“I charge the white man.” This incendiary speech, opening the film Malcolm X and culminating with a burning American flag resolving into the letter, encapsulates the anger and fear surrounding Barack Obama’s association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
** MCCAIN ON IRAQ TODAY IN CHULA VISTA. Campaigning today at a town hall for veterans and military families in the San Diego area, John McCain had some comments about the situation: “As you know, I was in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, France and England on my last visit. And a couple of days ago, as you probably know, an audiotape — actually it was last week — an audiotape was released where bin Laden said, and I have to quote bin Laden, … ‘the nearest field to support our people in Palestine is the Iraqi field.’ He urged Palestinians and people of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to quote ‘help in support of their mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, which is the greatest opportunity and the biggest task.’ Now my friends, for the first time I have seen Osama bin Laden and General Petraeus in agreement, and that is, the central battleground in the battle against al Qaeda is in Iraq today. And that’s what bin Laden is saying and that’s what General Petraeus is saying and that’s what I’m saying, my friends, and my Democrat opponents who want to pull out of Iraq refuse to understand what’s being said and what’s happening, and that is, the central battleground is Iraq in this struggle against radical Islamic extremism.”
** PUERTO RICO MOVES UP. As expected, Puerto Rico switched its contest from a caucus to a primary and moved from June 7th to June 1st, moves backed by both the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns. This means that the nomination contests will end on June 3rd, with contests in Montana and South Dakota.
** FRED THOMPSON RETURNS TO HOLLYWOOD. Former Senator and Law & Order star Fred Thompson, whose ballyhooed Republican presidential campaign never really got going, is returning to Hollywood. The William Morris Agency has just signed the veteran character actor, who gave up a great gig on the perennial NBC police procedural.
Thompson looked to many like the great right hope. But after watching him declare last fall on The Tonight Show, and writing about 2000 words on the event, it occurred to me that he was not off to a flying start. His best showings were a tie with John McCain for a distant third in Iowa, and a distant third in South Carolina, after which he withdrew from the race.
** OBAMA ON TAP. Barack Obama is vacationing with his family in the Caribbean through Wednesday. Obama, who won the Democratic caucuses in the U.S. Virgin Islands with 84% of the vote, is on St. Thomas. When he returns, the Democratic presidential frontrunner will go to New York on Thursday, for what I do not yet know, then launch a bus tour of Pennsylvania on Friday which will run till next Wednesday. Hillary Clinton will, of course, win the Pennsylvania primary next month. It’s one of the oldest, most traditional Democratic electorates in the country, a place helpfully described by longtime Clinton spinner James Carville as “Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in between.” Hillary has a huge lead there. Which Obama merely needs to cut some in order to guarantee his continuing popular vote lead at the end of the primary season in June.
** CALIFORNIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OPPOSES PROP 98 EMINENT DOMAIN INITIATIVE. Something actually happened last week in California politics, and I missed doing an item about it at the time. Call it the press of other events. The California Chamber of Commerce came out aginst the emininent domain initiative backed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association on the June statewide primary ballot that would preempt local rent control ordinances and other renters rights measures. They’re neutral on the competing eminent domain initiative backed by some local government groups and others, Prop 99. It turns out that over 80% of the funding for Prop 98 comes from landlord interests.
** WHERE THEY ARE TODAY.
Hillary Clinton is campaigning in her latest firewall state, Pennsylvania, with events in Philadelphia, Blue Bell, and Uniontown.
Bill Clinton is campaigning across Indiana, with events in South Bend, Rochester, Logansport, and West Lafayette.
Barack Obama is vacationing in the Virgin Islands, where he won 84% of the vote.
John McCain is campaigning with veterans and military families in Chula Vista, California, and having private fundraisers, as we say, in various locales in Southern California.
** SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST THIS MORNING. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger resumes his campaign for California budget reform this morning in Bakersfield with a meeting with local elected officials, law enforcement officers, and business and community leaders. The event will be webcast live at 10 AM Pacific.
THE MORNING COLUMN
The week ahead in presidential politics, as may be the case with much of the next seven-odd months, is dominated by the racial politics swirling around Barack Obama. And by the questions yet unanswered by his speech last Tuesday in Philadelphia. These questions are at least as much about patriotism as they are about race.
John McCain, returned from his tour of the Middle East and Europe, is in California for three days this week to raise badly needed funds and to try to stake a claim to the Golden State in the general election. On Wednesday morning at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, he delivers a major address on national security and geopolitical matters, addressing what he learned in Iraq and the other nations he toured last week.
Notwithstanding the firestorm of controversy over the past comments of his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and some consequent teetering in the polls, Obama had a good week last week. For one thing, it became apparent that he had far more cash on hand at the end of February than rival Hillary Clinton, not to mention John McCain, whose best month of fundraising doesn’t match Obama’s best week. And that his fundraising machine, centered on the Internet, was humming along.
