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Morning in America

Nov 6, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: News, Opinions

By Eugene Robinson
Source Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com
Thursday, November 6, 2008

I almost lost it Tuesday night when television cameras found the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the crowd at Chicago’s Grant Park and I saw the tears streaming down his face. His brio and bluster were gone, replaced by what looked like awestruck humility and unrestrained joy. I remembered how young he was in 1968 when he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., moments before King was assassinated and hours before America’s cities were set on fire.

I almost lost it again when I spoke with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the bravest leaders of the civil rights crusade, and asked whether he had ever dreamed he would live to see this day. As Lewis looked for words beyond “unimaginable,” I thought of the beating he received on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the scars his body still bears.

I did lose it, minutes before the television networks projected that Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States, when I called my parents in Orangeburg, S.C. I thought of the sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured so that my generation could climb higher. I felt so happy that they were here to savor this incredible moment.

I scraped myself back together, but then almost lost it again when I saw Obama standing there on the stage with his family — wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, their outfits all color-coordinated in red and black. I thought of the mind-blowing imagery we will see when this young, beautiful black family becomes the nation’s First Family.

Then, when Michelle’s mother, brother and extended family came out, I thought about “the black family” as an institution — how troubled it is, but also how resilient and how vital. And I found myself getting misty-eyed again when Barack and Michelle walked off the stage together, clinging to one another, partners about to embark on an adventure, full of possibility and peril, that will change this nation forever. (more…)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Nov 2, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: Opinions, Politics

By FRANK RICH
Source Link: http://www.nytimes.com

AND so: just how far have we come?

As a rough gauge last week, I watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it came out when I was a teenager in 1967. Back then “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was Hollywood’s idea of a stirring call for racial justice. The premise: A young white woman falls madly in love with a black man while visiting the University of Hawaii and brings him home to San Francisco to get her parents’ blessing. Dad, a crusading newspaper publisher, and Mom, a modern art dealer, are wealthy white liberals — Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, no less — so surely there can be no problem. Complications ensue before everyone does the right thing.

Though the film was a box-office smash and received 10 Oscar nominations, even four decades ago it was widely ridiculed as dated by liberal critics. The hero, played by the first black Hollywood superstar, Sidney Poitier, was seen as too perfect and too “white” — an impossibly handsome doctor with Johns Hopkins and Yale on his résumé and a Nobel-worthy career fighting tropical diseases in Africa for the World Health Organization. What couple would not want him as a son-in-law? “He’s so calm and sure of everything,” says his fiancée. “He doesn’t have any tensions in him.” She is confident that every single one of their biracial children will grow up to “be president of the United States and they’ll all have colorful administrations.”

What a strange movie to confront in 2008. As the world knows, Barack Obama’s own white mother and African father met at the University of Hawaii. In “Dreams From My Father,” he even imagines the awkward dinner where his mother introduced her liberal-ish parents to her intended in 1959. But what’s most startling about this archaic film is the sole element in it that proves inadvertently contemporary. Faced with a black man in the mold of the Poitier character — one who appears “so calm” and without “tensions” — white liberals can make utter fools of themselves. When Joe Biden spoke of Obama being “clean” and “articulate,” he might have been recycling Spencer Tracy’s lines of 41 years ago. (more…)

A Seismic Election Day – George F. Will

Nov 2, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: News, Opinions

By George F. Will
Source Link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com

A Few States Are Apt to Change Colors

By midnight Tuesday, millions of conservatives probably will believe that the nation, foundering on the reefs of sin, is ruined. And millions of “progressives,” emboldened to embrace truth in labeling by again calling themselves liberals, probably will have decided that Heaven is at hand, the nation revived like a flower in an April shower.

In any case, political numeracy can illuminate the hours before midnight. So as Tuesday”s numbers accumulate, here are some benchmarks to bear in mind:

The House of Representatives currently has 235 Democrats and 199 Republicans; the Senate has 51 Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats) and 49 Republicans. Republican losses on Tuesday should be measured against the aftermath of two debacles a decade apart.

President Lyndon Johnson”s 1964 landslide victory over Barry Goldwater produced a House with 295 Democrats and 140 Republicans, and a Senate with 68 Democrats and 32 Republicans. The 1974 post-Watergate congressional elections produced a House with 291 Democrats and 144 Republicans, and a Senate with 60 Democrats, 38 Republicans, one independent who caucused with the Democrats and one Conservative Party member who caucused with the Republicans.

