2007-02-10

OBAMA VS. GIULIANI: AMERICA'S REAL STRUGGLE (Post #10)

I am watching Senator Barack Obama's announcement of his Presidential candidacy on C-Span. He is so smart, so sensible, so easy to listen to ... and so impressive! My kids are bored -- they've had a bit too much politics in their lives lately -- but I want them to see history unfolding.

Yes, today is definitely historic for America and I am happy to witness it.

But, as a Black American, I wanted goosebumps ... and I didn't get them. (I didn't get them in 2004 when Obama spoke at the Democratic Convention, either.) Maybe it was the use of U2 as the introductory music. I have nothing against U2; I like their music and I have incredible admiration for Bono (whom I have had the honor of meeting in person). But a U2 song, while intense, does not often "lift you up" with a transcendant and memorable melody. In 1992, Bill Clinton used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" and we couldn't stop singing it. No one should think that today's generations don't appreciate a strong melody with an inspirational message. (Ever hear of gospel?)

Oh! Now I hear "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" -- maybe that should have been the lead song! Is it too Black? (Too tired? Maybe. Next we'll hear "We Are Family" ...) Yes, Obama does not wish to be seen as the Black candidate for President, but as the Presidential candidate who happens to be Black. We all know why that is; race is the ultimate third rail of politics today -- and don't let anyone tell you different. In the end, however, what is good for Black America is good for all of America (I have no problem echoing Tavis Smiley on this point.) And no matter how a campaign spins it, Obama is the first Black candidate in the 2008 Presidential sweepstakes.

Uh, oh! Now "Shout" is playing in the background. Fun song, but permanently associated with rowdy white frat boys from "Animal House." Bad choice, particularly in the aftermath of the Duke debacle. Someone needs to remind political consultants to use common sense sometimes.

Back to the goosebumps ... There has been alot of media questioning Obama's support in the African American communities. Some Black observers say Obama is popular with whites because he is "safe." They can now point as well to the fact that launching a campaign with Lincolnesque overtones from Springfield sends a mixed message to African American voters. Some Black observers have specifically stated that the Senator's life does not "share" the American Black experience and that Obama is not a "genuine" American of African descent. I guess they didn't feel goosebumps, either.

But they are fools! How can they pretend that this man -- a former urban community organizer turned civil rights lawyer and Constitutional law professor who is now the only Black sitting in the Senate of the United States of America -- wakes up in the morning, looks himself in the mirror, kisses his Black wife and daughters and does not understand what it means to be Black in America today or yesterday? Obama's been in this country almost all his life. Do people chronologically younger than the time he has been in America also not know what it means to be Black in America? Of course not. I know plenty of African Americans -- products of two African American parents from the South -- who are far more sheltered from the full scope of Black America's realities than Barack Obama. Some of them even hold elected office.

In all honesty, I don't question Colin Powell's understanding of what it is to be Black, nor do I question the mindset of Condoleeza Rice. I question -- nay, attack -- their policy choices and their political friends, but they are indeed Black. Life is a normal curve. The Rice portion of the curve is balanced by the Malcolm X portion of the curve. But we're all sharing that unique experience. (Yes, I am biased on this question. For those who do not know, I am the son of a Black father and a white mother -- and I am a Black American with mixed racial heritage. America does not see me any other way.) And no matter what background Barack Obama claims as his own, for most white Americans voting for Obama as a Presidential candidate will not be a "safe" act. It is far safer for Black Americans to "default" to Obama, than it will be for whites to overcome their own fears -- submerged or articulated.

Whether you like Obama's politics or not -- and I have taken no position on the Presidential contest -- you cannot say that Obama is not Black enough and you cannot say that he is any less qualified to be President of these United States than any other candidate past or present for that office. Check out his record, scrutinize his positions, challenge his vision to ensure that he is the candidate who will treat Black people -- and all people -- in this nation with respect and decency. If he falls short, then find a better alternative. But don't commit moral and political suicide by questioning his identity as a Black American. And, simply put, Barack Obama cannot give ammunition to his Black critics. It is easy to get lost in the headiness of a campaign; he's been there before. But this Presidential campaign cannot afford to lose its way and forget its base of political bases.

