Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vietnam 'War Hero' McCain Covering Up Massive Files on His Fellow POWs/MIAs


Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Reveals GOP Presidential Nominee Has Spent Years Keeping Vital Information on Hundreds of Vietnam War POWs Secret From Their Loved Ones and From the Public -- and Has Ruthlessly Denigrated Anyone and Everyone Who's Sought Their Disclosure

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

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, gestures to emphasize a point while speaking at a campaign rally Monday in Media, Pennsylvania. The Arizona senator has made the story of his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. But for years, McCain has aggressively fought to prevent vital information about many of his fellow POWs who never returned home -- and of other American soldiers still listed as missing in action -- from their loved ones and from the public, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg. (Photo: Joseph Kaczmarek/AP)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, September 25, 2008)


NOTE TO READERS: Sydney H. Schanberg, a former war correspondent for The New York Times, won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. His 1980 book, The Death and Life of Dith Pran, the story of his Cambodian photographer's struggle for survival under the Khmer Rouge regime, became the inspiration for the Oscar-winning 1984 film, "The Killing Fields." Between 1986 and 1995, Schanberg was an associate editor and columnist for New York Newsday. He was most recently a columnist for The Village Voice.

==============
SPECIAL REPORT
==============

By SYDNEY H. SCHANBERG
The Nation

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam War hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam who, unlike himself, did not return home.

Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero people would logically imagine to be a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.

Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream media have shied away from reporting the POW story and McCain's role in it -- even as McCain has made his military service and POW history the focus of his presidential campaign.

Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War have also turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn't talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.

--------------------

IT'S NO JOKE: LETTERMAN RIPS MCCAIN FOR DUCKING APPEARANCE ON HIS 'LATE SHOW'

CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman gave John McCain a serious roasting Wednesday night for scrubbing a scheduled appearance roughly one hour before the taping.

"This just doesn't smell right. This is not the way a tested hero behaves," Letterman told his audience. "Somebody's putting something in his Metamucil."

Letterman wasn't joking -- His face was flush with anger when he made that comment. He mocked McCain's "suspension" of his campaign, asking, "Are we suspending it because there's an economic crisis or because his poll numbers are sliding?"

A visibly angry Letterman also questioned why McCain didn't send his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin -- who was in New York meeting with world leaders at the United Nations -- to appear on the show in his place.

Letterman said McCain phoned him to cancel because he was rushing back to Washington to deal with the economic crisis. But at the time of the taping, McCain was nearby doing an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric.

Showing a video clip of McCain getting his makeup, Letterman sneered, "He doesn't seem to be racing to the airport, does he? It's like we caught him getting a manicure or something."

-- Skeeter Sanders

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MASSIVE COLLECTION OF EVIDENCE ON MISSING POWS WITHHELD FROM FAMILIES, PUBLIC


The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a Special Forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington and even sworn testimony by two defense secretaries that "men were left behind."

This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number, probably hundreds, of the U.S. prisoners held in Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men -- including a then-little-known Navy combat pilot named John S. McCain III.

The Pentagon had for years been withholding significant information from the families of Vietnam War POWs and those still officially listed as missing in action. What's more, the Pentagon's POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of "debunking" POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible.

The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally produced the creation, in late 1991, of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), a Vietnam veteran himself, was the committee's chairman, but McCain, as a POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine.

MCCAIN QUASHED EVIDENCE FROM OLD SOVIET ARCHIVES ON OVER 1,200 AMERICAN POWS

Included in the evidence that McCain and his government allies suppressed or tried to discredit is a transcript of a senior North Vietnamese general's briefing of the ruling Communist Party's Politburo, discovered in the Soviet-era archives of the Kremlin by an American scholar in the 1990s. The briefing took place only four months before the 1973 peace accords.

The general, Tran Van Quang, told the Politburo members that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American prisoners but would keep many of them at war's end as leverage to ensure getting reparations from Washington. Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations.

Finally, in a formal letter to Hanoi's then-Premier Pham Van Dong, dated February 1, 1973, then-President Richard Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in "postwar reconstruction" aid. The North Vietnamese, though, remained skeptical about the reparations promise being honored (it never was).

Hanoi thus held back American prisoners -- just as it had done when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew their forces from Vietnam. France later paid ransoms for prisoners and brought them home.

