Saturday, July 19, 2008

Obama predicts that black racism will help him win

(Though he may be wrong if Jesse Jackson is any guide)

If Barack Obama's historic campaign to become the first black president boosts black turnout as drastically as he predicts, he could crack decades of Republican dominance across the South. That's a big "if." Still, an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Census and voting data from the past four presidential elections shows a potentially dramatic impact should Obama fulfill his pledge to elevate black participation by 30 percent. That would add nearly 1.8 million votes in 11 Southern states, the analysis shows, enough to tip the balance in several that have been Republican strongholds.

Besides the likely increase in black turnout, the Illinois senator also expects a surge of young voters to help him compete in states that have been reliably red since the once solidly Democratic South flipped to the Republicans in 1964. "I can tell you that North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama will be in play," asserts North Carolina Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, an Obama adviser. "We're looking strongly at Tennessee and Mississippi."

Obama set the 30 percent goal himself last August at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. "I guarantee you African-American turnout, if I'm the nominee, goes up 30 percent around the country, minimum," he said. "Young people's percentage of the vote goes up 25-30 percent. So we're in a position to put states in play that haven't been in play since LBJ."

The math backs up his analysis - if he can deliver the turnout he promises. In Georgia, the GOP presidential nominee's average margin of victory in the past four elections was 216,000 votes. If 30 percent more voting-age blacks go to the polls in November than the four-year average - with all else equal, and Obama capturing all of those votes - he would win the state by 84,000 ballots. Should 90 percent of those voters go for Obama, a figure he achieved among blacks in some primaries this year, he would still have enough to win the state and its 15 electoral votes.

If Obama reached his goal of a 30 percent increase and brought all those new black voters into his fold, he could also win in Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia and Florida. Wins in the six states would give him 81 new electoral votes - enough to beat Arizona Sen. John McCain even if the Republican won almost every other toss-up state in the nation, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Ohio.

A 30 percent boost in black turnout also could pull Obama into a tie with McCain in Mississippi. And in South Carolina, a conservative state that went to President Bush by 17 percentage points four years ago, Obama could come within 17,000 votes - less than a percentage point. Ditto in North Carolina, a state often mentioned as a possible Southern pickup for Obama.

Tom Schaller, a University of Maryland political science professor who has long argued that Democrats don't need to win the South to win the White House, said a 12 percent increase in black turnout across the region would be enough to swing Virginia, Florida and perhaps another state. But he's not sold on Obama's guarantee. "I'll believe a 30 percent increase in the black vote when I see it," Schaller said. "If Obama does it, he will have proved to doubters like me that his organizing skills in Chicago coupled with his vision and charisma are truly transformative. It'll be a thumping on Nov. 4."

Obama's advisers admit they have a distance to go. In four Southern states that were able to provide figures by race - North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana - the number of registered black voters has risen 12 percent since the beginning of 2006. That's a remarkable run, and one that could be further buoyed by an increased turnout among blacks already registered. But white turnout has been up, too.

Also, there's no way Obama will win all black votes, even in this history-making election as the first black candidate on a major-party ballot. About 11 percent of black votes went to Bush in 2004, though that figure is expected to decrease substantially in this year's race between Obama and McCain.

And there is no guarantee that Obama will keep the support of all Democrats who voted for John Kerry, Al Gore and President Clinton in the previous three elections. An AP-Yahoo News election survey has found that 8 percent of all whites say they would be very uncomfortable voting for a black presidential candidate, and even 16 percent of Democrats say they would have at least some reservations. "It would be an important change in the dynamics of Southern politics if Obama reached his goal of increasing black voter turnout by 30 percent," said Ferrel Guillory, who tracks Southern voting as director of the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "But he probably can't win simply with that. He's still got to be attractive to white voters."

There are important other factors sure to affect whether this year's vote follows the trends of past elections. McCain's history of bucking Republican orthodoxy could draw moderates to the GOP. On the other hand, 25 percent of voters who call themselves "very conservative" are either backing someone other than McCain or remain undecided, the AP-Yahoo News election survey shows.

As for Obama's registration drive, in North Carolina's Durham County, where 38 percent of residents are black, local Obama organizers boast a volunteer roster of 4,700 people - equivalent to about 2 percent of all people who live in the city of Durham. Faulkner Fox, a local leader for Obama, said the group's members, both black and white, are registering voters at a pace she hasn't seen in 20 years of organizing.

