Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Race Won’t Hurt Obama on November 4th

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Republican presidential contender John McCain got one thing right about Democratic rival Barack Obama. He told Larry King that he didn’t think race would be much of an issue in the final vote. As McCain put it only “a tiny, tiny, minority” will vote against Obama because he’s black. McCain was not just campaign bloviating to puff up his oft touted credential as a play it straight on race guy. The notion that because millions of whites passionately back Obama race is permanently off America’s table is more hope and prayer than reality.

Still despite endless and obsessive speculation that race could derail Obama in his slog to the White House it won’t and it probably never would have. Start with McCain and Obama; McCain made the personal and pragmatic choice not to make race an issue either directly or indirectly through code words, snide hints, and racial guilt by association attacks. When the Jeremiah Wright flap cropped up, he could have hammered Obama as a stealth race baiter. He turned thumbs down on that. Later when VP mate Sarah Palin and some others in his campaign were etching to unload on Obama-Wright again, he still said no.

That decision was not totally due to honor and noble intent. A too frontal racial attack would have brought instant screams of foul from Democrats, and millions of voters who demanded that the campaign be a clean, issues focused campaign. McCain read the political leaves correctly and saw the political peril in flipping the race card. The occasions that he slipped and rapped Obama as a socialist and a terrorist fellow traveler brought universal condemnation that he was going negative or worse running a dirty campaign.
Obama helped things even more. The firm message in his signature slogan of hope and change, campaign literature, TV ads, rallies, in pitches to contributors, his core of advisors, and major endorsers was that the Obama presidential campaign and an Obama presidency would be broad, non-racial and issues driven. Anything else would have instantly stirred horrifying visions to many of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. His candidacy would have been DOA.

But McCain and Obama’s best efforts to make race a non issue in the campaign would have fallen short without the sea change shift in public attitudes. The decade since the Rodney King beating, the O.J. Simpson trial, and the urban riots, has been a period of relative racial peace in America. During that time polls consistently showed that more whites than ever are genuinely convinced that America is a color-blind society, equal opportunity is a reality, and blacks and whites if not exactly attaining complete social and economic equality, are closer than ever to that goal. Though the figures on income, education and health care still show a colossal gap between poor blacks and whites, the perception nonetheless is that racism is an ugly and nasty byproduct of a long by-gone past.

The passage by huge margins of anti-affirmative action measures in California, Michigan, and Washington, was not simply a case of whites engaging in racial denial or a cover for hidden bias. Many white voters backed the initiatives because they honestly believed that color should never be in the equation in hiring and education, and that race is divisive.
It’s is easy to see why they believe that. "Whites only" signs and redneck Southern cops unleashing police dogs, turning fire hoses on and beating hapless black demonstrators have long been forgotten. Americans turn on their TVs and see legions of black newscasters and talk show hosts, topped by TV's richest and most popular celebrity, Oprah Winfrey.

They see mega-rich black entertainers and athletes pampered and fawned over by a doting media and an adoring public. They see TV commercials that picture blacks living in trendy integrated suburban homes, sending their kids to integrated schools and driving expensive cars. They see blacks such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his successor Condoleezza Rice in high-profile policy-making positions in the Bush administration. They see dozens of blacks in Congress, many more in state legislatures and city halls. They see blacks heading corporations and universities. And those blacks who incessantly scream racism about their plight are roundly reviled for feeding racial paranoia.
There is even some talk that the so-called Bradley Effect, the penchant for whites to lie to pollsters about their true racial feelings and vote against a black candidate, may actually turn into a reverse Bradley Effect this election. That’s that many whites will vote for Obama because he’s black. That notion is just as dubious as the Bradley Effect. But to even raise the possibility tells much about changing times and attitudes.

