Sunday, June 29, 2008

Did Obama Really Torpedo Immigration Reform?
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain made a curious charge through a spokesperson immediately after his talk before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Arlington, Virginia. He flatly said that his Democratic rival Barack Obama helped torpedo the immigration reform bill in the Senate in June 2007. This is a serious even inflammatory charge. It probably won’t do much to hurt Obama’s standing among the majority of Latino elected officials and core Latino Democrats. Polls show that the overwhelming majority of them back him. But it could stir more murmurs among some about his credentials as the change advocate on economic and foreign policy matters, and that includes immigration reform. Worse, it could raise even more doubts among rank and file Latino voters about Obama’s willingness to go to the mat on immigration reform. This would be a disaster for him. Latino voter support is absolutely crucial in Obama’s drive to bag the White House.
In the 2004 presidential election, Bush got nearly forty percent of the Latino vote. Without those votes Democrat John Kerry would have won the White House.
It not just the Latino votes that Bush got and Obama and McCain are clawing to get. It's where the Latino votes come from that could cinch the victory for Obama or McCain. The greatest numbers of Latino voters are in California, Florida, Texas and New York, Illinois and New Jersey. These are the key electoral states that virtually determine who will sit in the White House for years to come.

This much is clear in looking back at the Senate immigration debate in the spring 2007, Obama did vote for five amendments dubbed “poison pill” amendments. They badly threw out of whack the carefully crafted, but always fragile, compromise package that Democrats and Republicans cobbled together to get a bill passed. The Amendments lowered the visa quota for guest workers, put a severe time limit on the temporary guest worker program, and the temporary worker visa programs, revised the system for evaluating immigrant citizenship claims, and changed the time limit on the renewal of visas for some immigrants.
The amendments were backed by liberal and labor groups. The intent was to make the bill more expansive, balanced, and fair. But it was also the classic case of noble intent clashing with political practicality and a very tenuous Senate Democrat and Republican consensus on the type of immigration reform bill that realistically could pass, and that Bush would sign. The amendments predictably were rejected. Both Senator Ted Kennedy and McCain turned thumbs down on them (McCain did not vote on one of the amendments). The time delay, energy expended and wasted debating the amendments (and others), upset the delicate balance and helped dig the hole deeper for the bill.
Though Hillary Clinton and other top Senate Democrats also backed the amendments, they didn’t draw much fire for it. They are hard line partisan Democrats who make little pretense about voting anything other than a straight party line on legislation or amendments to legislation that labor and liberal advocacy groups solidly back.
But Obama claimed to be different than them. The amendment debacle drew a mild knock that Obama had betrayed his oft stated promise to elevate his head above petty, narrow party politics and be a bi-partisan consensus builder. This means that he will be the one to smash through the dead end morass of party squabbling and Congressional paralysis to move things along in Washington. The paralysis has drawn the disgust and fury of millions of voters and earned Congress approval ratings that wallow every bit in the historic low depths as Bush’s approval ratings
The immigration reform bill killing amendments, and Obama’s vote on them, give McCain the hook he needs to lambaste Obama as an immigration reform spoiler. Worse, it allows him to try to plant the idea among some Latino voters that if Obama can’t be trusted to do what it takes to get immigration reform through, than why expect him to do what it takes on other issues such as affordable health care that are vital to Latinos.
Though the crowd at the NALEO conference publicly and enthusiastically chanted Obama’s name, privately he had a nervous moment. In a behind the scenes meeting with more than a dozen Latino leaders he reportedly was pressed to spell out exactly where he stood on immigration. Some also weren’t too thrilled that in the past Obama sounded every bit as tough as the anti-immigration hawks in backing a border fence. Immigration reform advocates vehemently oppose the fence.
Despite the vigorous cheers among Latino elected officials for Obama and the near certainty that he’ll net the big percentage of Latino votes, it still doesn’t mean that the Latino vote is not a bit of an X factor for him. Unfortunately, it won’t help that Obama now will be called to answer for what he did or didn’t do when it came to help make immigration reform a reality.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nader Talks Black
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

One presidential candidate has brashly played the race card. It wasn’t presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain or his rival Barack Obama. Both have tipped lightly around race in the campaign. But Ralph Nader didn’t have any qualms about bring race into the campaign. The perennial political gadfly accused Obama of saying and doing nothing to threaten the white power structure. If Nader had stopped there he might have opened up a reasoned debate on whether Obama panders to corporate interests in his stance on high gas prices, home foreclosures, the lack of affordable heath care, the Iraq war wind down, corporate and environmental regulations, and labor protections. This might have prompted some to ask does Obama rise to the standard of a politician who has actually sold his political soul to corporations and the Beltway establishment?

But Nader didn’t stop at criticizing Obama for being a Beltway insider. He asked rhetorically “Is it because he wants to talk white” as to why Obama supposedly doesn’t take hard stances on these issues? He then tossed in a reference to Jesse Jackson as an example of someone who Obama allegedly doesn’t want to sound like because he obviously sounds black. He didn’t tell exactly how he thinks an African-American is supposed to talk too avoid sounding white.

