Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wright Furor Threatens Democrats With 'Irreparable' Black-White Racial Divide

Controversial Preacher's Defiant Defense of His Incendiary Remarks -- and Dis of Obama -- on Live National TV Not Only Forces Illinois Senator to Dump Him, But Also Endangers His Campaign's Multiracial Coalition and Threatens to Harden a Black-White Schism Between Obama and Clinton Camps

Democratic Donkey Button, Beathan, RF, Ass, Donkey, Mammal, Message pin, Nobody, Pin, Single object, Stars and stripes, Studio shot, Symbol, Voting

The unity of the Democratic Party is becoming as fragile as an egg -- and is in danger of being shattered amid a deepening divide along black-white racial lines in the wake of the furor over incendiary comments made by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Barack Obama's former pastor. The controversy already is causing a rift to develop between black and white supporters of Obama -- who is seeking to become America's first black president -- and hardening an already bitter racial split between the campaigns of Obama and his rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Image courtesy

By Charles Babington and Alan Fram
The Associated Press

Thirteen hours after his former pastor startled some with a defiant performance that was televised nationwide on Monday, Barack Obama urged 18,000 of his supporters to stay calm and shrug off such "distractions."

By Tuesday afternoon, however, his tone was dramatically different.

The Illinois senator summoned reporters to say he was outraged by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's "divisive and destructive" remarks, scrambling to contain the flare-up in a controversy that has dogged him since clips of some of Wright's most objectionable remarks began circulating on TV and the Internet.

Obama said he belatedly condemned Wright's remarks because he did not see a transcript or video of the retired pastor's appearance before the National Press Club in Washington until the next day.

Doubtless, too, campaign aides were inundated with calls and messages Tuesday urging a stronger reaction.

But Obama's struggle to find the right tone — six weeks ago he said he couldn't disown the pastor he's known for 20 years — also reflects a striking difference in how Democratic voters view the controversy and its proper handling, a point made clear in interviews in North Carolina this week, ahead of the May 6 primary.

Wright Opens Up a Wedge Between Black and White Obama Supporters

Black voters, in particular, urge Obama to rise above campaign attacks and dustups, saying he is not responsible for what Wright says. Many white voters say they were deeply troubled and baffled by Obama's association with Wright, even before the preacher reiterated some of his most incendiary comments on Monday.

At the heart of this divide is a fundamental disagreement about Obama's strengths and weaknesses in his battle against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the party's presidential nomination.

The Wright issue threatens the multiracial coalition that is crucial to Obama's hopes of becoming the first African-American president and it has highlighted a gulf between white and black Americans on matters of church and religion.

"I'm not so concerned" about Wright's comments, said Aliki Martin, of Bahama, N.C. A compliance officer at Duke University Medical Center, she was among 18,000 people who awaited Obama's arrival late Monday night at the University of North Carolina's basketball arena in Chapel Hill. "I hope he keeps things positive," she said.

Obama seemed to follow that advice in his 45-minute speech. "I know we're being goaded into stuff," he said, referring vaguely to disputes with Clinton and her supporters. "Don't get distracted," he told the crowd.

He gently mocked his critics: "They say, 'We don't know enough about him. He doesn't always wear a flag pin. His pastor once said something. He's got a funny name, sounds Muslim.'" By Tuesday afternoon in Winston-Salem, however, Obama wasn't laughing it off any more.

Wright's comments — including the suggestion that the U.S. government invented the AIDS virus to destroy "people of color" — "end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate," Obama told reporters, "and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church."

It was the kind of comment Tom Lipsky, a record company owner in Raleigh, expected to hear earlier. "It bothers me that he would take his two daughters" to a church headed by "a man who says those kinds of things," said Lipsky, who is white, as he waited to see Clinton Tuesday morning at North Carolina State University.

Lipsky, 53, said he's a committed Democrat, but is not sure he could vote for Obama if he becomes the nominee.

John Overton, of Chapel Hill, also attending the Clinton event, had similar misgivings. "I'm afraid of his radical connections," which include Wright, the 39-year-old software developer said. "I was the only white person" for about a year at a black church in Beaufort, Overton said. "I never heard anybody talk like that."

In interview after interview, black and white Democrats seemed to talk past each other on the issue of religion and campaigns, even though all said they deeply dislike President Bush and want a change in Washington.

"Obama is not responsible for what his preacher says," said Copeland Richard, of Knightdale, who attended the Chapel Hill rally. "As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't have to answer that," said Richard, 66, who is black. "He's above that, he's dignified."

