Earl Ofari Hutchinson

If Democrats Cave on Gorsuch, They’ll Be Sorry

The day the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Appeals Court Judge and Scalia’s nominated replacement, Neil Gorsuch, said he could barely get down a ski run in Colorado because he was so blinded by tears at his death. This was not a private utterance or personal feeling of deep emotion that he shared with friends and family. He told of his profound sorrow in a speech in April 2016 at Case Western University. Gorsuch wanted the world to know that Scalia was more than just a heartfelt friend. He was a man and a judge whose legal and judicial ideas he was in total lockstep with.

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50 Years Later, Civil Rights Leaders Face Bigger Economic Challenges

The 50th anniversary of the monumental 1963 March on Washington was accompanied by a wave of commemorative events that tried hard to recapture the energy and the spirit of the 1963 March. This was a tall order. The original march, punctuated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s towering "I Have a Dream" speech, acted as a powerful wrecking ball that crumbled the walls of legal segregation and ushered in an era of unbridled opportunities for many blacks. The results are unmistakable today. Blacks are better educated, more prosperous, own more businesses, hold more positions in the professions, and have more elected officials than ever before.

Yet the towering racial improvements since the 1963 March on Washington mask the harsh reality: The challenges 50 years later are, in some ways, more daunting than what King and other civil rights leaders faced. 

When King marched in 1963, black leaders had already firmly staked out the moral high ground for a powerful and irresistible civil rights movement. It was classic good versus evil. Many white Americans were sickened by the gory news scenes of baton-battering racist Southern sheriffs, fire hoses, police dogs, and Klan violence unleashed against peaceful black protesters. Racial segregation was considered immoral and indefensible, and the civil rights leaders were hailed as martyrs and heroes in the fight for justice.

As America unraveled in the 1960s in the anarchy of urban riots, campus takeovers, and anti-war street battles, the civil rights movement and its leaders fell apart, too. Many of them fell victim to their own success and failure. When they broke down the racially restricted doors of corporations, government agencies, and universities, it was middle-class blacks, not the poor, who rushed headlong through them. As King embraced the rhetoric of the militant anti-war movement, he became a political pariah shunned by the White House, as well as mainstream white and black leaders.

King's murder in 1968 was a turning point for race relations in America. The self-destruction from within and political sabotage from outside of black organizations left the black poor organizationally fragmented and politically rudderless. The black poor, lacking competitive technical skills and professional training, and shunned by many middle-class black leaders, became expendable jail and street and cemetery fodder. Some turned to gangs, guns and drugs to survive. 

A Pew study specifically released to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations graphically made the point that the economic and social gaps between whites and African-Americans have widened over the last few decades despite massive spending by federal and state governments, state and federal civil rights laws, and two decades of affirmative action programs. The racial polarization has been endemic between blacks and whites on everything from the George Zimmerman trial to just about every other controversial case that involves black and white perceptions of the workings of the criminal justice system.

A half century later, the task of redeeming King’s dream means confronting the crises of family breakdown, the rash of shamefully failing public schools, racial profiling, urban police violence, the obscene racial disparities in the prison and criminal justice system, and HIV/AIDS. These are beguiling problems that sledgehammer the black poor and these are the problems that King and the civil rights movement of his day only had begun to recognize and address. Civil rights leaders today also have to confront something else that King did not have to face. King had the sympathy and goodwill of millions of whites, politicians, and business leaders in the peak years of the civil rights movement. Much of that goodwill has vanished in the belief that blacks have attained full equality.

Then there’s the reality that race matters in America can no longer be framed exclusively in black and white. Latinos and Asians have become major players in the fight for political and economic empowerment and figure big in the political strategies of Democratic and Republican presidential contenders. Today’s civil rights leaders will have to figure out ways to balance the competing and sometimes contradictory needs of these and other ethnic groups and patch them into a workable coalition for change.

It's grossly unfair to expect today’s civil rights leaders to be the charismatic, aggressive champions of, and martyrs for, civil rights that King was. Or to think that 50 years later, another March on Washington can solve the seemingly intractable problems of the black poor. The times and circumstances have changed too much for that. Still, civil rights leaders can draw strength from King's courage, vision and dedication and fight the hardest they can against racial and economic injustices that have hardly disappeared. This is still a significant step toward redeeming King’s dream.

