Friday, August 29, 2008

Looking Through the Rearview Mirror

(Denver)-My last day in Denver consisted of a pair of radio appearances. I started the morning by appearing on NPR's, Tell Me More with Michel Martin. I was one of the featured guest with my boy Jimi Izrael. He hosts the Barber Shop Segment.
(You can check it out at this link)Http://

I followed that up with an appearence on Washington, DC Radio Station WAMU. On Friday the Kojo Nnamdi Show is transformed into the Politics Hour. It was taped live at radio station KUVO-Denver. The station is located in the historic Five Points nieghborhood. Making my way back to downtown I stopped to collect a few souvenirs. I learned this morning that Senator John McCain has selected a running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. The conversation is changed, but few who are heading to the airport are paying attention. What did we see? What did we witness? What should we make of last couple of days?

The Republicans will be trying to write their own narrative of America in Minneapolis/St. Paul. GOP members will be competing with Hurrican Gustav, a category three hurricane bearing down on the New Orleans. There are mandatory evacuations for the Cresent City and surrounding area. It’s expected to make landfall on Monday the night President George Bush will address the convention.

Can you imagine the visual of President Bush talking about his accomplishments over the last eight years with a split screen of New Orleans flooding? It’s not a good look.

Here are some of my memories of Denver.

The 16th Street Mall – The free bus service, the shops, and the mall.

The Convention Center (not be confused with the Pepsi Center) – I spent much of my time in the media lounge but it had workshops, book signings and activities.

Invesco Field AKA Mile High Stadium - The home of the Denver Bronco's transformed into the "Obama Catherdral." Visually stunning and forever tied with Obama.

The Denver Community – When I arrived on Saturday there was a welcoming committee who yelled and cheered. “For me!!!,” no for everyone who came through the doors. People were friendly and gave me the necessary information to do my job.
My NABJ Brothers and Sisters - A lot of people have questioned our ability to cover this campaign while giving short shrift to the fact their are too few people of color on the campaign trail. We will continue to do exemplary work despite our changing work conditions. Much love to our President Barbara Ciara and NABJ Program/Development Director Ryan Williams.

Colfax Street – I walked nearly five miles of this thoroughfare looking for things I needed and found the eclectic side of Denver. There were bars, adult bookstores, ethnic eateries, musical venues, and more tattoo and piercing parlors then you could imagine.
I rode the RTD bus up and down this street as well. It’s a microcosm of the future of Denver. Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexicans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans and those with little means are percolating in this city.
Lastly, I thought it strange the National Black Republicans posted a billboard saying Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican (go in close to the billboard).

The Pepsi Center – My home for the week. I set up shop in the filing center under the basket goal where the Denver Nuggets practice. It was crude but cushy, and in close proximity to the big flat screen.

Radio Row- Where else could you be on in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, and across the nation in matter of two steps. Created in 2004 it’s has become a mainstay at these political party conventions.

Bloggers – Four years ago when I started this Blog there were only a few people or color “doing the damn thing.” Now the campaigns are credentialing Bloggers and giving them their own space. Several of my colleagues are must reads (Denise Clay, Munroe Anderson, Dell Walters and so many others). FYI, Bloggers need wifi…make sure there’s enough bandwidth and more tables.

Things I Heard

“Michelle Obama will make dark sisters the new flavor of the month.”

“The new chic is a suit and shirt with no tie.”

“Being green is cool.”

“Dude, can you get me a pass.”

“I’m from (insert city, state, country, or universe)”

“What do you think of Denver?”

“Let’s get a drink.”

“Please have your I-D ready for inspection.”

“I’m trying to find (insert hotel, restaurant, party, reception, or person).” The follow up is “Can you get me in?”

“Obama (a person shouting t-shirts, buttons, poster etc….)”

These two are inter-changeable
“Excuse me, can I take a picture with you.” Or “Excuse me, can you take a picture for me with and (insert celebrity name).

Special Thanks

I was very fortunate to be in Denver. I knew I had to be there. Three weeks ago I had no idea where I was going to stay. I appealed to my fraternity Brother Allen Thompson to help. He would suggest I stay with him because he was so close to downtown. Thank you A.T. aka Slick.