EX-DEFENSE CHIEFS: POWS WERE NEVER RETURNED

Two former defense secretaries who served during the Vietnam War told the Senate POW/MIA Committee in September 1992 that prisoners were not returned. James Schlesinger and Melvin Laird, secretaries of defense under Nixon, testified in a public session under oath that they based their conclusions on strong intelligence data -- letters, eyewitness reports, even direct radio contacts.

Under questioning, Schlesinger chose his words carefully, understanding clearly the volatility of the issue: "I think that as of now that I can come to no other conclusion...some were left behind."

Furthermore, over the years, the Defense Intelligence Agency received more than 1,600 first-hand reports of sightings of live American prisoners and nearly 14,000 second-hand accounts. Many witnesses interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency or by Pentagon intelligence agents were deemed "credible" in the agents' reports.

Some of the witnesses were given lie-detector tests and passed. Sources provided copies of these witness reports. Yet the DIA, after reviewing them all, concluded that they "do not constitute evidence" that men were still alive.

VIETNAM SENT PROPOSAL TO REAGAN TO RANSOM THE POWS

There is also evidence that during the first few months of Ronald Reagan's presidency in 1981, the White House received a ransom proposal for a number of POWs being held by Hanoi. The offer, which was passed to Washington from an official of a third country, was apparently discussed at a meeting in the White House Roosevelt Room attended by Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, CIA director William Casey and National Security Adviser Richard Allen.

Allen confirmed the offer in sworn testimony to the Senate POW/MIA Committee on June 23, 1992. Allen was allowed to testify behind closed doors, and no information was released. But a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, Robert Caldwell, obtained the portion of the testimony relating to the ransom offer and wrote about it.

The ransom request was for $4 billion, Allen testified. He said he told Reagan that "it would be worth the president going along and let's have the negotiation." When his testimony appeared in the Union-Tribune, Allen quickly wrote a letter to the panel, this time not under oath, recanting the ransom story, saying his memory had played tricks on him.

But the story didn't end there. A Treasury agent on Secret Service duty in the White House, John Syphrit, came forward to say he had overheard part of the ransom conversation in the Roosevelt Room in 1981. The Senate POW/MIA Committee voted not to subpoena him to testify.

MCCAIN BERATES WITNESS AT SENATE POW/MIA COMMITTEE HEARING

On November 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, sister of missing airman Captain Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate POW/MIA Committee's public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE.

The devices were primarily motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. But they also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground -- a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang -- could manually enter data into the sensor, which were regularly collected electronically by U.S. planes flying overhead.

Alfond stated, without any challenge from the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors -- as U.S. pilots had been trained to do -- "no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 U.S. POW/MIAs who were lost in Laos."

Alfond added, according to the transcript: "This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE."

McCain, whose POW status made him the committee's most powerful member, attended that hearing specifically to confront Alfond because of her criticism of the panel's work. He bellowed and berated her for quite a while. His face flush with anger, he accused her of "denigrating" his "patriotism."

The bullying had its effect: Alfond began to cry. After a pause, Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned and stormed out of the room.

The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don't know anything about those 20 POWs.

POW/MIA COMMITTEE CONTRADICTS ITSELF IN ITS OWN FINAL REPORT

The committee's final report, issued in January 1993, began with a forty-three-page executive summary -- the only section that drew the mainstream media's attention. It said that only "a small number" of POWs could have been left behind in 1973.

But the document's remaining 1,180 pages were quite different. Sprinkled throughout are findings that contradict and disprove the conclusions of the executive summary, which critics branded a "whitewash."

This insertion of critical evidence that committee leaders had downplayed and dismissed was the work of a committee staff that had opposed and finally rebelled against the cover-up.

Pages 207-209 of the report, for example, contain major revelations of what were either massive intelligence failures or bad intentions. These pages say that until the committee brought up the subject in 1992, no branch of the intelligence community that dealt with analysis of satellite and lower-altitude photos had ever been informed of the distress signals U.S. forces were trained to use in Vietnam. Nor had they ever been tasked to look for such signals from possible prisoners on the ground.

