Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Debates

(Washington) – A tumultuous week culminating in a Presidential Debate has shaken the news cycle as if it were a washing machine going through it various cycles. The week began precipitously with the announcement by the Treasure Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake the financial services industry (Wall Street) was in worst shape and federal intervention was necessary.

Talk about changing the subject… “We need 700 billion dollars to stabilize Wall Street,” according to Secretary Paulson. Is our world falling apart or is it being undone and we just don’t know it? The first of the testimonies by Paulson and Bernake comes before a Senate Banking committee and it’s clear they don’t have their act together and are flying by the seat of their pants. Tuesday the chorus of those pooh-poohing the plan is bi-partisan. The proposal in its original form is likely to die if there aren’t negotiations.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, Senator Barack Obama calls Senator John McCain. At the heart of the voice mail is a conversation about issuing a joint statement regarding the outline of a federal bailout plan which will protect “Main Street” rather than Wall Street. McCain receives the message and orders his surrogates to work on the language. Understand polls show Arizona is losing the battle on the economy.

I’m in Washington Wednesday afternoon for the Congressional Black Caucus. I’ve just picked up my credentials and talk with Deidre Childress, of the Philadelphia Weekend Magazine. She tells me Senator John McCain has decided he will stop campaigning, return to Washington, will skip Friday’s debate at the University of Mississippi and suggests the president convene all parties including the two contenders for president at the White House to hammer out a deal.

The conversation has changed in the unending 24 hour news cycle. The response from Obama, who is in Florida preparing for the debate, is he’s still going to Mississippi and “a president needs to be able to multi-task.” The pundits are in total spin mode, but a majority of those who cover campaign see this as a political ploy. Democratic leaders on in the house and senate concur, “McCain returning to Washington will do little to help the process,” according to Senator Harry Reid.

Initially, Republicans are caught in a quandary because it’s the “Presidents Men” who are pitching the plan. But this plan has the smell of day old fish. Meanwhile, poll numbers show the President’s approval ratings are 16 percent. There are rumbles from house Republicans about the scope of the deal and whether the government should be helping those business interests. Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama expresses his frustrations late Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders with some senate Republicans begin to shape a deal with several key issues. There will be oversight, there will be limits on executive compensation, and the government will determine which assets will be taken over. The president holds a prime address to tell the public about the problem and says he wants congressional leaders and the presidential candidate at the White House to discuss the problem. Wow, was he trying to help McCain? Obama says he’ll attend.

Thursday, the buzz is about a deal which Congressman Barney Frank says adheres to certain principles. At the CBC most attendees are a buzz about Obama being in town. There is a notable absence of Congressional members who are monitoring the situation hour by hour. The most notable activity is huddle over blackberry or eyes glued to plasma. Remember all of this is going over drinks and grub.

I stop in at Congressman Jim Clyburns reception and run into Mark Whitaker, the new NBC Bureau Chief. Between our conversations he’s getting constant buzz from his blackberry. “We don’t have a deal and things are unraveling,” he says.

I see Congressman Robert Scott of Virginia. I ask him about “the Old Dominion” which is seen as a toss-up state. “Barack’s going to win Virginia,” he says self assured. Obama has made several stops in the state which hasn’t gone Democratic since 1968. Trends however, show the state is changing from being this hotbed for conservatives to a more nuanced with its politics. This change is evident by northern Virginia with it high tech corridor and more educated population. “He will use the same strategy as Governor Tim Kane,” says Scott. Statewide you can win if you pull together northern Virginia, Tidewater and Southwest Virginia. It’s played itself out several times going back to Governor Doug Wilder who shocked the establishment with his win. The last hold outs for tried and true Republicanism are in the outer suburbs of Richmond and Shenandoah Valley. I press Scott for what percentage voter is needed for a win for Obama. “Maybe 80 percent,” I look at him with amazement. This is unrealistic in my opinion but this race has confounded me and those who follow it.

The White House Meeting

I get home to hear the deal has fallen apart. Word is there were some testy words at the White House. Republican Minority Leader Represenative John Boehner says there is uneasy with his house colleagues. McCain demands the House Republicans be heard on the bailout, but he has no constructive ideas. The democrats look as though they are carrying the president’s water and they are pissed. Obama’s must be thinking “I came back for this?” He stays in DC overnight but heads to Florida and then on to Mississippi. The Democratic Nominee has no idea if he’ll be at the debate alone or will be joined by McCain.