Still, experts wonder. David Bositis, who tracks black voting trends for the Washington-based Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies, says the primaries showed "there is something going on in terms of black voters already. There's evidence they're charged up for this election." But he also said he's more comfortable predicting a turnout increase of 20 percent.

McCain's campaign so far seems comfortable with his chances to continue the GOP's success in the South. The Arizona senator is setting up a campaign organization in Virginia and is considering doing the same in North Carolina. Other staffing decision are to be determined, advisers said. "I certainly don't fault Sen. Obama for trying to put some states in play that haven't been in play in the past," said Mike DuHaime, who advises both the Republican National Committee and the McCain campaign. "It's probably a smart political move. I don't think it will pay off in terms of electoral votes."



"Poll Finds Obama's Run Isn't Closing Divide on Race," reads the headline on the front page of the July 16th New York Times. The article beneath the headline observes that despite Barack Obama's candidacy, the results of a new CBS/New York Times Poll show that American society is still deeply divided along racial lines. Blacks and whites continue to hold divergent views about the state of race relations in the United States with whites far more optimistic than blacks. Moreover, white and black voters have dramatically different opinions about the nation's first black presidential candidate. Black voters view Obama much more favorably than white voters. In fact a plurality of white voters in the CBS/New York Times Poll had an unfavorable opinion of Obama.

The results of the poll are interesting. But is anyone surprised that Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic nomination contest has not changed the way blacks and whites view race relations in the United States? Or that black voters have much more positive opinions of a black presidential candidate than white voters? Anyone who was surprised by these findings hasn't been following the news for the past 40 years.

There's something important missing from the New York Times article and more generally from commentary on the role of race in the 2008 presidential election: a sense of historical perspective. Racial attitudes are based on people's upbringing and life experiences. They don't change overnight. And opinions about presidential candidates are based on longstanding and deeply held party loyalties and ideological orientations.

The assumption underlying much of the commentary about Barack Obama's candidacy in recent months has been that he has a problem with white voters. While questions about Obama's ability to appeal to white voters have been around since he entered the race, they were accentuated by his weak performance among white voters in some of the presidential primaries. In key swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, exit polls showed Obama trailing Hillary Clinton by a wide margin among white voters. Given his problems with white voters in these Democratic primaries, some pundits have assumed that Obama must also have a problem with white voters in the general election.

So does Barack Obama have a problem with white voters? The answer is a resounding "yes." And so has every other Democratic presidential candidate in the past forty years. The last Democratic candidate for president to win a majority of the white vote was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Al Gore lost the white vote by 12 points in 2000. John Kerry lost the white vote by 17 points in 2004.

Based on five national polls that have been conducted this month--Gallup, Newsweek, Quinnipiac, CBS/New York Times, and ABC/Washington Post--Barack Obama is currently trailing John McCain by an average of nine points among white voters. So Obama is doing much better than John Kerry and a little better than Al Gore. In fact, the only Democratic presidential candidates in the past four decades who have done better among white voters were Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Not coincidentally, they were also the only successful Democratic presidential candidates in the past four decades. Based on his current showing in the polls, Barack Obama may well be the next one. With whites expected to comprise less than 80 percent of the 2008 electorate, and with a 20-1 margin among black voters and a 2-1 margin among Hispanic voters, Obama's current nine point deficit among white voters would translate into a decisive victory in November.


Nat Hentoff is disillusioned by the flipflopper

During my more than 60 years of covering national politics, I have never seen a candidate's principles and character so effectively tarnished - after so extraordinarily inspiring a start - as Barack Obama's. He has come to resemble another mellifluous orator I came to know in Boston during my first time reporting on a campaign - James Michael Curley, the skilful prestidigitator whom Spencer Tracy masterfully played in the movie "The Last Hurrah." Obama's deflation has not been due to ruthless opposition research by John McCain's team but by the "change" candidate himself. Like millions of Americans, I, for a time, was buoyed by not only the real-time prospect of our first black president but much more by the likelihood that Obama would pierce the dense hypocrisy and insatiable power-grabbing of current American politics.

Also, as a former teacher of constitutional law, Obama gave me "hope I could believe in" that he would rescue the Constitution's separation of powers, resuscitate the Bill of Rights and begin to restore our reputation around the world as a truly law-abiding nation.

Savoring the high expectations he had secured among so many Americans, Obama has decided he can also come closer to securing the Oval Office by softening his starlight enough to change some of his principles toward the calming center of our stormy political waters.

