John Edwards drops out of presidential race. As someone who lives not far from the Edwards near Chapel Hill, as someone who was initially attracted to his passionate anti-poverty message, impressed by his public performances and charmed by his wife Elizabeth on several occasions, I'm sorry to see him leave the race, as inevitable as it was -- Barack Obama's campaign essentially knocked him out of the water in Iowa, his "must-win" state. He should be given credit for dramatizing the growing income gap in America (the greatest gap between the rich and poor since 1929), building online communities for real-world action, marshalling thousands of volunteers to do Habitat for Humanity work in reconstructing the Gulf Coast, and making the case for a transformational rather than incremental leader as the next president.
I was most impressed by John and Elizabeth Edwards when they talked about religious and spiritual issues.
Elective politics is so much about luck and timing. Edwards peaked too soon -- if the primaries were in February 2007 rather than February 2008, he would have done much better.
Strategically, as his campaign wore on, he portrayed himself as the angry populist, appealing to the impatient Howard Dean contingent of the Democratic Party. Many people found his increasingly shrill voice disconcerting after a studiously middle-of-the-road Senate career and 2004 presidential campaign as a sunny, super-nice moderate.
He never "clinched the deal" with me. While I was initially intrigued with his "anti-poverty message" -- a throwback to the charm of Robert Kennedy's 1968 campaign -- I concluded that the word "POVERTY" is divisive, identifying poor people as "the other," different from the rest of us. Many people who technically classify as poor do not self-identify as poor. They think of themselves as "the struggling middle class" -- more empowering and inclusive words.
I was more impressed with Edwards when I lived outside of North Carolina than when I moved back here and talked to his former constituents -- people who agreed with him on the issues -- who nevertheless expressed deep disappointment in his Senate term and distrust of him personally.
It seems to me that very few people in North Carolina know John Edwards well -- he's a bit of a loner
politically. My guess is that his elective career is over, primarily because he broke the cardinal rule of
politics: let your constituents get to know you well, secure your base before you aspire to higher office. He apparently
just wasn't interested in the nitty-gritty of politics, was bored by the slow
grind of the U.S. Senate and constituent service (and according to my NC friends
who contacted his office, he wasn't very responsive to their calls and letters). He apparently felt
his "too conservative" constituents in North Carolina prevented him from taking
pro-union stands or expressing his more liberal inclinations.
He's a good campaigner -- if he had focused on
serving his North Carolina constituents and spent 2002-2004 running for
re-election instead of running for president, he probably could have saved the
seat for the Democrats and increased their margin in the U.S. Senate rather than hand the seat over to the very bland Republican
Even so, I think Edwards is a "good communicator"
and a passionate advocate for the less fortunate among us, and could make a decent cabinet member for the next Democratic president, either
as attorney general or as Secretary of HUD or HHS something like that.
Barack Obama "will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past," Senator Kennedy declared. "He is a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical. He is
a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in,
without demonizing those who hold a different view."
In a veiled slap at the Clintons' attempt to suggest there never was
any difference between their position on Iraq and Obama's, Kennedy said
"we know the true record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he
showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the
beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny that truth." Senator Kennedy continued:
is the great intelligence of someone who could have had a glittering
career in corporate law, but chose instead to serve his community and
then enter public life.
There is the tireless skill of a Senator
who was there in the early mornings to help us hammer out a needed
compromise on immigration reform— who always saw a way to protect both
national security and the dignity of people who do not have a vote. For
them, he was a voice for justice.
And there is the clear effectiveness of Barack Obama in fashioning
legislation to put high quality teachers in our classrooms—and in
pushing and prodding the Senate to pass the most far-reaching ethics
reform in its history.
Senator Kennedy went on to compare the inspirational qualities of Obama with that of President Kennedy. "Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters,
protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when
they opposed it.
They realized that when they asked what they could do for their country, they could change the world.
was the young who led the first Earth Day and issued a clarion call to
protect the environment; the young who enlisted in the cause of civil
rights and equality for women; the young who joined the Peace Corps and
showed the world the hopeful face of America.
At the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps, I asked one of those young Americans why they had volunteered.
And I will never forget the answer: "It was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country."
This is another such time.
sense the same kind of yearning today, the same kind of hunger to move
on and move America forward. I see it not just in young people, but in
all our people.
Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media critic: "One media narrative that seems to be taking root is of Obama as the candidate of lofty rhetoric and Clinton as the maven of pedestrian policy talk." But Obama's address at Furman University on economic policy was "saturated with proposals. Obama called for tax rebates; a one-time boost in Social Security checks; extending unemployment insurance; mortgage aid for those facing foreclosure; raising the minimum wage; protecting pensions; and college tuition credits. And that was before he got to his support for solar and wind power, and biodiesel fuel....How, then, has Obama been saddled with an image of being long on inspiration and short on details? The answer is that journalists are not accustomed to covering a candidate who moves crowds the way Obama does, who uses speech cadences and rhythm like Martin Luther King Jr. without making his talk explicitly about race. Clinton already owned the policy-wonk slot, so by default, Obama was cast as the poetic one." Washington Postcoverage of Obama's Furman speech on economic policy.
response of Democratic primary and caucus voters over the next few weeks will determine whether there's a fresh new wind sweeping through the
land that will put Barack Obama on the road to the Democratic nomination, or whether voters find the experience and caution of Hillary Clinton preferable.
Jackson won 11 contests in 1988: seven primaries (Alabama, the District of
Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia)
and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary....Some news accounts credit him with 13 wins.
Even so, Jackson lost the 1988 nomination to Michael Dukakis. Obama must be able to repeat Jackson's feat and sweep the Southern states, except for Arkansas, where Hillary will have an advantage. He must win his home state of Illinois handily, though Hillary grew up there. Hillary must win her home state of New York, of course.
With the help of the Kennedys, Obama should win Massachusetts. "In a particularly dramatic coup for Obama," Senator Edward Kennedy endorsed him, the Boston Globe reports.
Teddy follows Caroline Kennedy, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, "A President Like My Father," endorsing Obama. Caroline followed legendary Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorenson, who endorsed Obama last fall, after his 26-year-old assistant Adam Frankel, who worked with him on his memoirs, became Obama's speechwriter. Ted Kennedy provided crucial support to John Kerry in Iowa, and in garnering the labor vote in 2004, where he squeaked out victories over John Edwards in early primaries.
The Kennedys might also help Obama in New Jersey and Connecticut, where they still have many followers and admirers, and Louisiana, where Teddy's wife Victoria Reggie comes from an influential political family. Teddy's endorsement, considering his long experience in Washington, should help to deflect the charge that Obama is not experienced enough.
Wire services reported that author Toni Morrison, who years ago
famously labeled Bill Clinton the "first black president," was
endorsing Obama. Morrison said she has admired Hillary Clinton for
years because of her knowledge and mastery of politics, but she cited
Obama's "creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals
Jonathan Singer, on MyDD.com (my direct democracy), points out that "Obama has been getting significant support from red state Democrats in
recent weeks -- Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, Arizona Governor
Janet Napolitano, and South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, to name a few."
California is the big enchilada. The mayor of LA is strongly for Hillary, and she's supposedly strongly favored there -- a delegate-rich state. If she loses California, she's toast.
Shortly after Super Tuesday, Obama will need to win Nebraska and Washington State. If after Super Tuesday, John Edwards drops out and endorses him, that would help a great deal.
On Feb. 12, Obama will need wins in DC, Maryland and Virginia. Then there's Hawaii, which as a native he should win handily, and Wisconsin, Senator Russ Feingold's state, home of the progressive movement, with strong anti-war sentiment.
The nomination fight might not be decided until Tuesday, March 4th, when Ohio and Texas vote. A double win by either Clinton or Obama on that date will probably put the nomination within their grasp.
Barack Obama's victory speech in South Carolina was quite moving. I particularly liked this reference at the end of his speech:
When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who’s now devoted to educating inner-city children and who went out onto the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don’t tell me we can’t change.
And these quotes reported in The Washington Post:
"Race doesn't matter!" the crowd at Obama's victory celebration in Columbia
chanted, and when he spoke, the senator elaborated on the
theme. He said his victory disproved those who argue that people
"think, act and even vote within the categories that supposedly define
us" -- that blacks will not vote for a white candidate and vice versa.
"I did not travel around this state and see a white South Carolina
or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina," he said. The
election, he said, "is not about rich versus poor or young versus old,
and it's not about black versus white. This election is about the past
versus the future."
Emotionally, I want to say with him, "Yes!" And yet intellectually, I think he needs to put more meat on the bones of his policy proposals if he wishes to attract more skeptical Democratic voters who are suspicious of a campaign based on positive emotion and good feeling. The issues section of his web site does some of that, but not enough.
Martin Luther King, speech against the Vietnam War, 1967. Additional links on Youtube.com
One of the most visionary voices in the nation in the tradition of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes from the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. He has spoken eloquently about King's legacy and what we need to do to follow in King's footsteps. Check out his blog, where you can find excerpts from many of his speeches and statements.