The analogy here, McCain has played a poker hand with a bluff. The dealer is asking him to turn over his cards. The people who are watching know this is the case and can’t believe he won’t go to the debate.

Will He or Won’t He?

All eyes on me, as McCain make several rounds on Capitol Hill. Chased by cameras for most of the morning he decides to go to Mississippi. There will be little prep but its clear McCain has dominated the news cycle going into the debate. Can he live up to the hype? Will Obama be more professorial than genuine? It’s the equivalent of heavy-weight battle with the “tail of the tape” strung out over primaries and campaign appearances.

The Medium is the Message

Unlike most people I initially experienced the debate via radio. Both men sounded confident with few memorable one-liners which the press holds on to and becomes the historically context for the election.

Unlike most of you Jim Lehrer of PBS gave explicit instructions to the audience. NO cell phones, no applauding, and no hoots or howls (“If hear any of this I’m taking it away from your candidate.”). Lehrer made a point, which I think the TV audience could have been prepared for, the idea to engage the candidates in a back and forth exchange where they could question each other and challenge premises.

This line of engagement was illustrated as the moderator asked the candidates; Lehrer asks, “As president, as a result of whatever financial rescue plan comes about and the billion, $700 billion, whatever it is it's going to cost, what are you going to have to give up, in terms of the priorities that you would bring as president of the United States, as a result of having to pay for the financial rescue plan?"

OBAMA: Well, there are a range of things that are probably going to have to be delayed. We don't yet know what our tax revenues are going to be. The economy is slowing down, so it's hard to anticipate right now what the budget is going to look like next year.
But there's no doubt that we're not going to be able to do everything that I think needs to be done. There are some things that I think have to be done...

MCCAIN: Look, we, no matter what, we've got to cut spending. We have -- as I said, we've let government get completely out of control. The point is, we need to examine every agency of government…by the way, I'd eliminate ethanol subsidies. I oppose ethanol subsidies.
I think that we have to return -- particularly in defense spending, which is the largest part of our appropriations -- we have to do away with cost-plus contracts. We now have defense systems that the costs are completely out of control.

LEHRER: But if I hear the two of you correctly neither one of you is suggesting any major changes in what you want to do as president as a result of the financial bailout? Is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: No. As I said before, Jim, there are going to be things that end up having to be

LEHRER: Like what?

OBAMA: ... deferred and delayed. Well, look, I want to make sure that we are investing in energy in order to free ourselves from the dependence on foreign oil. That is a big project. That is a multi-year project. (Obama goes into Medicare, and education spending, he’s not answering the question.)

LEHRER: What I'm trying to get at this is this. Excuse me if I may, senator. Trying to get at that you all -- one of you is going to be the president of the United States come January. At the -- in the middle of a huge financial crisis that is yet to be resolved. And what I'm trying to get at is how this is going to affect you not in very specific -- small ways but in major ways and the approach to take as to the presidency.

MCCAIN: How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs.

LEHRER: Spending freeze?

MCCAIN: I think we ought to seriously consider with the exceptions the caring of veterans national defense and several other vital issues.

This exchange proved there are no simple answers and with this evolving situation regarding Wall Street no one knows what will happen next.

The War(s)

This debate was supposed to be about foreign policy. When it finally got to this issue Iraq and Afghanistan dominated. These two men are of two minds. McCain talks about how he supported the surge before it was popular. The surge by all measurements has stopped uncontrolled violence but doesn’t seem to get us out of the country faster.

Obama continues to pound on how this war is wrong and he stated his opposition early on. He uses the Bush administrations strategy as failed policy and pushes the idea McCain as president would continue this policy.

Meeting with foreign leaders also caused some heated moments with the evocation of famed Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I’m guessing for the younger audience they were probably wondering, “Who’s this old dude they keep talking about.”


Hearing this debate on radio gave me the impression McCain won. I suggest this because his answers were crisp simplistic. Obama sounded as like he was giving a lecture. The uninterrupted back and forth was refreshing without the drama. There was no “smoking gun.” The main theme was supposed to be about foreign policy and I tell you they just skimmed the surface. There was little talk about: Asia and its growing domination economically, the third world was dismissed, and Europe and its integration into NATO were only discussed in the context of invasion of Georgia Soviet Republic all these subjects needed dialogue.