Recordings of Martin Luther King's speeches make me cry. Good preachers of all hues can give me goosebumps. Even some preachers-turned-politicians have given me goosebumps. Maybe I'm getting cynical in my old age and applying a more stringent goosebump standard to Obama and I'm finding that he doesn't do it for me. But there are certainly a lot of white people who get the goosebumps when listening to him. Let's see if goosebumps turn into real votes.

But I know this: I don't need goosebumps to support a candidate. (In addition to supporting Rev. Jesse Jackson for President -- twice -- I supported Mike Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, Al Gore and John Kerry. 'Nuff said!) And, looking forward, I don't need goosebumps to acknowlege the need for a calm and wordly leader in the White House as we confront the crises around this planet and at home.

I don't need goosebumps to see that the "groupthink" of our political system -- on all sides -- is the enemy of democracy and certainly of progressive values. You have probably studied groupthink like I have. The power and pressure of a situation, combined with individual insecurities or cowardice, can generate flawed decisions by leaders due to limited honest or creative input -- input that goes against the consensus or the opinion of the leader.

If there is one thing I am sure of, it's that Obama will not allow groupthink to dominate his Presidential administration. Obama's books and speeches reflect a thoughtful and caring person. He has a thorough grasp of Constitutional issues, of national and international historic matters, and he is known as a compulsive "listener." These are qualities needed at the top of the next Presidential administration.

This is not to say that Clinton or Edwards or others will be more susceptible to the illness of groupthink. Edwards' bloggers will ensure a free flow of ideas -- or chaos. However, the Clinton campaign style does raise questions. According to observers, the Clinton operation is tight, closed and insistent upon "loyalty." Under pressure, the Clinton campaign will undoubtedly be extemely skilled. But fighting groupthink is not defined by following polls and raising gobs of money to make television ads that influence polls. Fighting groupthink requires thinking and acting independent of polls -- and being more dependent upon common sense and human decency.

And that is why, when an unacceptable case was made for giving President Bush authority to invade Iraq, the groupthink of the U.S. Senate -- a powerful and potentially dangerous thing -- needed to be countered. And it was not. Fighting groupthink requires leadership. And at that moment in time, both Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards failed the leadership test. So these particular candidates may have learned from the past in preparing for the future, but they start with a "groupthink deficit." And when Obama says that Washington needs to be changed, he's attacking the Beltway "groupthink" culture and the lack of leadership that goes with it.

But, in the impending Presidential contest, the ultimate expression of groupthink's dangers is posed by the personality of Rudolph Giuliani and others like him.

In addition to my personal observations of Giuliani's arrogance and outrageous disregard for civil and human rights (as a New York resident), I was struck by an incident shared in the February 4th New York Times review of "Giuliani," (John Wiley & Sons), a book on the former Mayor. The authors, Deborah and Gerald Strober, talked with Lillian Barrios-Paoli, who was a Commissioner under Giuliani as well as former Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat.

The reviewer, Sam Roberts, presents this excerpt. According to Ms. Barrios-Paoli, if Ed Koch said to his advisors that he wanted to kill all 12-year-olds, "I can think of 10 people who would say 'Please! Get a life! What, are you crazy? No way!' And there'd be a big argument and at the end of the day, somebody's judgement would prevail. If Rudy [Giuliani] would say 'Let's kill 12-year-olds,' there'd be a deep silence in the room, and then somebody would say, 'That's brilliant!' And then somebody else would say 'Have you thought of 13-year-olds, too?'"

How revealing that Ms. Barrios-Paoli chooses such a horrific example, however fictional? What a statement about the people Giuliani chooses to keep around him as an administrator! (Did somone say Bernard Kerik?) The only more graphic examples of groupthink might be the German high command during World War II, Lyndon Johnson's cabinet discussions during the Vietnam War, or Bush's minions during the Iraq debacle.

Fighting groupthink on our collective journey forward does not require goosebumps. So I am not looking for goosebumps, but knowledge of and faith in the American Constitution. I am not looking for goosebumps, but good judgement. I am not looking for goosebumps, but credibility across the lines of class and race in pursuing a more progressive agenda for our nation. I am not looking for goosebumps, but confidence rooted in enduring humanity and a hatred of injustice -- not a flash of brilliance in the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy.