Five Deep South states — South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — voted for Goldwater in 1964, the first time they had gone Republican since Reconstruction, except for Louisiana”s vote for Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. In 1968, they voted for a third-party candidate, George Wallace. In 1972, they voted for Richard Nixon over George McGovern. In 1976, they voted for Jimmy Carter, the Georgia Democrat, over President Gerald Ford. In 1980, Carter again carried Georgia and averaged a healthy 47.3 percent of the votes in the other four. Since then, only two of the five have voted Democratic — Bill Clinton carried Georgia in 1992 and Louisiana in 1992 and 1996. Since 1980, Democratic presidential candidates have averaged only 42.5 percent of the vote in the five states. Measure Barack Obama”s performance there — built upon increased turnout of African Americans, who are 30 percent of the five states” combined populations — against that 42.5 percent. (more…)

The Amazing Race

Nov 2, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: News, Opinions

By David S. Broder
Source Link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com

I thought 1960 was the best campaign I’d ever cover. But 2008 has that election beat.

I remember the precise moment when I became convinced that this presidential campaign was going to be the best I’d ever covered. It was Saturday afternoon, Dec. 8, 2007. I stood in the lobby of Hy-Vee Hall, the big convention center in Des Moines, watching an endless stream of men, women and children come down the escalators from the network of skywalks that link the downtown business blocks of Iowa’s capital. They were bundled in winter coats against the chilly temperatures, and the mood was festive — like a tailgate party for a football game. But the lure here was not a sporting contest; it was a political rally.

Sen. Barack Obama had imported Oprah Winfrey from Chicago to make the first of her endorsement appearances. The queen of daytime television, professing her nervousness at being on a political stage, was nonetheless firm in her declaration: “I’m here to tell you, Iowa, he is the one. Barack Obama!”

It was startling that almost a year before Election Day, 18,000 people had given up their Saturday shopping time to stand (there were no chairs) and listen to an hour of political rhetoric. In all the eight Iowa caucus campaigns I’d covered over four decades, I’d never seen anything like this. In fact, I’d not seen voters so turned on since my first campaign as a political reporter, the classic Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960.

That year, the old Washington Star sent me to Beckley, W.Va., to get a ground-level view of the Democratic primary between Sens. John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey. Raleigh County and all of West Virginia were made-to-order for Humphrey, who had the backing of the United Mine Workers and the Democratic state leadership, which was wary of endorsing the Roman Catholic Kennedy in an overwhelmingly Protestant state.

What I found during my week in Beckley, however, was an energized group of young Kennedy enthusiasts, egged on by the candidate’s kid brother, Ted. When I walked the country roads and knocked on the doors of the wood-frame cabins, I met a surprising number of voters who were ready to give the youthful senator from Massachusetts a chance. Despite the odds, I reported, Kennedy could win Raleigh County — as he did. (more…)

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The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes

Oct 31, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: News, Opinions

By Peggy Noonan
Source Link:
http://online.wsj.com

Obama and the Runaway Train

The race, the case, a hope for grace.

The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes:

He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.

A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.

There is something else. On Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary with 56% to Hillary Clinton’s 42%. That evening, a friend watched the victory speech on TV in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, saw on the screen “Obama Wins” and “Alabama.” She said, “Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school.” She said, “That’s where they used the hoses.” Suddenly my friend saw it new. Birmingham, 1963, and the water hoses used against the civil rights demonstrators. And now look, the black man thanking Alabama for his victory.

This means nothing? This means a great deal. (more…)

Northern Star Rising

Oct 31, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: Opinions, Politics

Source Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com
By Eugene Robinson

My view of Sarah Palin has changed in the two months since John McCain named her as his running mate. I’m guessing that McCain’s view of Palin may be changing, too, and not entirely in a good way.

I thought Palin was a lightweight; she’s not. I thought she was an ingenue; she is, but only as long as her claws are sheathed. I thought she was bewildered and star-struck at her sudden elevation to national prominence; if she ever was, she isn’t anymore. I thought she was nothing but raw political talent and unrealistic ambition; it turns out that she has impressive political skills. I thought she was destined to become nothing more than a historical footnote; I now think that Democrats underestimate her at their peril.

At this point, only McCain’s most loyal lieutenants could have been surprised when Palin told ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas that she’s already looking beyond Tuesday’s election toward her own political future. Asked whether she would just pack it in and go back to Alaska if she and McCain lose, Palin replied: “I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we’ve taken . . . I’m not doing this for naught.”

No, she’s doing it for Sarah — and doing it increasingly well.