Party Leaders Now Fear a Hardening Black-White Divide

The differences dismay many North Carolina Democratic officials, who saw the excitement over the Obama-Clinton contest as virtually unprecedented, possibly leading to huge gains for the party in November.

"I see a permanent fissure developing now" between black and white Democrats, said state Representative Dan Blue of Raleigh, who was North Carolina's first black House speaker. With the Wright controversy hot again -- and former President Clinton recently saying Obama's campaign "played the race card" against him -- Blue said a great opportunity may turn to tragedy.

"I don't know how you repair it," he said in an interview Tuesday.

Loyal Democrat Richard Somer says if the former first lady gets his party's presidential nomination, he just may sit it out this Election Day. An Obama supporter, Somer says he has been repulsed by her use of "slimy insinuations" in the campaign. He especially disliked her attacking the Illinois senator for his relationship with William Ayers, a former Weather Underground radical with provocative views.

"She's better than that," said Somer, 72, a retired professor from Clinton, N.Y. He said he expects the Democrats to carry New York anyway, so he might not vote "as a protest to Mrs. Clinton."

Poll Finds Mounting Hostility Toward Favored Candidate's Opponent

Somer is not the only Democrat whose views of his party's rival candidate have soured. Party members are turning increasingly hostile toward the contender they are not supporting in the bruising nomination fight, an Associated Press-Yahoo News survey and exit polls of voters show. That is raising questions about how faithful some will be by the November general election.

In the AP-Yahoo poll — which has tracked the same 2,000 people since November — Obama supporters with negative views of Clinton have grown from 35 percent in November to 44 percent this month, including one-quarter with very unfavorable feelings. Those Obama backers who don't like Clinton say they would vote for Republican candidate John McCain over her by a two-to-one margin, with many undecided.

As for Clinton supporters, those with unfavorable views of Obama have grown from 26 percent to 42 percent during this same period — including a doubling to 20 percent of those with very negative opinions. The Clinton backers with unfavorable views of Obama say they would vote for McCain over him by nearly three-to-one, though many haven't made up their minds.

"I'd be hard pressed" to vote for Obama, said April Glenn, 66, a Clinton supporter from Philadelphia, who said Obama's handling of the controversy over Reverend Wright made her doubt his leadership skills. "I don't think he's capable."

Clinton backers who have taken a dislike to Obama have a sharply lower regard for his honesty and ethics than they did last fall, the poll shows. Similarly, Obama supporters whose view of Clinton has dimmed see her as far less compassionate and refreshing than they did then.

Attitudes Harden Most Sharply Among Candidates' Core Supporters

The feelings seem especially widespread among the candidates' strongest supporters:

#About half of Obama's white backers with college degrees have negative views of Clinton. Fewer black Obama supporters dislike Clinton but their numbers have grown faster, more than doubling during the period to 33 percent.

#Among Clinton's supporters, Obama is disliked by nearly half the whites who have not gone beyond high school, a near doubling since November. Four in 10 white women backing her have unfavorable views of Obama.

Intensified passions during contentious intra-party fights are nothing new, and voters often return to the fold by the time the general election rolls around and people focus on partisan and issue differences.

"These are snapshots of today," said Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), a member of his party's congressional leadership who has not committed to either Clinton or Obama -- despite hailing from Obama's home state. By autumn, he said, "the party will come together."

Yet with the battle between the two contenders threatening to stretch into June or beyond, some Democrats are wondering whether the party will have time to regain the loyalty of those whose candidate failed to win the party's nomination.

"If we can bring this to a conclusion by mid-June or something, I think that healing can take place," Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, who has been pressing party leaders to settle on a nominee quickly, said in an interview. "If it goes till late August, then it's a real problem."

Democrats' Civil Wars of '68 and '80, Ford-Reagan GOP Split of '76 Were Far Sharper

Others express concern but argue that the divisions are not nearly as intense as when the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago found the party in a virtual civil war over the Vietnam War; when former Governor Ronald Reagan of California unsuccessfully fought President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976; or even when Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts lost a bitter duel with President Jimmy Carter to be the 1980 Democratic nominee.

In each case, those parties' eventual nominees lost the general election.

"It is not the same kind of rancor or bitterness" as those years, said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. But if by July 4 the Obama and Clinton campaigns are still maneuvering for advantage at the party's August convention, it will be harder to unify party voters and "Democrats will have done grievous harm to themselves," he said.

Obama and Clinton campaign officials express little concern their fight will leave Democratic voters disaffected come November. "When the family squabble is over, the family will come back together," said Obama pollster Cornell Belcher.

