Tag Archives: obama

Racial Politics in a Post Racial America

Since the election but really finding its stride this summer, the GOP/right has found its voice in some of the most scary demogagic race- baiting  the country has experienced since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the mid 1960s, and busing crisis of the 1970s.

Our president is being depicted on posters as an African tribesman w/a bone thru his nose; as Hitler, Stalin; as someone who wants to kill old people and disabled babies. He was forced to open a recent press conference by saying. No, we are not trying to kill grandma.” as John Stewart observed, if this is your opening line, your inspirational moment for reform has passed.

The recent Gates-gate had police arresting an african american home owner in cambridge for having entered his own home and then arresting the cop who arrested him to the white house for a beer.

And consider the Sotomayor nomination battle that pitched the most experienced nominee to the court in generations against cries that she had not proven herself as fit to serve because of one perfectly appropriate comment she made in terms of empowering the Latino community to serve in the field of law. Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment became the meme pushed ad-nauseum by the 24/7 news cycle, that eventually forced her to recant by insisting she believes “wise latinas” are no better than wise white guys.  Absurd to have to even say such a thing.

This discussion barely conceals the incredible fear of a small and shrinking number of aging whites about looming demographic changes in the country– the fear that one day soon whites will not longer comprise the majority–

Suffice it to say, this formula of scare and attack became clear during the current health care debate, as richly described recently by Rachel Maddow. Right wing activists and self appointed leaders 1) fabricate wildly distorted untruths designed to scare  core followers (ex. Sotomayor or Obama for that matter don’t like white people); use the media and corporate funded and constructed faux grass roots (astro turf) orgs to whip up the hysteria and unleash small and unrepresentative but angry and intense crowds–teabagging; town halls…; then GOP leadership and MSM observe a populist uprising that they insist represents the fears of most americans; mainstream conservative dems and moderate repubs take notice and feel intimidated; their support for reform weakens…and the cycle continues

Along the way, facts get no play for one key reason: the right has no agenda of their own other than their desire to defeat/eradicate Obama at all cost, which includes Sotomayor, health care and whatever lays in waiting, immigration reform?  It’s all the same.

Thus it matters little that Obama is compared to Hitler/ fascism/ socialism. anyism… or Sotomayor to Lucy Ricardo.  The purpose is to destroy an agenda. It is nihilistic, and as Howard Dean has observed, it is self defeating. The GOP core is shrinking with each death panel and birther fabrication.

The consequences however could be quite real and long lasting. The seem to be forcing the voices of reform to compromise beyond what is necessary, thus subverting good faith efforts to address really difficult and comples social problems in society.

It is also whipping up latent and not so latent racism that is playing out in increasingly violent ways, which is something that should concern everyone.

Our president may want to act as if we live in a post racial  society, but is being confronted w/ a much different reality, to our chagrin.


Obama responds to street violence in Tehran

Keith Olberman tonite started with President Obama speaking about the street violence in Tehran, which he finds deeply disturbing. He cites Iran’s lack of tolerance for political dissent as running against the currents of international law.

But Obama’s words only went so far. the prevailing wisdom is that Obama cannot speak too stridently about the stolen election because Mousavi would then be perceived as a stool pigeon of the U.S. government.  Obama said US does not want to make decisions for Iranians.

Here’s a supplementary take. President Obama risks being branded a hypocrite due our our own stolen 2000 election, which we did nothing about.  Was the 2000 election stolen? Yes. ask Greg Palast. Better yet, ask Justice Souter.

That’s right, the suggestion here is that Obama’s words are limited by America’s  own diminished moral authority, a plague that  spreads into several other Bush era wrongs that have yet to be remedied. 

Obama moral voice here is constrained because  we did nothing when our “Ahmadinejad” became president for 8 years. It serves notice that the president’s voice and actions  might well be constrained on several other fronts as well, unless we act.

Barack Should Speak Out Against Denver’s Free Speech Cages!’

As Vietnam vet and hero Ron Kovic has discovered this week in Denver, even when Democrats are nominating a constitutional scholar and civil libertarian like Barack Obama for president, there remain a great many limits on a person’s right to tell Obama and other Party leaders what they are thinking.

Consider the thousands of protesters who will be separated from the 4,000 delegates by a distance of some 400 feet and by chicken wire and chain link fencing.

Late last month, a dozen organizations concluding the ACLU and American Friends Service Committee filed suit against the US Secret Service, The city and county of Denver for infringing on the rights of protesters to engage on their free speech rights during the democratic convention. The ACLU asked for two things: 1) to compel the city to reveal information about the protest restrictions; 2) to rule the restrictions unconstitutional.

The Court (Judge Marica Kramer presiding) ruled the protesters had a right to know about the restrictions, but on the bigger issue, the court sided with the Secret Service, citing the “need for security” that trumps the right to protest.

