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50 Reasons Not to Vote for Bush
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Can Barack Obama Be The First Black US President?
By Rupert Cornwell
The Independent - UK
BOSTON -- Who is the smart bet for first black president of the
United States? Less than a decade ago, Colin Powell was the man - and
to this day, some believe the general might have beaten Bill Clinton
back in 1996. Today the mantle has fallen on a somewhat more
improbable figure - Barack Obama.
American political junkies love nothing better than to plot White
House match-ups down the line, and nothing brings out the habit like
convention season, when vast amounts of hot air are expended, but
nothing much happens. The match-up of the year, in this case George
Bush and John Kerry, has long since been talked to death.
The public topic here in Boston is whether Mr Kerry can galvanise
swing voters and win back the White House. The unofficial one is more
fun: what happens in 2008 if he doesn't, or in 2012 if he does? A
Kerry win this year would obviously make his running mate, John
Edwards, heir apparent. A loss would put Hillary Clinton squarely in
the frame. But 2016, and Barack Obama - Barack who? The mystery only
deepens when you learn the person in question is but a state senator
in Illinois, who is a Democratic candidate, and it must be said,
clear favourite in the contest for the open US Senate seat in the
state in November's election.
Yet this 42-year-old politician, all but unknown nine months ago and
who has not yet set serious foot in Washington DC, has already been
glowingly profiled in New Yorker magazine, and scrutinised by the
most distinguished political columnists in the land. Last weekend, Mr
Obama was the headline guest on the country's top-rated Sunday talk
show, NBC's Meet the Press. Tonight he receives a rookie's crowning
distinction - picked to deliver the keynote speech that will cap the
convention's second day.
One reason for this astonishing showcasing is simple: it can only
boost the Democrats' chances of capturing the US Senate seat held by
the retiring Republican incumbent, Peter Fitzgerald. Given the host
of tricky seats the party must defend, a gain in Illinois is vital if
the Democrats hope to regain control of the Senate they lost two
years ago. If a little primetime exposure helps the cause, then so
much the better.
Also Mr Obama's background - exotic even by US melting pot standards -
dovetails perfectly with the party's aim to appeal across class and
His father was Kenyan, his mother came from Kansas. The couple met in
Hawaii, and sealed a union appreciated neither in Africa nor on the
Great Plains. She later married again, to an Indonesian oil
executive, and the new family moved to Jakarta. Then life's winding
road led Mr Obama back to the US - to California, Chicago and Harvard
law school, where he was the first black president of the Law Review.
But political calculation, and even that perfect CV are only the part
The keynote speaker is someone whom party elders reckon will be a big
part of the Democratic future. Traditionally the speech, setting the
party in the spirit of the times, is delivered by an especially
bright rising star. In 1988 for instance, the keynoter was a young
Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton - even though his memorably
turgid speech was the biggest bomb of his otherwise illustrious
Mr Obama, like the former president, has magnetism. He is slender,
seemingly ever smiling, conveying the awareness that great honour has
been heaped upon him, but serving notice that he will keep a very
level head amid all the fuss.
But he is considerably more than a pretty face.
He is on the left of the party, not least on Iraq. Back in summer
2002, he declared that Saddam Hussein's decrepit regime was no threat
to anyone, its weapons' capability much exaggerated, and that the US
had no business launching an invasion. John Kerry, among others,
thought otherwise, but events have proved Mr Obama right.
More important, he has a rare knack of making liberal positions sound
reasonable. He can advocate a larger role for government in mapping
national economic policy, without coming across as a tax-and-spend
liberal. He also has long espoused what is now Democratic orthodoxy,
that the party should keep its nerve and carry the battle of ideas to
So the Barack boom continues. He has been helped by the shambolic
Republican efforts to find a candidate to oppose him in Illinois.
(Two have dropped out amid scandal, and a putative third, the former
coach of the Chicago Bears NFL football team, decided that the
venture wasn't worth the trouble.) Ahead by 20 points in the polls,
he seems destined to win. And then who knows? By 2012, he will have
been US senator for eight years (just like the John Kennedy in 1960)
and by 2016, he will be a very presidential 54 years of age. Of such
stuff are convention scenarios spun.