In a personal briefing in 1992, high-level CIA officials told this reporter privately that as it became more and more difficult for either government to admit that it knew from the start about the unacknowledged prisoners, those prisoners became not only useless as bargaining chips but also a risk to Hanoi's desire to be accepted into the international community.

The CIA officials said their intelligence indicated strongly that the remaining men -- those who had not died from illness or hard labor or torture -- were eventually executed. This reporter's own research found that it is not likely that more than a few -- if any -- are alive in captivity today.

MCCAIN DID NOT ACT ALONE -- COVER-UP TRACED DIRECTLY TO THE WHITE HOUSE

For many reasons -- including the absence of a constituency for the missing men other than their families and some veterans' groups -- very few Americans are aware of McCain's role not only in keeping the subject out of public view, but in denying the existence of abandoned POWs.

That is because McCain has hardly been alone in this hide-the-scandal campaign. The Arizona senator has actually been following the lead of every White House since Richard Nixon's and thus of every CIA director, Pentagon chief and national security adviser, among many others -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, who was defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

An early and critical attempt by McCain to conceal evidence involved 1990 legislation called the Truth bill, which started in the House. A brief and simple document, the bill would have compelled complete transparency about prisoners and missing men.

Its core sentence said that the "head of each department or agency which holds or receives any records and information, including reports, which have been correlated or possibly correlated to United States personnel listed as prisoner of war or missing in action from World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict, shall make available to the public all such records held or received by that department or agency."

MCCAIN RAMMED THROUGH BILLS TO KEEP POW RECORDS SECRET. . .

Bitterly opposed by the Pentagon -- and McCain -- the bill went nowhere. Reintroduced the following year, it again disappeared. But a few months later a new measure, the McCain bill, suddenly appeared. It created a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the documents could emerge: only the records that revealed no POW secrets.

The McCain bill became law in 1991 and remains on the books today.

McCain was also instrumental in amending the Missing Service Personnel Act, which was strengthened in 1995 by POW advocates to include criminal penalties against "any government official who knowingly and willfully withholds from the file of a missing person any information relating to the disappearance or whereabouts and status of a missing person."

A year later, in a closed House-Senate conference on an unrelated military bill, McCain, at the behest of the Pentagon, attached a crippling amendment to the act, stripping out its only enforcement teeth, the criminal penalties, and reducing the obligations of commanders in the field to speedily search for missing men and report the incidents to the Pentagon.

McCain argued that keeping the criminal penalties would have made it impossible for the Pentagon to find staffers willing to work on POW/MIA matters. That's an odd argument to make. Were staffers only "willing to work" if they were allowed to conceal POW records? By eviscerating the law, McCain gave his stamp of approval to the government policy of debunking the existence of live POWs.

. . .AND REPEATEDLY SOUGHT TO DISCREDIT THOSE SEEKING DISCLOSURE

McCain has insisted again and again that all the evidence has been woven together by unscrupulous deceivers to create an insidious and unpatriotic myth. He calls it the work of the "bizarre rantings of the MIA hobbyists." He has regularly vilified those who keep trying to pry out classified documents as "hoaxers," "charlatans," "conspiracy theorists" and "dime-store Rambos."

POW family members who have personally pressed McCain to end the secrecy have been treated to his legendary temper. In 1996, he roughly pushed aside a group of POW family members who had waited outside a hearing room to appeal to him, including a mother in a wheelchair.

The only explanation McCain has ever offered for his leadership on legislation that seals POW information is that he believes the release of such information would only stir up fresh grief for the families of those who were never accounted for in Vietnam.

Of the scores of POW families this reporter has met over the years, only a few have said they want the books closed without knowing what happened to their men. All the rest say that not knowing is exactly what grieves them.

IS MCCAIN'S TAPED CONFESSION TO NORTH VIETNAMESE THE REAL REASON FOR THE COVER-UP?

It's not clear whether the taped confession McCain gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his post-war behavior. That confession was played endlessly over the loudspeaker system at the Hoa Lo prison -- the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" -- to try to break down other prisoners and was broadcast over North Vietnam's state radio.

McCain reportedly confessed to being a war criminal who had bombed a school and other civilian targets. The Pentagon has copies of the confessions, but will not release them. Also, no outsider I know of has ever seen an uncensored copy of McCain's debriefing when he returned from captivity, which is classified but can be made public by McCain.