Undeterred, Kovic led 1,000 protesters yesterday through downtown Denver. Their message? “Stop the torture, stop the war. That’s what we’re fighting for.” Luckily for Kovic and the other protesters, there were no arrests, but the convention had yet to begin.

Overall, the protestors, which include the group, “Recreate ’68” (Mark Cohen organizer) are protesting the following: 1) continued war funding; 2) threats to escalate war in Afghanistan; 3)corporate control of politics (ATT is biggest sponsor of the Denver convention).

The first two points are self explanatory. Obama agrees with them on the first point; there is some tension between his and their second point; and on the third point, Obama is almost as bad as the pro-corporate Republican party.

The real problem here is the appearance of a conflict of interest between ATT $$ in Denver and the recent vote, supported by Obama, on Telecom immunity. Personally, I’d like to be convinced this was a coincidence, but it would take some convincing.

My point here is twofold: 1) Obama is sympathetic to what the protestors have to say; 2) on the issues of disagreement, he is keenly on the record in favor of robust and open dialogue. (did he not want a Veep candidate who would reasonably disagree with him on issues?); 3) It would be in Obama’s interest to help ensure that the protestors are caged and separated from this important public forum.

Part of Obama’s new politics that is so alluring is his repeated cadence of overcoming such anachronisms of the old politics, such as free speech cages and other mechanisms of control that separate speakers from their fellow citizens.

Although Obama wasn’t party to the ACLU lawsuit, and he is not yet president, he is in a position of moral authority to begin to guide this important free speech debate.




Obama Makes McCain Irrelevant

I have never before seen a presidential nominee become irrelevant before being nominated. That’s the story of the McCain candidacy this mid- July, 2008, more than a month before the Republican convention convenes early September. Joe Trippi just might be right here. Perhaps the Republicans will choose not to nominate their own presumptive nominee.  Smart money would agree with Trippi.

In the meantime, Obama, the candidate who, not too long ago was being lambasted for not having passed a commander in chief threshold, has just met with troops in Kuwait, and leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has left them almost weeping in joy about the prospect of his election.  The image of Obama as Commander in Chief has pretty much overwhelmed anything McCain has to offer. 

Obama is brighter, quicker, more level headed, has a better grasp of the relevant facts, shows better judgment, and much keener insight into foreign policy issues.

John McCain has been relegated to the dinner theatre version of commander in chief. not even close to being ready for the big time.

So how does McCain respond to Obama’s foray into international relations? 

He is spending his days vindictively  hocking lugies at Obama’s path,  sophmorically blaming Obama for supporting a timetable for troops to leave Iraq. Happens that much of america let alone the rest of the world, including Iraqi leader al Maliki (and his VP) also wants American troops to leave en par with Obama’s plan. Maliki wants american troops out by 2010.  so, whoo do you want as commander in chief? the one who is responsive to the american people, world and Iraqi leaders, or one who will again ignore all this.

 In Afganistan, Hamid Karzei agrees with Obama’s insights of about a year ago that his country– rather than Iraq– is the rational front in war against terror.  At home, McCain blathers on about staying in Iraq, and is also running an illogical new ad that suggests Senator Obama happens to be responsible for gas prices.

On the issues, the campaign is over.  Obama just went went onto McCain’s self annointed stage of expertise, pulled back the curtain and found little old man ozzie McCain, simulating a reality of iraq having borders with pakistan, and about Maliki not really saying what his own translator says he said,  and obama playing politics with war…  

In the meantime, the world is holding its breath that repulicans either heed Trippi’s advice or that come november american voters don’t blow it again.

Did Hillary Ride the Obama Wave?

The absence of news predicting a victor in next Tuesday’s Ohio and Texas primaries seems refreshing on this Saturday afternoon.
Might Clinton have quietly ridden the Obama tsunami to shore and renewed some traction? Or has Obama put this thing away? Here it is three days before, and I haven’t a clue.
If the races on Tusday are too close to call, which is what some reports are suggesting, a case could be made that Clinton has stopped the Obama surge. And if yes, what next?

Given the close race in Ohio that was predicted right after Wisconsin, my guess was that the midwestern populist message coming from Obama would have had him well ahead by now. Similarly in Texas as he quickly seemed to have caught Clinton, particularly with young latinos and anglo males, following Wisconsin, I thought the polls would by now be claiming a high single digit Obama lead.

If Clinton wins both Ohio and Texas, even by a hair, the race likely will last until Puerto Rico or beyond, and it will turn into the dogfight that Clinton people might covet at this late juncture as would McCain.

Obama, Clinton last night on immigration.

Not much separates Obama and Clinton on the issues, including immigration, though, once again, there is a significant difference in emphasis.

Obama’s emphasis is immigrant rights, which includes his defense of the Dream Act as a policy he would vigorously pursue as president. It is worth noting that just yesterday, the Maryland state senate in Annapolis held hearings on SB 591 that would afford in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant high school graduates. Ten other states have enacted similar policies, but the Dream Act would establish a federal mandate and include financial aid.