Bush & Kerry Vie For The Black Vote
The Sunday Herald - UK
With 100 days to go before the election, the candidates are targeting
black voters who could hold the key to the White House. Ros Davidson
reports from California
On Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, a young black man with a baggy red
shirt and a "gangsta" headdress is doing brisk business signing up
voters to get third-party candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot.
The neighbourhood is mixed racially, but most joining his petition
are young African-Americans. It's not a movement: blacks remain the
most reliable voters for Democrats, an old fact of American politics.
But the petitioner's success points to a problem for Democratic
nominee John Kerry. Kerry, a white Boston blue-blood, is marginally
less popular among blacks than most recent Democratic candidates. To
oust President George Bush in a tight race, he must "get out" the
With 100 days to the election and on the eve of the Democratic
convention, Kerry and Bush are neck and neck, according to opinion
polls. That is with or without Nader in the race, and despite Kerry's
remarkable ability to raise money.
A recent poll by Black Entertainment Television and CBS found that
four in five blacks believe that Bush did not win the 2000 election
legitimately. Blacks back Kerry - who can come across as stiff and
elitist - overwhelmingly, by eight to one.
Blacks comprised 10% of the vote in 2000 but backed the Democratic
candidate Al Gore by a larger 9-1 margin. Bill Clinton, dubbed
the "first black president" by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, had even
more black support.
This week, the convention keynote speech will be delivered by rising
Democratic star Barack Obama, a senate candidate from Illinois who is
half Kenyan and half white. A handsome lecturer and civil rights
lawyer, his potential is considered so great that his campaign has
attracted money from Hollywood activists such as Barbra Streisand and
director Rob Reiner.
The massively popular rapper Sean "P Diddy" Combs has unleashed a
campaign to encourage minorities and young people to vote on November
2. Among America's notoriously stay-at-home electorate, the most
frequent voters are older whites.
Diddy's group, Citizen Change, is seeking "sexy people" for his non-
partisan initiative, he says. "Now, we're going to make voting cool,"
said the hip hop mogul and fashion designer at the launch in New
York. On his T-shirt was the slogan "Vote or Die!".
"Over 40 million youth and minority voters will be the deciding
factor of who will be the next president of the United States,"
roared Combs. "Y'all in?"
Bush's image among African-Americans still suffers from the botched
election in 2000. According to the US Civil Rights Commission, more
than half of the votes discarded in Florida because of counting
problems were African-American. Indeed, the government agency found
blacks were 10 times as likely to have had their votes tossed
compared with whites or Latinos. Had they been counted, Gore would
have won the election.
The same team also found Florida is typical of the nation. As the
statistician working on the data concluded: "About half of all the
ballots spoiled in the USA - about a million votes - were cast by non-
Bush has two African-Americans in his cabinet, National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Even
so, he is constantly fighting his own party as well as his record.
A Republican lawmaker in Michigan, a battleground state and home of
Detroit and the Motown record label, stoked resentment recently.
Earlier this month state senator John Pappageorge, who is white, said
Republicans would fare poorly this election year if they failed
to "suppress the Detroit vote".
Blacks are suspicious of Bush's stance on Iraq, his economic policies
and his opposition to "affirmative action".
"He'll tax the "working poor" and help the rich," said truck driver
Curtis Howard, an African-American from Oakland, of the prospect of
Bush's re-election. Although not enthusiastic about Kerry, he will
It's what strategists call the "sock puppet" vote - anything but
Bush. Kerry's running mate John Edwards, a populist who is white but
from a southern working-class background, is likely to appeal more to
blacks, say analysts.
The candidates are vying for black support. Kerry addressed the Urban
League, a moderate African-American group, on Thursday, a day ahead
of a long-planned appearance by Bush.
"Simply giving a speech will not erase the fact that George Bush has
pursued policies that have failed to provide economic opportunity to
all Americans, especially African-Americans," said a Kerry spokesman.