It’s tempting to think of Palin as a kind of pop star, the latest flash in the pan who rockets to the top of the charts and then fades to obscurity — Alec Baldwin referred to her as “Bible Spice” the other day. But that smug assessment ignores the evidence that she has the chops to be much more than a one-hit wonder.

Palin’s introduction to the nation was disastrous, at least in terms of appealing to a constituency beyond the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It was obvious from the beginning that she wasn’t remotely prepared for high national office. The red-meat Republican base was energized, but others saw McCain’s decision to put her on the ticket as cynical and irresponsible.

Palin herself must have realized that her debut was premature. But as Vernon Jordan likes to say, “Opportunity is never convenient.” (more…)

Who was Jennifer Hudson’s brother?

Oct 29, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: Opinions, Politics

By Mary Schmich
Source Link:
http://www.chicagotribune.com

Jason Hudson’s friends can gaze at the front yard of his big white wooden house and still see him picking up the mustard bottle. Remember Big J out there cooking ribs? How that grill smoked?

And look at that Ford Escort. Jason’s mama had that car for a million years. Those tires have been flat forever.

Except for the balloons and teddy bears that crowded the wire fence, or the TV crews that shivered on the sidewalk, the Hudson home looked normal Tuesday, four days after Jason and his mother were shot to death inside.

Two stories and an attic. Oval glass in the front door. A cold October sun lighting up the gold leaves of a slender maple tree.

Jason’s friends could still envision his dad out at the curb when they were kids, head tucked under a car hood, humming, a cigarette stuck in his lips.

They could still hear Jason’s mom, telling them to cut the music down, could see her refusing to speak to any of his friends she didn’t like or open the door to anyone she didn’t know. (more…)

The Age of Obama

Oct 29, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: Opinions, Politics

The ‘Decade of Greed,’ etc., R.I.P.

By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR
Source Link:
http://online.wsj.com

Nineteen eighty-two was a lucky time (as your columnist can attest) to be leaving college. Whatever faults various authorities find in the “decade of greed,” which was followed by another decade of greed, it marked the start of 25 years of exceptional prosperity and opportunity. Freer trade and the epochal joining of a couple billion Chinese and others into the global division of labor played a role. The ideas of Reagan and Thatcher, bringing the private sector back to a place of honor, played a role.

Is the age of Obama the beginning of a less golden age? We cast no aspersion on the man or his program. Mr. Obama, in his short career, has not strongly associated himself with any policy idea. His relation to his own proposals during the campaign has been pleasantly noncommittal, if generally liberal (as voters and the media are only now getting around to noticing).

His rise offers little insight either. His Senate primary and general election races were smoothed by the serendipitous bowing out of formidable opponents in each case, in divorce-related “scandals.” His presidential hopes have been turned overnight into landslide hopes by a financial crisis that has left the public angry and confused, though not one that plays to any expertise of Mr. Obama’s.

Yet if he wins next week, it could be with a sweeping mandate to decide, er, what his mandate will be. He’s a presidential vehicle perfectly designed, or self-designed, to be driven by history, rather than driving it. And he comes just at the moment when, overnight, crashing down is just about every normal restraint against intrusive, redistributing, regulating government. (more…)

Muzzling Joe Biden

Oct 29, 2008 Author: VP | Filed under: Opinions, Politics

The Quiet Man

By Dana Milbank
Source Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

OCALA, Fla., Oct. 28 Joe Biden spoke to supporters here for 14 minutes and 25 seconds Tuesday morning — and that’s big news.

Until he became Barack Obama’s running mate in August, Biden could take that long just to say “good morning”; now the Democratic senator from Delaware has to give his entire stump speech in that span. On Capitol Hill he used to speak endlessly on any subject to anybody who asked for his view (and many who did not); now he has to read his words carefully from a teleprompter, squinting into the bright sunlight to avoid missing a syllable of the text that had been written for him by his Obama handlers.

The muzzling of Biden seems unnatural and inhumane, like taking a proud lion into captivity. Biden, who once scolded Sarah Palin for ducking reporters, hasn’t given a news conference since Sept. 7. The king of the rhetorical jungle hasn’t taken questions from voters in a town hall forum since Sept. 10, when he famously said that Hillary Clinton is “more qualified than I am to be vice president” and “might have been a better pick than me.” He doesn’t even do much chitchat with supporters at events since he was caught on tape on one such occasion contradicting Obama’s energy policy.

Now even Palin takes questions from reporters on her campaign plane. But the wordiest man in Washington has to make his remarks short, sweet and canned. (more…)

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