If Obama wins and that seems likely, race will be, as McCain says, only a tiny, tiny factor. That’s a tribute to him, Obama and the millions of America voters that were determined to make sure that race did not hurt Obama on November 4th

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Five Things President Obama Can do to Keep the Fox Guys Off His Back

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The then freshly elected President Clinton had barely dropped his arm after taking the oath of office in January 1993 before they started in on him. The “they” was Rush Limbaugh (Remember his “Day one of America held hostage” daily rant), packs of radio shock jocks, legions of Christian broadcasters, and, of course, the Fox Network. Clinton was allegedly too pro abortion, too pro big government, too pro tax and spend, too unpatriotic, too personally sleazy, and too married to Hillary. But his greatest crime was he was a Democrat. The Fox holy crusade against him didn’t end until he closed the door for the last time on his way out of the White House.
Now it’s Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama’s turn. The cast of the anti-Clinton holy crusade warriors remains unchanged. They are gnashing their teeth in horror while rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a President Obama. They’ll soon likely get their wish and when they do they’ll dust off the Clinton bash script with all the same “too” hits that were leveled against him. Some may even be tempted to sneakily toss the race card into the script.

Obama won’t be able to keep the wolves totally at bay. He’s a centrist Democrat like Clinton. For the hardcore conservatives that alone is enough to send red flags shooting to the top of the pole and keep them there. The added plus is that an anti-Obama feeding frenzy is a potential ratings bonanza for Fox.
There are five things then that Obama can do to damp down the yelps against him.
1. The economic mess. He’s not Houdini and he can’t magically make it go away. It will be tough if not impossible to deliver on the ritual debate and campaign stump promise he made to virtually cut taxes for everyone while keeping tax increases to the bare minimum. That defies fiscal logic.

He can though arm twist banks to renegotiate, impose a moratorium on, delay payments, or repackage loans for thousands of foreclosed challenged homeowners. There’s even some talk about government intervention to use some of the bailout money to create a homeowner foreclosure relief fund to provide government guaranteed loans to directly aid those in most immediate danger of losing their homes. He can prod Congress to use some bailout money to help these severely distressed homeowners. He can act on the proposal to create a government sponsored small business credit fund to make readily available loans and lines of credit to credit worthy small and medium sized businesses that have been refused loans by banks.
Infrastructure Stimulus. Obama can take the Senate up on its offer to call a lame duck special session after the elections to pass an economic stimulus bill which includes more than 10 to 16 billion dollars for the federal-aid highway program, transit, and airport capital improvement projects. It’s not exactly the second coming of the old Roosevelt Great Depression job creation WPA but it will stimulate business, contractors, and suppliers, create thousands of jobs, and potentially ramp up tax revenues for cash strapped cities and counties.
Rein in Wall Street. He can push and prod the Fed to better monitor and enforce provisions that clamp a lid on dubious trading, lending practices, and investments by some banks and brokerage houses. That includes imposing severe penalties for those who break the rules.
The Iraq war. He can’t end the war in the six months as he promised when he was a middle of the pack Democratic presidential contender and then backpedaled from that promise when he became the lone Democratic presidential contender with a real shot at the presidency. But he can beef up Iraqi’s security forces and then conduct a phased withdrawal of American troops. This is a good faith step toward winding down the war without compromising Iraqi security and American troop safety.

Neutralize Fox News. In an off the cuff quip in mid October, Obama said he’d be much better off if Fox News didn’t dog him mercilessly. Obama’s pique at Fox was understandable since he’s been their number one punching bag for months.
But Obama can and should turn the tables on Fox. Carping and complaining about their legendary anti-Democratic Party bias, or trying to pretend they don’t exist isn’t going to change Fox, let alone make it go away. Instead, keep Fox in the loop. Obama should talk to the Fox guys like he routinely talks to the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN. That won’t make them sheath their daggers. It might though make them pull them out a tad slower.
These five things are time and cost effective doables. They will do much to help smooth out some of the bumps in President Obama’s road ahead, Fox notwithstanding.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Some Racists like Obama

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Not long after Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama tossed his hat in the presidential rink back in February 2007, an odd, even bizarre thing happened. A hodgepodge of avowedly racist groups burned up internet sites not with rage, but glee. They were giddy at the thought that Obama might win.

Their rationale was that an African-American in the White House would prove their point that blacks were out to dominate whites and that whites would be so disgusted that they would unite in righteous and very racist anger. That in turn would trigger their long swooned over racist fantasy of a race war. This was dismissed for what it was, namely the ranting of the racist lunatic fringe. But that doesn’t mean that many whites who harbor hidden or even conscious racial animus won’t also back Obama albeit for their own reasons. A mid-September survey found about one quarter of whites hold negative views of blacks that are top heavy with the old shop worn stereotypes. The respondents said that blacks use race as a crutch, are not as industrious as whites, oppose interracial marriage, and are terrified of black crime (Obama mildly chided his white grandmother in his so-called race speech back in March for saying she feared black men). Yet nearly a quarter of them claim they’ll vote for Obama.