The one thing Nader got right is that Obama doesn’t sound like Jackson. But this has absolutely nothing to do with him talking white. It has everything to do with him wanting to win. The instant that Obama declared his candidacy the buzz question in the press and among much of the public was whether an African-American could be a viable candidate for the presidency. This was quickly followed with the question of whether whites would vote for an African-American candidate for the highest office. From the first start of Obama’s campaign the overwhelming majority of whites said they do not vote for candidates based on their color but based on their competence, ability and qualifications. The polls show that whites continue to say that Obama’s color is of no concern.

For his part, Obama early understood the potential minefield that race poses to his chances, and that even the slightest perception that there is a racial tilt in his campaign would render his campaign DOA. He has said and done everything possible to sell himself and his campaign as race neutral and all inclusive. He’s stuck tight to the script in which he talks almost exclusively about the broad based issues of the Iraq war and the economy.

That script is too bland and saccharine to have much meaning to Nader. He’s spent decades and three presidential campaigns blasting political cronyism, two party dominance, corporate greed and malfeasance, war mongering and profiteering. He plainly regards Obama as a corporate candidate who has no antidote to those ills. Nader could have easily made that point without racially knocking Obama. But he did knock him, and the only real explanation is that Nader holds Obama to a totally different standard than he holds McCain or any other white mainstream politician; a standard that’s based solely on his color. Put bluntly, because he’s black he must be by definition in Nader’s eyes an inherent rebel or at the very least actively challenge the white corporate and political establishment. But that assumes that blacks are instinctive rebels because of their color. Earth to Nader on this one; the likes of blacks from Clarence Thomas to Colin Powell should have long since dispelled that myth. Yet, to even think that blacks should be open racial crusaders is crass, cynical, and even borderline racist.

The only standard that Obama can and should be held to is the one that governs mainstream politicians. Obama’s a centrist Democrat, a consummate party loyalist and Capital Hill insider. Any change he could effect could come only from working within the tight and narrowly prescribed confines of Washington politics. Race has little to do with that. And even if that wasn’t the case, Obama likely still wouldn’t be on the frontline of the racial battleground.

He belongs to the younger, post-civil rights generation. That generation did not experience the terror of snarling police dogs, fire hoses, racist sheriff’s batons, and Jim Crow segregation. They did not fight prolonged battles for equality and economic justice in the streets as those of Jackson’s generation did. The racial battleground for Obama’s generation has been in the courtroom, corporate suites, and university boardrooms. He fought those battles as a student at Harvard University, as a poverty organizer and civil rights attorney.

Obama blew off Nader’s racial dig at him as a ploy to get attention by an aging political crusader whose political star has since long dimmed. Nader certainly wouldn’t have gotten that attention if he had just rapped Obama for his alleged corporate and insider political sins. But then again that wouldn’t have been Ralph.

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).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable
614 E. Manchester Blvd. Suite 204
Inglewood, Cal. 90301

June 23, 2008
Mr. Farid Suleman
Citadel Broadcasting Corporation
142 W. 57th St. 11th Fl.
New York 10019

Mr. Suleman:
Don Imus has done it again. On his nationally syndicated morning talk show on Citadel Broadcasting Corporation, Imus in response to a statement from another WABC programmer about Dallas Cowboys defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones legal difficulties asked "What color is he?" When the programmer responded he’s African-American, Imus responded, "Well, there you go. Now we know.”
The response reinforces the worst racial stereotypes of crime and violence about African-Americans. White football and other sports notables have run afoul of the law but there is no known Imus statement linking their misdeeds to their race. But he did it with Jones.
Imus and Citadel Broadcasting must issue an immediate public apology for the racially offensive remark and Citadel must issue a public reprimand of Imus.
Citadel promised that when it brought Imus back to the airwaves it would closely monitor his on-air conduct and statements. If Citadel is true to its word it will issue the apology and a public reprimand of Imus.


Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable
CC: Mitch Dolan, WABC Director and President Citadel Broadcast Corp. Station Operations

