic monotony: all white and nearly all male. Such has been the inescapable Republican brand throughout this campaign, ever since David Letterman memorably pegged its lineup of presidential contenders last spring as “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.”
For Mr. McCain, this albatross may be harder to shake than George W. Bush and Iraq, particularly in a faceoff with Mr. Obama. When Mr. McCain jokingly invoked the Obama slogan “I am fired up and ready to go” in his speech Tuesday night, it was as cringe-inducing as the white covers of R & B songs in the 1950s — or Mitt Romney’s stab at communing with his inner hip-hop on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Trapped in an archaic black-and-white newsreel, the G.O.P. looks more like a nostalgic relic than a national political party in contemporary America. A cultural sea change has passed it by.
The 2008 primary campaign has been so fast and furious that we haven’t paused to register just how spectacular that change is. All the fretful debate about whether voters would turn out for a candidate who is a black or a woman seems a century ago. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama vanquished the Democratic field, including a presidential-looking Southern white man with an enthusiastic following, John Edwards. What was only months ago an exotic political experiment is now almost ho-hum.
Given that the American story has been so inextricable from the struggle over race, the Obama triumph has been the bigger surprise to many. Perhaps because I came of age in the racially divided Washington public schools of the 1960s and had one of my first newspaper jobs in Richmond in the early 1970s, I almost had to pinch myself when Mr. Obama took 52 percent of Virginia’s white vote last week. The Old Dominion continues to astonish those who remember it when.
Here’s one of my memories. In 1970, Linwood Holton, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a Richard Nixon supporter, responded to court-ordered busing by voluntarily placing his own children in largely black Richmond public schools. For this symbolic gesture, he was marginalized by his own party, which was hellbent on pursuing the emergent Strom Thurmond-patented Southern strategy of exploiting white racism for political gain. After Mr. Holton, Virginia restored to office the previous governor, Mills Godwin, a champion of the state’s “massive resistance” to desegregation.
Today Anne Holton, the young daughter sent by her father to a black school in Richmond, is the first lady of Virginia, the wife of the Democratic governor, Tim Kaine. Mr. Kaine’s early endorsement of Mr. Obama was a potent factor in his remarkable 28-point landslide on Tuesday.
For all the changes in Virginia and elsewhere, vestiges of the Southern strategy persist in some Republican quarters. Mr. McCain, however, has been a victim, rather than a practitioner, of the old racial gamesmanship. In his brutal 2000 South Carolina primary battle against Mr. Bush and Karl Rove, Mr. McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter was the target of a smear campaign. He was also pilloried for accurately describing the Confederate flag as a “symbol of racism and slavery.” (Sadly, he started to bend this straight talk the very next day.) He is still paying for correctly describing Jerry Falwell, once an ardent segregationist, and Pat Robertson, a longtime defender of South African apartheid, as “agents of intolerance.” And of course Mr. McCain remains public enemy No. 1 to some in his party for resisting nativist overkill on illegal immigration.
Though Mr. Bush ran for president on “compassionate conservatism,” he diversified only his party’s window dressing: a 2000 Republican National Convention that had more African-Americans onstage than on the floor and the incessant photo-ops with black schoolchildren to sell No Child Left Behind. There are no black Republicans in the House or the Senate to stand with the party’s 2008 nominee. Exit polls tell us that African-Americans voting in this year’s G.O.P. primaries account for at most 2 to 4 percent of its electorate even in states with large black populations.
Mr. Obama’s ascension hardly means that racism is kaput in America, or that the country is “postracial” or “transcending race.” But it’s impossible to deny that another barrier has been surmounted. Bill Clinton’s attempt to minimize Mr. Obama as a niche candidate in South Carolina by comparing him to Jesse Jackson looks more ludicrous by the day. Even when winning five Southern states (Virginia included) on Super Tuesday in 1988, Mr. Jackson received only 7 to 10 percent of white votes, depending on the exit poll.
Whatever the potency of his political skills and message, Mr. Obama is also riding a demographic wave. The authors of the new book “Millennial Makeover,” Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, point out that the so-called millennial generation (dating from 1982) is the largest in American history, boomers included, and that roughly 40 percent of it is African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed. One in five millennials has an immigrant parent. It’s this generation that is fueling the excitement and some of the record turnout of the Democratic primary campaign, and not just for Mr. Obama.
Even by the low standards of his party, Mr. McCain has underperformed at reaching millennials in the thriving culture where they live. His campaign’s effort to create a MySpace-like Web site flopped. His most-viewed appearances on YouTube are not viral videos extolling him or replaying his best speeches but are instead sendups of his most reckless foreign-policy improvisations — his threat to stay in Iraq for 100 years and his jokey warning (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ version of “Barbara Ann”) that he will bomb Iran. In the vast arena of the Internet he has been shrunk to Grumpy Old White Guy, the G.O.P. brand incarnate.
The theory of the McCain candidacy is that his “maverick” image will bring independents (approaching a third of all voters) to the rescue. But a New York Times-CBS News poll last month found that independents have even a lower opinion of Mr. Bush, the war, the surge and the economy than the total electorate and skew slightly younger. Though the independents in this survey went 44 percent to 32 percent for Mr. Bush over John Kerry in 2004, they now prefer a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican by 44 percent to 27 percent.
Mr. McCain could get lucky, especially if Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination and unites the G.O.P., and definitely if she tosses her party into civil war by grabbing ghost delegates from Michigan and Florida. But those odds are dwindling. More likely, the Republican Party will face Mr. Obama with a candidate who reeks even more of the past and less of change than Mrs. Clinton does. I was startled to hear last week from a friend in California, a staunch anti-Clinton Republican businessman, that he was wavering. Though he regards Mr. McCain as a hero, he wrote me: “I am tired of fighting the Vietnam war. I have drifted toward Obama.”
Similarly, Mark McKinnon, the Bush media maven who has played a comparable role for Mr. McCain in this campaign, reaffirmed to Evan Smith of Texas Monthly weeks ago that he would not work for his own candidate in a race with Mr. Obama. Elaborating to NPR last week, Mr. McKinnon said that while he is “100 percent” for Mr. McCain and disagrees with Mr. Obama “on very fundamental issues,” he likes Mr. Obama and what he’s doing for the country enough to stay on the sidelines rather than fire off attack ads.
As some Republicans drift away in a McCain-Obama race, who fills the vacuum? Among the white guys flanking Mr. McCain at his victory celebration on Tuesday, revealingly enough, was the once-golden George Allen, the Virginia Republican who lost his Senate seat and presidential hopes in 2006 after being caught on YouTube calling a young Indian-American Democratic campaign worker “macaca.”
In that incident, Mr. Allen added insult to injury by also telling the young man, “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” As election results confirmed both in 2006 and last week, it is Mr. Allen who is the foreigner in 21st century America, Mr. Allen who is in the minority in the real world of Virginia. A national rout in 2008 just may be that Republican Party’s last stand.