The standard explanation for this seeming racial schizoid view is that whites are so hammered by financial hardship that the economy trumps race and that Obama can do more to help them out of their financial hole than Republican rival John McCain. Others like him because his race neutral campaign is a soothing departure from the perceived race baiting antics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Still others like him because his racially exotic background supposedly doesn’t fit that of the typical African American.

There is truth in these reasons cited to explain Obama’s appeal to some racial bigots. But there’s another reason that hasn’t been cited. That’s the long, checkered, and tortured history of racial exceptionalism. That’s the penchant for some whites to make artificial distinctions between supposedly good and bad blacks. That’s apparent in the unthinking offensive, insulting, and just plain dumb crack made to some articulate, well-educated blacks in business and the professions that they are “different than other blacks or not like other blacks.”

Racial exceptionalism also stems from the ingrained, but terribly misplaced, belief that blacks are perennially disgruntled, hostile, and rebellious, and are always on the lookout for any real or perceived racial slight, and etch to pick a fight over it.

An African-American who doesn’t fit that type is touted, praised, even anointed by some as the reasoned voice of black America. A century ago the mantle of the reasoned, exceptional African-American was bestowed on famed educator, Booker T. Washington. He was showered with foundation and corporate largesse. In the 1920s and 30s, NAACP leaders always found a ready welcome at the White House. They were praised in the press and bankrolled by some industrialists. In the 1960s Urban League President Whitney Young, NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins, and Martin Luther King Jr. before he fell out of favor with the Lyndon Johnson White House after his too vocal opposition to the Vietnam War and turn to economic radicalism, were lionized for their reason and racial moderation.

In the 1980s, Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. actively cultivated and promoted a bevy of younger GOP friendly academics, black business leaders, and black conservatives. Reagan and Bush Sr. plainly saw them as a leadership alternative to the black Democrats and the old guard civil rights leaders. The black conservatives were appointed to government posts, bagged foundation grants, were feted by conservative think tanks, and their columns were routinely published in major newspapers. They were continually cited by writers and reporters as a breath of fresh air among African-Americans mostly for their willingness to break ranks with and to blister Jackson, Sharpton, and the civil rights establishment.

Obama hardly fits the mold of a black conservative, but neither is he the ultra-liberal Democrat that some conservative opponents routinely paint him as. Even before his rocket launch to the threshold of the presidency, he was considered a moderate, centrist Democrat, a consummate party insider, and a rising Beltway establishment politician. Without that stamp of mainstream approval, his White House bid would have never got to political first base.

Obama bristles publicly at the notion that he’s in competition with or a critic of civil rights leaders, or that he is immune from racial jabs. He has repeatedly praised past civil rights leaders for their heroic battle against racial injustice. That’s good, but that doesn’t erase the nagging penchant to elevate some blacks above the racial fray, and declare them the exception. That includes some white bigots who say they’ll back Obama.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell’s GOP Payback