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Huckabee’s Admonition Not to Demonize Obama Will Fall on Deaf Ears
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sternly warned the GOP that demonizing Barack Obama won’t work and it would be a big blunder to even try. Huckabee issued the warning because he’s worried that in going negative against Obama the GOP risks voter backlash. Obama’s rival John McCain agrees. He has repeatedly pledged that his campaign will be clean.
McCain’s clean campaign vow and Huckabee’s warning against going negative won’t mean much too some GOP-connected 527 independent expenditure committees (uncharitably hit squads). Under an IRS loophole independent expenditure committees can get funds from any source with no limit. They can spend the money pretty much anyway they want. The instant it became clear that Obama would likely get the Democratic nod a few independent committees swung into action. They ran campaign ads in a couple of primary states knocking him for his tie to his controversial former pastor Jeremiah Wright and questioned his patriotism. When things really heat up in the fall, the committees will have a mini-Fort Knox storehouse of privately funneled dollars to slam Obama on any and every big, petty, and almost always personal attack, issue they choose. Other than publicly disavowing any of the digs that hit Obama below the belt, McCain can’t do anything about them.
The question, though, is does demonizing a candidate really work? The two best known examples are the Willie Horton hit against Democratic presidential contender Michael Dukakis in 1988 and the Swift Boat blindside of Democratic presidential contender John Kerry in 2004. One stoked the fears of crime (Dukakis). The other planted doubts about character (Kerry). In both instances, they worked.
Even without these extreme cases, there’s evidence that going negative can work. Though surveys show that the overwhelming majority of voters abhor personal smears against candidates and are turned off by them, far too many voters also can be influenced by the negative stuff they hear about a candidate. The trick to implant the negative belief is that the ads must be directly linked to the candidate’s political position on the issues, style or even personality. In April the GOP-connected Legacy Committee loudly announced that it planned to hammer Obama as being soft on crime in attack ads in several states.
The committee tied this softer version of the Horton attack on him directly to his vote in the Illinois state legislature against expanding the death penalty for gang related murders. The law was superfluous and political pandering since there were already tough laws on the books that proscribed the death penalty for these types of atrocious crimes. And Obama has publicly stated his support of the death penalty for certain “heinous” crimes including gang related murders.
Yet, Obama’s vote, and the fact that he’s a liberal Democrat, gave the hit committee just enough of a hook to hinge their ad on and hope that the soft on crime tag on him would stick. In the fall, the committees almost certainly will dredge up some of the old stuff about Wright, Obama’s youthful self-admitted drug use, and financial dealings with convicted Chicago financier Tony Rezko They will once more mangle out of context, or flat out manufactured, quips by his wife Michelle about racial matters.
The more highbrow committees will work him over as being too liberal and too soft on national security concerns (with more subtle digs at his patriotism). Then there's the inexperience label that Obama's been saddled with from the start of his campaign. That will be tossed out repeatedly with the hope that it will imprint him as a greenhorn who will bumble and stumble on policy issues if entrusted with the highest office; in other words a Democratic version of Bush.
The one potential hit issue that the committees will tread gingerly on is race. It has derailed a few black candidates in past elections that were thought to be shoo-in winners in head to head contests with white opponents. But though race was brought up with Michelle, it won’t be used against him. It’s simply too sensitive and risky a ploy and would likely backfire anyway. Obama has not made an issue of race. Indeed, the appeal of his candidacy has been its all inclusive message. The majority of voters would likely be outraged if race was made an issue.

Obama and McCain have on occasion talked about reining in the 527 committees. In part they want to do it to make sure they control the themes and message of their campaigns, and in part to make sure that donor dollars flow directly from their supporters to their campaigns. But both also know how the rules of campaign spending work. One rule is that anyone can form an expenditure committee, raise funds, and spend the money pretty much the way they want.
Huckabee then can admonish the hit committees not to demonize Obama all he wants. Unfortunately, his admonition will fall on deaf ears.
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).

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Silly Debate Over Whether Obama is Black or Mixed Race
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Presumptive Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama gave the best answer to the question whether he’s black, mixed race or something in between. He recently told a Chicago fundraiser crowd that to some he wasn’t black enough, and he then promptly added
that others say he might be too black. He’s right, the knock against him has either been that he is too black or not black enough, not that he is too mixed race or not mixed race enough. Despite his occasional references to his white mother and grandmother, Obama by his own admission has never seen himself as anything other than being black. He says it has been that way since he was 12. It’s that way for those whites who flatly say that they won’t vote for him because he’s black. His Democratic primary losses to Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky showed there are legions of white voters who feel that race does matter to them. Few have said that they oppose him because he’s mixed race.
Yet, the silly debate continues to rage over whether Obama is the black presidential candidate or the multi racial candidate. The debate is even sillier when one considers that science has long since debunked the notion of a pure racial type. In America, race has never been a scientific or genealogical designation, but a political and social designation. Put bluntly, anyone with the faintest trace of African ancestry was and still is considered black, and treated accordingly. Their part white ancestry doesn’t give them a pass from taxis refusing to stop for them, clerks following them in department stores, from being racial profiled by police on street corner stops, from landlords refusing to show them an apartment, or being denied a promotion. The mixed race designation doesn’t magically make disappear the countless other racial sleights and indignities that are tormenting reminders that race still does matter, and matter a lot to many Americans.
Indeed, from the moment that Obama tossed his hat in the presidential rink a year ago, the mantra of the press and the public has been, “Is America ready for a black president?” Not “Is America ready for a mixed race president?” The equally incessant mantra is that Obama if elected will make history as America’s first black president not the first mixed race president.
That tells much about the still frozen public attitudes and perceptions about race and politics in America. The deepest part of America’s racial fault has always been and still remains the black and white divide. This has spawned legions of vile but durable racial stereotypes, fears, and antagonisms. Black males have been the special target of the negative typecasting. They’ve routinely been depicted as crime prone, derelict, sexual menaces, and chronic underachievers. There are slightly more than 6 million persons that self-identify themselves as mixed race in America. The number of persons with a black and white parent is a minuscule less that one half of one percent.
By contrast, African-Americans (mixed or not) number more than forty million in America and make up about twelve percent of the population. The designation then of “mixed race” is so new, benign and amorphous it softens racial attitudes and dilutes racial hostility. It carries none of the negative racial baggage that black or African-American does.
This is the big reason that scores of blacks have been frenzied over Obama’s candidacy. They have turned out in record numbers in some primaries and have given his candidacy the greatest boost forward. They have been unabashed in saying that they back him with passion and fervor because he is black. It’s hard to imagine that they’d cheer him with the same passion if he touted himself as a mixed race candidate. The thrill and pride for them is that a black man could beat the racial odds against blacks and scale the political heights.
The stock line is that Obama’s candidacy shows how far America has come in that a black man has a real shot at grabbing the top elected spot in the land. No one says that Obama’s candidacy shows how far America has come in that a mixed race man can win the White House. If Obama does win the presidency the new line will be that it shows not just how far America has come on race (meaning racial attitudes toward blacks), but that America has finally arrived on race (meaning racial attitudes toward blacks). Substituting mixed race for black would not have the same meaning or significance to blacks or whites.
If Obama grabs the White House, he’ll claim it as a triumph for all Americans. Many blacks will claim it as a triumph for them. They’ll both be right.