Britt Tennell of Oakland also crashed with us at A.T.’s pad. With IPHONE in hand he volunteered for the DNC at the Sheraton Hotel. It was the hotel for the New York and California delegations. Britt kept reminding us,“you know they can work a Brother.” He tracked down everything from cleaners, directions, parties, receptions, and people. Remember he did this without getting paid, but got the experience of a lifetime. He’s on my people to watch list.

Mr. Tom Thomas, a class act.

Much love to Denver for hosting an awesome event.
The graphic of Obama comes courtesy of Samuel Fleming Lewis


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Journey of a Life Time

(Denver) – There was a rumble which shook Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium and forever changed American politics as we know it.

The stomping and chanting was for Senator Barack Obama who accepted the Democratic Party nomination for President. Senator Obama strode to the stage as a conquering hero. It was a journey that began on a cold day in Springfield, Illinois and ended in a whirlwind of confetti and adulation.

“We meet at one those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil and the American promise has been threatened once more.”

Removed is the term presumptive, Obama is the nominee. It is a curious route for this candidate. The journey to Denver had its bumps, curves, twist, and challenges. Those are behind him. He had to make the case for leading the most powerful nation on the planet.

Four years ago in Boston I was an eyewitness to this emerging political star. I’d interviewed him the day before the speech which some say ushered in a paradigm for Democratic politics. I came away with an uncanny sense he had something few political leaders have, “the common touch.” I would again interview him the day after the speech and it re-enforced my opinion.

I knew I wouldn’t have this type of meeting in Denver, but I want to see what had changed from Boston to Denver. The visuals were off the charts. Expectations in this environment can be daunting.

Symbolism and the Day

Tonight’s keynote address by Obama has a number of incidental and numerical references. It occurs forty-five years removed from the Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. Moses wanders in the dessert for forty years. 40 days and 40 nights was length of time Noah and the Ark find dry land to restart civilization. Muhammad was 40 years old when he received the revelation delivered by an angel. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.

The date 08-28-08 for numerologist is a sign (some say the three 8’s are part of a messianic revelation). Obama would later tell the audience at Invesco “that eight is enough" (the number of years Republicans have held the White House).
But enough with the symbolism references.

A Tribute to MLK and “The Dream”

My day starts at 11 am with a visit to the New Hope Baptist Church for a celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the "I Have Dream Speech." I'm surprise to see Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes. The choir warms up the crowd with stirring renditions of He Brought This Far by Faith, Over My Head and a rendition of a song with a call and response chant of 'Yes We Can'."

Later the crowd sings all three versus of the “Negro National Anthem,” Life Every Voice and Sing. Normally, most people sing the first and third versus of the song, but not today. People in the pulpit appear to be on an emotional high.

I was privilege to hear from two men whose intersection with King came at seminal moments. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was at the MLK speech 40 years ago. On that day he was the tenth speaker on the program at the Washington Monument. In his southern drawl he told the crowd that King’s staff had actually struck the line “I Have a Dream.” “King reinserted the line after hearing Mahalia Jackson sing.” The founder of the student non-violent coordinating committee would leave for Invesco because he was scheduled to address the crowd.

Lewis would be followed by Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. He felt many people missed the line in the speech about the “fierce urgency of now.” King in his time had been told to wait your turn, you’re not experienced, just wait. It sounds strikingly similar to Barack Obama.”

There were many more noted speakers but the clock said one o’clock. I “dipped” out of the service to get to the stadium. There have been so many cautions about today; Get to the stadium early; be prepared for long security lines; dress for warm weather; and expect traffic delays. (I've already heard that Oprah Winfrey shutdown downtown with her motorcade. No problem


The Republicans are pushing several lines effectively against Obama. He’s an elitist/rock star, he’s not patriotic, can he be commander in chief on day one, and setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq will mean surrender.

Methodical he answered each of these issues and delved into areas heretofore Democrats have shied away from abortion, gun control, and personal responsibility.

I keep coming back to the visual. He looked presidential, he spoke as a president, he exuded the confidence of a president, but will the rest of America buy it.