In his bestselling 1999 autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, McCain says he felt bad throughout his captivity because he knew he was being treated more leniently than his fellow POWs, owing to his propaganda value (his high-ranking father, Rear Admiral John S. McCain II, was then the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific).

Also in this memoir, McCain expresses guilt at having broken under torture and given the confession. "I felt faithless and couldn't control my despair," he writes, revealing that he made two "feeble" attempts at suicide. Tellingly, he says he lived in "dread" that his father would find out about the confession. "I still wince," he writes, "when I recall wondering if my father had heard of my disgrace."

McCain still didn't know the answer when his father died in 1981. He got his answer eighteen years later. In his 1999 memoir, the senator writes, "I only recently learned that the tape...had been broadcast outside the prison and had come to the attention of my father."

Does this hint at explanations for McCain's efforts to bury information about prisoners or other disturbing pieces of the Vietnam War? Does he suppress POW information because its surfacing rekindles his feelings of shame? On this subject, all this reporter has are questions.

But even without answers to what may be hidden in the recesses of someone's mind, one thing about the POW story is clear: If American prisoners of war were dishonored by being written off and left to die, that's something the American public ought to know about.

# # #

Volume III, Number 58
Special Report Copyright 2008, The Nation.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.






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Monday, September 22, 2008

Shocking New Poll Confirms: Racial Bias Is Greatest Obstacle to an Obama Presidency

Forty Percent of White Voters (Including a Third of White Democrats) Hold Negative Attitudes Toward Blacks So Deeply That They Likely Won't Vote for Obama Because of His Race, AP-Yahoo! News Poll Finds -- Posing a Dangerous Threat to Illinois Senator's Chances of Winning the White House in Neck-and-Neck Contest With McCain

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. ...

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama greets supporters at the end a campaign rally Friday in Coral Gables, Florida, near Miami, which drew over 8,000 people. Obama has regained the lead over his Republican rival John McCain in most national pre-election opinion surveys. But a shocking new poll released Saturday by the Associated Press and Yahoo! News reveals that up to 40 percent of white voters -- including a third of white Democrats -- hold such deep-seated negative views of blacks that they likely won't vote for Obama because of his race. (Photo: Chris Carlson/AP)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Monday, September 22, 2008)

By SKEETER SANDERS


Barack Obama can no longer afford to ignore it. His detractors -- especially those within his own party -- can no longer deny it.

And despite gaining momentum against Republican rival John McCain in recent days and flush with tens of millions of dollars in new campaign donations, the Democratic presidential nominee must inevitably confront it.

Head-on.

"It" is a old nemesis that has proven time and again throughout American history to be an implacable arch-enemy to the hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans of African descent, Obama included.

That "old nemesis" is racial prejudice.

A shocking new poll released Saturday by the Associated Press and Yahoo! News has found that up to 40 percent of white voters -- including up to a third of white Democrats -- hold such deep-seated negative attitudes toward blacks that they likely won't vote for Obama because of his race.

The findings are a stunning confirmation of what The 'Skeeter Bites Report found in a story it published last Monday: That based on a series of racially-charged incidents against the Obama campaign -- and the candidate himself -- that have persisted for nearly a year, racial bias against Obama poses a serious threat to the Illinois senator's chances of winning the White House in November.

With Obama -- the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas -- locked in a neck-and-neck contest with McCain, the new poll shows that the danger of Obama being denied the presidency because of his race is far greater than previously believed.

The survey, conducted by Stanford University in California, suggests that the percentage of voters who might either stay home or vote against Obama because of his race could end up larger than the final margin between President Bush and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, in 2004 — about 2.5 percentage points.

RACE BIAS AGAINST OBAMA PERSISTS DESPITE MOUNTING PROBLEMS FOR MCCAIN

This race-based threat to Obama is all the more shocking in light of the fact that McCain faces some increasingly formidable obstacles that stand in the way of his own quest for the White House:

# McCain's close alignment with a deeply unpopular President Bush, particularly on the equally unpopular war in Iraq.

# McCain's contradictory positions on how to deal with the ongoing crisis roiling the financial markets -- contradictions which have alarmed the editors of The Wall Street Journal, the staunchly conservative and pro-Republican business daily.