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, June 11, 2008

Obama Assassination Exhibit May Be a Hoax, But Fears of Assassination are Real
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Hoax, cheap stunt, crank, crackpot, racist, and sick, were the apt terms tossed at so-called artist Yazmany Arboleda for his grotesquely named near exhibit, "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton & The Assassination of Barack Obama, " at a midtown New York store front. Near only because Secret Service agents and NYPD officials quickly moved in and yanked down and carted away the assorted painted nooses and the garish pictures of Obama from the building. The exhibit may have been a crackpot stunt but it did again point to the real fear that legions quietly whisper and openly voice about the danger of physical violence to Obama. This is not a paranoid or false fear.
This year that marks the fortieth anniversary of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Robert F. Kennedy, and the forty fifth anniversary of JFK’s assassination. The three icons represented the best and brightest in leaders, and stirred the hope and longing of millions for change, and a full throttle fight against poverty and racial injustice. These are the exact qualities that Obama symbolizes to millions. But in some ways the luster on Obama’s star at this stage of his career out shines that of King and the Kennedys. Unlike the Kennedys he’s an African-American. Unlike King he’s the first African-American presidential candidate that could win. And unlike King and the Kennedys he has drawn an instant global throng of admirers who see in him the embodiment of change and a fresh direction for US policy on the war and the easing of global tensions. He’s also seen as a potential president who can put a diverse, humane face on American foreign policy.
But these are also the very same qualities that stir the deep fury, hatred and resentment among a handful of loose screwed malcontents and hate mongers. The thick list of fringe and hate groups as well as the hordes of unbalanced violence prone individuals running loose in America can fill a telephone book. The long history of hate violence in America further is more than enough to raise the antenna on the danger of violence against prominent political figures.

The first troubling hint of this with Obama came virtually from the moment that he announced in February 2007 that he was a presidential candidate. The personal death threats quickly began flooding in to his campaign. Obama had the dubious distinction of being the earliest presidential contender to be assigned Secret Service protection on the campaign trail. That didn’t satisfy some. Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson fired off a letter to Secret Service officials practically demanding that the Secret Service provide all the resources and personnel it could to insure Obama and the other presidential candidates safety. Thompson didn’t say exactly what prompted him to fret over whether the Secret Service was doing all it could to protect the candidates, but almost certainly Thompson heard the whispers and nervous questions from his constituents about Obama’s safety.
As the crowds grew bigger at Obama rallies and his public visibility grew even greater, the Secret Service increased the number of agents assigned to guard him. The ramp up in protection was a good move. At the same time, Obama campaign aides and volunteers continued to report occasional racial taunts and jibes when they passed out literature and pitched Obama in some areas. This further increased the jitters that Obama was at risk. As the showdown with John McCain heats up in the coming months, the flood of crank, crackpot, and screwball threats that promise murder and mayhem toward Obama almost certainly will continue to pour in. This just as certainly will prompt the Secret Service to tighten security and take even more elaborate measures to insure his safety. The Secret Service, of course, must spare no effort to make sure he’s fully protected.
That won’t totally ease the fears about his safety. But it will show that the government is doing everything humanly possible to insure his safety. That’s especially important given the deep doubt and even paranoid suspicion that some blacks have that shadowy government agencies were knee deep complicit in the assassination of King, and the fervent belief of millions of other Americans that the CIA or other shadowy government agencies were deeply complicit in the killing, if not outright murder of JFK.
Obama was one year old when JFK was killed. He was six years old when King and Kennedy were slain. But he well knows the horrid violent history of America and the very real danger that violence poses to a charismatic presidential candidate who energizes and excites millions and who promises political change and implicitly racial change. He can easily laugh off a phony, self-serving stunt such as an assassination exhibit, but he can’t laugh off the danger to presidents and those who aspire to be presidents of that violence.