70 year old, Tom Thomas of Pasadena, California was typical of those in attendance. “I never thought I would see a Black nominated for the president in my life time. The event exceeded my expectations. It’s nothing short of spiritual experience.”

Final Thoughts

It’s been an amazing week. Some things I expected others came out of the blue. There was definitely an unusual vibe in Denver. I’ll tell you, I was psyched about coming to Denver, but I’m always psyched about politics. Minneapolis will be different, but no less interesting.



Oh No He Didn't

I began working on this blog around 5 pm Denver time after learning of the acclamation vote to make Senator Barack Obama the Democratic Presidential nominee. Here’s how it started.

There are several seminal moments in American history and today’s acclamation vote of Senator Barack Obama to become the Democratic Party nominee for president is one of them.

If this were in my early journalism days I would have pulled the paper from the typewriter and tossed it in the trash can. I can’t do that in cyberspace instead I’ll just say, Damn!!!!!

I’ve been in Denver for five days. There are early mornings and late nights. I’m somewhat drained as we come to the last day at the Pepsi Arena, before the Mile High event. I felt this was one of the days where the speakers were okay (President Bill Clinton and Senator Joe Biden). I’d spill in a couple of quotes and get a few more reactions to this historic day (In fact the original title for this blog was Historic).

It’s been very tough to get on the floor when the main speakers start (you only get 20 minutes). I had to work on the guy with the passes to get into the arena for Clinton. Biden, the Vice Presidential nominee, wasn't Obama, so I decided it wasn't necessay to see him live from the floor. I had a pre copy of his speech and it was okay. Fellow Blogger, Stump Connolly of “The Week Behind” kept pointing out Biden was going off script. When the Delaware Senator wrapped up speaking I began tying at my computer. Biden’s wife appeared on screen and said she had a special surprise. This normally means kids, long lost relative, etc…

I turn and looked its Obama. The crowd is going wild so I grab my camera and start video taping the screen in the filing room. Reporters are crowded around monitors.

“Hello Denver!” The crowd can’t contain itself . Obama and Biden are on stage together? Isn’t this supposed to happen tomorrow? Remember up to this point the Illinois Senator has been making his way to the convention.

My good friend S.A. Miller of the Washington Times who’s been following the candidate nationwide had just arrived. Miller popped his head into press filing room as Biden was speaking. According to Miller, Obama had come in around 4:30 pm and apparently was with his wife, kids, and close relatives when the acclamation vote was taken. I'm guessing it was very emotional in the suite at the Denver Westin where the Obama’s are holed up.

Damn Again

Who is scripting this event? The selection of the first African-American Democrat nominee for president is heavy. I’m more keenly aware of its broader implications after reading Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake: Black and White Resistance to Human Bondage, 1660-1865 by T. Stephen Whitman and “Here Lies Jim Crow” by Fraser Smith a Baltimore writer.

The possibility of Black President...“Not in my life time,” said Baltimore Delegate Curt Anderson. After answering a few more questions he pondered the societal changes if it all comes to fruition.

How many of you were told in elementary school, “You could grow-up to be President?” Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, a former school teacher said, "I'd told numerous students this, but he personally didn’t believe it." The South Carolina Democrat said, ”When teachers say this in the future there will be a realism associated with it outcome.” My cousin, George Smith, Jr., a product of a Boston Prep school and a graduate of Tufts University, came to this simple conclusion. “His Ivy League education makes him palatable to people.”

But it’s more than that, I said this four years ago in Presidential Perspective I ( As a paper boy delivering the Afro-American newspapers in Baltimore, I remember the exhilaration, anxiety, and fear Black folk have around doing the impossible.

But you got be in the game, just to play.

Tomorrow: Invesco, A Mile High Experience.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guilt by Association

(Denver) - Michelle Obama is Barack Obama’s voice unleashed. The grace and poise she delivered in her keynote address capped a night where Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy was honored for his year of service.

Documentary Filmmaker Ken Burns created a moving video tribute to Senator Kennedy.
It included interviews from Congressman John Lewis, fellow Senator John Kerry and Carolina Kennedy (who introduced him to the audience as Uncle Teddy).