Mitt Romney's GOP primary win in Michigan exposes the three factions of the Republican Party: he represents the corporate-big business-country club Republicans eager to "partner" with government on things like assistance and bail-outs of the auto industry and extending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. Given Romney's chameleon-like positions on health care reform, abortion, gun control, and immigration, one wonders what other convictions, if any, he truly has.
Senator John McCain from the libertarian Western state of Arizona seems to be more of a believer in the power of free markets, telling Michigan voters bluntly that auto industry jobs are not coming back. In the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt, he is skeptical of corporate power, seeking regulation and reduction of corporate money influencing elections and probably much less sympathetic to corporate bail-outs. McCain is a fiscal conservative more interested than Romney in balancing budgets rather than extending the Bush tax cuts. From a border state, he's also the most practical and the most liberal on the issue of immigration.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee represents the social conservatives and evangelicals, "compassionate conservatives" more interested in a candidate's "character," and relationship with Jesus. These voters seem to favor a more moderate, populist appeal on economic issues and a "kindler, gentler" approach to immigration than some of the more rabid nativists in the GOP.
Ronald Reagan united these factions with stringent anti-communism, a promise to cut taxes and reduce government regulation and the size of government. He gave amnesty to "illegals." For a while, George W. Bush was able to unite these factions with stringent anti-terrorism -- but many Republicans have lost confidence in his Iraq policy, his stewardship of the economy, and his "coddling" of undocumented immigrants.
So, can this party be saved? Can it unite enthusiastically behind one of these three?
Bob Herbert, New York Times: "We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and
even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering
amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day.
Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence,
exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and
child pornography." Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: This was written on 1/15/2008, two months before Rev. Wright's most inflammatory rhetoric was revealed. For more current comments, read Jeremiah Wright in Context.
Major mainstream media outlets have joined a despicable Internet campaign to "play the race card" against Barack Obama's religion and attempting to link him with black radicals. In a column headlined "the Coming Attack on Barack," columnist Joe Conason quotes Obama as saying, "They will try to swift-boat me." Writes Conason:
With Obama, the obvious target is his inspirational life story. The
task of the opposition operatives will be to twist that saga, to
unearth facts or factoids that raise concerns about the candidate’s
background, and to make his cosmopolitan upbringing appear alien and
even sinister—and, of course, to play the race card against him, either
subtly or blatantly. These themes will begin to appear in the
right-wing press, which is of course where the original Swift-boat
smears showed up four years ago.
...Certain themes are being tested on the Web sites of the extreme right.
The basic concept is to suggest that Obama is somehow less wholesome
than he appears to be, and to provoke bigoted responses.
First it was an email making the rounds, claiming that Obama is a racist, a black nationalist and/or a Muslim. These are absurd, ridiculous charges. He has belonged to Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, the largest church in the UCC, for 20 years. Before that, he was was an agnostic. Here's the scoop on Trinity.
The Washington Post spread the Muslim rumor on its front page in November, while mostly debunking it.
In 2007, shortly after Obama announced, Fox News got into the act, taking pot shots at his church. One might ask conservative whites like Sean Hannity of Fox News who profess such great concern over how integrated Obama's church is how integrated their own churches are, as if it's anyone's business. In my lifetime experience, I've found predominantly black churches far more welcoming of whites than vice versa. Indeed, up through at least the 1970s if not including this very day, any black person who stepped foot in many white churches was made to feel exceedingly uncomfortable or "invisible." Aside from differences in worship style, black churches were started in part because blacks, viewed historically as three-fifths of human, were not welcome in many if not most white churches. Sadly, in America today, Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours of the week.
What? It's ok for Irish Catholics, Swedish Lutherans and German Congregationalists to celebrate their heritages with various events but it's not ok for a historically black congregation to want to help folks in the black community?
Seems like quite the double-standard, and much too close to the "race-baiting" you appear to decry. (Then again, the "race-baiting" you rant about doesn't actually exist at Trinity United Church of Christ, whose members include not just black people, but also white folks and Christians of other races as well.)
Obama's pastor has taken on the smears directly from Fox News:
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen tries to smear Obama with an association to Louis Farrakhan because some folks in Obama's 8,000-member church have given Farrakhan an award, and the church's magazine chose to publish a positive article about him. (What happened to the journalistic practice of calling a campaign for a comment before going with a highly negative and inflammatory story?) M. J. Rosenberg explains why Cohen should be ashamed of the smear. Obama was quick to offer this denunciation of Farrakhan:
I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.
Even so, I'm sure these smears will continue to have a life of their own for months if not years to come among the naive and gullible, among people who prefer to believe the worst about Obama, or among people who seek to inflame racial tensions.