# McCain's age, 72, and his steadfast refusal to provide copies of his medical records to journalists or to allow journalists to copy them -- in addition to recent revelations that he's receiving a disability pension from the Navy -- is prompting growing questions about his health (He has a potentially fatal form of skin cancer).

# McCain's increasingly controversial vice-presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who's embroiled in the growing "Troopergate" scandal back home over her alleged abuses of power -- and whose family has become the subject of a series of lurid tabloid stories.

The danger of a racially-motivated rejection of Obama's candidacy by white voters is being further stoked by right-wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh -- whose 20 million weekly radio listeners are predominantly white, middle-aged conservative Republican men, according to a recent demographic survey of talk-radio listeners -- and who, in an extraordinary display of reverse psychology, has accused the Illinois senator's campaign of "trafficking in prejudice of its own making."

NEGATIVE RACIAL STEREOTYPES PERSIST AMONG WORKING-CLASS WHITES IN 'RUST BELT'

The poll found that despite Obama's broad appeal across the racial and ethnic spectrum, a third of white Democrats -- particularly older, working-class whites 55 years of age and over with only a high-school education or less -- persistently cling to negative stereotypes of blacks, with many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

These voters formed the backbone of Hillary Clinton's support in the Democratic primaries in the so-called "Rust Belt" states of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio.

It is in these states, as well as in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, where Obama campaign offices in recent months have been vandalized -- with windows smashed and racist graffiti spray-painted -- and where Obama campaign volunteers have been subjected to racial insults by hecklers.

"We still don't like black people," 57-year-old John Clouse of Somerset, Ohio told the AP -- a sentiment that was echoed among his friends gathered at a local coffee shop.

The new poll found that up to 17 percent of white Clinton supporters now say they will vote for McCain, with a hard core of nine percent -- almost exclusively rural, low-income whites who never finished high school -- freely admitting that Obama's race is the principal reason for their switch in support to the Republican.

RACIAL VIEWS OF WHITE INDEPENDENTS JUST AS CHALLENGING FOR OBAMA

The survey also found that white independent voters' racial attitudes are just as daunting. For example, while about 20 percent of white independents called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."

Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed with a survey statement that, "If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites."

Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to support Obama than those who didn't. The lower the income and educational level among this group, the stronger the resistance to Obama's candidacy -- almost exactly mirroring the findings among white Democrats.

Among Republicans, opposition to Obama's White House bid, not surprisingly, runs the highest, with an overwhelming 85 percent of Republicans supporting McCain. But partisanship has much more to do with Republicans' attitudes than anything else, as a solid 74 percent of Republicans said they wouldn't vote for the Democratic nominee regardless of who the nominee is -- whether Obama, Clinton, or anyone else.

THE WILD CARD: LATINOS, ASIANS LEFT OUT OF SURVEY

Not surprisingly, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from African-Americans, the poll shows -- even among the tiny minority of blacks who are registered Republicans. It's not known, though, if Obama's solid support among black voters -- who are expected to turn out in record numbers in November -- will be enough to counter the negative impact of the white voters who oppose him.

Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the poll did not include the views of Latinos and Asian-Americans. Since securing the Democratic nomination, the Obama campaign has been working overtime to win over Latinos, who voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in the primaries.

That effort appears to be paying off in four of the five states which have the highest concentrations of Latino voters -- California, New Mexico, New York, Florida and Texas.

Polls in California -- which also has the second-highest concentration of Asian-Americans, after Obama's native state of Hawaii -- show Obama with a commanding 16-point lead over McCain, 52 percent to 36 percent, according to the respected Field Poll.

In New Mexico -- where Latinos make up nearly half the population and whose state and local governments are de facto bilingual in English and Spanish -- Obama leads McCain 52 percent to 44 percent, according to Survey USA.

In New York -- Clinton's home state -- Obama leads McCain, 55 percent to 42 percent, according to Rasmussen Reports.

In Florida -- where Clinton easily defeated Obama in the disputed January primary and where southern Florida's Cuban-American community has traditionally voted Republican -- Obama and McCain are locked in a statistical dead heat, according to an American Research Group poll.

Only in Texas -- Bush's home state -- which hasn't voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since native son Lyndon Johnson in 1964, has Obama's outreach to Latinos failed. McCain holds a commanding lead over Obama in the Lone Star State, 57 percent to 36 percent, according to ARG.