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama was a mere formality. Powell pretty much hinted that Obama would get the nod from him when he repeatedly dropped glowing and admiring words about Obama over the past few months. Powell’s stated motive for breaking with GOP ranks and endorsing Obama is by now standard stuff. He’ll put a fresh, new, or as Powell called it “transformational” face on America’s much bruised and maligned foreign policy.
There’s no reason to doubt that Powell endorsed Obama for that reason. But in another sense his endorsement is a bitter sweet payback for the harsh, odd man out treatment he got from some within the Bush administration and from others in the GOP.
Despite his impeccable military credentials, unwavering party loyalty, towering prestige, and diplomatic savvy, Powell always stirred unease, even deep furor in the bowels of many conservative Republicans. They were never awestruck by the general's bars, commanding personality, and public popularity. That first surfaced when Powell made some soundings that he might seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1996. Pat Buchanan and a strong contingent of conservative groups were appalled.
They sternly warned that they would make "war" on him if he were really serious about grabbing the nomination. If Powell had ignored their threat and charged ahead in his bid for the party's nomination they would have pounded him for backing affirmative action and abortion rights. They would have dredged up the charge that he did not take Saddam Hussein out when he had the chance as chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs during the Gulf War. The general got their message and quickly opted not to seek the nomination. As it turned out, they hammered him with the soft-on-Hussein charge anyway.
Even so, Reagan, Bush Sr., Gerald Ford, William Buckley and nearly every other Republican big wig were star struck enough with the general's magnetism and perceived popularity that they still wanted him on the Republican ticket. They remembered that in some opinion polls, Powell actually made it a horserace in a head to head contest with President Clinton. They figured that as the party's vice-presidential candidate he could breathe some life into the stillborn campaign of Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in 1996 while not alienating the party's hard liners.
This was the stuff of delusion. If Powell had actually chosen to run he would have been under the most savage scrutiny of any candidate in American presidential history. The public and press on foreign and domestic policy issues would have mercilessly grilled him. Powell would have been forced to answer the same tough questions and face the same objections as the Republican vice-presidential candidate as he would have as a presidential candidate. And Republican hard rightists would have objected just as strongly to the prospect of Powell being one heartbeat away from the presidency.
The talk of Powell as Republican VP candidate fizzled just as fast as the talk of Powell as presidential candidate did. In 2000, Powell knew that the same Republican rightists still itched to pick a fight with him. He quickly scotched any talk about a Republican presidential candidacy. The Secretary of State post was a much better deal. It gave him a high political profile without the risk of stirring the rancor of the right. As a Bush cabinet nominee, rather than a presidential candidate, Powell would implement, not make, policy. This supposedly kept him out of political harm's way.
But this also proved to be the stuff of delusion. The battle within the Bush administration between Iraq war hawks Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice over the war and the terrorism fight has been well-documented. Powell’s diplomacy first tact, his deep understanding that a unilateral too aggressive military policy posed the dire risk of a terrible blowback to U.S. security, and his personal inclinations that Saddam Hussein was largely an impotent, contained dictator who had absolutely nothing to do with the terrorism threat was anathema to the hardliners. They still demanded that he vigorously and enthusiastically help beat the administration's war-drum policy. It was a bitter pill for Powell to swallow, but swallow he did.
He dutifully put a respected face on Bush war doctrine. Even so, he was still closely watched for any hint of deviation from Bush's foreign policy line. This would have brought more howls from conservatives for the general’s head.
Powell survived but not without scars. The lies, deceptions, and staggering human cost of the Iraq war that Powell sadly shilled for tainted his legacy of admired, even revered public military and foreign policy service.

Powell’s Obama presidential endorsement then is much more than an endorsement. It’s a chance to buff a bit of the taint away as well as a nose thumb for past GOP scorn. Payback, if you will.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Friday, October 10, 2008

How the GOP Will Suppress Minority Votes on November 4—Legally

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

News reports that state officials in the crucial battleground states of Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina were purging thousands from voter rolls illegally drew a flurry of media and public attention. The crude, dubious, if not outright illegal, stuff to suppress votes such as the absence of polling places in minority neighborhoods, ballot and vote machine irregularities, using lists of foreclosed homes to challenge voter’s residences, rigid time lines for filing voter applications, the lack of information, misinformation or deliberate disinformation about voter registration forms and materials has also drawn plenty of media attention over the years.

Yet, the main ploys the GOP will use to damp down minority votes on November 4th have drawn virtually no media attention. They include letter writing challenges, residence and citizenship challenges of non-native born Latino voters, and reliance on a provision in the Help America Vote Act on provisional ballots. Worst of all, these tactics are all perfectly legal.

Federal court rulings flatly prohibit Republican organizations from sending letters to newly registered voters in solely low income, black and Hispanic neighborhoods to verify their address. If those letters aren’t returned, the GOP contends that the recipient's address on their voter registration form is incorrect and the registration is fraudulent. When the voter shows up at the polls they are challenged. Republicans insist that the legal prohibition against this tactic applies only to the Republican National Committee and not to state and local Republican organizations and “volunteer groups.” Since GOP groups have declared themselves exempt from the court rulings against the tactic, they fully intend to use the letter writing ploy to challenge the registrations of people in certain designated zip codes. The zip codes just happen to be those in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods.

