Category: Journalism

Obama and the Palestinian Professors: The Nation

Edward Said Ten years ago, Barack Obama went to a lecture by Edward Said, the prominent Palestinian intellectual. Should that be page one news now? The LA Times thinks so – they ran a story on their front page on Thursday on the event, headlined “Campaign ’08: Allies of Palestinians see a friend on Obama.”

Obama’s attendance at that speech is news today, of course, because of the Jewish vote. The Times made that clear when it quoted Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who expressed “concern” about Obama’s “presence at an Arab American event with a Said.”

Said, who was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University before his death in 2003, is identified by Times reporter Peter Wallsten as “a leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement.” It would be more accurate to call him “a Palestinian and a leading American intellectual.” The author of more than a dozen books, his 1978 book “Orientalism” became the founding work of the new field of cultural studies, and is now assigned at hundreds of colleges and universities and has been translated into more than 30 languages.

. . . continued at TheNation.com

George Bush: “No Gene Kelly” – The Nation

When New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote recently that George Bush has “turned into Gene Kelly,” she set off a firestorm of protest from fans of the late dancer, director and choreographer.

Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, declared that “If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.”

In a letter to the Times, she wrote that “when Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky and Willie Mays, he was delighted. But to be linked with a clunker — particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing — would have sent him reeling.”

Dowd’s column, “Soft Shoe in Hard Times,” asked “why the president is in such a fine mood” – at a time when “the dollar’s crumpling, the recession’s thundering, the Dow’s bungee-jumping and the world’s disapproving.” Nevertheless, she noted, Bush “has turned into Gene Kelly, tap dancing and singing in a one-man review called ‘The Most Happy Fella.'”

Kelly’s widow contrasted her late husband’s achievements with those of the president. Kelly, she wrote, “graduated with a degree in economics from Pitt,” and, unlike the president, was “a most civilized man. He spoke multiple languages; wrote poetry; studied history; understood the projections of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. He did the Sunday Times crossword in ink.”

. . . continued at TheNation.com

Hillary’s Iraq Vote, Five Years Later: HuffPost

The fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war provides an appropriate moment to revisit Hillary Clinton’s argument in favor of authorizing Bush’s use of force, and to contrast it with the case made at the time by Bush’s opponents.

In the last few years, Clinton has defended her vote by arguing that “if I knew then what I know now, I would never have given President Bush the authority” to attack Iraq.But a majority of Democrats in the House knew enough “then” to vote against the resolution – as did 21 out of 50 Democratic senators.

In Clinton’s Senate speech, still posted on her senate website, she began by accepting Bush’s premise that “if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”The question, she said, was whether war was the appropriate means of stopping those developments.

In supporting Bush, Clinton claimed to be taking a middle path between two extremes – on the one hand, those who believed we should go to war only if the UN Security Council approved it, which she considered absurd, and on the other, those who favored “attacking Saddam Hussein now.”But not even Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld favored an immediate attack at the point the Senate debate occurred — October 2002 – so she was rejecting an argument no one was making.

. . . continued at the Huffington Post 

Peter Carey: Growing Up Radical: Dissent

Peter Carey has won two Booker prizes: the first for Oscar and Lucinda, which was made into a movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett; the second for The True History of the Kelly Gang, which sold two-million copies worldwide. Now he has published his tenth novel, His Illegal Self, which tells the story of a seven-year-old whose parents are in the Weather Underground. I spoke with him in Los Angeles.

Jon Wiener: In His Illegal Self, the year is 1972 and the characters are set in motion by the Weather Underground. I’’m reluctant to talk about the plot because one of the pleasures of the book, especially at the beginning, is figuring out the plot—, told mostly from the perspective of an seven-year-old boy. Could you explain what you want people to know about it?

Peter Carey: This is the number one issue for me at the moment. I spent two years building this book, which really depends on withholding information. It delivers a whole series of surprises and thrills for the reader, I hope, which was not easy to achieve. But we live in a culture where people confuse “story” and “art,” and where reviewers are called upon by their editors to report the story. So while they are praising this book, they are sort of destroying it by giving away all these things.
. . . continued at Dissent magazine HERE

Obama and the Jews: HuffPost

March 2: Now it’s official: page one of the New York Times reported on Saturday that the Jews have a problem with Obama.

The story, by Neela Banerjee (is that a Jewish name?), did not exactly say there was a “problem.” It said there was a “challenge” for Obama: “navigating” the “treacherous paths” that lead to “winning the trust” of Jewish voters. That task, the Times reported, is “all the more difficult” because of the “tenuous relations” between blacks and Jews.

Not until paragraph nineteen, deep inside the paper on page A12, did readers learn that the Jewish vote is “hardly monolithic.”

READ THE REST OF THIS HUFFINGTON POST STORY HERE.

