Friday, January 30, 2009

Change Works for GOP Too


Annapolis – Maryland’s first African-American Lieutenant Governor was elected to lead the Republican National Committee today. Michael Steele, from Prince Georges County (a Washington, DC suburb), was selected to lead the GOP after six rounds of voting. He beat out South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson. Steele took 91 of the 168 votes needed to become the parties chief strategist and leader. Those watching knew there was something up when Steele scored 46 votes putting him in second place in the first round of voting. The former Lieutenant Governor continued to out distance his five rivals breaking through on the six round of voting. The winner needed 85 votes to win he had six votes to spare.

“It’s time for something completely different,” said Steele. The day did not start with the celebratory mood. Delegates staying at the Washington Capitol Hilton received a flyer under their door suggesting Steele wasn’t “tough enough.” In the rough and tumble world of GOP politics this is big. The party which claims Lincoln has had a tough time coming to grips with it post slavery message.

Up until the fifties most African-Americans were members of the GOP. The party fell out of favor following President Richard Nixon’s so call “southern strategy.” Dixiecrats (southern Democrats) flocked to the Republican Party with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Most legislatures and governorships were in the hands of Democrats but, this was what some called an “abomination.”

These were coded words for southerners who hailed states rights and derided the intervention of feds in their way of life. Fast forward to the mid seventies and the GOP went after welfare coining the phrase “welfare queens” and attacking “affirmative action” programs as “quotas.” Yea, this is the same party Michael Steele will lead.

This mantra of change is palatable. As I said in an early post the “status quo is unacceptable.” Change comes in all shapes and sizes. Claiming victory with change has its pitfalls. The old guard doesn’t give up power easily and the talking heads will likely find Steele lacking.

My New Best Friend

In the press room where I work in Annapolis all of us recounted the stories where we featured Steele. I was not immune. The phone rings and it’s the press secretary of former Governor of Maryland, Robert Erhlich.

Greg Massoni, “Yes, we were just ecstatic. The governor made a number of phone calls on the Michaels behalf but, we weren’t surprise” by the win. Massoni continues, Michael’s election proves “we’re a big tent party.” The Governor can be credited with launching the career of Steele. Despite Maryland being a Blue State; Erhlich, a Republican won. He was able to take the issue of race off the table by selecting Steele. Massoni recognizes how his time as the second man in charge of Maryland played into today’s selection, “it gets us to the next step.”

Late in the afternoon, Steele’s successor Anthony Brown, Maryland’s current Lieutenant Governor (who also happens to be African-American) weighs in with his own press release.

“I sincerely congratulate my predecessor and neighbor, Michael Steele, for being elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee. I wish Lt. Governor Steele the best in his new role. I am confident that he can bring an end to the RNC’s recent partisan approach to the challenges we face and reach a hand across the aisle to work with President Obama in restoring progress and prosperity to our great nation.”


Final Thoughts

If change is what America wants, they will get it in Michael Steele as the head of the Republican Party. I watched as he has ventured into areas that heretofore weren’t even thought of by the GOP. New ideas will be formulated; he will chase away GOP demons; and is likely to piss-off a few people doing it.

The comparisons to Obama aren’t fair. He’s different but, not a radical. He’s cautious. I’m reminded of a private conversation we had about an education commission he was leading on changing the school culture. He suggested in a report we should “pay math and science teachers more than art and music teachers.” I told him he was wrong. Setting up a two tiered pay system would fracture a system that already has enough problems. He seems to understand, suggesting it was important to get the best and brightest into the schools to teach. I told him then you need to change the conversation and policy.

Steele will tell you if you ask him….I pose lots of difficult questions. I have to…it’s what I do. I know at some point our paths will cross. We will be cordial but when it comes time I will again ask him difficult questions. At the end of the day I believe he will tell you, “Charles is tough but fair.”

Steele would like for you to believe he comes from the traditions of Frederick Douglass and other abolitionist who shook the Republicans to start a Civil War and ended up eliminating slavery. It's great to quote historical figures but it will take more than great quotes.

The GOP has changed the conversation for now but it will take more than a narrative to bring this party back from a hole it has dug for itself.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Journey of a Lifetime

Washington, DC – I arrived at my location underneath the presidential viewing stand with my colleagues from Maryland Public Television knowing we had the best seats at the capitol. The day was filled with many images that will stay with me forever. The reverence of the crowd and its ability to connect with the president continues to be an enduring conversation. I was especially touched by those who told me their stores about how they had survived the terrible times of “Jim Crow” and the cruel institution of segregation. There collective voices were embodied in Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction. “Black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around...When yellow will be mellow. When the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say, Amen.” While I sat watching I kept coming back to the millions in the crowd that filled the mall. It was surreal. Chants of Obama were frequent. They seem to come up like a wave from an ocean. These are some of my observations from my vantage point.