Kennedy told the crowd “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world” The Massachusetts Senator hasn’t made many public appearances since his surgery for a brain tumor. Although he is still recovering from surgery his voice was strong and vibrant. He was the warm-up act for Michelle Obama.

The wife of Barack Obama address was filled with themes of family, middle class up bring, and love of country. Her family’s life in Chicago has held sway over her life. Her father was a blue collar city worker and her mother stayed at home.

She talked about values that Barack and her share. “You see, Barack doesn’t care where you’re from or what you’re background is…we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like.” There was one emotional moment in the speech where her voiced crack. “All of us are driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do. That we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is the thread that connects our hearts. This tread runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight.”
For some in the audience Ms. Obama broke the unwritten rule here at the DNC, mentioning Senator Hillary Clinton. “People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters and sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.” The crowd gave a standing ovation at the reference

There was also a reference to Senator Joseph Biden who will be Obama’s running mate. I was standing near him as she spoke about him during the speech.

You may be wondering how and where she got this voice. One person who knew her before the trappings of politics is Donnell Stewart of Catonsville, MD Class of 1989. Stewart and Michelle Robinson (Michelle Obama’s maiden name) were members of the tenth class of Blacks to attend Princeton University.

Princeton was one of the last Ivy League Schools to embrace the affirmative action concept. As Stewart tells it, “we came from varied areas. There were large contingents from Ohio and New York; less from the West Coast... 2 from Boston and small group from Chicago.”

The attrition rate for Black students was high. She attributed this lost of Black students to the times. In the early eighties minority students were protesting the divestment in the apartheid regime of South Africa. Some students were dismissed for the activities.

“She (Michelle Obama) was a silent behind the scenes player,” according to the Catonsville resident. “You have to understand we were bookworms.” She says a lot of minorities on campus gravitated to the “Third World Cultural Center.” Minorities were oddities at the Ivy League school. The world they entered into included prep schools graduates, country club memberships, questions about who are your mother and father, and what year did they graduate from Princeton. Until arriving at Princeton many of these students interaction with minorities was limited to someone serving them a meal.

Stewart says by their second year there was a great deal of solardarity among the limited number of Black students at Princeton. "You got to understand, this is a town of rich white people."

The protest lead to the creation of an all black dorm that was known as the PIC. This group pushed the envelope. They had chance to bring in varied speakers like Minister Louis Farrakhan. There is no record Michelle attending the lecture.

Stewart surmises the adminstration figured out Black students from lower economic means were more trouble than they were worth. By the late 80's there was a change in admission policies. This she says changed the mix of Black students from a varied economic circumstances (more well to do Black families). The era of protest subsided.

Having a degree from Princeton opens doors. “Look, a number of people at Princeton went to law school.” Michelle was a scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The two ladies still talk but its campaign season and it hasn’t been frequent. She wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see history. Although she didn’t have credentials to get into the Pepsi Center she was watching.

Kodak Moment

The speech was over and I was getting off the floor when some said, “look.” I turned and saw the Obama kids, Malia and Sasha. Having kids appear on stage is not unusual for national political conventions. What was different was the appearance of Obama via satellite. “Daddy what city are you in?” Talk about an “ah” moment.


The speech hit a lot of the points, but as a veteran of these conventions I’m reminded the event is not for the people in the room but for the vast television audience who are getting their first look at the people who want to lead this country.

Tonight there is a lot of speculation about, “What Hillary will say? Will her supporters back Obama?” I’ll be watching and I hope you will too.

Late last night, I got word about the disruption of an assignation plot against Obama. For details you can go to this web sight


Monday, August 25, 2008

DENVER is Chocolate City

(Denver) – “God bless Chocolate City and it’s Vanilla Suburbs.”

If you’re old enough to remember this funk classic from Parliament you know it as the in-your-face motto for the rise of Black Mayors in the seventies. A new beast was awakened and literally changed politics. White political incumbents lost their grasp of power with the rise of Black electorates, it was a changing tide.

Now fast forward to Denver, August 25, 2008 and the arrival of the Democrat National Convention. Democrats, specifically Black Democrats, are occupying the “Mile High City.” With only a four percent Black population the invasion has transformed this city into “Chocolate City.” It’s not like the city hasn’t seen a Black politician. Denver once boasted Mayor Wellington Webb as it leader and his name adorns the city’s municipal center.