Feminists Against Hillary–HuffPost

Wed. Feb. 20: no show on KPFK today — pre-empted for the fund drive.
But there is more stuff to read:

Obama girls“Anti-Hillary Sentiment on the Rise Among Feminists”

More than 1,000 feminists have signed a statement criticizing Hillary Clinton and supporting Obama for president – evidence that Clinton’s support among women activists continues to decline. The group, “Feminists for Peace“, started out with 100 signers before the super-Tuesday primaries, and has 1,200 signers two weeks later.

Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq was the leading reason she lost the support of the feminists, along with the fact that “until quite recently [she] opposed all legislative efforts to bring the war and occupation to an end.”

Those endorsing Obama include writer Barbara Ehrenreich; longtime peace activist Cora Weiss; Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation; Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times writer Margo Jefferson; women’s rights historians Alice Kessler Harris and Linda Gordon, and actor/activist Susan Sarandon.

READ THE REST OF THIS HUFFINGTON POST STORY HERE .
—–
also at the HuffPost: “Nutrition vs. Food: Michael Pollan and his Eater’s Manifesto”

Obama and Latinos: Santa Ana Ground Zero:–HuffPost

SANTA ANA, Feb. 3: The Obama campaign, intent on taking some of the crucial Latino vote in California away from Hillary Clinton, organized a daylong door-to-door canvas on Saturday in the region’s most Spanish-speaking city just south of Disneyland.

200 volunteers showed up for a morning rally in Santa Ana before heading out for the final push to canvas their precincts. The tote board in the streetfront Obama office showed 51 precinct captains had already logged almost 8,500 calls.

The LA Times poll last week had Obama getting under 30 per cent of the state’s Latinos in the primary, while Hillary was at 60 percent.

Santa Ana is the most Spanish-speaking city in the US. In 2006 it became the largest US city with an all-Latino city council. Santa Ana is also a city where the mayor, Miguel Pulido, has endorsed Hillary; where the representative in congress, Loretta Sanchez, has endorsed Hillary; and where Hillary herself campaigned in December with Latina icon Dolores Huerta.

Nevertheless the Obama effort in Santa Ana is big, well-organized and energetic. At the rally, office staffer Abraham Jenkins asked how many of the 200 volunteers had worked in previous campaigns. A few hands went up. Then he asked, “How many are first timers?” Almost everybody raised their hands.

The headliner at the rally was Congressman Xavier Becerra from L.A., one of Obama’s highest profile Latino supporters. He recalled that Bobby Kennedy campaigned as an underdog in the California primary in 1968, and brought a new kind of hope to voters. “Someone stole that from us in 1968,” he said; “someone tried to snuff out the light. But 40 years later, we have that spark again.”

He told the precinct walkers the key arguments to make when they knocked on Latino doors: At the top of the list: “Obama is the son of an immigrant.” Second: “Obama is a Harvard law grad who went to work as a community organizer.” Then “tell them to read La Opinion, which today endorsed Obama;” and “tell them why this is your first time working in a campaign – why you are doing this.”

The enthusiasm and energy of the first-timers was unmistakable, but it didn’t solve the big problem facing the Obama operation in Santa Ana: the precinct walkers were a largely white group in an overwhelmingly Latino city. When staffers asked how many of the 200 volunteers were bilingual, perhaps a dozen raised their hands.

One of those was Elvira Rios, a precinct captain, a retired schoolteacher and a “first timer.” Her perspective on Latino voters is radically different from what you get in the media. “The biggest challenge is not getting them to switch from Hillary to Obama,” she said. “The biggest challenge is getting them to vote at all.”

She said she has been working in Santa Ana for Obama for the last ten days from nine to nine, and only a week ago she had to start with the basics: “voters needed to hear his name – many didn’t really know his name.”

The biggest Clinton supporters among Latinos, she said, are “the mothers.” But “it’s amazing how many young Latinos were trying to talk their parents into voting for Barack. I see this all the time.”
Were the kids succeeding? She shook her head no: “Older Latinos,” she said emphatically, “are so stubborn.”

Unlike Elvira Rios, the great majority of Obama volunteers in Santa Ana were young Anglos who didn’t speak Spanish. Several were students at nearby UC Irvine. Rebecca Westerman is one – she lives in Santa Ana and is an Obama precinct captain for her Latino precinct. She told me that she has reached one-third of the 800 voters on her list. “I’m focusing on the 18-25 year olds,” she said, “because that’s where we’ve gotten a good response.”

Mark Hendrickson is a recent grad of UC Irvine and another Santa Ana resident and precinct captain. In his canvassing, he said, “I get mostly Spanish speakers, but I don’t speak Spanish.” As the two of them were about to head out, the office staff was trying to find bilingual partners for each of them; they found one woman volunteer from the neighborhood – she was wearing a UNITE-HERE T-shirt — but she had to go to work. So the two went out to canvas by themselves, full of youthful energy and hope.