When it comes to the Presidency, I am no longer looking for Jesse Jackson -- though I thank him for wanting to be President and for continuing his quest for economic rights and opportunities. I am not looking for Al Sharpton -- though I thank him for campaigning for President and for remaining a warrior both for justice and against complacency. And I am not looking for Al Gore -- though we all owe him an incredible debt of gratitude for breaking new ground in American politics and skyrocketing our collective consciousness on global warming, the single most important issue facing every individual and every government on Earth at this time.

I am looking for the person who can incorporate all the wisdom, blend it with a sense of urgency, and focus our action. I am looking for the strategist who does not interpret "a good defense is a good offense" as a military challenge but as a challenge to do good at home and abroad. I am looking for the one who is genuine and fresh yet who has all the tools and credentials and time to become a great world leader.

If that's Barack Obama, so be it. If it's someone else, let them make their stand now.

We don't have much time.

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If you have not already read it, here is Senator Barack Obama's announcement speech in Springfield, Illinois:

Let me begin by saying thanks to all you who've traveled, from far and wide, to brave the cold today.

We all made this journey for a reason. It's humbling, but in my heart I know you didn't come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union.

That's the journey we're on today. But let me tell you how I came to be here. As most of you know, I am not a native of this great state. I moved to Illinois over two decades ago. I was a young man then, just a year out of college; I knew no one in Chicago, was without money or family connections. But a group of churches had offered me a job as a community organizer for $13,000 a year. And I accepted the job, sight unseen, motivated then by a single, simple, powerful idea — that I might play a small part in building a better America.

My work took me to some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. I joined with pastors and lay-people to deal with communities that had been ravaged by plant closings. I saw that the problems people faced weren't simply local in nature — that the decision to close a steel mill was made by distant executives; that the lack of textbooks and computers in schools could be traced to the skewed priorities of politicians a thousand miles away; and that when a child turns to violence, there's a hole in his heart no government could ever fill.

It was in these neighborhoods that I received the best education I ever had, and where I learned the true meaning of my Christian faith.

After three years of this work, I went to law school, because I wanted to understand how the law should work for those in need. I became a civil rights lawyer, and taught
constitutional law, and after a time, I came to understand that our cherished rights of liberty and equality depend on the active participation of an awakened electorate. It was with these ideas in mind that I arrived in this capital city as a state Senator.

It was here, in Springfield, where I saw all that is America converge — farmers and teachers, businessmen and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard. I made lasting friendships here — friends that I see in the audience today.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable — that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

That's why we were able to reform a death penalty system that was broken. That's why we were able to give health insurance to children in need. That's why we made the tax system more fair and just for working families, and that's why we passed ethics reforms that the cynics said could never, ever be passed.

It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people — where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America.

And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the
United States.

I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness — a certain audacity — to this announcement. I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we've changed this country before. In the face of tyranny, a band of patriots brought an Empire to its knees. In the face of secession, we unified a nation and set the captives free. In the face of Depression, we put people back to work and lifted millions out of poverty. We welcomed immigrants to our shores, we opened railroads to the west, we landed a man on the moon, and we heard a King's call to let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more — and it is time for our generation to answer that call. For that is our unyielding faith — that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

That's what Abraham Lincoln understood. He had his doubts. He had his defeats. He had his setbacks. But through his will and his words, he moved a nation and helped free a people. It is because of the millions who rallied to his cause that we are no longer divided, North and South, slave and free. It is because men and women of every race, from every walk of life, continued to march for freedom long after Lincoln was laid to rest, that today we have the chance to face the challenges of this millennium together, as one people — as Americans.

All of us know what those challenges are today — a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years.

What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

For the last six years we've been told that our mounting debts don't matter, we've been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we've been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we've been told that our crises are somebody else's fault. We're distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what's filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we're here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It's time to turn the page.
We've made some progress already. I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate.

But Washington has a long way to go. And it won't be easy. That's why we'll have to set priorities. We'll have to make hard choices. And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes we need, more money and programs alone will not get us where we need to go. Each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility — for instilling an ethic of achievement in our children, for adapting to a more competitive economy, for strengthening our communities, and sharing some measure of sacrifice. So let us begin. Let us begin this hard work together. Let us transform this nation.

Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in
scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.

And as our economy changes, let's be the generation that ensures our nation's workers are sharing in our prosperity. Let's protect the hard-earned benefits their companies have promised. Let's make it possible for hardworking Americans to save for retirement. And let's allow our unions and their organizers to lift up this country's middle-class again.