In April the Supreme Court handed the GOP an even more powerful weapon to water down minority votes. It upheld Indiana’s rigid voter registration law which requires government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, a passport, or a state or military ID card. Though Indiana got much of the media attention when the court ruled, it’s hardly the only state to require rigid proof of identity. Florida and Georgia require photo IDs. Eighteen other states require either photo or non-photo IDs. In four states polling workers can demand that voters produce a photo ID. Many will. And they’ll likely have the blessing of nearly several dozen state election officials who were chosen in sharply partisan elections.

It’s a stretch to think that many will rein in their political biases when it comes to making the narrowest interpretation of the Byzantine tangle of state voting laws that allow election officials wide latitude to disqualify or assign to provisional ballot anyone with even the slightest real or perceived registration glitch. Polling workers will take their cue from state officials and tightly scrutinize the IDs and registration cards of voters at countless numbers of local polling places. If the election is close the over scrutiny of minority voters will almost certainly ignite an endless and bitter round of legal and court challenges with little certainty that they’ll be successful.

The other tact is to challenge non-native born Latino voters, mostly newly registered voters. They now make up about 10 to 20 percent of the Latino population in the Western battleground states of New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. The states have nineteen electoral votes. In a close contest their votes could be the make or break votes for Obama or McCain. Anti-immigrant rights groups with active or tacit support from local GOP organizations could station monitors, poll watchers, and volunteers at polling places in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods. Their presence would be a powerful disincentive for many non-native born voters to turn out. Polling officials will be on the lookout for any hint of impropriety in their registration.
Then there’s the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002. It’s supposed to help streamline the voting process and make registration easier. But the act is a two edged sword in that it permits voters who have been rejected for borderline legal reasons to cast provisional ballots. But these ballots are set aside and it could take days or weeks, not to mention court and legal challenges before determinations can be made which ballots can be counted. There will be thousands of these ballots and the overwhelming majority will be from black and Hispanic voters.

The aim of vote suppression is the same as it’s been for a half century and that’s to whittle down the vote total for the Democratic presidential contender, in this case Obama. Democrats will pull out all legal stops to fight voter suppression. They will nail the more blatant, patently illegal tactics. But their success in stopping them still won’t prevent untold thousands of black and Latino voters from being shoved out in the election cold on November 4th. Unfortunately, the law will be on the side of those who shoved them out there.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Presidential Debates That Aren’t

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

OK, we now know for the umpteenth time that Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain will cut taxes, provide affordable health care to everyone, drill for more oil, expand nuclear power use, end global warming, rein in the Wall Street fast buck artists, take out Osama Bin Laden, and end the war in Iraq either by withdrawal or victory. And yes we know that both have had a tough family upbringing, and therefore they know what working people have to go through.

These themes have been rehashed and reworked so many times that we can recite them in our sleep. But what we don’t know and certainly haven’t heard in the debates is what Obama and McCain will do about failing urban public schools, the HIV-AIDS pandemic, their view of the death penalty, the drug crisis, how they’ll combat hate crimes, shore up crumbling and deteriorating urban transportation systems, and what type of judges they will appoint to the federal judiciary and to the Supreme Court.
The latter is especially crucial since there may be two possibly three high court vacancies during the first McCain or Obama White House term. We don’t know what they’ll do about these problems because the debate format, the questions and questioners, and even the internet queries play it close, predictable and safe. The result is that the only thing the 50 to 60 million viewers who have tuned into the two debates know what McCain and Obama have to say about these equally vital public policy concerns and problems can only be gleaned from canned snippets from their speeches on the campaign trail, or more likely by going to their campaign websites. For most, that’s not going to happen.

Even on the issues of health care, Iraq, and Iran that the debates have obsessed on, the response from Obama and McCain has been a disappointment, a disappointment that is in that neither has gone much past the canned lines that they have endlessly recited when asked their stance on them. But there were at least two or three moments during debate two when both contenders seemed poised to turn and face each other, take the gloves off, and directly challenge each other on their votes and positions on legislation on taxes, health care, Iraq, and Iran. For instance when McCain demanded that Obama come clean and tell what the penalties would be on small businesses with his health care plan. Or, when Obama charged that McCain voted against the Children Health Act. Or, when McCain implored Obama to admit that the surge in Iraq worked, and wanted to know why he still wouldn’t admit it. Or, when Obama claimed that McCain voted multiple times against alternative energy funding.
These were missed opportunities for the voters to really get the measure of each one beyond the stock pitches. In the three week countdown to E Day, November 4, my suspicion is that voters will still be in a fog regarding Obama and McCain’s stance on the “other” issues that have gotten only the barest of shrift. But then again there’s one more debate.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Democrats Hands Aren’t Clean in the Financial Mess