There is a strangeness of sorts as I move about the city with storefronts and business establishments adorn with Obama paraphernalia. The Black community here is engaged. At a reception on Sunday, hosted by the Colorado Association of Black Journalist, Colours TV, a multi-cultural cable channel ( was introduced.

This week the Jazz and Blues Festival of Denver dates were changed to coincide with the DNC convention. The Five Points area is widely accepted as the epicenter of black life having hosted jazz greats from Lionel Hampton to Dizzy Gillespie. My host in the city says there is a gentrification process underway where long time residents are being moved out, but it continues to maintain its historic roots.

At every turn I’m finding people who’ve brought others to Denver to experience this convention. Word is the migration won’t stop until Thursday when the population in the city is going to burst at the seams. Delegations from every state have new delegates that are Black. So who does this Chocolate City benefit? It’s obvious black entertainment.

The names are like an A-list of those pushing the envelope on big screens and small screens. Spike Lee is making the rounds promoting his upcoming movie Miracle at St. Ann. It’s the story of an all Black World War Two regiment that liberates an Italian town.

Why not throw in the mix Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Alfred Woodward, Giancarlo Esposito, and
Jurnee Smollett for just a little star power.

They aren't the only ones looking to cash in. Think about this TV-One has never had a news division and they are here. BET, who’s record on solid news coverage which has been suspect, is here. Black Talk Radio is here Tom Joiner, Michael Basiden, Bev Smith, Mark Thompson, Joe Madison, and host of others who know it’s important to be “in-the-house.”

“CC they say you’re jive and game…and can’t be tamed, but on the positive side you’re my piece of the rock and I love you CC.

Gaining on Ya...God Bless Chocolate City and the Vanilla Suburbs.



Saturday, August 23, 2008


(Denver) - I didn’t get the text, but some of you may have. Yes, the text letting you know Senator Joseph Biden was chosen as Senator’s Barrack Obama’s running mate. I got it “the old fashion” way. I was up late at night trying to pack for Denver with the CNN on in the background. Around 1:30 a heard a breaking news bulletin and Larry King extended his show. By 3:00 am (yes I was still packing for a 5:30am flight) it was all over the airwaves.

The decision to send this announcement via texting continues to push the envelope on how new media has changed the political process this go round. Think about how the net’s impact so far. Fundraising, breaking news, and video endorsements are just part of the new phenomena’s we have seen this election season.

This texting business is truly pushing the envelope. I saw it in action at the Obama Primary Rally at the University of Maryland .In the lead up to the Chesapeake Primaries, the rally featured a text number to send information to and received information from. This was an OMG (oh my god) moment. The collection of phone numbers (hard-line or cell) to reach voters could become obsolete to future campaigns or at least not as sought after as they have been in the past. The Obama Campaign has capitalized on instant messaging and conversing via this convoluted syntax. Trying to figure it out in all of its machinations will make your head spin. Go ahead LOL (laugh out loud). It’s generational and old fogies like me are just catching up. It will eventually dwarf those who think they know elections and the electorate.

Following the University of Maryland event I wondered? How many people with text numbers are in the campaign database? I’m hoping to get an answer this week in Denver.

My good friend Rick Blalock, a radio anchor in Atlanta, who signed up for this service has received no less than three texts since he got the initial email at 3 am. They are mining this is ways unimaginable. They also suckered journalist to sign up the same service giving them access to those who shape news coverage (Sorry, I didn’t fall for the O-KEY DOKIE). I going to guess you’ll be receiving a number of texts in the lead up November. The bad news you’ll have difficulty removing the messages moving ahead (FYI, I’m going to check with my technology guru the figure out how you do this).

The Biden Factor

So was Biden’s selection about shoring up issues in the Obama Campaign? You bet it is. IMHO

There is a need for the Obama/Biden ticket to connect with “Blue Collar Voters,” take leaning role on foreign policy, and create a McCain attack that will be effective. So the choice of Biden allows the campaign to answer all of these questions and makes this a reasoned choice.