Obama’s emphasis on rights is important because democrats haven’t emphasized immigrant rights issues for more than 20 years (not really since Mondale). It is important to reclaim this way of framing the issue on moral and political grounds as well as tactically for the fall campaign. By framing immigration within a constitutional rights context, an attack line against McCain emerges: Bush threw away the constitution post 911, McCain would leave it in the trash, but Obama would retrieve it, dust it off and return it to its revered place…

Clinton, on the other hand, emphasized the virtual fence, which she described as a friendly/ compassionate alternative to the bricks and mortar fences being constructed along the US-Mexico border.  So on the one hand, Clinton seeks a less punitive immigration enforcement policy than Bush/McCain, but it is important to see that her emphasis remains on enforcement rather than services or rights.

In addition, the virtual fence opens a Pandora’s box into a surveillance society that would intrude on everyone’s rights, immigrants and citizens. The virtual fence is part of a larger immigration control complex that includes SBInet, US-Visit and Real ID. These acronyms describe a fully integrative project that will endeavor to monitor and control immigrants, and in the case of Real ID– all drivers– throughout the country. I would wish each candidate spoke to this component of the issue.

To her credit, Clinton spoke about the need for the federal government to compensate states and local governments for immigrant services they provide. An important point because were this to happen, there would be less support for local anti-immigrant ordinances.

Both Clinton and Obama favored comprehensive reform, but Obama suggested there are different kinds of comprehensive reform. This attempt to go beneath the “comprehensive reform” buzzword shows his attention to policy details.

Both candidates also spoke to the need to help Mexico with its own economy. Once again there are different approaches here. Although the candidates didn’t make the linkages to free trade, they are evident; Hopefully, Obama would follow through on fair-trade substitutes for NAFTA, which would provide greater incentive for Mexican workers to stay in Mexican jobs, rather than crossing the border without papers in search of jobs in the States.

In sum, a different narrative is at work in the two campaigns. Obama’s narrative more closely adheres to the story of American democracy adhering to constitutional rights. Obama here shows how language really does make a difference. By emphasizing the need to stop demonizing immigrants, he makes this compelling foundation for comprehensive immigration reform.

Clinton’s narrative is more a patchwork of micro policy, like a series of short stories, with allusions to personal anecdotes patched together in wonk-like fashion. It may come together but you don’t lose yourself in it.  Clearly, Clinton’s immigration policy would benefit from being more integrative and with a stronger master narrative.

Once people lose themselves in Obama’s words, he’s got their vote.

Potomac Primary Makes Clinton Toast?

Here in Baltimore, you’d think Obama had already won the nomination. On Monday, about 11,000 people cut school and cut out of work to see Obama at the First Mariner Arena. Obama was 2 1/2 hours late which meant that many folks who parked cars at a meter, found their cars had been towed. But they didn’t mind much, which is my point, given the Obama experience they had just witnessed.

On Tuesday, these and many more folks braved the rain and icy roads to give Obama 60% of the vote to Clinton’s 37%.

Perhaps the Clinton camp already sees the writing on the wall. They seemed to have conceded the Potomac primary in the days leading to the vote, even tho they needed a virginia win and needed Maryland to be close.

Consider as perhaps indicative that there was no big pre-primary ‘fire up the troops’ rally for Clinton in Baltimore or College Park, Fredrick or anywhere elsin MD. Sure, Chelsea was spotted at Baltimore’s Belvedere Square Market (which has amazing homemade soups and breads) and Hillary addressed workers at a White Marsh factory, but not much else, and Bill was disappointingly quiet.

Perhaps no firing up because Clinton is already toast.

I think the Potomac Primaries will go down in the political history books for the 08 campaign as marking the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

As of this morning, she faces a delegate and financial crunch. And given the blogosphere’s persuasive demands for transparency this primary season, the Clinton chore wrestling superdelegates (behind closed doors) away from a clear Obama mandate will be closely scrutinized and documented. And the Clintons probably do not want to be remembered for playing Bush to Obama’s Gore. Thus an all the more urgent situation for Hillary since she must now win about 57% of all the remaining delegates.

The potomic primaries might also be remarkable for signalling a progressive resurgence that actually and finally reaches the levers of power.

In addition to Obama, Donna Edwards victory in Maryland’s 4th CD is a victory, according to Kos, not only for “more democrats” but “better democrats.” Donna Edwards beat a democratic incumbent by telling voters in PG county that he was not progressive enough and was too far to the right of the dem party, and it worked. A similar message failed in 2006 when Edwards lost in her first run against Albert Wynn. The times are a changin.

Yep. 2008 seems different. Obama’s “yes we can” bromide is suddenly being felt in people’s bones (and up chris mathews leg). i never would have guessed.

Is Clinton toast?

According to the Potomac, the toaster is plugged in, fired up and ready to go!!