Friday, January 25, 2008

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

painting by Pablo Picasso.
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The Clintons' Secret Gender War

There are a trio of powerful videos on YouTube that the national press hasn't caught onto that expose the Clintons' scurrilous attacks on Barack Obama in order to win the votes of progressive women.

The videos feature Lorna Brett Howard, former President of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization of Women, where she also worked with Planned Parenthouse, and she is currently on the board and the political action committee of a large pro-choice organization in New York. She has personal knowledge of Obama's strong pro-choice record in Illinois, and says that later when the call went out to U.S. Senators to help fight against the South Dakota legislation to criminalize abortions, only one Senator answered the call and helped: not HC of New York, but Barack Obama.

What makes this statement powerful at this moment is that she was a Hillary supporter, who says she witnessed Hillary falsely telling women in Iowa that Obama was weak on choice as a state senator, when Howard knew for a fact he wasn't from having worked with him at the time, and then she was shown a direct mail piece from the Clinton campaign making the same charges in New Hampshire. At that point she switched her support from Hillary to Obama. "This line of attack on an issue I care about so deeply is not acceptable to me," Howard said. She ends her video statements with the words: "Barack Obama, 100% pro-choice, 100% honest."

These outright lies told by Hillary and her campaign in their direct mail literature aimed at women surfaced in a Washington Post story. The Clintons got what the Washington Post describes as "two dozen" prominent women to sign an open letter faulting Obama for being "soft on abortion rights." Now three of those same women have signed another letter proclaiming that Obama is "strongly pro choice," and one of the signers--Katie Wheeler, a former state senator--has called out the Clinton campaign for misleading her and issuing this lie:

"It should never have gotten to the point where anyone thought Obama was not pro-choice," said Wheeler, a founder of the New Hampshire chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "I don't think the Clinton campaign should have done that. It was divisive and unnecessary...I think it was a mistake and I've spoken to the national [Clinton campaign] and told them it caused problems in New Hampshire, and am hoping they won't do it again."

It's possible that Hillary won New Hampshire with such last minute lies, especially considering the boost in her votes among women. It's also clear that the Clintons' strategies are dividing the Democratic party.

The conclusion that Obama is weak on choice--not something that Hillary says directly in debates--is apparently based on his votes in the Illinois legislature when he voted "present" on some bills involving women's issues. That these were tactical, and sometimes at the expressed wishes of Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of Women, has been known for months, and recent media fact checks haven't altered that conclusion. So the Clintons are knowingly using this to falsely characterize Obama as weak on the choice issue. But they don't come out and say it, because it would be very flimsy evidence even if credible.

Some people believe that the Clintons deliberately raised racial issues, calculating that there are more white voters than black in the primaries overall, and probably that black voters remember the Clinton years fondly, and anyway will have nowhere else to go in the general election but to vote for a Democrat. Others dispute this. But it seems clear, though mostly unreported, that the Clintons have aimed several of their deliberate distortions towards winning the women's vote. That's probably even a subtext of their scurrilous attack on Obama's musings in an interview about Republican ideas, thoroughly discredited now, especially as more of Clintons' own words saying pretty much the same thing surface (Bill Clinton back in 1991 for instance, when he was running for President). Columnist E. J. Dionne concludes: "And with both Clintons on record saying kind things about Reagan, why go after Obama on the point? Honestly: If Obama is a Reaganite, then I am a salamander. " But being in favor of Reaganistic ideas is in part code for being anti-choice for women, which could be the rationale for what otherwise seems irrational.

With the first woman to run for President contending with the first African American running for President, issues of race and gender--the so-called "identity politics"--were bound to be factors. But it seems clear that the Clintons are forcing these issues with their conscious distortions, and doing so dishonestly. It remains to be seen how effectively.


Bill Clinton came to the North Coast recently, and he was very big news. All the newspapers put him on the front page, including the weekly and the college student weekly. There is apparently controversy about how the event was handled, with overflow crowds upset that they couldn't get closer.

I saw a Bill Clinton speech in Market Square in Pittsburgh, and shook his hand afterwards. But that was in 1992 when he was first running for President. I'd done some work for his campaign in Pittsburgh. Now he's an international celebrity, and his every word makes news. For older Democrats he's the man they won with, who they fought for in tough times and came out of it with a better country. For younger people, he's the only Democratic President they've ever known.

Hillary Clinton was a high profile First Lady, and their relationship is like a national myth. So these are two very powerful--and very audible--people. Which makes their conduct of the current primary campaign all the more disgraceful.

The Billary conscious and intended distortions and attacks on Barack Obama have earned widespread rebuttal and rebuke. (If you're interested in details, I've followed this over at American Dash.) Today they're both backing down a bit, especially Bill. But it's mostly disingenuous (and timed for the last day before voting in South Carolina, when campaigns usually try for a public last "positive" push, while the dirty work is done with flyers, emails and robocalls.) It wasn't just Billary's aggressive rhetoric, but their advertising and direct mail that carried their scurrilous messages.

Many have been reminded of all the conflict the Clintons stir up, and of the potential for another tumultuous Clinton presidency. Because of Bill's prominence in Hillary's campaign, there's suspicion of whether Bill is running for co-President. Perhaps this is partly responsible for Obama climbing in (some) national polls. But there's a lot of hubris in this from the Clinton superstars. It seems pretty calculating. They're counting on Democratic unity in the fall no matter what, and on the usual amnesia in the public at large.