I was at the Philadelphia Airport and watched as television crews waited outside the Senator’s residence in Delaware as he was heading to Springfield, Illinois. You can bet Pennsylvania is a must carry state for the Obama Campaign. What about Ohio?

I arrived in Denver as the rally in Springfield was just getting underway. I stopped to listen in the lobby of the Hampton Suites Hotel where media credentials were doled out. There were a couple of OMG moments.

In introducing Biden as his running mate Obama said, “I want to introduce the next President of the United States Joseph Biden.” The room where I sat collectively said, “What?” I simple slip, but likely to be mined by Comedy Central and worst the “Republican Attack Dogs.”

The second gaffe comes from Biden. Biden referred to Obama’s stunning movement as “Obama America.” Spontaneity, aside it just came off as “funky.”

They’ll have time to reinterpret what they said but I don’t think the gaffe’s will last (trust me we all have said stupid things).

The Springfield backdrop continues to be a plus for the apparent Democratic Nominee. Connecting it to Lincoln continues to undermine the Republican Brand. The counter for the GOP is Ronald Regan.

In Denver they are still working on Invesco (Mile High) Stadium to prepare it for Thursday. The hottest ticket in town is the credential for general public to attend. Anticipating the large crowd Denver is putting up several public viewing areas.

I’m on way to the huge Media Welcome Party, “A Celebration with Altitude” at Elitch Gardens.

I’ll be going to several events tomorrow including a stop in Denver’s pre-dominantly Black neighborhood and a reception with Colorado Chapter of NABJ.

Blogs to come include SWF, What Hillary Supporters Want, Coattails, and other items of interest as they come along.

Lastly, for those wondering about IMHO – In my humble opinion.


Monday, August 18, 2008

A Question of Faith

It’s often said that Sunday is one of the most segregated times in America because of how we practice our religious faith. I’m not certain that still exists, but it was interesting to test this theory watching the Saddleback Civil Forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren in California on Sunday, August 17, 2008. The audience while not balanced lacked a sufficient number of Africa Americans and other people of color in my opinion.

Evangelicals who have played a significant role in past presidential campaigns are literally up for grabs. There is less “faith” in the Republican brand then in the past and this has opened up a potential swing group for Democrats. The advent of the mega churches like those of Pastor Warren have on several occasions wreaked havoc on traditional Black churches and their connection to the faith based electorate.

The forum which aired on CNN is a testament to the overall tenor of this presidential campaign which continues to discount race as a subtext that no one wants to see and let alone are willing to discuss honestly and openly. I was not in the room but it was evident by the cut-a-ways (pictures of the audience) the lack of people of color invited to discuss this issue of faith.

Faith, as I know it has no color. No group has a monopoly on its practice or interpretation. The politicization of faith on both sides has created a number of amen corners which causes me to pause. The founders of the country knew this well with the decision to separate church and state.

This separation has come under attack from several corners. Faith is intended to be a moral guidance. The subject matters clergy and the faithful are dealing with are broad and complex. It includes questions about sacred institutions (marriage), international incidents (genocide), health (aids), environmental issues (global warming), medical technology (stem cells) and criminal structures (the death penalty). Add into this heated mixture the question of abortion and you have the makings of a volatile electorate subgroup that can and has had its say on politics during the last eight years.

Pastor Warren must be commended on being the first to have the two presidential nominees on the same stage. His questions were definitely not those we have heard from journalist.

They included the following: Define what does rich mean in today’s society? Is there evil in the world and what do we do about it? When does life begin? What is your greatest moral failure? There are no simple answers to any of these daunting questions, even for the savviest politician.

Barrack Performance

His appearance at this event was precarious. The decision to appear before the group did not frighten him as it has for several past democratic nominees. The Illinois Senator has spoken candidly about faith and its ramifications on his life.

The Highs

1. Answer to moral failure, “youthful transgressions.” These are well documented in his book and serves as a playbook for future politicians who may have experimented with drugs and alcohol(Just ask W).

2. “You’re rich if you sell a million plus books (a dig at Pastor Warren who like Obama has made money off of writings). Defining one as rich if they make $250,000. This figure for the average American would seem plausible.