Let's be the generation that ends poverty in America. Every single person willing to work should be able to get job training that leads to a job, and earn a living wage that can pay the bills, and afford child care so their kids have a safe place to go when they work. Let's do this.

Let's be the generation that finally tackles our health care crisis. We can control costs by focusing on prevention, by providing better treatment to the chronically ill, and using technology to cut the bureaucracy. Let's be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president's first term.

Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world. Let's be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here.

Most of all, let's be the generation that never forgets what happened on that September day and confront the terrorists with everything we've got. Politics doesn't have to divide us on this anymore — we can work together to keep our country safe. I've worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law that will secure and destroy some of the world's deadliest, unguarded weapons. We can work together to track terrorists down with a stronger military, we can tighten the net around their finances, and we can improve our intelligence capabilities. But let us also understand that ultimate victory against our enemies will come only by rebuilding our alliances and exporting those ideals that bring hope and opportunity to millions around the globe.

But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake. Today we grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, the hearts that have been broken, and the young lives that could have been. America, it's time to start bringing our troops home. It's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war. That's why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008. Letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Sunni and Shia to come to the table and find peace.

Finally, there is one other thing that is not too late to get right about this war - and that is the homecoming of the men and women — our veterans — who have sacrificed the most. Let us honor their valor by providing the care they need and rebuilding the military they love. Let us be the generation that begins this work.

I know there are those who don't believe we can do all these things. I understand the skepticism. After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises, and I expect this year will be no different. All of us running for president will travel around the country offering ten-point plans and making grand speeches; all of us will trumpet those qualities we believe make us uniquely qualified to lead the country. But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.

That is why this campaign can't only be about me. It must be about us — it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice — to push us forward when we're doing right, and to let us know when we're not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.

By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail.

But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible. He tells us that there is power in words. He tells us that there is power in conviction. That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people. He tells us that there is power in hope. As Lincoln organized the forces arrayed against slavery, he was heard to say: "Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought to battle through."

That is our purpose here today. That's why I'm in this race. Not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.

I want to win that next battle — for justice and opportunity. I want to win that next battle — for better schools, and better jobs, and health care for all. I want us to take up the unfinished business of perfecting our union, and building a better America.

And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I'm ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you.

Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth."

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I feel the same way. I also was looking for "goosebumps". I did however, coming away impressed and inspired. I think it is truly sad that so many so-called Black leaders are looking to do Obama in. I tried to watch the State of the Black Union today, but my husband and I were disgusted. I have never seen so much black-on-black hatred! The problem with Black folks is a failure to see the big picture. People were acting like they didn't know Obama was running for President of the UNITED States. In order to achieve this goal, he must represent ALL people. We don't know what the man has up his sleeve. But in order for him to influence policies that will improve quality of life and opportunity for Blacks in this country, he has to GET there. He is a brillian man who is smart enough not to lay all of his cards on the table - yet. We are not going to have a Black president if he is a divisive figure like Al Sharpton, or making white folk feel guilty for being White. I just can't believe the ignorance of the majority of the people on the panel and in the audience! Did they expect Hillary Clonton to show up for the SOBU too? How about John Edwards? You can't have it both ways: either you afford Obama the same respect you do the Clintons (which they don't deserve). or you hold ALL of the presidential candidates to the same ridiculous standards that non-progressive, mainly southern Blacks are holding Obama. The man started his career helping the Black community and was a civil rights attorney - but we would rather crucify him and pledge allegiance to the Clintons?!

Brian said...

I have to agree with you, Chris, especially on the music.

I just don't see Obama as the electrifying candidate needed to cross over. McCain or Guiliani might even win traditionally Democratic states, so we need someone strong and exciting to take that advantage away from them.

Certainly Hillary Clinton isn't capable of that; she'll possibly LOSE some so-called "blue states." Wheras an Edwards or even a Richardson candidacy (or, better yet, an Edwards-Richardson TICKET!) could do the trick.

Eric Dondero said...

This is so exciting. We are about to witness the biggest contrast in ideology for President of the United States in our history.

One one side we have Hussein Obama. A guy who an IL Senate colleague of his said had a voting record "to the left of Mao Tse Tung." A guy who has a perfect 100 voting record from the Marxist ADA. A guy who attended a Madrassa in Indonesia as a child for 4 years and has an Islamic surname.