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The normally expansive Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was anything but that when she was asked if the Democrats should get some of the blame for the Wall Street financial mess. Pelosi answered with a terse “no.” But Pelosi quickly got expansive when she finger pointed Bush and the Republicans for creating the mess. This is the standard Pelosi line. Bush and the Republicans eagerly cut sweetheart deals with financial industry lobbyists to gut lending and stock trading regulations, winked and nodded at the banks and brokerage houses as they engaged in an orgy of dubious stock swapping, buys, and trading, conned millions of homeowners into taking out catastrophic sub prime loans, and watered down the oversight powers of government regulatory agencies.
But Pelosi’s Bush rap is disingenuous. Democratic president Jimmy Carter and Congressional Democrats kicked off the rush to deregulate in the late 1970s when they cajoled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to relax lending standards for banks and S&Ls to provide more home loans for home seekers. Their goal was noble. It was to get the financial industry to loosen the lending purse strings to lower income and minority home buyers.

But relaxing the standards heightened the risk to banks and lenders and sent the signal that Democrats were willing to also relax regulations and oversight on banks and lenders. It was a short step from that to relaxing regulations and oversight on other financial transactions by the banking and brokerage houses.
It didn’t take long for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to take that step. Under relentless pressure from top bankers during the 1990s, Congress scrapped most of the provisions of the decades old Glass-Steagall Act. The Act was a Depression era measure that kept federally insured banks out of the go-go world of stock trading, exotic lending, and financial speculation. It also set rigid standards for mortgage lending and strict oversight over banking practices.

Clinton’s Treasury secretary Robert Rubin lobbied hard for dumping the Act. The rationale being that U.S. banks and brokerage houses needed to have the restrictions snatched off to stay competitive with Asian and European bankers and financial traders. President Clinton bought the line. The revision bill passed with bipartisan support in 1999 and Clinton quickly signed it.
Despite the havoc to the financial markets and damage to consumers the gut of the Act has created, Clinton still says that he has no regrets over signing the bill. The one regret that Clinton has in hindsight is that he didn’t push harder for tougher oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and financial traders. Clinton’s regret rings hollow given that it was Congressional Democrats and Democratic mayors who clamored the loudest to relax the oversight rules under the guise of bumping up minority homeownership. And it was Rubin and other Clinton administration officials who pushed Congress to loosen the constraints on financial trading.
In 2005, Senate Democrats had another chance to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Senate Banking Committee passed a bill to give regulators the power to require companies to shed their investments in risky assets (the so-named government-sponsored enterprises GSE reform bill).
The bill never got to the Senate floor thanks to Democrats. They killed it in committee. Democrats continued to parrot the line that any limitations on the financial industry would hamper its ability to compete in the financial markets. This was only part of the reason Democrats flacked for the financial industry. The other part is the sway that industry lobbyists have over Congress through the gargantuan amounts of cash they dump into the campaign coffers of top Democrats. That includes Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Banking Committee Chair and short lived Democratic presidential candidate Christopher Dodd.
Obama got more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama’s top presidential campaign contributors and bundlers read like a who’s who of Wall Street bigwigs. They have either directly contributed or bundled millions of dollars into his campaign.
Clinton ranks number 12 on the Fannie and Freddie PAC gift list. She has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees.
Dodd grabbed the top spot on the list of Fannie and Freddie PAC campaign payouts. He has received more than $165,000. Yet, Dodd has screamed just as loud as Pelosi that the blame for the financial muddle lay exclusively with Bush and Republican bungled policies.

Dodd griped that the Bush Bailout scheme was too skimpy on details. That’s a sure sign that if, or when, the Bush plan gets to the Senate, Dodd and other Senate Democrats will back it. Why not? They’re no different than Bush and Congressional Republicans in giving Wall Street pretty much everything else it has wanted, Pelosi’s Republican saber rattle notwithstanding.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).