I decided to see the entire debate on TV to gauge how it may have differed. I have come to this conclusion, Obama won it on TV. So why did the two debates come up seemingly different analysts? The visual of Obama and McCain together gave the underdog (Obama) stature. He looked presidential and came across as reasoned. The domination of economic issues plays into the Illinois Senators strengths.
McCain’s continued harping on issues he has said on the campaign trail didn’t play well to the cameras. Remember this debate was not for people in the room but rather those who are undecided and the growing legions of independent voters. These two groups have heard these tried and true Republican statements; “the market will correct itself; less regulation, get the government out of the way, and lowering the tax burden will get us out of this.”

Each of these men will retool for the next debate. Look for McCain to change the subject…soon. Obama’s narrow lead is a problem, “Bradley/Wilder Effect.” White voters say one thing to pollsters and do something different in the booth. The ad wars will also heat up.

Biden/Palen Debate

The Vice Presidential debate will also draw high viewing numbers. Palen has been cramming for this event. Will it take away her authenticity? Will Biden attack? Will Gwen Ifill be able to control the setting? Get your popcorn ready for this one.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Miracle Break

I've been fortunate to host several pre-screenings of films of note over the past four years. Some I hear about randomly, I may get phone call from a friend, or a studio rep may suggest a film. While in Chicago this summer at the UNITY conference I attended the pre-screening for two films, Miracle at St. Anna
and the Secret Life of Bees (not the entire film just two 10 minute clips).

I was running a little late so I only got to hear the presentation on "Miracle" which featured the author of the book of the same tittle, James McBride. The film directed by Spike Lee tells the tale of the all black U.S. Army 92nd Infantry commonly known as the "Buffalo Soldiers."

While there have been a number of World War II stories put on film few have ever shown Black soldiers participating in action. Spike who has not shied away from controversy took Director Clint Eastwood to task for his movies "Letters from Iwo Jima." Lee asked why there were no Black soldiers included in the story? Eastwood dismissed the charged and snapped at Lee "he should shut his face."
Last night I and several of my media colleagues caught "Miracle at St. Anna." In the words of Film Director, Kim Moir, "a middle finger in your face Clinton Eastwood." The two hour film continues the evolution of Spike Lee as a film-maker. He has come a long way from the days of the low budget debut of "She's Gotta Have It." While most people talk about "Do the Right Thing" my favorites are "Mo' Better Blues," "Bamboozled," and "Inside Man."

This film is five films in one, woven together through the backdrop of what it was like to be a member of an all Black regiment. I know a little something about this group. I've written about the origins of the Buffalo Soldiers, it's national monument, and it happens that my grandfather was a member of the regiment. Last year, my colleagues(MPT) and I were nominated for an EMMY for "The War: Struggle & Sacrifice." One of the interviews I helped line-up was with a family friend, Otis Lee Sr. Mr. Lee was a loyal member the of the Baltimore Disabled Veterans Association Chapter. He seem to always carry himself as the Staff Sargent (his title in the service).

He told my colleague Lou Davis about his time in the service. Including the building of the Alaska Highway (that's a story which should be on the big screen); and joining General George Patton at the Battle of Bulge. "I stepped over so many dead soldiers," he says. "Great, big, young, healthy men, all dressed up, (he grabs his shoulders), dead!" It was powerful. I don't think anyone heard World War II fighting described by a black man quite like this.

As I'm watching this Spike Lee film I believe he captures this aspect of war from a Black perspective. You know Hollywood glamorizes war. Solider gets shot, falls to the ground, no blood and definitely not the face of the deceased. Not in this movie we see the horrors of war...fear, bravery, courage, and ineptitude by white superiors.

The dialogue of English, German, Italian, and Spanish is interwoven in such a way you are not put off by the subtitles. There are a number of people to root for in the movie. A German solider who tells the young star to run, the resistance leader who comes to the conclusion his Italian friend help massacre a village, Stamps, the patrol leader, who takes his comrades behind enemy lines, and Track, the oversize G.I., who believes the head of a statue can save him and his co-horts.

The German propaganda machine is not widely known in this country, but for those in theatre it "came raining down from heaven." Black World War II GI's I've spoken to tell of the pamphlets and one sheets dropped by aircraft over the Black regiments. The film aptly depicts the "Tokyo Rose" counterpart "German Rose." A sultry sounding voice used to dissuade Black GI's from backing the U.S.