Contrast this with Rudy Giuliani, a libertarian Republican, fiscally conservative yet socially tolerant. Plus, Pro-Defense and Anti-Islamo-Fascist. A guy who told a Saudi Prince to shove his $10 million up his ass. A guy who the NY Times called a "budget slashing, privatizing Ayn Randian."

Folks you can't get a more extreme contrast than that. Leftwing Fascist versus a Freedom-loving Patriotic Libertarian Republican.

Libertarians for Giuliani at www.mainstreamlibertarian.com

ghopkins said...

Obama is certainly a breath of fresh air in American presidential politics. The scope and depth of his grass roots experience, intellect and vision, far supass that of the other other presidential hopefuls.

May those who grab at rhetorical straws in their quest to discredit this great candidate, be enlightened by the unfolding truth about the stunning credibility of this community organizer, scholar/author, civil rights attorney, and visionary leader.

The task ahead for Obama is no less daunting than it was for Lincoln. But we can be confident that just as Lincoln audaciously and successfully dealth with the problems of the union of his time, so will Obama in our time. In fact, Obama has already proven to America that he has what it takes to do the job.

With his confidently cool approach to studying and solving problems, Obama the consensus builder who knows when to break away from the pack and lead with integrity, is already addressing the important issues of our day - the war in Iraq; global warming; and failing policies in health, education and economic development.

Let's be vocal and tangible in our support for our (America's) Moses.

Anonymous said...

His Chris,

Walter here. Maybe because I am a fan but I did get goosebumps from the U2 song and thought it was a great lead in song. Who says a black candidate has to play soul music when he begins his campaign. Of course, he did play more soul music than rock. But hey, that's just me.

Chris, I'd like your take on Cornell West's and other SOBA panelists attack on Obama. Seems like they wanted him there to kiss there rings or a maybe its that crabs in a bucket analogy that my grandmother used to mention.

Chris Owens said...

Hi, Walter!

I was watching most of the State of the Black Union panels and find certain aspects to be refreshing and necessary.

I was puzzled by Dr. West's clear criticism of Obama's absence. Did Tavis Smiley indicate that Obama had been invited and had chosen not to attend? I'm sure that, at a minimum, the Senator would have attempted to make a video hook-up once he knew his announcement would conflict with the session.

Frankly, I stumbled upon the broadcast as I was looking for the Obama announcement. I'm glad I did, but I did not get the impression that these sessions "define" one's commitment to improving the State of Black America.

I attended the session held at Concord Baptist Church, here in Brooklyn, and it was inspirational in some ways.

But, in other ways, Obama is now doing what the SOUBA demand of our leaders. He is getting out there and subjecting himself to the trials and tribulations of a certain type of journey while de facto changing that much for the better the image of Black Americans in the eyes of American whites and the international community forever.

The very fact that the Australia's Prime Minister Howard chose to attack Obama illustrates the power of his stance (however moderate) against the war when combined with a broader and deeper appeal. And it reflects the subconscious fear that some people have that there may indeed be African Americans who lead our nation -- and lead it better than others have. Howard did not attack Clinton or Edwards or Kucinich; he attacked Obama.

So, in my humble opinion, Dr. West and others (however much I admire them) can afford to be LESS pointed in their remarks.

On the other hand, the commentators do reflect a segment of the national Black community -- albeit the minority -- that has yet to connect to Obama. Dr. West endorsed Bill Bradley for President in 2000 -- not Ralph Nader, who is closer to his West's world view on many matters. So West himself can own his own transformative approaches to the world, but not necessarily be someone who avoids all moderation.

Andrea Jenkins said...

Hi Chris,

What a profound and timely commentary. I thought this past weekend was quite extraordinary as well. It was not lost on me that while Tavis and his crew were in Jamestown, Virginia on the Historically Black Campus of Hampton University, acknowledging the 400th anniversary of African Slaves arriving in this country; Barack was announcing his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States of America. It is a testament to how we have strived in this country to be recognized as human beings. Do you realize that if Barack were elected we (Black People) would once again elevated to our rightful role on the planet and that is to be “Running Sh$%!

I want to say thank to you Chris for your diligence and commitment to the struggle, remember the words of Dr. Cornel West, ‘ Before you can lead the people, you’ve got to love the people”, true indeed, true indeed. Thank you to your father for his years of dedicated service to the people of Brooklyn, it did not go unnoticed. I look forward to continuing to read your musings.