Latest Immigration ‘Compromise’ Perpetuates GOP Myth of Border Insecurity

Editor's Note: Senators on Thursday outlined a bipartisan "compromise" that would dramatically increase spending on border enforcement. The plan, which includes 20,000 additional border agents, military technology upgrades and the completion of 700 miles of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border, is an attempt to move immigration reform forward by addressing what Republican lawmakers say is one of their most pressing concerns -- border security. But NAM contributor Earl Ofari Huchinson writes that Republicans' interest in border security is a myth.

For more than a decade, the GOP has relentlessly latched onto the issue of the United States’ supposedly leaky borders to torpedo any deal on immigration reform. The current “compromise” is no different, even though the shellacking that Mitt Romney took from Hispanic voters in the 2012 presidential election, coupled with the grim prospect that the GOP could be mortally wounded in 2014 and 2016 by Hispanic voters, has Republicans proclaiming that they are now sincere in their desire for immigration reform. Yet those fears haven’t stopped the party from pulling out the old border enforcement card. GOP Senator Marco Rubio, the party’s point man on immigration reform, said bluntly, “The only way we're going to pass an immigration reform law out of the House and Senate so the president can sign it is if it has real border security measures within it." Safe and secure borders, they say, are simply in the public and national interest.

This is simply more GOP mythmaking at its worst. The U.S. spends nearly $20 billion annually on border security measures and that figure will be ramped up even higher in 2014. That’s more spent on border security than ever before, and far more than the government spends on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. The massive spending has paid off. Nearly every inch of the border is patrolled, around the clock, by waves of more than 20,000 border patrol agents and at least six unmanned aircraft. Both outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security officials have publicly admitted that unarmed drones are used to patrol the Mexican and Canadian borders, as well as the Caribbean Sea, and in other law enforcement operations.

The result has been that illegal border crossings have plunged steadily for the past few years. That drop, combined with the surge in deportations which are at an all-time high, add up to an historic low in net illegal immigration into the country. The unstated downside is that with the hyper aggressiveness of border patrol and the immigration crackdown there has been a sharp rise in deaths since 2010 from the desperate efforts of undocumented immigrants to skirt the patrols, and the use of lethal force by patrol agents under dubious circumstances.

The irony is that there was a brief moment a decade ago that the GOP seemed to get it right on immigration reform. Then President George W. Bush was widely and unfairly blamed at the time for making a mess of the immigration reform fight in Congress by not pushing hard enough for passage of the immigration bill debated in 2007. Immigrant rights groups lambasted Republican senators for dumping crippling demands for tight amnesty, citizenship and, of course, the border security provisions on the bill. Leading Republican presidential contenders that year didn’t help matters by flatly opposing the bill as much too soft on amnesty and border enforcement.

This did much to kill whatever flickering hope there was for the bill’s passage. This undid the inroads that Bush made in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections when he scored gains with Latino voters. A big part of that was due to the perception (and reality) that Bush would push hard for immigration reform. Immigration then was not just about fixing America’s alleged broken borders but a crass, naked political grab for Latino votes. Even so, the party still couldn’t shake its ingrained, nativist xenophobia on what American citizenship should be about. That didn’t include any backpedaling on the party’s opposition to a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.

Two crushing presidential defeats, and the unrelenting hostility of Latino voters, has only slightly changed the party’s thinking on immigration reform as can be seen from its pile on of amendment after amendment to the current bill, with the centerpiece being border security as the non-negotiable condition for the bill’s passage.

Arizona Senator John McCain in a candid moment, without saying as much, admitted that the GOP’s canard of hopelessly porous borders was a sham. He not only said that the borders were more secure than ever, but also gave figures on the colossal number of illegal immigrant apprehensions during the past near decade to give lie to the insecure border myth.

The question now is how far the GOP will push the border myth to get its way on immigration reform. If the past political battles over the immigration reform bill are any guide, the answer is all the way.

Is the GOP Sincere in Denouncing its Bigots?

In a week’s time the wide range of what was once considered routine GOP bigotry was on full display. Dave Agema, a former West Michigan state representative, and Republican National Committeeman called gays “filthy homosexuals." Next, Alaska Rep. Don Young blurted out the epitaph “wetbacks” in discussing the immigration issue. Then 23 members of the so-called White Student Union attended the Conservative Political Action Conference where its leader tacitly endorsed segregation and even slavery.