Time will tell how much Bill Clinton has damaged his international reputation. If he has it will be too bad, because his efforts have been positive and future oriented. The best thing that can happen for him is for Barack Obama to win the nomination and the presidency. And probably the best thing for us and for the future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No Other Hope

South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, endorsed Barack Obama for President. The editorial said in part:

"The restoration of the Clintons to the White House would trigger a new wave of all-out political warfare. That is not all Bill and Hillary’s fault - but it exists, whomever you blame, and cannot be ignored. Hillary Clinton doesn’t pretend that it won’t happen; she simply vows to persevere, in the hope that her side can win. Indeed, the Clintons’ joint career in public life seems oriented toward securing victory and personal vindication.

Sen. Obama’s campaign is an argument for a more unifying style of leadership. In a time of great partisanship, he is careful to talk about winning over independents and even Republicans. He is harsh on the failures of the current administration - and most of that critique well-deserved. But he doesn’t use his considerable rhetorical gifts to demonize Republicans. He’s not neglecting his core values; he defends his progressive vision with vigorous integrity. But for him, American unity - transcending party - is a core value in itself.

Can such unity be restored, in this poisonous political culture? Not unless that is a nominee’s goal from the outset. It will be a difficult challenge for any candidate; but we wait in the hope that someone really will try. There is no other hope for rescuing our republic from the mire.

Sen. Obama would also have the best chance to repair the damage to America’s global reputation. A leader with his biography - including his roots in Africa and his years spent growing up overseas - could transform the world’s view of America. He would seize that opportunity.

Congress has been largely useless under both Republican and Democratic leadership. Setting aside the ideological conflict for conflict’s sake to get anything worthwhile done has fallen severely out of fashion.

And America certainly has things to get done. From terrorism and climate change to runaway federal entitlement spending, there are big challenges to be faced. Sen. Obama is the only Democrat who plausibly can say that he wants to work with Americans across the political spectrum to address such subjects - and he has the integrity and the skills of persuasion that make him the best-qualified among the remaining Democratic hopefuls to address these challenges.

He would be a groundbreaking nominee. More to the point, he makes a solid case that he is ready to lead the whole country. We see Sen. Barack Obama as the best choice in Saturday’s Democratic primary. "

[political junkies, why not try a dash of American Dash? You'll be glad you did!]

Monday, January 21, 2008

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The Dream Today

Senator Barack Obama, speaking at Dr. Martin Luther King's church on Sunday:

Update: This speech is now on YouTube, where it currently is the fourth most watched video in the world.

"Unity is the great need of the hour" is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome. What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country. I'm not talking about a budget deficit. I'm not talking about a trade deficit. I'm not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans. I'm talking about a moral deficit. I'm talking about an empathy deficit. I'm taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother's keeper; we are our sister's keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we're still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can't afford a doctor when their children get sick.We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own. So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we've come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We've come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it's just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.

All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price. But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won.

It starts with a change in attitudes – a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts. It's not easy to stand in somebody else's shoes. It's not easy to see past our differences. We've all encountered this in our own lives.

But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart – that puts up walls between us. We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don't think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity. Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others – all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face – war and poverty; injustice and inequality.

We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late. Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.

But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms. It is not enough for us to abhor the costs of a misguided war, and yet allow ourselves to be driven by a politics of fear that sees the threat of attack as way to scare up votes instead of a call to come together around a common effort.

The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country's ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

And that is what is at stake in the great political debate we are having today. The changes that are needed are not just a matter of tinkering at the edges, and they will not come if politicians simply tell us what we want to hear. All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

That is how we will bring about the change we seek. That is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness. He did it with words – words that he spoke not just to the children of slaves, but the children of slave owners. Words that inspired not just black but also white; not just the Christian but the Jew; not just the Southerner but also the Northerner.

He led with words, but he also led with deeds. He also led by example. He led by marching and going to jail and suffering threats and being away from his family. He led by taking a stand against a war, knowing full well that it would diminish his popularity. He led by challenging our economic structures, understanding that it would cause discomfort.

Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination.That is the unity – the hard-earned unity – that we need right now. It is that effort, and that determination, that can transform blind optimism into hope – the hope to imagine, and work for, and fight for what seemed impossible before.

The stories that give me such hope don't happen in the spotlight. They don't happen on the presidential stage. They happen in the quiet corners of our lives. They happen in the moments we least expect. Let me give you an example of one of those stories.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She's been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children. But it is where we begin. It is why the walls in that room began to crack and shake.

And if they can shake in that room, they can shake in Atlanta. And if they can shake in Atlanta, they can shake in Georgia. And if they can shake in Georgia, they can shake all across America. And if enough of our voices join together; we can bring those walls tumbling down. The walls of Jericho can finally come tumbling down. That is our hope – but only if we pray together, and work together, and march together.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone. In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone. In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone. So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all. May God bless the memory of the great pastor of this church, and may God bless the United States of America

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

This is a beach scene. The blue at the top is the
ocean waves, glowing with luminicent life. The
red strip is the pollution known as the red tide.
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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"We all seem doomed to a freedom to choose between indifference and sadness."

James Wright