There is also a story behind the making of this film. Lee has always had financing problems for his films. Studios are always short changing him or just saying no. No, is what the filmmaker heard when he began shopping this film. McBride told me "Spike had to go to Italy to find financing."

The author said he was invited to the set in Italy for filming. "One of the many challenges the crew faced was the changing weather patterns on the mountain in Italy. Spike was told to consider using a sound stage, but held firm."

Some Spike Lee film tricks are in the movie, others are left out. Expect a sexy woman sashaying before the camera (remember Nola Darling and Rosey Perez). You'll be happy to hear Lee's signature shot is not in the movie.

This film was a nice break from the grind of covering politics. There is a political connection which may not be obvious. It is the veterans of World War II who saw the hypocrisy of fighting Nazism and fascism in Europe, while facing racism at home. They saw the promise of a better society when they moved from being cooks and orderlies to fighting soldiers. They took this bravery and created the civil rights movement laying the foundation for Black politics in America. Veterans better than any other group know what it's like to defend this country and giving the ultimate sacrifice.

Last Thoughts on Miracle at St. Anna

I'm very concern that recent war movies (mostly about Iraq) have bombed at the box office. This isn't a Tyler Perry movie either. For those of you who've asked for films with substance, this has it. Critics have a tendency to pan movies like this because they don't get the significance of telling a story we've never seen before (remember Boomerang - "Black people don't run major corporations. It's unrealistic.") Let me suggest you invite not just young people to this movie, but also veterans from any service branches. It needs to be seen.



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are You Middle Class?

Washington, DC -“There are three levels of middle class, lower, middle, and upper middle class,” according to Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, noted essayist and Georgetown University Professor. Dyson was one of four panelist convened by the Black MBA Association to tackle the question of “The Disappearing Middle Class.”

Dr. Dyson further refines his description by assessing the group via income levels. “Anyone making between 20k-30 k is lower, 50k-75k is the middle, 75k and above is upper middle class.”

Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post suggests being middle class is a “state of mind.” “It's a shared set of values, including family, money, and education,” are what defines you as a member of this often targeted group.

This give and take is indicative of discussions happening around dinner tables, barbershops, beauty salons, or anywhere you get a group of people discussing the proposition, “Are You Middle Class?”

The 30th Annual Black MBA conference provides a unique the setting for asking this question. “Turning Point,” a polling firm, is here to measure audience responses. Remember this group is not indicative of America (95 percent black audience with post-baccalaureate degrees). The group however is one of many bellwethers pollster can use to determine the effectiveness of their messages. The way it works is each person is given a clicker to record their responses.

The host for the event is Roland S. Martin, noted author and CNN Contributor. Being provocative he delves right in. “Well who is the Black Middle Class?”
Lawrence Otis Graham, noted author on Black cultural issues in the workplace, takes up the challenge.“You are no longer authentically black if you, move into areas where there is limited number of Black folks, vacation in Martha Vineyards, join Jack and Jill, or attend Spellman(or any other HBCU’s ).” Some might call this being “buppy” or “not keep-in-it real.” Graham who’s been asked to opine with the other panelists has just pinned an article for Uptown called “Don’t Hate us for Being Rich and Educated, and Well Connected.”

In the 10th annual Black Investor Survey conducted by Ariel Mutual Funds and The Charles Schwab Corporation they provide a window on the heretofore under surveyed population. The survey showed “African-Americans are moving backward not forward.” According to Lisa Tompkins from Schwab, the only female panelist says Black goals around what to do with money is split according a recent Schwab survey. “The choices put pressures on where the money is split up.”

In the room Martin poses this question and asks the audience to respond. “Is the black middle class disappearing?” The survey says, 64% say it is disappearing; 36% say its not.

So why are we disappearing. Fletcher says, the middle class is growing but is under more strains than past generations. “It’s more expensive to be in the middle class.” Graham agrees. He says “the foundations of the Black middle are disappearing. The Black middle class has integrated into the white middle class leaving behind the institutions” which help build it.

Consider this Black life insurance companies, funeral homes, and other black entrepreneurs who were the backbone of this community are no longer its foundation because the flight from urban centers.

If the business is black-owned, does it matter?” is the question. Survey says 61% say, yes; 39% say no. Martin questions the answer. I want to ask…“How many of you use a Black owned cleaners? (People raise their hands) A majority of the crowd does not. “Take down that slide,” says Martin(as the crowd chuckles at the conclusion).