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).

Saber rattling the Saudis Won’t Bring Gas Prices Down
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Predictably, Senate Democrats saber rattle threat to block an arms deal to the Saudis unless it pumps out another million barrels of oil went nowhere. The Saudi rattle is fueled by a mix of anger, frustration, desperation, and most importantly politics. It’s an election year and strapped motorists are screaming at politicians to do something, anything, to give them some gas price relief. But Senate Democrats showpiece gesture was doomed from the start. Even if they meant what they said the Royal Kingdom would simply buy the arms somewhere else. But that’s not necessary anyway. The Kingdom literally has the U. S. over two barrels. The first is the most obvious. About ten percent of the petroleum guzzled daily in the US comes from Saudi Arabia. That’s about fifteen percent of U.S. imports.
It was almost laughable to watch the Saudis throw up their hands in mock resignation when Bush on his two recent visits to the Kingdom asked them to increase production. Short of a U.S. takeover of the Saudi oil fields Bush’s request was simply a political feel good gesture. Bush officials desperately need Saudi oil. In fact, U.S. dependency on Saudi oil is greater now than it was before the 9/11 attacks, and this mocks Bush's claim that the U.S. can and will at least any time soon wean itself off Saudi oil, or dictate to the Saudi's how they should run their government or diplomatic policy.
It’s not just the U.S. that’s in oil hock to the Saudis. Western Europe, China, Japan and India's glutinous appetite for oil continues to grow. The Energy Department estimates that it will take up to 120 million barrels per day by 2025 to satisfy that appetite. Over one-fourth of this added oil will come from the Saudis.
Meanwhile, the U.S. occasionally will talk tough to the Saudis about speeding up democratic reforms, and cracking down on Muslim fundamentalist groups. That's more bluster mostly for media and public consumption.
If anything, Bush’s visits to the Kingdom sent a huge signal that the U.S. will do everything it can to placate the Saudi regime. The reason is simple. The much hoped for new oil sources that could break the U.S. dependency on Saudi oil have not panned out. The rivers of oil the U.S. boasted would flow into the tanks of America's gas-guzzlers after Saddam Hussein was dumped are a pipedream. Post-Saddam Iraq has shown no sign that it can produce the six million barrels projected by 2010. Currently it barely squeezes out two million barrels a day. Nigeria and Russia are mired in corruption and mismanagement, and Venezuela is government non grata to Bush. Libya, even with the softening of relations with the U.S., doesn't have the oil reserves to meet the U.S.'s bloated needs. Its reserves are about one sixth of Saudi Arabia's.
American oil executives have hammered the Bush administration and Congress to scrap environmental and land protections to tap the millions of barrels in oil reserves believed nestled in shale deposits off the coast and in the frozen ground on Alaska's North Slope. Those millions may or may not be there. It will take big improvements in exploration and drilling technology, as well as beating back environmentalists' challenges to determine the real oil potential of the North Slope and the sea.
While the U.S. is the still the world's most rapacious oil user, China and India have come on strong, and are willing to court the Saudi's and pay top dollar for the oil they need to fuel their industrial boom. The Saudi's can and will play both nations off against the U.S. With oil prices smashing new records every day that means billions more in the Saudi coffers.

The second barrel the Saudis have the U.S. over is the always durable and convenient threat of Iran and more Middle East turmoil. The Saudis are still the most dependable and consistent watchdog and Arab counter balance to Iran, and the U.S.’s perennial helpmate to safeguard regional stability. But there’s a Catch 22 in that for the Saudis and the U.S. The Saudi royal family runs the Kingdom as a tight knit, autocracy. It's fair game for both homegrown and foreign Muslim extremists and fundamentalists. A renewed internal insurgency could shake the regime. That could deepen anti-American sentiment in the country, and open the door wide to more terrorist attacks. Even without a Saudi regime shift or change, the anger and hostility toward U.S. policy in Iraq and the U.S.’s rock solid support of Israel, prevent the Saudi government from totally publicly realigning its policies with the U.S. Oil is and always will be the Saudi’s main weapon to keep the U.S. at arms length publicly while embracing it politically to maintain its power, security—and obscene wealth.
The talk by Congress of lawsuits, killing arms deals, and presidential visits and pleadings to the Saudis for oil relief will be just that empty talk; talk that will continue to fall on deaf Saudi ears. The U.S. dependency on Saudi oil will grow even greater, and unfortunately so will gas prices.