Observations

With the introduction of George Bush we heard the crowd signing we didn’t know what it was until the sound grew louder. The were singing the classic crowd anthem for a loser…”Kiss Him Good Bye“Nah na nan nah…hey hey hey good bye!!!” Midway through the speech I turned to look and there were Denzel Washington and P-Diddy standing during the entire event. Why did they stand?

What was up with Chief Justice John Roberts butchering the oath of office? The sad part, it’s created new internet rumors (which will not go away). Yes, suggestion is he’s not president because he did not recite the oath (give me a break). News Flash they just did a redo.

In one of the strangest moments, I am looking up at the president giving his address and a bird of prey comes into view high above the capitol. I thought it strange. As I look closely it appears to be a Red Tailed Hawk. I decided to Google what a sign like this means. This is what I learned.
“Part of the Role for the two-legged(man)beside whom a Red Tailed Hawk flies is that of Guardian of the Earth Mother. These are individuals who will possess an astute awareness of the concept of the interconnectedness of all things, and will have an inner reverence for all life. These are the souls that are involved in making the world a better place, whether locally or globally. They will be protectors of the Earth Mother and tread softly upon her, encouraging and educating ~Others~ to do the same. Often, they are either found initiating or actively involved in environmental causes, where their keen perception and insight will serve their chosen ~cause~ well. Yet it is their day to day existence and fundamental philosophy/foundation of action and belief, that distinguishes these individuals as true champions of Mother Earth as they seek to live in harmony with the ~Ina Maka~ and all that She births, provides, nurtures and sustains.”

Deep !!!

Here are my observations on the Inaugural Address.
video

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

That's the Ticket !

Washington, DC- Well it's finally here. A story I've been covering for 4 years gets its grand crescendo today. Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. This will be my third inauguration and it doesn't compare to the others I attended.

You'll see I literally have a front row seat (section 2). I left DC last night following a reception for the National Association of Black Journalist, Witness to History. While I'm not the oldest one at the reception veterans of past campaigns were there.

I had to make a critical decision about how I was going to get into the district. All the outlying metro parking lots were full by 7:00 am (yea, I got a late start). With the sun coming up those wanting prime spots were on the mall staking out positions. I decide to take the red line in from Silver Spring.

I find there is mosaic of people going to this event. The most excited maybe those who saw the beginning of the civil rights movement and worked to end "Jim Crow." People are orderly but determined. It's cold today in DC. People are dressed warmly but this will not sway the anticipation. They've come from all over the nation for this event. "I can't believe I'm witnessing this," is a common phrase.

People have their cameras and will click photos of each other. People will be talking about this for generations. The TV audience will surpass events like the superbowl.

I've now got the get in the security line I don't know if I'll be able to post during the event because of the blackout of wireless devices in the area I'm in. But I'll be back on line following the event.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Love You Back!

Baltimore - "I love you back!" Barack Obama's retort to the crowd at the War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore, Maryland was emblematic of a day which drew attention to the president elect in ways no other president elect has ever had to deal with it.

The "Tour" which I'd like to call it...because it reminds me of a rock tour...has the trappings of "hero worship." I've watch this building momentum. It's palatable. Yes, I have a front row seat to the inaugrual event and will tell you my impressions at the event.

I'm amazed at those who want to downplay this events importance. This is big with lots of symbolism. You might as well call this "National Black Holiday Weekend." Black folk I know have taken off from Thursday to Tuesday. Some without pay others saying I'm cashing in my comp time for this event.

The train trip he took today was symbolic of Abraham Lincoln's trip to the White House. For those of you who are unaware, Lincoln came through Baltimore in the middle of the night because there was an assassination plot. Trains in those days didn't run straight through. So when the president came in at 3 am a group of horses moved the train from one track to another.

The next day a train carrying Lincoln's wife and a brigade of troops stopped in Baltimore. The citizens were upset with Lincoln's victory and were spurred on by a columnist showed up to greet the train and the troops. The troops decided to march through town. They are pelted with dishes, silver ware, and horse crap. The troops fired into the mob killing two and wounding many. The incident was widely reported and became the theme for the second verse of the state song, Maryland My Maryland.