I should add that as a product of a poor neighborhood in Chicago, IL. I have experienced first hand the types of obstacles and barriers for Blacks growing in the inner city, and if Barack dealt with that, then trust me my brother, he is definitely Black enough.

Anonymous said...

I do so enjoy listening to you think, Chris, and your sense of humor.

I personally got distracted from hearing Obama's words on 60 Minutes because his features are just so beautiful that you wonder how he'll ever get a message across. (Sort of kidding) I loved the interview, and it only reconsolidated my opinion of him. I loved his 1st book (read right after it came out) which revealed a thoughtfulness and kind of complex intelligence and depth and decency and honesty that blew me away. It was such a good read! So I'd love to see that in the White House. And Hilary don't got that kind of stuff!

On the other hand, I am soooo certain of the determination of the skinheads and white supremacists to NEVER let that happen, that I can't help myself from not wanting him to win, b/c I don't think the loose cannons among them can be stopped. Isn't that awful?

Anonymous said...

i think there are more candidates then Hillary and Obama!!!

Richardson, Edwards, and who knows mayby someone else. Rudy is the worse possible in my eyes

Anonymous said...

I believe our views are from completely different places, and I do not think the solutions to the problems of the day can be found through discourse between those who have taken sides in the current political environment. When there is a legitimate movement towards reducing the size and reach of the federal government, then maybe I will become enthusiatic. But as long as politicians, especially at the federal level, continue to enjoy and maintain the power they have been able to accummulate over the years, my fear is that we will just have to wait until things hit bottom before real change can occur. I'm glad that as a Christian my hope resides elsewhere.

H.W. said...

Nothing would make me happier then to vote for Obama as a left-wing
candidate. However, I don't know of any positions that he's taken
that would lead me to see him that way. My impression is that he
supported Lieberman in the primary. I pray that this information is
wrong.

While I have nothing but contempt for Hilary Clinton, I do respect Edwards and feel that he is taking much clearer positions than Obama. Do you think that Obama would have voted against the war if he had been in the Senate or would he have acquiesced like the others?

At any rate I admire you for trying to push him to the left and for acknowledging that lack of goosebumps should not be a
consideration in voting. However, I wonder if the goosebumps are
absent because the content is also absent.

After all Obama is being
supported by Oprah Winfrey who is hard to think of as a person with a
class analysis.

Thanks again for working so hard. I am eager to know what you think.

Anonymous said...

I am going back and forth among earthlink, road runner, and Mac.com, trying to decide whether a Macd user can get good service from ANY of them. Tonight, I have been on hold with earthlink tech suport for 55 minutes and finally hung up. They had made an important message disappear from my inbox WHILE i was reading it!

It contained a friend's suggestions on improving a very touchy comment I was writing on Israeli-Arab relations, to reply to a college classmate who had married a Lebanese and had nothing but bad to say about israel, while Hezbollah was just great, to her.

I hate to be pushed into the position of pointing out why Israel might be a bit hostile to Hezbollah, but I do not expect such a lack of fairness from well-educated women, on any topic.

Anyway, I enjoyed your piece VERY much and understand your pride in a black candidate for President, be it Jesse or Obama. I was not proud of Joe Lieberman but I agree that was different. My children gave me Sen. Obama's book and I have been enjoying it very much.

However, to keep the channels clear between us (and I have never been called shy), I do not believe that Sharpton cares whether his cause is right or wrong, so long as he can pose as a black "leader."

It is not for a white person to say who is and who is not, but he would certainly come into the arena with cleaner hands if he were ever to admit that the Tawana Brawley case was a hoax and if he paid that assistant DA what a Court awarded for his slanders.

Sharpton could find enough legitimate causes of action if he did not immediately crank up his publicity machine EVERY time a black is shot by a cop, even a black cop.

I hope you get that, even if you hate what I am writing, I am writing it to you out of respect and because I do NOT think you think like he does. I also think Sharpton has been trying to clean up his act, but he thinks he can do it while sweeping some things under the rug and I do not agree.

I do hope you will be as candid as I have been.

M. R. said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the upcoming Democratic potential candidates and your responses to the Barack Obama candidacy.

