Archive for the ‘African-American Politics’ Category

Barack Obama’s Race Speech

March 18, 2008

So far, I’m amazed about the level of honesty in Barack Obama’s speech on race. He, dangerously, I believe, gave his true feelings about Jeremiah Wright, attempting to explain why he stuck with him despite his incendiary comments and positions. It is a raw speech, delivered with anger and some trepidation. He was helped by his work as a writer, citing passages from his first book, Dreams from My Father. He completely rolled the dice with this speech — not given, I’d point out, with his usual pseudo-Martin Luther King cadence.

Obama also alluded to the phrase “audacity of hope,” which he took from one of Wright’s sermons.

Here’s a link to a transcript of the speech, thanks to Drudge.

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Obama’s Name “No Panacea”

March 4, 2008

I attended a Brandeis University alumni eventĀ at the Old State House yesterday on the topic of “The Obama Phenomenon.” It’s interesting to see that Brandeis is turning to a form of “the power breakfast” to raise its profile in the Boston scene. Former Boston Globe reporter Charles Radin is leading the effort.

Professor Ibrahim Sundiata made insightful comments, which I used for my New York Sun column, about what an Obama election would mean in Africa and the Middle East, a subject I have dealt with previously: “I think that people paint a too rosy picture of Obama being the world, that in the Muslim world, being the son of an ex-Muslim is apostasy and it is a very serious crime.”

“In a place like Kenya, where he is from, there is currently a battle going on over this election. If Obama were to go to Kenya today and say ‘I as a black person of Kenyan descent say stop fighting’ it probably wouldn’t happen. People would say ‘you are also a Luo and not a Kikuyu.’ He would have no more success in certain African conflicts as Condi Rice,” he said.

In a later interview, Mr. Sundiata reiterated his point. “His name is not a panacea. His face is not a panacea,” he told me.

Mingus Ulysses Mapps, a Brandeis political scientis, also presented important demographic data. Mapps demonstrated that the key swing group in today’s primaries will be white men, an ironic finding given the focus Democratic pollsters often put on other key demographics.

Major Obama Warning Sign: Too Lawyerly on Farrakhan

February 27, 2008

The strength of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is his use of sweeping rhetoric that attempts to bring everyone together. Typically, this is best done in general terms, but with little reference to specifics.

When Obama was drawn into a specific discussion of the Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, he gave an answer that left me cold.

Here it is in part:

“I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel’s. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.”

So, the first part of an answer calling for him to distance himself from Farrakhan amounts, basically, to a “some of my best friends are Jewish” response. And then he devolves into articulating his campaign’s talking point on Israel. Awkwardly, I might add. I mean, what does Obama mean by continuing to repeat “they?” Israel, Israeli Jews, American Jews? I have no idea. Then, since he’s on the topic of Israel, one might think he might make reference to Israel’s security or the threat Israel faces either from terrorism or enemy nations, such as Iran.

But it was bizarre because the primary concern American Jews have about Farrakhan is domestically-based: his record criticizing the Jewish religion and American Jews. Farrakhan’s prominence in the African-American community is relevant to American Jews who live here in this country. Israel is a secondary issue.

Furthermore, despite the praise that Obama is winning on MSNBC and elsewhere for “cleaning up” a potentially unfortunate answer, I found his rejoinder to Clinton’s call that he “reject” Farrakhan’s support disturbing: “I have to say I don’t see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There’s no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word ‘reject’ Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word ‘denounce,’ then I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”

What is this, the Harvard Law Review? To me, the Farrakhan question called for a straight-forward rejection without this lawyerly “concede the point” business.

Despite numerous e-mails from concerned relatives and some hysterical e-mail traffic, I’ve refrained from opining on the questions of Obama and the Jewish community and Obama and Israel. Most of it is way, way out of line. But there’s no question that Obama seems completely out of his comfort zone here, which, coupled with some of his foreign policy advisers, makes me worry about where a President Obama would come down when he is tested in the Middle East. His comments singling out a political party in Israel — again without reference of Israel’s security position– for criticism were also bizarre.

Barack Obama and the African-American Vote

January 10, 2008

MLK and LBJ

Hillary Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire came on the backs of a fabulous field organization (a Manchester component made up of Mayor Menino’s political foot-soldiers) who had something to work with. The wave of sympathy for Clinton as an embattled woman.

Going into South Carolina where African-Americans comprise 50% of the Democratic vote, it’s possible that Clinton’s comments about the relative contributions of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson to the civil rights movement could do the same thing among Black voters. Until now, many in the African-American community, particularly older folks, have had questions about Obama, the son of a white Kansan and a Kenyan father.

A reverend and New York Assemblyman, who has endorsed Obama, Karim Camara, told me yesterday he was deluged with calls from constituents and other elected officials stunned by her comments. Camara will go down to South Carolina later this month for Obama and expects to be talking about Clinton with the religious leaders he meets with. “I believe churches are very sensitive to the language we use,” Mr. Camara said. “This can have a tremendous impact in increasing their level of churches in going out and supporting Senator Obama.”

Read more here.