So you can imagine my interest in this visit by Obama. There was no mention of Lincoln today but references to Fort McHenry and the "Star Spangled Banner."

He referenced the American Revolution which he says still exists. "The American Revolution was - and remains - an ongoing struggle in the minds and hearts of the people to live up to our founding creed."

I think he was referencing the change necessary to move the country in a different direction. There is a general sense on January 20, 2009 the world will change. Get a clue people. This job is enormous.

Optimism

There is something going on with this Inauguration. I've never seen anything quite like this. As a journalist I am skeptical. The optimism is evident. Mounting bad news is waved off. International incidents (GAZA) will end on this day. Doubt is not option.

What will I and you see on Tuesday...a spectacle of enormous proportion. Is it me but are officials essential telling people to stay away from inauguration on the mall? Get a grip, people are coming, get over it.

If you get a chance drop me a line about what you hope to see and expect to see. For more pics check out my facebook page.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

"O is in the house." That would mean the President Elect Barack Obama is in Chocolate City. It must be nice to move from digs in Hawaii to the Hay Adams Hotel in the District just up the street from the White House. If it's Monday then it means time to get to get to work.


O started his day with making sure the girls got off to school. Then it's off to Capitol Hill to meet with Speaker of the Nancy Peloski. His arrival was like that of "rock star." Lots of pictures.

But events overtake the president elect. Let's start with the withdrawl of Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce designate. Apparently, his connection with a contributor and a state contract are under investigation. So back to being governor of New Mexico. Governor Richardson says he didn't want to cause any controversy.

Too bad because Roland Burris is sucking the wind out of all coverage concerning this next congress. Burris, the former Illinois Attorney General, was selected by Illinois Governor Rod Blagovich to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate. It's torn everyone. Congressman Bobby Rush inflamed the situation with his insistence that "the Senate is acting like an exclusive club." Obama was the senate's lone African-American. But this appointment doesn't pass the smell test.

Burris made the media rounds appearing on Tom Joyner Morning Show, CNN, MSNBC, and one last minute press conference at Midway Airport in Chicago. Here's the problem. His credentials were presented to U.S. Senate clerk and was rejected. The problem the paperwork only had one signature (the governors). To validate it needs to have the Illinois Secretary of State Rich White. This is going to get messy.

Burris is in Washington, while noble, is nothing more than a circus. Lots of cameras, soundbites and little to do with being seated. The case most sited is the Adam Clayton Powell's challenge to be seated. From where I sit these are two different cases. However, at the end of the day it may be the Supreme Court which will make the decision. Hey just add this case with the Al Kranken/Norm Coleman race in Minnesota.

Distractions

The Gaza incursion by Israel needs to be wrapped up by Inauguration Day. I'm sorry I'm not buying in this notion that the "collateral damage" i.e. civilian casualties is acceptable. Sorry, an invasion is just that. No there should be no rockets from Hamas. There needs to be a better way. Are Israels recognizing there will be change with Obama? I think you can bank on this.

Change

As I write this Leon Pannette has been announced as CIA Chief. Get ready for change in the slowest moving department in Federal Government. A new survey by Armed Forces Magazine suggest the military is suspect of Obama because he hasn't served in the military. It's common for those with military background to be suspect. I'd like to suggest look at what you military leaders gave you. "You go to war with the army you have not the army you want." "Be innovative." Yea right.

GOP

While most Democrats are celebrating, the members of the Republican Party are spinning over what direction they should go in lieu of Democratic victories. The chair of the Republicans Party is up for grabs. It's a mess in the GOP. A recent CD sent to Republicans called "Barack the Magic Negro" is insulting. There are six people vying to lead the GOP. Two are black, Ken Blackwell and Micheal Steele. Steele has picked up the mantra of change. Blackwell has pushed his conservative credentials. I'm laughing while I'm reading a Politico article entitled "Everyone is Pissed." I for one am putting money on Steele (he is a long shot but with everyone tearing each other down). The bad news the GOP is going to be in the wilderness for a long time. There base in the south is turning people off in other parts of the country.

By Week's End

Barack will give a major address on the economy Thursday. Here's what we know car sales are down, unemployment is up and no one is feeling the need to spend. The president elect wants a package to get people back to work. Will the Congress give the new president the "honey moon" he needs? Good Luck.

Lastly, where's the dog Mr. President?

C3