You helped me to formulate my thoughts and concerns. I wish I could support Hillary Clinton as the first woman to run for president and at a time when it is indeed time for a woman to head this government. We are, after all, way behind many other countries, notably Israel, India which have had women in power.

But alas, the issue of the vote to go to war does say an enormous amount of the ability of the candidate to be willing to stand up and be counted.

I have had some concerns about Obama's lack of experience but John Kennedy did not have more and ultimately it is the person's integrity and honesty and courage which are as important as experience (which after all is on a continuum).

So I will support Obama and I thank you for helping me obtain clarity.

Chris Owens said...

Thank you, M.R., for responding to my blog. I'm glad it was helpful (though I have yet to take my own official position on this race due to journalistic considerations.)

You are very progressive and courageous in your thinking and I certainly admire that.

Allow me to dispute one factual assertion, however. John Kennedy actually had much more experience with federal governance by the time he assumed the Presidency than Senator Obama will have had. JFK served in the House of Representatives as well as the U.S. Senate and had already campaigned for national office unsuccessfully by 1960. It was because he was elected at such a young age that this was possible.

Two further thoughts on this point.

First, despite all of his "experience," JFK's most valuable training came in office with the Bay of Pigs invasion. It was the destructive and embarrassing "groupthink" surrounding that fiasco that helped prepare him for an even greater challenge, the Cuban missile crisis, where he resisted (with the help of his younger brother) taking steps that might have launched a nuclear war.

Character and judgement are the attributes that set great leaders apart -- and even they are not perfect. I highlight Obama's potential to resist "groupthink" to ensure that we all compare and contrast all of the candidates in the right way.

Secondly, one byproduct of American racism is the fact that the average age of African Americans entering federal elected office has been higher than that of whites. And, since it is harder for African Americans to win statewide offices due to the dominance of money and the "groupthink" of our "donocracy", few African Americans have ever been in a position to launch credible Presidential campaigns. We have been the ones to "send a message" or to "hold the Democratic Party accountable."

Obama is the first Black candidate who can perform those functions and also be taken seriously as a potential President of these United States. For those who say he "does not have enough experience," given all the other obstacles we face, I have to laugh and say, "then you will never have an African American President."

Again, thank you for speaking out!

M. S. said...

I read your posting. You and I should sit and have a drink and talk about this . "Flash of brilliance in the face of unspeakable tragedy," is wonderful prose to explain not just Bush but Guliani as well. I would wish more people could see that.

As for Obama, for 15 years other than Bill Clinton nobody is as good an orator as Barack.

Chris Owens said...

Dear M.S.,

Thank you. I was referring most specifically to Giuliani's post-9/11 performance, which was indeed admirable. But I do not believe that his previous seven years of disregard for civil rights should disappear in those clouds of debris. I don't trust the man to run this nation in accordance with the Constitution. Period. And now he's talking about "strict constructionist" judges ...

Anonymous said...

I feel like Paul Revere - telling everyone in DFA and elsewhere that Rudy Giuliani will definitely be the Republican nominee for President. He frightens me more than George W. Bush. When he was mayor of NYC, he was the closest thing America has seen to Benito Mussolini since Mayor Daley of Chicago.

The Republicans will be desperate for a candidate who has a chance of winning, and already seem to be ready to ditch John McCain - because of mainstream media polls which show Giuliani with a far better chance to win than McCain in head-to-head contests with presumed Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. The media is prepping America for Clinton vs. Giuliani.

I would certainly support Clinton over Giuliani - but keep in mind that I would support G.W. Bush over Giuliani - that is how much I despise Giuliani the Fascist. I can picture his campaign slogan "A dead squeegee person and a dead immigrant in every pot !"

Keep in touch - I very much appreciate your blog entries.

J.H. said...

Interesting, but I disagree, Obama will one day make a fine candidate true, the time is not now. He's isn't ready, so Bush was? you say, Obama needs more experience.

Unfortunately, still in 2007, a black person doesn't have the same margin of failure as an arrogant, ignorant, privileged white man. Also, Ms. Clinton would rip Obama to shreds in a debate. She should be president, but unfortunately America is not ready for her to be president (probably ever). She is brilliant and one of the top 100 lawyers in America.

I like Obama, don't get me wrong, I feel he talks a good talk but
I'm not completely convinced. I guess it's because of his haste regarding the whole thing. Our country is at a major crossroads at home and abroad we need a heavyweight leader to pull everybody, right and left, out of the dung. Unfortunately I haven't a clue who that person is (definitely not Edwards).