Seriously, it’s this group (Black MBA’s) which knows how keenly it is to develop markets for products. They are pro-black and entering businesses which rely less on Blacks for their customer base.

Class Gulf

I’ve said often it is this gulf which is driving a wedge in Black solidarity. Education, the greater equalizer, does not play well with those new entrepreneurs who’ve taken marketing to new levels. Add in the mix athletic stars, music stars and self starters who’ve made money without a college degree. They perceive themselves as “authentically Black” not “selling out” to meet the whims of white folks.

Dyson points to NBA star Allen Iverson. Dyson tells the audience Iverson can ask a simple question, “Where was the black middle class when he and his momma were getting kicked out their homes?” There is a mentality among popular rappers from 50 Cents, Jay-Z and Kanye West who prescribe to the theory “I got mine, go get yours!” The essayist comes to this simple, “they could give-a -….about the middle class.”


The discussion of the Black Middle Class is a much needed one. Defining it is difficult. One thing I do know, whatever level you fit in, you aren’t complacent. You are constantly struggling to get to the next level.

This is the group that is funding current and future political campaigns. They have the wherewithal to influence others and create the right kind of buzz for a candidate who wants to challenge the status quo. These are the movers and shakers and they are not alone. I describe these and other Black professional groups as the king/queen makers of the future.

Rightly or wrongly "their time as has come." They are smart, savvy, creative, and play the game at the highest level. Don’t even think about crossing them because they know their history. Don’t be confused by the custom suit, the Jim Choo shoes, the Louis Vuitton luggage, or the Benz in the driveway with being beyond Black. Nope, this group moved to the suburbs because they could.

I’m very concerned of what the middle class will mean in the future and will those who’ve made it create a critical mass for the future.



Friday, September 05, 2008

The MAC Attack

There weren’t 85,000, only 20,000 in the crowd; the visual was that of a town hall stage rather than a pillar of power; and the speech was understated versus over the top; I could go on and on, but it wouldn’t leave much space for the message ushered in last night by Senator John McCain who accepted the Republican nomination.

These speeches are almost always noted for their loftiness. I found the “what I’m going to do” missing from this acceptance. It also is used to create a vision, i.e. “The shinning city on the hill: “A place called Hope;” and many other memorable moments come to mind. I believe all we got was, “I'm going to fight for my cause every day as your president.”
Normally, eight years of being in charge (the Republicans) you think you’d be crowing about achievements. Having a president with low poll numbers and a party on the verge of losing a number of key house and senate races calls for a speech re-write. “I've been called a maverick” McCain is a maverick. He has bucked the traditional base and gone against the current president. He has even committed the “cardinal sin” of Ronald Regan Republicans, “Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican.” This is different.

Beating up on the GOP

It is strange when the nominee from the Republican Party took his own party to task. This is a new paradigm. Running as the outsider is a tried and true Republican theme, but McCain is one of the longest serving members of the Senate? Robert Erhlich the former governor of Maryland told me during a talk show in Washington, DC, “I love it.” Is everybody drinking the “Jim Jones Kool-Aid?”

“We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Sen. Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.”

This is the same party of President Bush and running against the establishment is supposed to help you win?

Secret Weapon

That “Pit Bull with lipstick,” Governor Sarah Palin, was featured prominently in the acceptance speech. She garners one of the loudest applauses when the Republican nominee delivered this memorable line, “I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: Change is coming.”This change mantra is really working. No one wants the status quo. Keeping things as they are would be dreadful all the way around. This thing called change has fired up crowds on both sides but whose change will work on the electorate.

According to McCain it’s all about lowering taxes to boost the economy. Note to McCain camp the Labor Department announced on Friday the jobless rate hit 6.1 percent (the highest rate in 5 years). To make matters worst the Boeing, one of the last major manufacturing companies with a large work force, is being struck.

The results coming out of Iraq maybe the one silver lining for the McCain campaign. The U.S, military turned Anbar Province over to the Iraq military this week. Remember McCain is about the surge and his fate is literally tied to it success.


I didn’t see this coming, but McCain is cognizant of current events and doesn’t live in a vacuum (unlike come of his counterparts). He praised the Obama campaign, “You have my respect and admiration. Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other. We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. No country ever had a greater cause than that. And I wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement.”