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, June 08, 2008

The second of two parts:
Pt 1 How McCain Can Win the White House
Pt 2 How Obama Can Win the White House

How Obama Can Win the White House
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A Pew Research Poll Center Poll in early May found that "inspiring," " fresh," "change," and "visionary" was not the word that voters said best described Obama. The word was "inexperienced." Republican presidential contender John McCain has made this and the boast that he’s the best on national security, the terrorist fight and defense preparedness his attack mantra against Obama.
Obama can parry the attack by turning the table and proclaiming that his lack of national and especially international experience is a positive. That he'll bring fresh ideas and approaches to statecraft that replace the old, tired, and failed polices of recent times. But that’s not enough. He must choose and choose carefully a vice presidential running mate who is every bit the tough guy on national security, the war on terrorism and defense preparedness that McCain claims to be. Then he must convince voters that he will back up his pledge to bring an honorable and workable end to the Iraq war.
But it’s still Bush and the GOP’s domestic fumbles that are potentially his biggest selling point. He must repeatedly remind voters that they should be mad at Bush and the GOP for the bungle of the economy, his draconian tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporate interests, his gut of environmental and civil liberties protections, and his Medicare prescription drug benefit bill that lined the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and eroded Medicare coverage and protections. He must adeptly remind women's groups that the GOP will continue to wage a relentless war against abortion rights. He must remind gay groups that top GOP politicians are staunch opponents of gay marriage, and are likely to continue to fight hard against stronger civil rights protections for gays.
He must make the ringing call by the Democrats for party unity more than a feel-good, politically correct self-assuring call. This means repairing the deep polarization among Democratic voters, or more particularly, the hardliners who backed Clinton and are wary if not hostile to him. He must make an all out effort to convince white blue collar and rural whites that an Obama White House will aggressively battle against soaring gas prices, home foreclosures, job losses, plant closures, the erosion of farm supports and to implement affordable health care and a McCain White House won’t. He must make an equally all out effort to convince Latinos that an Obama White House will just as aggressively fight for immigration reform and affordable health care, and a McCain White House won’t.
Obama must turn the campaign for the White House into a holy crusade among black and Latino voters. The enthusiasm of black voters for Obama and Latino voters for Clinton was sky high in the primaries and the numbers that turned out were near record setting. The bellwether for that was Obama’s smash victory in the South Carolina primary in January. More than a half million Democrats voted. That was nearly twice the Democratic turnout of 2004 and almost 20 percent higher than the Republican vote the week before. Blacks make up more than half of the Democratic vote in the state. In California, Latinos make up nearly 30 percent of the voters and had a higher than average turnout in the Super Tuesday primary in February.
He must make sure that those near record numbers that flooded the polls in the primaries flood the polls in near record or better yet record numbers in the fall election. He must turn part of his campaign into a bully pulpit to speak out on the need for vigilance on voting rights and civil rights protections, the need for tougher and expanded hate crimes laws, and the repeal of the racially skewed mandatory drug laws. He must boldly call for increased funding for underserved inner city schools, and for combating the HIV/AIDS plague, greater funding for minority business, and the appointment of Supreme Court and federal judges committed to protect civil rights and civil liberties.
He risks little in aggressively championing civil rights and going all out to ramp up the black and Latino vote turnout especially in the South. There's little chance that he can break the strong grip Republicans have on white male votes in those states. Polls show they likely will still be McCain’s biggest and most enthusiastic backers in the South.
Finally, Obama must convince a significant number of swing state independent voters that he is the real change alternative to McCain in handling the war, the economy, health care, immigration and energy issues, and is centrist enough to convince them that he is as tough on terrorism and as big an advocate of a strong military as McCain.
That's a tall, but very doable, order but he can win the White House by filling it.

New America Media National Political Writer 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, June 06, 2008

The first of a two parts:
Pt 1 How McCain Can Win the White House
Pt 2 How Obama Can Win the White House

How McCain Can Win the White House
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