OTHER WHITE CLINTON SUPPORTERS HOLDING OUT UNTIL AFTER THE DEBATES

Among Clinton's white supporters overall, only 59 percent said they wanted Obama to be president. Twenty-four percent -- particularly women still angry over what they saw was sexist treatment of the New York senator and former first lady by the Obama campaign and by the media -- declined to state a preference, with many in this group saying that they would continue to hold out until after the debates between Obama and McCain.

The first debate is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. EDT Friday night at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The Obama and McCain campaigns reached an agreement late Saturday with the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates to scrap the original format in favor of an unusual free-flowing format that included time for unpredictable questioning and for challenges between the two vice-presidential candidates.

The lone vice-presidential debate, between Palin and her Democratic rival, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, will take place under a more structured format, in which Palin and Biden will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for McCain and Obama, and much less opportunity for direct exchanges between the vice-presidential nominees.

The McCain campaign insisted on the tighter format for the vice-presidential debate out of fear that Palin, an admittedly inexperienced debater, would have been placed at a disadvantage against the veteran senator, who's well known for his verbosity -- which the tighter format is likely to curb.

Despite the agreement, Obama could still be placed at a disadvantage in the first debate, as it is being held on a Friday night, when many of Obama's most ardent supporters -- college-age young people -- tend to go out. How many of them will stay home to watch the debate is anybody's guess.

The second debate, is scheduled for Tuesday, October 7 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, with the third and final debate on Wednesday, October 15 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

The lone vice-presidential debate will take place on Thursday, October 2 at Washington University in St. Louis.

POLL EMPLOYED THE INTERNET RATHER THAN THE TELEPHONE

The AP-Yahoo! News survey employed a methodology seldom used before: More than 2,220 adults across the country were given an online questionnaire after they were initially contacted by telephone.

The idea behind conducting the survey online was that respondents were more likely to express their real feelings in providing answers to questions on highly sensitive subjects, such as race, in the relative anonymity of the Internet, rather than by talking to a complete stranger on the phone.

Moreover, the new method takes into account the fact that more than 100 million Americans now use cellular telephones, whose numbers are, by law, not listed in telephone directories and thus are unreachable by pollsters -- and telemarketers. By comparison, over 220 million Americans -- more than two-thirds of the nation's population -- use the Internet, according to Infoplease.com.

The AP reported that by using this methodology, the survey had a margin for error of plus or minus two percent. By comparison, most traditional telephone-based surveys have a error margin of plus or minus four percent.

POLL'S FINDINGS A SOBERING WAKE-UP CALL FOR OBAMA

That race is a significant factor in the presidential contest was made shockingly clear by the new survey, in which the AP found that support for Obama would be as much as six percent higher than it is if anti-black racial prejudice didn't exist -- or, to put it another way, if Obama was white.

"Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books," the AP reported. "Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of [Dr.] Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a seminal moment for a nation that [once] enshrined slavery in its Constitution [until the end of the Civil War]."

Dr. Paul Sniderman, a political science professor at Stanford University who worked on the survey, told the AP, "There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago." But he cautioned that while the overtly racist bigotry expressed by earlier generations of whites has declined as those earlier generations have passed away, "that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots."

The results also lays bare the real reason why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain in spite of the fact that the political landscape in this election cycle heavily favors Democrats.

At a time when even the Republicans concede that they have no chance of taking back control of Congress -- and are in danger of losing more seats to the Democrats -- and when history has shown time and again since the 1930s that the incumbent president's party always loses the White House when the U.S. economy goes south during his tenure, there is no other reason for the Obama-McCain contest to be nearly deadlocked.

The unprecedented vehemence of the McCain campaign's savage attack ads against Obama, a vehemence that it would not have dared to use against Hillary Clinton had she won the Democratic nomination, combined with the recurrent racially-motivated incidents against Obama campaign offices and volunteers -- and now this survey -- is proof positive that Obama's race is indeed an issue in this campaign.

If Obama loses the election because of racial bias, it will bring disgrace upon this country to a degree it has not seen in 40 years. And no amount of denial by Obama's detractors will be able to erase it.

# # #

Volume III, Number 57
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.








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