The base of the Republican Party is still uneasy about McCain. He just rubs these guys the wrong way. The social conservatives are likely to rally, but to what extent. The “marriages of political convenience” worked the last go round.” In the preverbal words of the political sage, Karl Rove, “where else are they gonna go.” The toss--up states (Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) could go for either candidate. Activities on the ground will surely be crucial.

The Sarah Palin wildcard is interesting. She is a “fire-in-the-belly” kind of politician. I don’t know if she is ready for the scrutiny she will get. I know not to expect her in any urban setting (suburbs, small towns, and religious outings only). Gwen Ifill’s Q and A for the Vice Presidential debate should be interesting (get ready for the GOP to smear her as well in the lead up to the debate).

The debates will tell only part of the story. Get ready for a bombshell on either side. The item will likely come an internet posting or youtube posting. The commercials I understand they are preparing will sling mud.

Lastly, I get the unusual feeling of the Clinton/Dole race; nah….this is going to be better. Roland Martin, of CNN and WVON, in one of his recent posting on the NABJ listserve tied it all up in a bow, ”Elections ARE decided on personality and not issues. Multiple pollsters have laid this out.”

Much love,



Thursday, September 04, 2008

Filling In the Blanks

The blank page of Governor Sarah Palin as Republican nominee for Vice President was filled in last night. Governor Palin whose resume many questioned showed she is no shrinking violet. Her speech was defiant, clear, resonant, and a challenge to small town America that urban centers have discounted in recent years. The visual of this mom turn politician was compelling. Like speakers before her, she continued the narrative of Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain, “John McCain would rather lose an election than lose a war.”

There were several themes running through her address. It includes executive experience, a disdain for Washington and media, and making the case for John McCain over the democratic ticket.

In at dig at Democrat Presidential Nominee Barack Obama, she chided his loft speeches and his chameleon like rhetoric to play to crowds. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening, We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.”Republicans have often felt those with power (Washington insiders and media) are more about the being cozy and gotcha. “But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country. Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people.”

Kicking and Punching

Palin describes herself as a hockey mom or “a pit-bull with lipstick,” and oh she was. The fighting woman resonated. She targeted the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan. These are the states which Senator Hillary Clinton won. These four states have begrudgingly accepted women in power, but see candidates of color with a “jaundice eye.”

Associating rural and suburban areas of these states with urban centers is an anathema to their “way of life.” It’s a fight where they are hoping to keep cities from encroaching and bring all its ills to their sanitize hamlets.

It’s partly racial, but it’s mainly cultural. It’s the Friday night football games; it’s the American Legion Baseball league; and the Fourth of July Parade which makes for a continuum and continuity these areas want to keep intact.

Veterans and McCain

McCain’s military service is truly heroic and no one has his story. The telling and retelling of his captivity is salient. The numbers of veterans groups endorsing his campaign is the “sure bet.” It’s especially a group to court in times of war. Palin delivered a personal touch by noting the story of a fellow captive Tom Moe of Lancaster, Ohio. McCain would have to walk past his cell at the "Hanoi Hilton."

“When McCain shuffled back from torturous interrogations, he would turn toward Moe's door and flash a grin and thumbs up" - as if to say, "We're going to pull through this." My fellow Americans that is the kind of man America needs to see us through these next four years.”

The Speech

Matt Scully who wrote the speech was able to hit the right notes, but it is the speaker who can take lofty rhetoric and make it you own. A speech like this has to have memorable lines. This one will be remembered for several.

“Listening to him (Obama) speak, it's easy to forget this is a man who has authored two memoirs, but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate.”
“Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the current do-nothing Senate, not long ago summed up his feelings about our nominee. He said, quote, "I can't stand John McCain." Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps no accolade we hear this week is better proof that we've chosen the right man.”

A written speech can be coached, massaged, and corrected prior to performance. Can she handle the q and a which will follow? You can’t stay in the bubble. The Republicans will make a concerted effort to use her in rural and suburban areas. Somewhere in the process she’ll have to answer some uncomfortable questions about her personal life and issues unfamiliar to her. These will test her “steeliness.” A non answer will be even more telling.

The Alaska Governor has pulled together the desperate parts of the Republican Party; which heretofore have not been united. Is it enough to bring John McCain to the Presidency? Tomorrow we will here from the man himself.

Back in the day you would hear a neighbor yell, "colored people on television." This was the day to showcase a number of minorities including GOPAC Chair Michael Steele. The head of the Texas Railroad Commission, Michael Williams was also tapped to speak. Anybody else left in the GOP?