I fear that McCain will win because of his length of experience, military career (plus being a p.o.w.), and his connections. He is also very natural and assured as a speaker.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

B.K. said...

As for Barack, my concern is that over the years we have lost so many
good people at different levels of government because they jumped too
early in their careers. Of course, he wouldn't have to give up his
Senate seat to run this time so that thought may not apply.

Watching Joe Lieberman sitting with McCain lending his support to the "surge" of sending more troops to Iraq. Heaven help me.

R.S. said...

I happen to like a ticket of John Edwards and Barack Obama. But we have 1 1/2 more years to decide.

I just hope that the Dems who control congress do what they promised to show the red states that we do have Ideas and won't be corrupt like the Neocons were the past 10 years.

The dems finally have the opportunity to show what they are made of and I hope they do well.

Anonymous said...

Obama rules! Good for you, and let's all do what we can we get more people exposed to him: once they've heard and seen him, they're hooked!

Anonymous said...

I just happened to be listening to Barak Obama reading his book "The Audacity of Hope" as I opened and read your message. I too would prefer his candidacy to Hillary's.

K.C. said...

I agree with you, Barack is the one, he can bring our party hope and the leadership our country needs now!

He needs to define himself quickly on the issues of taxes, or he will be labeled a taxer.

Anonymous said...

This may sound a little strange, but I hoped and prayed that Senator Obama would not run for President at this time. My reasons (which are echoed by my wife) are selfish. The Senator is an exciting individual that has the ideals that would make him an excellent President. However, we still do not think this country is ready for a person of color to occupy the most powerful position in the world.

They could not protect Kennedy. They couldn't prevent Reagen from getting shot. They could not protect Bobby. The other reason is that I think the Senator could have a greater impact at this time by remaining in and focusing on his Senate seat. He's the only one we have right now and we need to build on that so that there won't only be one.

Of course, now I will provide whatever support I can for his effort - but I really did not want him to.

David H. said...

Hey, great post! I really enjoyed your analysis--too bad you're not a congressman!

The only thing that I found myself disagreeing with was your statement that of course he's qualified to be president. I think that still remains to be seen--he's young, hasn't held executive office, and is certainly newer to politics than a lot of the folks who are running.

Still, I love the fact that he believes in nuance and acknowledging your opponent's point of view, and I love the fact that he seems sincere in giving voice to those who are yearning for an end to those things that divide us as a country. I'm sick of being so polarized, and of people on both sides looking for why their opponents are wrong, rather than in what ways they are right (I say this as an Earth First! pagan socialist who still thinks the other side has good ideas sometimes). I worry that his pr people figured this out too quickly--I'm already bored with his "let me be the vehicle for your hopes" bit--but I guess there's not much to be done about them.

I'd been waiting to learn more about Bill Richardson--he's always seemed good on the environment and had a lot of intelligent things to say--but it's going to be hard to compete with star power in this election now that everyone has figured out that we all hate George (that was why Dean could come from behind in '04--he was the only one smart enough to speak to that). I hate Edwards (talk about unqualified--here's someone who just kind of assumes that he should be president), and I don't trust Clinton, so in the end I'm thinking, you know, maybe Obama can be the vehicle for my hopes.

Anyway, good to hear from you, and keep up the good work!

Chris Owens said...

Hey, David!

While I have a problem with defining "qualified to be President," I share many of your concerns.

Edwards is certainly interesting. I still find him a "pretty boy" living in a big fine house who may be earnest in his intentions, but who deserves a Cabinet position -- not the Presidency.

And I am waiting for Bill Richardson to "emerge" because he may surprise everyone. He has the resume some are looking for, even if his political style is more of the "operator."

Hmmmm ... what does a Richardson-Obama ticket sound like to you? Or the reverse?

David H. said...

If you ask me, Obama should pick Al Gore to be his running mate. Gore's star is rising again, and everyone agreed that he made a great vice president--he was just too boring to be president (or, at least, to get elected by a large enough margin of victory). He would bring the best experience around to the ticket, and I bet he'd do it. But maybe it's a little early to speculate on who Obama should pick as his running mate...

Roy C. said...

Beautifully articulated. I couldn't have said it better myself. I am circulating it. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.