In a defense by Dan Gerstein, a New York political consultant - echoing what you'll be hearing more of from Obama's campaign operatives - the gossamer script goes: "He is trying to broaden his appeal to a larger electorate and to be true to this postpartisan, unifying message that he's been campaigning on." But instead of the ennobling clarion trombones of CHANGE we have been promised, this "adjusting" of one's principles has long been the common juggling of our common politicians.

Accordingly, as his presidential campaign gathered such momentum, Obama, with justifiable pride, pointed to the resounding fact that most of the bountiful funds he was raising came from small donors, "the people," not the sort of supporters who move above us in private jet planes.

But after abandoning his pledge to abide by public financing, this apostle of cleansing the political culture is now going after the high rollers. As the July 3 New York Times reported, "Last week, the Obama campaign collected about $5 million at an event featuring celebrities in Los Angeles. The evening began with a dinner at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for more than 200 people who had contributed $28,500 per couple, or raised $50,000." Then there is the current furor among a rising number of Obama contributors with wallets far below the $50,000-a-pop crowd about his change on the "compromise" FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that passed the House and Senate, and has been signed by the grateful president.

The flimflam candidate had assured his faithful enthusiasts that he would filibuster this bill (which will immunize the telecommunications companies that enabled the president to break the law in his once-secret warrantless wiretapping) that turned our privacy rights upside down and out. Now, by dismissing the scores of lawsuits against these companies from Americans wanting to know whether they've been ensnared in this giant government-spun Web, the president and such supporters as Obama will have made it close to impossible to conduct meaningful investigations...

More here

Obama's 'Judgment'

Barack Obama departs for Iraq as early as this weekend, with a media entourage as large as some of his rallies. He'll no doubt learn a lot, in addition to getting a good photo op. What we'll be waiting to hear is whether the would-be Commander in Chief absorbs enough to admit he was wrong about the troop surge in Iraq.

Mr. Obama has made a central basis of his candidacy the "judgment" he showed in opposing the Iraq war in 2002, even if it was a risk-free position to take as an Illinois state senator. The claim helped him win the Democratic primaries. But the 2007 surge debate is the single most important strategic judgment he has had to make on the more serious stage as a Presidential candidate. He vocally opposed the surge, and events have since vindicated Mr. Bush. Without the surge and a new counterinsurgency strategy, the U.S. would have suffered a humiliating defeat in Iraq.

Yet Mr. Obama now wants to ignore that judgment, and earlier this week his campaign erased from its Web site all traces of his surge opposition. Lest media amnesia set in, here is what the Obama site previously said: "The problem - the Surge: The goal of the surge was to create space for Iraq's political leaders to reach an agreement to end Iraq's civil war. At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war."

Mr. Obama's site now puts a considerably brighter gloss on the surge. Yet the candidate himself shows no signs of rethinking. In a foreign-policy address Tuesday, the Senator described the surge, in effect, as a waste of $200 billion, an intolerable strain on military resources and a distraction from what he sees as a more important battle in Afghanistan. He faulted Iraq's leaders for failing to make "the political progress that was the purpose of the surge." And his 16-month timetable for near-total withdrawal apparently remains firm.

It would be nice if Mr. Obama could at least get his facts straight. Earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad reported that the Iraqi government had met 15 of the 18 political benchmarks set for it in 2006. The Sunni bloc in Iraq's parliament is returning to the government after a year's absence. Levels of sectarian violence have held steady for months - at zero. (In January 2007, Mr. Obama had predicted on MSNBC that the surge would not only fail to curb sectarian violence, but would "do the reverse.") If this isn't sufficient evidence of "genuine political accommodation," we'd like to know what, in his judgment, is.

The freshman Senator also declared that "true success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future - a government that prevents sectarian conflict, and ensures that the al Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not re-emerge."

Yet the reason Iraq is finally getting that kind of government is precisely because of the surge, which neutralized al Qaeda and gave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki the running room to confront Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army. And the reason the U.S. can now contemplate more troop withdrawals is because the surge has created the conditions that mean the U.S. would not be leaving a security vacuum. On Wednesday, Mr. Maliki's government assumed security responsibility in yet another province, meaning a majority of provinces are now under full Iraqi control.

Mr. Obama acknowledges none of this. Instead, his rigid timetable for withdrawal offers Iraq's various groups every reason to seek their security in local militias such as the Mahdi Army or even al Qaeda, thereby risking a return to the desperate situation it confronted in late 2006. The Washington Post has criticized this as obstinate, and Democratic foreign policy analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution reacted this way: "To say you're going to get out on a certain schedule - regardless of what the Iraqis do, regardless of what our enemies do, regardless of what is happening on the ground - is the height of absurdity."