In times past, the silence from the GOP officials and rank and file would have been deafening. It would have reconfirmed the standard knock against the GOP as a party of Kooks, cranks misanthropes, and, of course, bigots. But in each of the three cases, there was an outcry from local GOP officials, bloggers, and GOP campus groups. They publicly denounced the bigotry, and in the case of Young, House Speaker John Boehner, Arizona and Texas Senators John McCain, and John Cornyn, and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus blasted Young’s remarks.

At first glance, this seems a signal that the GOP recognizes that it’s widely considered the party of bigotry, and that it’s willing to do something about it. But the sea change may be much less than meets the eye. Many top GOP officials are still mute on its party’s bigots. The official record still stands that no top GOP official aggressively and consistently denounces the bigoted remarks or acts by a GOP operative, representative, or senator.

The RNC in its near 100 page blueprint for reaching out to minorities, gays and young people did raise faint hope that the GOP may indeed have finally woke up that America is changing, and it can’t win national offices anymore solely with conservative white male Heartland and Deep South voters, or through the use of the crude race baiting. But this hope ignores the GOP’s horrible history of dealing with its blatant bigots and bigotry. The pattern was on ugly display in 2002 when then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott touched off a furor seemingly touting the one time pro-segregation battles fought by South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. It took nearly a week for then President George W. Bush to make a stumbling, tepid disavowal of Lott.

In the next decade, a legion of Republican state and local officials, conservative talk show jocks and even some Republican bigwigs made foot-in-mouth racist cracks that invariably got them in hot water. Their response when called on the carpet was always the same: They make a duck and dodge denial, claim that they were misquoted or issue a weak, half-hearted apology. Each time, the response from top Republicans was either silence, or if the firestorm was great enough, to give the offender a much-delayed mild verbal hand slap. Lott was dumped from his Senate Majority Leader post, but soon got a top post back as Senate Minority Whip after a kind of, sort of mea culpa.

The bigger dilemma for the GOP when the bigots of their party pop off is that they remain prisoners of their party's racist past. It’s a past in which Republican presidents set the tone with their own verbal race bashing. President Eisenhower never got out of the Old South habit of calling blacks "nigras."

In an infamous and well-documented outburst at a White House dinner party in 1954, Ike winked, nodded and whispered to Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren that he understood why white Southerners wouldn't want to "see their sweet little girls required to sit in school alongside some big black buck."

President Nixon routinely peppered his talks with his confidants with derogatory quips about blacks. He enshrined in popular language racially tinged code words such as, "law and order, "permissive society," "welfare cheats," "crime in the streets," "subculture of violence," "subculture of poverty," "culturally deprived" and "lack of family values." And President Reagan once told a black reporter how he would treat black leaders, saying, "I said to hell with 'em."

In 1988, President Bush, Sr. made escaped black convict Willie Horton the poster boy for black crime and violence and turned the presidential campaign against his Democrat opponent, Michael Dukakis into a rout. He branded a bill by Senator Ted Kennedy to make it easier to bring employment discrimination suits a "quotas bill" and vetoed it.

The sentiment that underlay the casual, and sometimes blatant, racist trash talk of top Republicans, even Republican presidents, inevitably percolated down to the troops. If GOP minor players feel that they can say whatever they want about blacks, Latinos, gays and women and get away with it, it's because other Republicans have done the same, and there were no real consequences for their vile remarks.

There are many Republicans who don't utter racist or homophobic epithets, use code speak, or publicly denigrate minorities, gays and women. Yet Colin Powell recently took much heat from many Republicans when he called the GOP racist. This still makes it a good bet that the next public official or personality hammered for a bigoted outburst will be a Republican. It's also an equally good bet that few top Republicans will immediately rush to condemn their GOP compatriot for it.

Poor Would Be First to Barrel Over Fiscal Cliff

LOS ANGELES--President Obama took much heat a year ago when he floated a series of proposed budget cuts that would have slashed programs for the poor. 

The cuts would have reduced funding or eliminated outright community-service block grants that fund an array of local education, health and social service programs in low-income, underserved, largely inner-city neighborhoods. And they would have slashed funds for programs in science, technology and youth mentoring programs, as well as employment and training assistance. 

The proposed cuts were just that--proposed. There was little chance any of them would go into effect. The proposals were mostly made to counter the forced concession that Obama had to make with the GOP on the Bush tax cuts, namely allowing them to stay in place for the wealthy. The presidnent also used the proposals to wring more spending concessions out of congressional Republicans on unemployment benefits and health services.