Current Democratic divisions are "par for the course" at this stage of a campaign," said Clinton strategist Geoffrey Garin. "I know a lot of party leaders are concerned about this. But the Democratic rank and file doesn't seem to be," Garin said, citing polls showing people want the nomination race to continue.

Exit polls of voters in this year's Democratic primaries tell a similar tale of hard feelings:

#In Pennsylvania's primary last week, which Clinton won, 68 percent of Obama voters said they would back Clinton against McCain. Just 54 percent of her supporters said they would vote for Obama against the Republican — including less than half her white voters who have not finished college.

#In the 16 states that held primaries on "Super Tuesday," February 5, a combined 47 percent of Clinton voters said they would be satisfied only if she won the nomination. That figure has grown to 53 percent in the nine states with primaries since then — including 58 percent who said so in Pennsylvania.

#In Pennsylvania, while Clinton voters overall would vote heavily for Obama over McCain, her supporters who expressed displeasure should Obama win the nomination were evenly split in a contest between Obama and the Arizona Republican senator.

#Obama voters have also grown more surly, though more modestly. On Super Tuesday, 44 percent of his supporters said they would only settle for him as nominee — a number that has risen to 49 percent in states voting since that day.

"The whole Democratic primary has gotten almost dirty. Everybody takes a shot at everybody else, and everybody's shots are not necessarily the whole truth," said David Bogart, 25, a caretaker from Clermont, Florida.

Exit polls also show key voting blocs' negative feelings about their candidate's rival have grown, though it is less intense on Obama's side.

On Super Tuesday, about half of Clinton's white supporters with less than college degrees said they would be satisfied only if she won the nomination. In voting since then, six in 10 have said so — including 68 percent in Pennsylvania last week.

A Warning Sign: Attacks on Obama Are Alienating Blacks the Party Can't Afford to Lose in November

On the other hand, 46 percent of Obama's black supporters on Super Tuesday said he was the only candidate they wanted to win. That number has edged up to 49 percent since that Feb. 5 voting — including 55 percent in Pennsylvania.

[African-Americans have been the Democrats' most loyal voting bloc since the 1960s. They provided Carter's margin of victory over Ford in 1976. While no Democratic presidential nominee is guaranteed victory in the November election with black voter support, he or she clearly cannot win without them].

The findings from the AP-Yahoo News poll are from interviews with 863 Democrats on a panel of adults questioned in November, December, January and April. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it free.

The exit poll is based on in-person interviews with more than 36,000 voters in 28 states that have held primaries this year in which both candidates actively competed. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 percentage point, larger for some subgroups.

# # #

Volume III, Number 29
Special Report Copyright 2008, The Associated Press.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2008, Skeetrer Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, April 28, 2008

McCain, Nominee of 'Rich People's Party,' Calls Obama 'Out of Touch' With the Poor

Hillary Clinton's Not the Only Presidential Candidate Full of Hypocritical B.S. on the Class Issue; Where Does John McCain Get Off Calling Barack Obama 'Out of Touch' With the Poor When His Own Party Has Forced Working-Class Americans to Bear More of the Tax Burden By Cutting Taxes to the Wealthy?

PLUS: Clinton Makes an Extremely Dangerous Statement About Iran in TV Interview

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ...

Republican presidential nominee-elect, Senator John McCain of Arizona, speaks to reporters during a news conference Sunday in Miami, during which he accused Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama of Illinois of being "out of touch" with low-income Americans for opposing his call for a suspension of the federal gasoline tax. Yet McCain, who condemned President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans as "fiscally irresponsible" during Bush's first term, now wants to make the cuts permanent. Can we say "hypocrite" here? ( Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)

By Skeeter Sanders

Once again, we have a candidate for the nation's highest office dumping a truckload of hypocritical B.S. about class issues -- specifically, accusing a rival candidate of being an "elitist" and insensitive to working-class and poor Americans.

But this time, the hypocrite isn't Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose hypocrisy in calling Senator Barack Obama, her chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, an "elitist" was exposed by this blogger two weeks ago when I reminded readers that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, championed free-trade agreements that have cost thousands of working-class Americans their jobs.

But on the eve of Tuesday's Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, the New York senator and former first lady made a remark about Iran in a television interview that this blogger considers extremely dangerous to world peace and stability. More on that later.

Republican presidential nominee-elect John McCain on Sunday has done the same thing the former first lady did on Obama's alleged "elitism," calling the Illinois senator insensitive to poor people and out of touch on economic issues.

Excuse me, Senator McCain, but as the nominee of the party long known as the "party of the rich," you're hardly in any position to accuse Obama or any other Democrat of being out of touch with the working class and the poor.