In a talk with reporters in Louisiana, Republican presidential contender John McCain implored disgruntled Hillary Democrats to back him. His pitch was I’m the toughest, most knowledgeable and most experienced on national security. The unmistakable inference is that rival Obama is too green, fresh, and untested to gamble with on national security. McCain’s aim was to lop off disgruntled Hillary Democrats. But it also staked out what he must do to win the White House.
The terrorism issue is still a McCain election trump card. Many Americans think there could be a terrorist attack on American soil at some point in the future. Those who think that are susceptible to McCain's pitch that he can best defend the nation's security and with America under mortal danger from a terror attack, that it's risky to change to the Democrats.
This isn’t enough. McCain must duck the economic mess Bush made by pushing his economic plan that calls for lowering the corporate income tax rate, more tax breaks for business, and making Bush’s tax cuts permanent. Though it looks a lot like Bush’s plan, McCain can spin it his way with the standard GOP line that his plan is pro-growth, in contrast to the shop worn tax and spend Democrat’s approach to growth. This still has tremendous reverb with wide segments of American voters.
He can claim that his plan will save homes from foreclosure, spark business growth, and create more jobs. He can remind voters that Reagan economic policies sparked the economic boom of the 1980s and his updated version of supply side economic policies is a mirror reflection of Reagan’s. This gives him the hook he needs to boast that Americans will reap rewards with his economic policies
McCain must openly and subtly stoke middle and working class workers’ disdain for liberal solutions to problems. Only a minority of American voters call themselves liberal. The Republican's repeated smear of the Democrats as tax and spend, liberal big government proponents still strikes a chord with millions of voters.
McCain must contest the Latino vote. His name has been mentioned countless times in the Spanish-language press and most of the time the mention was favorable. Many Latinos look benignly on him because he broke with the GOP’s hardliner stance and backed immigration reform along with Senate Democrats.
McCain doesn’t have to top or even match Bush’s total with Latinos to push the Democrats. All he needs to do is get a quarter of the Latino vote in the key Western swing states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and that might be more than enough to move the states to the GOP camp—again. Even before Bush’s massive court of Latino voters in 2004, they gave Republicans a quarter of their vote and in some places such as Florida did far better
McCain must stress that the Iraq war is not a totally losing proposition for Americans. A significant percentage still think a change in strategy, tactics, and direction in the war can if not bring victory at least bring a satisfactory peace. McCain will have a parade of generals, defense experts, and the defense industry to help him sell that position to millions of voters.

McCain needs a fractured Democratic Party. Exit polls in the bruising Clinton and Obama Democratic primary battles showed that the bruises are firmly tattooed on some fervent Clinton backers. Nearly a quarter, mostly blue collar, rural, and non-college educated whites, said they would vote for McCain or stay home if the nominee were Obama. And since he is the nominee, if many mean what they say, McCain is the big winner with them.
The historic nomination of an African-American as the Democratic presidential standard bearer is applauded by many publicly but privately it raises doubts even dread among many others. McCain can’t and won’t stoke those racial fears. He doesn’t have to they’re already there and that’s a campaign plus for him.
Then there’s the issue of how many voters turnout for the Democrats and the GOP. Much is made that the Democrats scored near record turnouts in the number of voters and registration in their primaries in the winter of 2008 and that Republicans lagged way behind. Yet, in fairly recent presidential election history there was lower turnout and seemingly less enthusiasm in the Republican primaries in the election battles of Bush Sr. and Reagan. Both were still elected.
The variables that work for McCain against Obama are the war on terror, a victory spin on Iraq, the experience factor, the voter’s inherent fear of an untested candidate, the strong tradition in millions of households of voting for GOP candidates especially among male voters, a bickering, divided Democratic Party, and the X factor of race.
McCain can and will exploit these variables on the campaign trail. He can win the White House with them.

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, June 04, 2008

Doing the Right Thing: California's Same Sex Marriage Ruling

Doing the Right Thing: California’s Same Sex Marriage Ruling
By Sikivu Hutchinson

The California Supreme Court’s May 16th ruling legalizing same sex marriages elicited the usual howl of righteous outrage from conservatives, religious mafiosos
and other self-proclaimed traditional family values types. They believe same sex marriages are the devil’s spawn because they circumvent the sacred union of male and female and the Biblical covenant to propagate the human race. Indeed, if the Christian god had wanted gays to reproduce he would have created Adam and Steve instead of Adam and Eve, and presumably made donor insemination and In vitro fertilization less expensive. Of course one of the primary objections to same sex unions is the argument that gays and lesbians cannot raise children with the same level of care and competency as straight couples. According to this view, same sex unions produce children who are hopelessly dysfunctional and more prone to becoming gay themselves. Same sex unions flout traditional family values by violating the most basic rules of God and patriarchy, namely that women and children are property and should honor and obey.

Yet if we were to take inventory of straight offenses in the dominant culture it would seem that “traditional” is domestic abuse, incest, pedophilia, abandonment,
and socializing young straight males to define their masculinity by violent domination of women and other men. Traditional marriage has provided straight masculinity
with a cover from social scrutiny of violent behavior. How many times has the perpetrator of heinous acts of sexual assault been a married man, devoted father and model citizen? In these instances heterosexual men are not deemed universally unfit to raise female children yet for opponents of same sex marriage the immorality of homosexuality automatically invalidates gay and lesbian families.