For another, Hillary’s fading hopes for the nomination took a major hit when it became apparent that there would be no do-over primaries in Florida or Michigan, two states which she had previously claimed notwithstanding the fact that she’d earlier agreed with the Democratic Party’s decision not to recognize their rogue primaries in which no one campaigned. The hurdles to hastily organized primaries at the tail end of the season in June were too high, and Clinton forces sought to block independents who participated in the real Republican primary — largely on behalf of McCain — from voting in a real Democratic primary.
By week’s end, it was apparent that Clinton almost certainly could not catch Obama in delegates won in the primaries and caucuses or in the popular vote. The media counts, incidentally, which have Obama over 700,000 votes ahead of Clinton, do not include, oddly, votes cast in the caucuses. Most of those have had record turnouts, making them easily the equivalent of smaller primary elections. Include those in the popular vote, as they should be, and Obama’s lead is well over a million votes.
And Obama got a good start on addressing his Jeremiah Wright last week. But only a start.
As I wrote in real time as the Jeremiah Wright firestorm broke 10 days ago, it was a clearly survivable situation.
And as I wrote in real time when Obama gave his speech on race in America and the Jeremiah Wright controversy six days ago, he solved much of his problem with regard to the Democratic nomination fight. Polls show that his speech worked, especially with Democratic voters, and largely with independent voters.
An even more recent poll for CBS News showed, as does the Rasmussen poll, that most Americans think highly of Obama’s speech.
Nevertheless, Barack Obama’s path to the White House has certainly gotten longer and more perilous.
I think that Obama is not going to become president unless he can explain Malcolm X (Wright’s most outrageous statements are a stand-in for what he represented), the anger that produced him, and the preposterous statements that not infrequently emanate from the black church.
He can’t simply float as the easy post-racial figure, a man Americans can vote for as a salve for the issue of race in America.
Which may have been inevitable. And was certainly inevitable when he decided not to be a Hawaiian, or a nice Ivy League lawyer, but a black Chicago politician who ended up running for president.
For Obama made a choice. He was born and in large measure raised in Hawaii, America’s polyglot paradise in the Pacific, a place where questions of racial background can become so complex as to be irrelevant. But after a glittering Ivy League debut, he decided to enter into politics, not as a multi-racial, post-racial figure in Hawaii or California — where he spent two years attending Occidental College — but in a 76% black state senate district in Chicago.
Why he decided to embrace his blackness as a very young man may be a matter more for the psychologically inclined than the politically inclined. In any event, it is what he did.
As a man who was neither a movie star nor super-rich, Obama needed a base for his rise. As he is a politician and not a deity, he is by nature an opportunist. (All politicians are opportunists. The question is the degree of egregiousness.) A big part of his opportunity was being a member of what is arguably the leading black church in Chicago.
For a man with a missing father, Trinity United Church of Christ and the Rev. Wright played a key role in Obama’s life. Mothered by a white woman and raised in large measure by white grandparents, Obama sought what he did not have in his life as a biracial boy. A black family. The black church in Chicago became a stand-in for that. And Wright, a complex man who, by most accounts, has done some serious good in Chicago to balance his now well-publicized ranting, became in Obama’s own recent words, an “uncle.”
The church also answered the formerly frequently posed question about Obama. Is he “black enough?”
But as a result of this embrace — and Obama notably refused to disown Wright even as he renounced his now infamous comments — Obama still has serious questions to answer.
He has to explain to America — and in particular, to key voting groups such as the Scots-Irish who make up much of the working class and patriotically-oriented in the country — the anger that produced such irrational notions as the US government inventing AIDS to destroy the black people. And the idea that the US may have deserved 9/11. And why men such as Wright, whose generation grew up with a frequently rugged racism directed toward them and developed within them, have a chip on their shoulder today.
It’s certainly not what Obama wanted to do when he launched his candidacy on a wave of high-flown, impressively-delivered rhetoric, floating over the historic divisions of America on a cloud of post-racialism.
But it is what he must do now. He didn’t intend to run as “the black candidate” but as a candidate who happened to be black. But being black, or at least, “black enough,” as it turns out, was at least in part a choice for Obama. And as a result of that choice, he rose in Chicago enough to become a United States senator. And as a result of being a senator, he has enough stature to wage this campaign.
This conversation about race will continue throughout the campaign.
As will a conversation about patriotism. “God damn America” is not a concept that goes down well with most voters.
This may be even more of an imperative for Obama than the racial issue, though the two are joined.
What is his idea of America? How is he an American patriot in a time of war?
What can he do to convince the Scots-Irish American voter that he is enough of a patriot to take on the uber-patriot, John McCain, a man who does not have to wave the flag because his very presence waves the flag?
In many respects, Obama represents an emerging America. Multi-racial, with an internationalist perspective. But he will not represent any America, at least as president, until he demonstrates that he represents the enduring America. …
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel.
You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil is trading in the $100 to $102 per barrel range. The oil price has dropped dramatically in the past several days on expectations of a global economic slowdown and possible recession.
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