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Curious and Missing

In the last two nights of observing the Republican Convention from St. Paul's Excel Center the visuals are a stark contrast to the DNC. Is it me or is their an absence of color and youth?

The cameramen must be falling all over themselves to find the handful of Black Republicans. In past years at the GOP party, the total number of Blacks has hovered at 10 percent. I'm guessing it hasn't gone up but may be going down. The Joint Center for Political and Economic studies bears this out. "Of the Republicans' 2,380 delegates, only 36 are black, a 78 percent drop from the GOP's 2004 convention and the lowest number in 40 years."

The reason for this drop can be attributed to several prominent Black Republicans vocally talking about voting for Barrack Obama. Some in this group have done so out of racial solidarity, and others have "heard the message of change."

For the uninitiated those famous Black Republicans you will see include Ken Blackwell of Ohio, Lynn Swann of Pennsylvania, Michael Steele of Maryland, Joe Rogers of Colorado, and Ward Connerly of California. These are the old stalwarts of the GOP who have put in time doing party building.

Get ready however for the new breed, Hip-Hop Republicans. According to their website, "They describe A “Hip Hop Republican” as not an individual that has lost her or his identity as a result of self-hatred, lack of exposure, or economic success. Because of the current political climate and common understanding, Hip Hop Republicans (and Black Republicans in total) often stand alone."

I witnessed their emergence first hand in Maryland with Lieutenant Governor Steele as their champion. He unexpectedly brought in Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons in for a fundraiser. During his remarks the Lieutenant Governor told the gathering (numbering 300) "it's not enough to get a seat at the lunch counter but we should strive to own the lunch counter."

This movement is about creating legacy wealth. It's not necessarily a shared idea in the Democratic Party which pushes shared sacrifice and collective cooperation. It is a tantalizing proposition for this generation who believe in Black entrepreneurship. The downside is being ridiculed for the social and moral causes which they neither understand or are prepared to grasp.

It's this group the GOP needs to understand if they hope to sustain itself in the future. It can teach it about guerrilla marketing; nuancing without being rigid; and believing in a society where color is less of issue than ideas.


The National Black Republican Association founded in 2005 is the most visible of the GOP franchises. According to President Frances Rice, "the group is dedicated to promoting the traditional values of the black community which are in concert with the core Republican Party philosophy of strong families, personal responsibility, quality education and equal opportunities for all."

The NBRA is infamous for its ads (Radio, Print, and Online) suggesting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. Several prominent Civil Rights Leaders have discounted this advertisement. The King family went as far as to issue a cease and decease order for the radio spots which used King's voice. It has not stopped the billboard and online activities. As I said in an earlier post some were strategically placed in Denver.

There appears to be a coarseness in this groups attempts to dissuade African-Americans from siding with the Democrat Party, which is their right. They are also effective in bring a number of Black conservative commentators to the attention of media.

I note, the current cause is to use religious undertones in dissuading Blacks from backing and staying loyal to the Democratic Party over the issue of abortion, gay marriage and traditional Black family values. This line of advocacy paid dividends in 2004 especially in Ohio and Florida where several exit poll workers discovered these issues persuade a large number of church going "Black Folk" to vote Republican.

My analysis this time shows there will be fewer of those who will succumb to this logic. It is fear which brings this group its numbers. I'm reminded starting a movement is not done by creating a website, but rather by mobilizing real people to stand by you on the ideas you put forward. It may not be large but you literally must begin proselytizing in order to make it work. Lastly, the age group which links itself with the group is greying (just like many other groups). Learn a thing a or two from the HIP HOP Caucus. There message is positive rather than a negative.

Palin Speech

You know I'm going to watch this tonight. Are you like me, "scratching your head wondering what were they thinking? FYI, they have brought the boyfriend in for show. This is tacky. Does anyone know if he has a voter registration card? Correct me, but didn't they say they wanted this to remain private? Bob Parks,writing for the Booker Rising Blog says, "If Sarah Palin has learned anything from her less-than-a-week in the international spotlight, she's learned what it's like to be black."

Welcome to my world.



Monday, September 01, 2008

Competing Images

I was planning to go to Minneapolis/St. Paul on Tuesday, but have changed plans in lieu of the Republican National Convention decision to scale back activities and Hurricane Gustav. These competing images will be easier to observe from my base of operation in Baltimore then in St. Paul. I’ll continue to blog and give my thoughts. So let’s get at it.

The selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has dominated the news cycle since her announcement on Friday. Here’s what we do know at this time.

1. She’s the Alaska Governor. (FYI, Governors have armies…the National Guard)
2. Palin is the first woman ever selected by the GOP to be nominated for Vice President. She’s an every woman kind of candidate. Hockey mom, devoted to her children(a total of five, one has downs syndrome), active in the PTA, and more comfortable doing outdoors sport than most women.
3. Her age 44(legal to be President) is a plus for those who’ve seen McCain’s age as an impediment.
4. Not afraid to take on the status quo. She bucked the Alaska GOP by taking on corruption.
5. General positive views from the constituents at the core of Republican brand…social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and young Republican women.
6. She has a son who is going to Iraq.

On the flip side, she’s got some major league challenges that are advancing faster than the campaign can react to.

1. Questions about her experience. This line of attack I believe is invalid. Neither President, nor Vice President has the pre-requisite experience to deal with the issues confronting a nation. I go back to Pearl Harbor, who knew; crash of the stock market, who knew; the resignation of Richard Nixon, who knew; and 9-11, who knew. All you can hope for is a cadre of smart and competent people to give the advice you need to make decisions. Conversely, the GOP’s line attack of experience seems to have been thrown out with the selection. Some will see this as hypocrisy.
2. Pandering to women. The Republicans seized on the disaffection of Clinton voters and obviously selected her in an attempt to grab this group of Democrats. In her initial speech she talked Clinton and her “18 million shattered pieces glass.” Female solidarity is potent, but many of her stances are the antithesis of a Clinton voter. Governor Palin is anti-abortion, she believes in drilling the Anwar, and has embraced the so call “ownership society.”
3. The latest revaluation, her 17 year old daughter is pregnant and unmarried. Talk about family values, abstinence only, and a perfect family; throw that crap out the window. This woman is going to have answer some uneasy questions (remember John Edwards). Hunkering in your room is going make it worst. Do the Governor David Patterson thing (remember he went before the media and laid out he had a an affair(s) and used cocaine while a Lt. Governor), call a press conference tell all that you know and say this will be last time you will talk about this subject.
4. OBTW, Palin is being sued for the firing of the Alaskan Public Safety official. According to the Alaska Daily News ( she’s also hired an attorney to litigate. What else is on the horizon?

Democratic Senator Barack Obama reacting to the Palin’s daughter said, “People’s families are off limits so let’s back-off.”

Convention Changes

It’s one reason why I’m not going St. Paul. Hurricane Gustav has played havoc with what the GOP wants to do. President George Bush and Vice President Dick Chaney have opted to stay away from convention. Not a bad idea. The President was scheduled to speak on Monday night. Instead Laura Bush and Cindy McCain made an appeal to convention goers and the public to help those who in the Gulf region.

The first lady told the crowd, “We’re all Americans with shared American values.” The governors in the gulf region are all Republicans. Three of the four governors (Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was too busy) produced tapes for the convention.

During the tapes CNN dumps coverage switches to Hurricane coverage. MSNBC and Fox News stay with speeches use split screens to cover weather coverage.

Cindy McCain announces the list of websites to donate money. In lieu of several parties in St. Paul, money and care packages are being sent to those affected.

By 9 pm EST things are calm and it appears Louisiana has dodged a bullet (the only problem seems to be near Plaquemines Parish where a earthen levee was prepared to give way…to resolve the issue they open the locks to marsh area).

Governor Bobby Jindal is a hero in this crisis. He appears "wonkish," but is a striking contrast to the previous governor; who didn’t appear to know what was going on.

The president must be relieved and he learned the lessons of Katrina. My heart still goes out to the seven people who died(so far). Five of them were killed in car crashes trying to flee the storm.


The visual of the GOP partying and hurricane is not what you want to see. McCain was right; the convention had to change(and will continue to change). It couldn’t be canceled because of the money.

The bad news is Hurricane Ike is off the coast of Florida. It looks like it could hit the Georgia or North Florida coast by Thursday. My late grandfather would call this “buzzard luck.” John McCain can’t catch a break.

The weather may be the least of his worries. Can Vice President Nominee, Governor Sarah Palin, weather the scrutiny and vetting of a national political figure? It won’t be just the legitimate press poking in her background. It’s going to be “fast and furious.” Could she be only the second Vice Presidential candidate to step down? We'll see.