Post-Election Radically Different

Obama’s decisive election victory in November radically changed that. So far he has stood firm on his demand that the wealthy pay more, and has proposed an array of other tax hikes that would also squeeze more revenue out of the rich. 

The only major proposed spending cut at this point that has raised eyebrows among Democratic supporters has been the $340 billion from health care programs. But the cuts would not directly hit elders and the needy. The cuts are mostly to health providers, and do not impact benefits. 

In addition, much of the public bought into the GOP's bogus line that Obama's alleged reckless spending was hopelessly drowning the government in a sea of red ink. Nervous foreign investors as well as a slew of financial experts and economists endlessly claimed that the budget deficit -- projected to soar to nearly $1.6 trillion in the last fiscal year -- would saddle the nation, with higher taxes; deeper cuts in education, health and social services; staggering permanent debt; and possibly even bankruptcy.

That doomsday scenario was part political hyperbole, part financial panic. Even then many economists noted that the claim of financial Armageddon was way overblown.

But Obama is not out of the woods on spending cuts, and neither are the poor. Although his proposals would protect programs that directly benefit lower-income people, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and food stamps, the GOP’s counter proposals don’t. 

As the deadline for reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff creeps closer, the pressure could build for the White House to eye programs for potential cuts that it has firmly and repeatedly taken off the table. 

The two proposals put forth by both sides outline deficit reduction efforts in broad budget categories and are not entirely clear about whether cuts will hurt poor people or not. A small army of the nation’s leading business leaders have screamed loudly that a plunge over the fiscal cliff would be a disaster for business, wreck the nation’s credit rating and shove the United States back into deep recession. That must be avoided at all cost, they warn.

Obama’s consistent answer is that a deal can be cut by approving the tax hikes and revenue raising measures he’s proposed, as well as the major check that he wants to put on endless runaway military spending. This would bring the deficit under $1 trillion and would spare cutting programs that would devastate the poor and working class. 

The political and social and economic consequences of the fiscal cliff debate on the poor are enormous. Surveys show that the ranks of the poor are still huge and that the wealth and income gap between the rich and poor is wider than in recent years. 

Government Programs Bolster Economy

There's also the greater public recognition that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment insurance and other government programs play a huge part in bolstering the economy, and American's living standards. 

The GOP’s favorite whipping program, food stamps, is a perfect example of that. It helped lift nearly 4 million people--almost 2 million of them children--out of poverty. Then there’s the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a refundable federal credit for low- to moderate-income working Americans. The estimate is that this lifted nearly 6 million people, half of them children, out of poverty. 

These programs provide income for the poor that goes directly into spending on goods and services. This in turn creates jobs, spurs business expansion, and sharply boosts tax revenues for local, state and the federal governments. 

Lower-income Americans, far from being a drag on the economy, fuel it with their spending. Obama’s budget does not hammer the poor. The GOP’s counter to it would. Obama’s proposals, as they now stand, would be the only ones to keep the poor from barreling over the fiscal cliff. 

The Tragedy and Triumph of Rodney King

Less than two weeks before his death, I was scheduled to interview Rodney King on the public stage at the annual Leimert Park Book festival in Los Angeles. I had two conflicting thoughts about the interview. One was that if the well-worn term "accident of history" ever applied to anyone it was King. The second was, what made King -- twenty one years after that fateful night that his beating by four white Los Angeles Police officers was captured in shocking detail on videotape -- still such an enduring figure, name and most importantly, symbol.

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Bin Laden Kill Shatters Another GOP Obama Myth

During the 2008 presidential election campaign, the GOP plan of attack on then-candidate Barack Obama was simple: pound him relentlessly as soft on terrorism and antagonistic toward the military. GOP presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., and especially George W. Bush in his 2004 reelection fight against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry used this ploy masterfully against their Democratic opponents.

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Muslim-Americans Have Good Reason to Fear Fort Hood Backlash

The instant the news broke that a soldier with an Arab name shot up the base at Ft. Hood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations wasted no time and issued a loud and vigorous denunciation of the mass murders. The Council didn’t know whether Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter, was a Muslim by birth, a converted Muslim, or even a Muslim at all. The name and the horrific murder spree was enough to drive the group to quickly distance itself from the rampage. Other Muslim organizations instantly followed suit and issued their own equally strong disavowal of Hasan.