3. Sitting in the room was a plus. He came he answered, he didn’t necessarily conquer but in this election there will be no solid voting blocks. The key from my perspective is limiting those who may disagree with you to 80 per cent plurality.

The Lows

1. Inability to be precise and say what you mean. It’s a charge that continues to haunt the candidate. He sounds too much like a college professor. He did this at large rallies in the early going of the campaign and came off as a “deep thinker.”

2. Nuancing the issue of abortion. Evangelicals don’t necessarily agree with this concept. I better way is to toss it back at those who want every unwanted pregnancy to come to term. ( i.e. Can we agree if we practiced birth control there would be no need have this conversation? Or Commit to financial resources where every child in an impoverished areas will have the same life as you.)

John McCain

McCain is like many GOP members before him, placating this group but delivering little. It’s amazing to me the attention given to Obama’s religious observances and how few questions are asked of McCain about faith. Here are some questions that may be worth knowing. What church does he belong to? How often does he attend service? Does he have a spiritual advisor?

I know the McCain camp has often told those who’ve inquired about this are greeted with “it’s a private matter.” So to open up honestly in a public forum was new and for me a chance to get some insight.

The Highs

1. Answering questions with definitive yes and no’s. McCain’s military background of “yes sir, no sir” served him well. It was also a stark contrast to Obama. The no equivocation on the issue of abortion (“Life begins at conception”) was a delight to those in attendance.

2. The ability to steer the conversation to McCain talking points. “Drill off-shore now.” “Let me tell you about my time in captivity.” Easily this is the muscle of the McCain campaign and it resonates. The offshore drilling issue has many converts including Obama, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Paris Hilton. The Vietnam War stuff pulls at your heart. It’s a narrative where there is no comeback.

The Lows

1. You’re rich if you make 5 million dollars. Oh really!!! The good senator would know since he and his wife I believe qualify. I’m going to guess a few of their close friends would also qualify.

2. “The cone of silence.” Supposedly, McCain was kept in a room where he couldn’t here the questions asked of Obama. Eerily, his answers seemed more rehearsed and targeted to buttress the early statements. It’s been reported he was in car on the way to the facility when the Illinois Senator was on stage. I do believe McCain was coached prior to the event. Pastor Warren did give each candidate some of the questions. So it’s logical to think people in the campaign devised a strategy to answer them.

(Sidebar) – The last time McCain was hit with a question he wasn’t prepared for was on the issue of whether insurance companies should pay for viagra for men, but not for birth control pills. A lot of uhs and hmm’s.


It was an interesting discussion. The moderator however failed to follow-up with questions to probe deeper into the candidate’s answers. Remember this is a pastor who hears peoples problems, desires, and there ability to connect with their faith. I guess expecting a follow-up would be too much.

Just wondering out loud, would the questions been different if T.D Jakes had moderated?

Lastly, I will continue to beat the drum that politics is not the domain of white men over 50 years old. The upcoming presidential debates which feature white males only will bear this out. I’m tired of people questioning my fairness because there is a black candidate. Let’s start asking that same question of my colleagues, who are in the majority.

I’m less than a week from heading to Denver and on Wednesday we may know who Sen. Barrack Obama’s has chosen for a running mate. Can't wait and hope you’ll be watching too.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Mac and Hayes Influence on Politics

Politics and entertainment have unusual intersections. Despite the current fascination with Obama's so call celebrity status it's interesting to note the passing of Bernie Mac, comedian and Issac Hayes, singer song writer.

Bernie Mac

Mac who died Friday, August 8, 2008 was a year younger than me. I meet "the Mac Man" while covering the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago while working for BET. My crew and I were invited to an afternoon reception at the Du Sable Museum on the South Side. The event was held out doors. It was filled with a number of Chicago Politico's. Some how during the event the host came up to me and suggested I talk with this comedian named Bernie Mac. I was unfamiliar with his talent but felt obligated to talk with him (earlier in the day I'd interviewed Chris Rock who was working for the Comedy Channel, pre-John Stewart).