Mr. Obama does promise to "consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government" in implementing his plans. But he would have shown more sincerity on this score had he postponed Tuesday's address until after he visited Iraq and had a chance to speak with those generals and Iraqis. The timing of his speech made it appear not that he is open to what General David Petraeus tells him, but that he wants to limit the General's military options.

Mr. Bush has often been criticized for refusing to admit his Iraq mistakes, but he proved that wrong in ordering the surge that reversed his policy and is finally winning the war. The next President will now take office with the U.S. in a far better security position than 18 months ago. Mr. Obama could help his own claim to be Commander in Chief, and ease doubts about his judgment, if he admits that Mr. Bush was right.


Obama's 'Big Brother' vanishes from speech

'Civilian security force' excised from 'call to service' transcript

The stunning comments from Democrat Sen. Barack Obama that the United States needs a "civilian national security force" that would be as powerful, strong and well-funded as the half-trillion dollar United States Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force have mysteriously disappeared from published transcripts of the speech. In the comments, Obama confirmed the U.S. "cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set."

Campaign officials have declined to return any of a series of WND telephone calls over several days requesting a comment on the situation. Nor have they posted a transcript of the speech on their website. Those transcripts of Obama's speech in Colorado Springs July 2 include the following:
We'll send more college graduates to teach and mentor our young people. We'll call on Americans to join an Energy Corps to conduct renewable energy and environmental cleanup projects in their neighborhoods. We'll enlist veterans to help other vets find jobs and support, and to be there for our military families. And we'll also grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered, and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy.

And we'll use technology to connect people to service. We'll expand USA Freedom Corps to create an online network where Americans can browse opportunities to volunteer. You'll be able to search by category, time commitment, and skill sets; you'll be able to rate service opportunities, build service networks, and create your own service pages to track your hours and activities. This will empower more Americans to craft their own service agenda, and make their own change from the bottom up.

It was at that point in the speech, at about 16 minutes on a YouTube video, Obama says: "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

Joseph Farah, founder and editor of WND, used his daily column first to raise the issue, and then to elevate it with a call to all reporters to start asking questions about such statements. "If we're going to create some kind of national police force as big, powerful and well-funded as our combined U.S. military forces, isn't this rather a big deal?" Farah wrote. "I thought Democrats generally believed the U.S. spent too much on the military. How is it possible their candidate is seeking to create some kind of massive but secret national police force that will be even bigger than the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force put together?

"Is Obama serious about creating some kind of domestic security force bigger and more expensive than that? If not, why did he say it? What did he mean?" Farah wrote. He added that he wants the help of "every other journalist who still thinks the American people have a right to know the specifics about a presidential candidate's biggest and boldest initiatives before the election." Since Farah reported the statement, it's been the subject of heated discussions on the Internet.

The Blue Collar Muse said, "In 2007, the U.S. Defense budget was $439 billion. Is Obama serious about creating some kind of domestic security force bigger and more expensive than that? The questions are legion and the implications of such an organization are staggering! What would it do? According to the title, it's a civilian force so how would it go about discharging 'national security' issues? What are the Constitutional implications for such a group? How is this to be paid. . The statement was made in the context of youth service. Is this an organization for just the youth or are adults going to participate? How does one get away from the specter of other such 'youth' organizations from Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union when talking about it?"

On the forum page for Blue Collar Muse, "MichaelnotMike" said, "I thought we already had the FBI, DEA, BATFE, U.S. Marshals, TSA, postal inspectors, park rangers, Secret Service, state bureaus of investigation, state police, local police, sheriffs and constables, among others, that already did that." Added Jenn Sierra, "The other, more likely, possibility here is that Obama has absolutely no clue what he's talking about. That would explain why he hasn't elaborated on the idea."

Obama's Colorado Springs speech was about a "call to service." "I am running for president, right now, because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now. This moment is too important to sit on the sidelines." And he told the audience he would "ask for your service."

"We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges. . As president, I will expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots, and make that increased service a vehicle to meet national goals like providing health care and education, saving our planet and restoring our standing in the world, so that citizens see their efforts connected to a common purpose. People of all ages, stations, and skills will be asked to serve. Because when it comes to the challenges we face, the American people are not the problem - they are the answer."