Here we have the nominee of the party that has given away billions of dollars in tax breaks to the nation's wealthiest citizens -- and who is himself one of the wealthiest members of the United States Senate, with a net worth of $44 million, according to the McClatchy Newspapers -- accusing Obama, who grew up with modest means, of being out of touch with the working-class and the poor.

What a crock of 100 percent pure, unadulterated, hypocritical B.S.! Actually, it's worse than B.S. It's the kind of hypocrisy that bears the unmistakable smell of the liquid fertilizer that farmers spread onto their fields at the start of the planting season -- a smell far more nauseating than a skunk's (I live out in farm country, so I know what I'm talking about).

McCain Opposed -- But Now Favors -- Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

This is the same John McCain who blasted President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans as fiscally irresponsible and was the only Republican in the Senate who voted against them. These tax cuts have resulted in middle-class and working-class Americans bearing more of the tax burden, percentage-wise, while reducing the tax burden of the wealthy.

But instead of shifting the tax burden back upon those who can most afford to bear it, McCain wants to make these "fiscally irresponsible" tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, instead of giving tax relief to those who need it most: Middle-class and working-class Americans.

McCain rapped his Democratic rival for opposing his idea to suspend the tax on fuel during the summer, a proposal that McCain believes will particularly help low-income people who usually have older cars that guzzle more gas.

"I noticed again today that Senator Obama repeated his opposition to giving low-income Americans a tax break, a little bit of relief so they can travel a little further and a little longer, and maybe have a little bit of money left over to enjoy some other things in their lives," McCain said. "Obviously, Senator Obama does not understand that this would be a nice thing for Americans, and the special interests should not be dictating this policy."

How Does Cutting Gas Tax Help Low-Income Americans Who Don't Have Cars?

On the contrary, it is Senator McCain who does not understand. In the first place, most low-income Americans -- especially those on fixed incomes -- don't own cars. They can't afford them. The urban poor rely on public transportation to get around.

This blogger should know. I grew up poor. For years, I couldn't afford to buy a car. I know what it's like to not have the freedom of movement to commute to and from a decent-paying job that was located beyond the reach of public transportation networks because I didn't have a car. So you can't tell me, Senator McCain, that suspending the federal gasoline tax is going to help low-income Americans who can't afford to own a car in the first place.

In any case, suspending the gasoline tax won't amount to a hill of beans as long as the price of crude oil continues to skyrocket -- and it will, given the exploding demand for oil in China and India and the refusal of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase output.

The Arizona senator forgets that 70 percent of the price of gasoline is directly tied to the price of the crude oil from which it is refined. At the rate that the price of crude oil keeps rising, any suspension of the federal gasoline tax would be quickly offset by the soaring crude price, resulting in no savings for consumers at all -- not to mention a massive addition to the already-bloated federal deficit.

Since When Is It 'Elitist' To Hike Capital-Gains Tax on Millionaires?

Then there's McCain's criticism of Obama's call for raising the capital-gains tax. "Senator Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax, which would have a direct effect on 100 million Americans," McCain said. "That means he has no understanding of the economy and that he is totally insensitive to the hopes and dreams and ambitions of 100 million Americans who will be affected by his almost doubling of the capital gains tax."

Once again, it's Senator McCain who doesn't understand. Those 100 million Americans he cites are, in fact, Americans who earn over $1 million a year -- including Obama himself and his wife, Michelle, who reported earning roughly $4 million on their 2007 income-tax return, mostly from royalties from the sale of his two books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

I don't know about you, but I don't consider millionaires to be part of the working class -- let alone the poor -- by a long shot. Never have, never will. And multimillionaires like McCain (worth $44 million) and the Clintons (worth $109 million, according to their 2007 tax return) -- not to mention multibillionaires like Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Ted Turner -- can certainly afford to pay higher capital-gains taxes. Indeed, they're a drop in the bucket to them.

In an interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" -- his first-ever one-on-one appearance on Murdoch's conservative-leaning cable news channel -- Obama fired back by noting that McCain "not only wants to continue some of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, he actually wants to extend them, and he hasn't told us really how he's going to pay for them. It's irresponsible. And the irony is he said [the Bush tax cuts were] irresponsible [in the first place]."

Obama also said he would not raise the capital-gains tax higher than it was under President Ronald Reagan and added, "I'm mindful that we've got to keep our capital-gains tax to a point where we can actually get more revenue."