Five hours later, Westerman reported that “We actually had a really good response from our entirely Latino precinct. Suprisingly, more people were already supporting Obama than Clinton – and our limited Spanish got us a long way.”

To be a campaign veteran in this operation is to have worked in Obama’s Las Vegas effort a couple of weeks ago, which several people had done. Two staffers had worked for several months in Iowa. As for people with campaign experience before that, the only one was Jocelyn Anderson, a paid regional field director who is African American. She had volunteered for the Clinton campaigns in 1992 and in 1996, the first in Alabama and the second in Michigan.

Asked her how the Obama effort compared to those, she said “This is more than a campaign. It’s a movement. The least of it is the policy issues. Obama is moving people to change the world.” She added, “Hillary is a great candidate, but Obama is the first time you don’t have to vote the lesser of two evils.”

Only a few Latinos from the neighborhood showed up for the rally. Afterwards, one young Latino couple with two children introduced themselves to Congressman Becerra, and the man explained why he was supporting Obama: “I have older cousins lost to the war, and I don’t want my kids. . . .” his voice trailed off. “I know,” Becerra said quietly. “Thank you for coming today.”

The energy of the 200 volunteers in Santa Ana on Saturday was real; their passion was palpable. But the election was only three days away. How much success could this effort have in winning Latino votes for Obama? Nobody in the office would hazard a guess; Giovanii Jorquera, community outreach director, said quite honestly, “we’ll see on Tuesday.” Congressman Becerra summed it up best: “if people only had a little more time to get to know him.”

If Obama is JFK, Who is Hillary? HuffPost 1/30

Jan. 30: Ted Kennedy’s statement Monday that Obama was like JFK set off a storm of historical analogies. Hillary’s side fired back that she is like Bobby Kennedy–at least that’s what three of Bobby’s kids said the next day: “Like our father, Hillary has devoted her life to embracing and including those on the bottom rung of society’s ladder,” Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kerry Kennedy declared.

Hillary herself has claimed not so long ago that SHE is our JFK: “A lot of people back then [1960] said, ‘America will never elect a Catholic as president,’ ” she said in New Hampshire last March. “When people tell me ‘a woman can never be president,’ I say, we’ll never know unless we try.” And of course she also compared herself to LBJ, whose political skills, she said, made it possible for him to sign into law what she called “Dr. King’s dream.”

Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times compared Obama to Lincoln (both were undistinguished newcomers when they ran for president). Paul Krugman of the New York Times compared Hillary to Grover Cleveland (both were conservative Democrats in a Republican era). Biographer Joseph Ellis compared Obama to Thomas Jefferson (both spoke in favor of nonpartisan politics).

Sorting out these claims is, of course, a job for professionals–professional historians. They too are partisans. The only organized political group of historians in this campaign in Historians for Obama, which includes Joyce Appleby, former president of the American Historical Association; Robert Dallek, the award-wining presidential biographer; David Thelen, former editor of the Journal of American History; and the Pulitzer-prize winning Civil War historian James McPherson.

Their statement made some sweeping analogies: “Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and kept the nation united; Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Americans to embrace Social Security and more democratic workplaces; John F. Kennedy advanced civil rights and an anti-poverty program. Barack Obama has the potential to be that kind of president.”

On the other side, there is no historians-for-Hillary organization, but there is Sean Wilentz–the Princeton professor and award-winning author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, who testified for the defense at the Clinton impeachment hearing. He recently took on the key Obama analogies in an Los Angeles Times op-ed. First, he said, Obama is no JFK: “By the time he ran for president, JFK had served three terms in the House and twice won election to the Senate,” Wilentz wrote. “Before that, he was, of course, a decorated veteran of World War II, having fought with valor in the South Pacific.”

And to compare Obama to Lincoln, Wilentz says, is “absurd”: “Yes, Lincoln spent only two years in the House,” but in 1858, when he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, Lincoln “engaged with Stephen A. Douglas in the nation’s most important debates over slavery before the Civil War.”

On the other hand, Robert Dallek, author of biographies of LBJ and Kennedy, has explained that the appeal of JFK in 1960 has clear parallels to Obama’s campaign today: “it’s the aura, it’s the rhetoric, the youthfulness, the charisma,” he told the Chicago Tribune blog “The Swamp.”

Then there is the Lincoln analogy. Eric Foner, the former American Historical Association president and author of Reconstruction, points out that, in 1860, the Republicans had to choose between two candidates: one who claimed decades of experience in politics, the other with much less, who won support because his oratory was so inspiring and he was deemed more electable. In 1860, the candidate with experience lost the nomination to Lincoln; he was William H. Seward. That makes it fair to say that Hillary could be our Seward.