He also talks about additional work for veterans, and a new "Energy Corps" for the two million "young Americans who are out of school and out of work."

Source. See also here (including video).

What Would Obama Die For?

Since securing the Democratic Party's nomination in June, Barack Obama has been busy redefining himself. He has come out for a government surveillance bill he once opposed. He's expressed support for funding religious programs with tax dollars. He reversed his stance on accepting public financing. He reversed his view of the D.C. gun ban. And he hinted that he will "refine" his position on Iraq, only to push back against himself this week and reiterate his Iraq withdrawal plan.

Mr. Obama's position shifts are clumsy and ill-timed. He has built his franchise on the concept that he is a new kind of politician. But of late, he has become the reincarnation of Clintonian triangulation. That does not mean his repositioning is wholly foolish. The timing is foolish. At some point the most liberal Democratic nominee since at least 1984 had to consider the center. Too bad for Mr. Obama that he waited until it appeared politically expedient.

Mr. Obama's moves may test his base as much as the candidate himself. Recall Hubert Humphrey, a pioneer on civil rights in 1948. Two decades later, Humphrey would not repudiate Lyndon Johnson. Humphrey's past liberal stances were forgotten. To some liberals he was on the wrong side of Vietnam, so many in the antiwar base called him no liberal at all. Today's antiwar Democratic base will have to decide how much slack it can offer Mr. Obama when he returns from Iraq.

Mr. Obama would have been braver and shrewder if he shifted to the center on some issues months ago. As early as mid-February he had the electoral math to assure the nomination. He could have then taken one big and bold stance that would have irked and even infuriated some liberals. If he had done so, he would have remained politically alive, offered evidence he was larger than liberalism and thus improved his general election positioning. He would also look brave. After all, despite John McCain's shifts on issues like taxes, Mr. Obama has long known he would face the man who built his franchise on grit.

Yet Democrats are not pragmatic these days. About one in 10 Democratic primary voters said that the quality that mattered most to them was that their candidate "has the best chance to win in November."

For the general election some pragmatism, not at the sacrifice of principle, is a prerequisite. Since the massive Democratic year of 2006 there have been clues for Mr. Obama that rural, exurban, or red America had not suddenly fallen in love with the Democrats' left wing as much as out of love with George W. Bush's Republicanism - and at some point Mr. Obama would be compelled to break with liberalism to expand the electoral map.

There was much ado about the May special election victories of Democratic Reps. Don Cazayoux in Louisiana and Travis Childers in Mississippi. Both ran in districts Republicans had held for decades. The political class viewed their victories as harbingers of the ascendant Democratic Party. Less noticed was that both candidates ran as conservatives on cultural issues, opposing legalized abortion and gun-control measures. Mr. Cazayoux backed Mr. Obama but ran as a "John Breaux' Democrat." Mr. Childers has not endorsed Mr. Obama. These Democratic wins were akin to the Senate victories in 2006 by Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania and John Tester in Montana. Both men broke with the party's platform to make inroads with base-Republican voters - white men, for example.

The Obama campaign seems only superficially in touch with the lessons of these victories. Last month Mr. Obama skipped the Democratic Leadership Council's annual gathering, though it was held a block from his national headquarters in Chicago. It was the DLC that made Bill Clinton. While no group perfectly represents moderate or Blue Dog Democrats, Mr. Obama's no-show could easily be seen as a brash statement that he is not substantively concerned with moderate or conservative Democratic ideas or their voters.

Now Mr. Obama is acting the centrist. But by coming this late in the process, his shift appears to be purely political. Democrats like Messrs. Casey, Tester, Cazayoux and Childers have moderate biographies because they have both conservative and liberal beliefs. They have stances to testify to those beliefs. We're just getting to know Mr. Obama. Perhaps, he needs to better know himself.

A couple years ago Norman Mailer and I were talking about character and Democratic troubles with men. Exit polling shows more white men than women and minorities vote on character. "The one trouble with [Mr.] Clinton," Mailer said, "You could say there was not a single political idea he was willing to die for."

Mr. Obama has to stand firm for controversial beliefs. He also must heed the center. The two only conflict when the stance repudiates the politician. Mr. Obama needs a bold stand that will not contradict his past, but appear to be an outgrowth of it. Today, however, Mr. Obama seems to be moving toward Mr. Clinton's center while moving away from his core self. Who is this new Mr. Obama? If he does not answer that question, Republicans will.



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