The next day, Bush acknowledged his party's lack of appeal. "Listen,
the Republican party has a lot of work to do. I understand that," he
said. But he also suggested the Democrats take the black vote for
A week earlier he snubbed the oldest and largest black group, the
National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. The
group's chairman, Julian Bond, has characterised Bush as from
the "Taliban wing" of American politics.
Multipurpose star born for Democrats' effort
By Michael Tackett Tribune senior correspondent
Barack Obama's latest effort at rewriting the rules of political
ascendancy raised an interesting question Tuesday night: Can a star
be born before the election's been won?
State legislators don't get the call to be keynote speaker at
presidential nominating conventions. They get seats in the back rows
of the delegation, if that. Incumbent senators and governors wait in
line for years for time on the podium.
But for Obama, a mere candidate for the U.S. Senate, there is no
waiting. His time is now.
It is now because he serves so many purposes for Sen. John Kerry, the
presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. At 42, Obama is a
generational bridge. As an African-American, he is a racial bridge.
But those almost miss the point. Most important, Obama is a critical
bridge to the suburbs, home to the crucial votes Kerry so clearly
needs in the fall.
As he demonstrated in the Democratic primary in Illinois, Obama
possesses a crossover appeal that defies a ready label, an ability to
energize the votes of both blacks and suburban whites. This is
precisely the kind of coalition that propelled Bill Clinton and that
Kerry must build in the fall if he is to win.
Obama also represented a badly needed fresh look for the Democratic
Party. That was evident in watching the parade of speakers who came
before him, including the former headliner, Sen. Edward Kennedy of
Massachusetts. Kennedy, first elected in 1962, might still be one of
the few big-hall speakers in the party, but his uneven performance
rendered weak an otherwise well-written speech. His time as a speaker
was in 1980.
The ovation for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, at one point the man
Kerry was chasing for the nomination, was far greater than the cheers
for the Democratic lion in winter speaking in his hometown.
In Obama, Democrats have the face, voice and manner of a practiced
anchorman. His style was not of the old-school stemwinder, but rather
it was made for the television screen, where the impression for Kerry
is most critical. It was measured, with just enough display of
passion and just enough restraint of ego to be effective.
In his speech, there were echoes of Clinton's third-way centrism
about how to deal with crime and welfare. "The people I meet--in
small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks --they don't
expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to
work hard to get ahead--and they want to. ... They don't want their
tax money wasted, by a welfare agency or the Pentagon."
And there were refrains that suggested Robert Kennedy's calls for
social justice -- "a belief that we are connected as one people. If
there's a child on the South Side of Chicago who can't read, that
matters to me, even if it's not my child" -- and Rev. Martin Luther
King Jr.'s appeals to faith -- "the audacity of hope! In the end,
that is God's greatest gift to us."
Obama also recalled Bill Cosby's recent admonitions to black families
about personal responsibility. "Go into any inner-city neighborhood,
and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to
learn -- they know that parents have to parent, that children can't
achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the
television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth
with a book is acting white," he said.
Perhaps it is Obama's own complex and complicated biography that adds
to his appeal. The son of a black African father and a white Kansan
mother, he talked about how his father was a striver in the mold of a
take-nothing-for-granted immigrant, and how his mother's family lived
by the Middle American ethic of hard work and benefited at times from
Obama also was an emblem for the future, for the Democratic Party and
for an increasingly multiethnic country whose power will only grow.
There was a nod to the World War II generation -- still a potent
Democratic bloc -- and homage to non-threatening government programs
a majority of Americans embrace, such as federally-backed loans for
He showed he could deliver a well-crafted line, calling the true
genius of America "a faith in the simple dreams of its people: the
insistence on small miracles." And that he could stand in one of
politics' more intense spotlights with a cool, slightly technocratic
These speeches are never easy, especially in a Democratic Party where
it is not uncommon to have to devote a paragraph to a laundry list of
interest groups that provide its support. The words were not burdened
by that duty, yet Obama touched most of the bases anyway.
It was a lot to pack into a speech that he said the day before was
about 2,100 words and would take 15 minutes to deliver.
Obama had this 15 minutes, to applause spontaneous and contrived. It
won't be his last.
But before he gets the next chance, he actually has to win.