I'd introduced myself and asked for his take on Bill Clinton who was making his second run at the White House. Mac was wearing his trademark summer white hat,
he launched into what I would later discover "a bit" he perfected on stage. "You see, Clinton is just like a brother; he plays sax, likes black people and he smokes a little weed." It was just enough for me not to break-up.

As we went back to United Center I was thinking, "How the hell, I'm gonna use this on the air." Reviewing the tape several times I came to this simple conclusion, "Mac is saying what many people in the Black community were saying."

The bit was meshed with Rock's take on the political scene in Chicago and I became a fan.

His rise to stardom made an impression on me.

Fast forward to this year. At a recent Barrack Obama event Bernie Mac showed up to do a few jokes. For the uninitiated if you give a comedian (especially a Black one) a mike there may be a few embarrassing moments. This was the case with Mac talking about menopause and several salacious comments (par for today's Black Comedians). There were several boos from the audience. Obama would calm the crowd saying he was just joking (that's what comedians do). Later Obama would issue a press release saying the comments were inappropriate. I'm guessing the good senator would like to take that back right about now.

Issac Hayes

My introduction to Issac Hayes came in the form of the album Hot, Buttered, Soul. My dad wore the album out. He'd put on Walk on By and won't let it stop until he got to the 18 minute version of By the Time I Get to Phoenix (the Glenn Campbell pop-hit). The song has a rap in the beginning in which Hayes delivers this searing letter to the woman who cheated on him. I hated the song, especially after my dad play it for an entire month(He always told me this was a classic). Recently my Brother-In-Law dumped it on a CD and I couldn't get out of the car until it was over.

Most people equated Issac Hayes with the music score to "Shaft"...Rightfully so. The album ushered in a new era of music and strength for urban communities ("You know that cat Shaft is a bad Mother...shut yo mouth...I'm just talkin bout Shaft). Being hip was having an afro, wearing that leather jack and taking it to the man. Several politicians across the country were quick to capitalized on this assertion paying dividends in the mid 70's. This include Richard Hatcher-Gary, Indiana; Carl Stokes-Cleveland, Ohio; Maynard Jackson-Atlanta, Georgia; and many others.

Black Moses liberated the masses from the "get along to go along" candidates. Hayes' music became the backdrop for their campaigns.

The late 70's through the early 80's became sour point for Hayes music. With STAX declaring bankruptcy(his record label), the Memphis sound gave way to pulsating disco. As a DJ during this period I was surprised to find in my mailbox an Issac Hayes album on the Polydor Label called, New Horizon.
I almost pitched it in the trash but instead put the needle to the wax. When the song "Moonlight Lovin' (Menage a Trois)" came on I had to stop. It was lush, had a pulsating beat which mixed well for my late night show on WVCW-820 am.

Jump ahead to 2000. My wife and I had an opportunity to see Issac Hayes and piano virtuoso Cyrus Chestnut in Baltimore, Maryland. For most people they were probably thinking it was going to be a "Shaft Revisited" concert. In fact, my wife who I love dearly, wore in outfit I jokingly called, "Ginger from the 'Solid Gold Dancers'." It was hot !!!

When Hayes arrived on stage he came in a appointed Black Moses type outfit and Chestnut was understated in suit and tie. Hayes plunked on a stool, and while Chestnut sat at the piano. That's it. No full orchestra, no wah wah guitars, and no pulsating lights and dancers. It was laid back. He played Walk on By, Never Can Say Goodbye, several other tunes mostly ballads. It was getting close to the end and I told my my wife if he doesn't play "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" I'll be pissed, and I going to guest so would several other patrons. Hayes did not disappoint. The rap was updated but hit the chord so many of us had long to hear. The voice was clear and to the point(How the hell did that woman cheat on him seven times, and seven times he still went back?).

So what does this have to do with Black Politics? As far as I can tell, over my life time there are intersections of music, pop culture and entertainment. Some say it's the background noise we don't hear. If you think I'm joking at the next Obama Rally or John McCain rally listen to the music you hear as they are walking off stage (Obama uses a Stevie Wonder tune and McCain's has Big and Rich playing the background). What does it say about who you are? A lot !!!!

FYI...The pair are in a yet to be released movie called "Soul Men." As Sam and Dave would say,"I'm a Soul Man !!!!!"