An "elitist" would actively oppose any increase in the capital-gains tax -- indeed, an "elitist" would argue for even more cuts in that tax -- which is precisely what the Republicans continue to clamor for.

The Real Elitists Are the Republicans

The Republican Party has had the reputation of being the party of big business since the 1920s. But it was President Herbert Hoover's tepid response to the worsening economic calamity that became the Great Depression that solidified the GOP's image as the party of the wealthy -- an image it has never been able to shake off, even during the Reagan years.

The GOP is certainly more associated with Wall Street than with Main Street, since only a handful of the nation's top corporate executives -- most notably Buffet and Gates -- are registered Democrats. It's virtually de rigeur for members of the wealthy elite to vote Republican. And despite the best efforts of the party's far right wing, the so-called "country-club Republicans" came back with a vengeance during Bush's presidency.

The Democratic Party has always been the party of the working class -- even when it was the racially segregationist party during much of its history prior to the end of World War II and President Harry S. Truman's 1947 executive order to desegregate the Army.

So for the nominee-elect of the "rich people's party" to claim that the front-runner for the nomination of the "working-class party" is an elitist and out of touch with working-class Americans is the highest of the height of hypocritical B.S. Indeed, it's a sick joke.

Senator McCain should be ashamed of himself.

Clinton: I'll 'Obliterate' Iran If It Attacks Israel -- But Russia Might Strike Back

As for Senator Clinton, she further displayed tough talk in an interview that aired on ABC's "Good Morning America" as the polls opened for last Tuesday's Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary. ABC News' Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

That's an extremely dangerous statement for Clinton to make. There is only one way to "obliterate" Iran, as the former first lady put it -- and that is to use nuclear weapons against it. It's dangerous because of Iran's close geographical proximity to Russia. Only a fool would believe that Russia would merely sit idly by while a country that lies literally on its doorstep is "obliterated" in a nuclear attack.

Indeed, The 'Skeeter Bites Report alerted readers back in November that Russian President Vladimir Putin had served notice that if the United States launched a military strike against Iran, Moscow would regard it as an attack on Russia itself -- raising the specter of a direct military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed giants.

Putin issued his warning during a closed-door, face-to-face meeting with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, near the end of the Russian president's visit last October to Tehran -- the first by a Kremlin leader since World War II -- for a summit of the five Caspian Sea nations, according to the Internet news site Asia Times Online, citing high-level diplomatic sources.

He stopped short of saying explicitly what Russia would do if the U.S. struck Iran. But by stating that an attack on Iran would be tantamount to an attack on Russia itself, Putin strongly hinted of retaliatory measures by Moscow.

Putin and Khamenei agreed on a plan to "nullify" the Bush administration's increasingly bellicose rhetoric against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear development program, the sources said, amid growing concern that Washington is preparing to launch a pre-emptive military attack -- perhaps in the form of a tactical nuclear strike -- against Iran.

The Russian president told his Iranian host that "an American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia," Asia Times Online quoted its sources as saying.

Putin Warned U.S. Not to Use Ex-Soviet Republic as Base to Attack Iran

At the Caspian Sea summit meeting, Putin publicly warned the U.S. not to use a former Soviet republic to stage an attack on Iran. He also said countries bordering the Caspian Sea must jointly back any oil pipeline projects in the region.

Putin said none of the five nations’ territory "should be used by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region" -- a clear reference to long-standing rumors that the U.S. was planning to use the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

“We are saying that no Caspian nation should offer its territory to third powers for use of force or military aggression against any Caspian state,” Putin said.

The private Putin-Khamenei meeting following the summit was extraordinary in and of itself, for Iran's supreme leader rarely receives foreign dignitaries, even a head of state with the stature of Putin. The Russian president told the ayatollah that he may hold the "ultimate solution" regarding Iran's highly controversial nuclear program, the sources said.

For his part, Khamenei insisted that his country's nuclear program was strictly for civilian purposes and vowed that it would continue, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. But he did tell Putin, "We will ponder your words and proposal."

An Iranian government spokesman was quoted by IRNA as saying that Putin had a "special plan" that Khamenei said was "ponderable," although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had publicly denied the Russians had volunteered such a plan. Details of the Putin proposal were not disclosed.

America -- and the World -- Can't Afford Another 'Shoot-From-the-Hip' President

With her statement that she'd "obliterate" Iran -- and the only way to do so is with nukes -- Clinton is sounding like a even more trigger-happy cowboy than President Bush. The last thing America needs is a president who'll shoot first and ask questions later in foreign-policy matters when such an approach could be disastrous not only for America, but for the entire planet.

# # #

Volume III, Number 28
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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