In Minneapolis public elementary schools an anti-bullying curriculum designed to increase respect and sensitivity for gay, lesbian and transgendered children and their families has recently come under fire from some local parents and community members who’ve criticized it as a form of gay indoctrination. Most of these objections rest on the na├»ve notion that broaching sexual orientation to elementary kids recklessly introduces sexuality into a context where it didn’t exist before. Yet as our 24/7 tabloid media culture corrupts the last vestiges of childhood innocence, kids are increasingly sexualized, taking their cues on how to be male and female at earlier ages. In the hierarchical world of the elementary playground dress, social group choice and attraction to the opposite sex all mark kids as acceptably male or female. Those who don’t conform to the norms of mainstream gender behavior are labeled tomboys, fags, sissies or worse. And any boy who bucks gender orthodoxy at school by wearing so-called effeminate clothes or showing affection for a male friend may suffer tragic consequences, as did Larry King, the 15 year old openly gay Oxnard middle school student who was murdered by one of his classmates in February.

While the legalization of same sex marriages is certain to be challenged by conservatives with a ballot initiative this November, legal protection may open up new vistas for families no longer forced to hide or justify their loving parental relationships in the face of moral hypocrisy from the traditional family values regime. Let’s hope voters endorse the California Supreme Court’s decision and reject the gender minefield that “non-traditional” families must navigate for basic civil rights.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of, a journal of feminist criticism and literature a commentator on KPFK 90.7FM.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Obama’s Latino Dilemma
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A day before the Puerto Rican primary election, I talked with several Mexican workers and business professionals during a visit to Mexico City. The subject was American presidential politics and the upcoming election. They had only the haziest notion that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination. They knew virtually nothing about his positions on the major issues, especially the hot button issue of immigration reform. They all readily recognized Clinton’s name and thought that if elected she’d do a better job on the immigration question.
Their haziness in knowing that Obama was the odds on favorite to bag the Democratic presidential nomination and even their wariness toward him was not a surprise. Three of the top newspapers on the newsstands in Mexico City, Excelsior, El Universal, and Reforma made only bare mention of the Puerto Rican primary, and only passing mention of the aftermath.
The combination of the familiarity with and like of Clinton by the majority of Latino voters and their still blurred notion of what Obama stands for remains a tormenting dilemma for him and the Democrats. Polls show that he will do well against Republican rival John McCain, but that’s mostly because a majority of Latino voters in Texas, California, New Jersey, and New York are Democrats. These are the states in which Latino voters helped propel Clinton to a decisive win over Obama. In the contest against McCain, Obama’s numbers pale in comparison to what Clinton would do against him.

But even before Clinton’s crushing win over Obama in Puerto Rico there were warning signs that Obama’s Latino dilemma wouldn’t go away. In Nevada in January, Obama got the endorsement of the leaders of the heavily Hispanic Culinary Workers Union. But getting the vote of the rank and file union workers was a far different matter, as the subsequent vote showed. Latino voters, many of them almost certainly members of the culinary union, defied their leaders and their votes made a big difference in Clinton’s victory in the state.
Obama spent months on the campaign trail, gotten non-stop media exposure, the nod of big name Democrats, done a victory romp through a dozen states, and piled up a seeming commanding number of delegates. Yet, exit polls still showed that his numbers didn’t budge much with Latino voters. The later endorsement of one time Democratic presidential contender Bill Richardson and a legion of leading Hispanic union leaders, elected officials, as well as top Latino entertainers still didn’t push Obama’s vote totals up.
A May poll in California showed that Obama would beat John McCain handily. Yet forty percent of Latino voters still said they preferred McCain. This was not a small campaign footnote. Latino voters make up about one quarter of California voters. Their swelling numbers is almost certainly a major reason why McCain announced that he will not write California off even though a GOP presidential contender hasn’t won the state since George Bush Sr. in 1988. The poll was no fluke.
In fact, Obama has marched in the exact opposite direction since the Super Tuesday primaries. Exit polls in state primaries between February and May show that Clinton has appreciably widened her lead among Latino voters over him by nearly six percent.
This poses an even bigger problem for Obama and the Democrats. Political tradition, logic, and numbers dictate that a candidate marching confidently to their party’s nomination should and must have momentum going into the general election battle. The surest way to measure that momentum is by counting the numbers and by gauging the voter demographics. Put simply, the presumed party nominee must increase the gap over their vanquished party rivals for the nomination among the key voter groups they need behind them to win the White House. For the Democrats, those voters are blue collar whites, rural voters, middle class, college educated professionals, middle aged and middle income white women, Jews, and African-Americans.
Increasingly, the most crucial group of all is Latino voters. They now make up one in five Democratic voters, and could put the GOP strongholds, Texas, Nevada, Colorado and swing state Florida, in play for the Democrats. But that’s only if the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee stokes the enthusiasm, passion and allegiance of Latino voters. The standard explanation for Obama’s failure to light the match under them in the early campaign days was that Hispanic voters didn’t know who he was. That explanation won’t fly now.
Obama’s heightened name identification, media boost, energizing change pitch and personal charisma has done absolutely nothing to dispel the mix of wariness, indifference, and outright opposition to him that I heard from Mexican workers and professional in Mexico City. That and the rejection of Obama across all groups of Puerto Rican voters in and outside Puerto Rico, once more points to Obama’s Latino dilemma. That spells big trouble for the Democrats.

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).