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New Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Reform Bill Leaves Thousands Behind Bars

New America Media Editor's Note: During the 1980s crack epidemic, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., then a House member, voted to impose harsh sentencing for crack cocaine. Now he says he “made a mistake 20 years ago,” and is introducing legislation to remove the disparity between crack and powdered cocaine possession. But the fact that his bill does not make the sentencing change retroactive -- Durbin has said he hopes to leave that debate to the Sentencing Commission – means that his Fairness in Sentencing Act 2009 is anything but fair, writes commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

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Nader Plays the Race Card

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 an explanation of 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.

The Danger Obama Faces Is Real

Hoax, cheap stunt, crank, crackpot, racist, and sick, were some the terms tossed at artist Yazmany Arboleda and his exhibit, "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton & The Assassination of Barack Obama," at galleries in midtown New York. Secret Service agents and NYPD officials quickly moved in and yanked down the assorted painted nooses and garish pictures of Obama from the building. The exhibit may have been an artist's stunt to get his name in the papers but it did again point to the real fear that legions quietly whisper and openly voice about the danger of physical violence to Obama. It is not a paranoid or false fear.

This year 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. These 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 outshines 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 as the embodiment of change and a fresh direction for U.S. 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 very same qualities stir 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 is more than enough reason to be concerned about 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. 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 ensure 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 ensure 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 ensure his safety. That's especially important given the deep doubt and even paranoid suspicion that some blacks have that shadowy government agencies were deeply 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.

Pretrial Lock Up

On Sept. 4, 21-year-old Joshua Pomier will have served nearly four years in a detention center near San Bernardino, Calif. Pomier is charged with multiple counts of car theft and robbery. There are two deeply troubling problems with the amount of time he has spent behind bars. One, he has not been convicted of any of the crimes he's charged with. He had barely turned 18 years old when he and another juvenile were arrested for the crimes in September 2004. Pomier and family members vehemently protest his innocence. The even more tormenting problem is not Pomier's guilt or innocence, but the absurdly long length of time that he has been jailed awaiting disposition, any disposition, of the charges leveled against him.

His bail was set at nearly a half million dollars, and there have been several delayed court dates. During that time, he has been relentlessly pressured to accept a plea bargain that will require him to serve a lengthy prison sentence. Pomier has refused, and continues to protest his innocence.

Pomier is African American, and his dragged out incarceration without being convicted of anything is not unusual. In fact, he's a near textbook example of how thousands of mostly black and Latino young adults and juveniles languish for months, even years, in America's jails with high or no bail, receive shoddy or non-existent legal counsel, and are browbeaten and even threatened by harried, overworked, and often indifferent public defenders and prosecutors to accept deals.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice estimates that on any given day, nearly 30,000 youth between the ages of 14 and 18 years old are locked down in juvenile detention centers nationally for interminably long periods awaiting disposition of their cases. Even with the plunge in juvenile and adult crime, the numbers of youth and young adults incarcerated for lengthy pre-detention jail time nearly doubled in the 1990s. During the same time, the rates of excessive pre-trial detention time dropped for white youth.

The young adult defendants are nearly always faced with excessively high bail, and for juveniles, no bail. In the juvenile system, most states do not permit bail. Juveniles are considered wards of the court, and pretrial release is solely at the discretion of the judge. High bail, or lack of bail, clog court calendars, and overcrowded jails virtually ensure that defendants such as Pomier get lost in the system without any disposition of their case. In one study, the Sentencing Project found that blacks on average were held for a year or more without any action on their case.

The effect of outrageously long pretrial imprisonment has been catastrophic. It has severely strained jail and detention center inmate capacity, overtaxed city and county budgets, and strapped public defenders to keep up with the backlog of cases that have not had any legal resolution. The Juvenile Justice group's study pegged the cost of one detention bed at more than $1 million over 20 years, and that's a juvenile detention bed. The jail costs for lengthy adult pretrial imprisonment is higher.

Then there's the human cost. Excessive pretrial detention has resulted in a rise in inmate violence in overcrowded, poorly served jails, increased suicides, stress-related illnesses, and psychiatric ailments, as well as the personal anguish of the family members of the defendant awaiting trial or sentencing not knowing how, or especially when, their fate will be decided. The outrage of men and women languishing indefinitely behind bars costs society in still other ways. A San Francisco study of 1,500 high risk youth found that the youths that were placed in alternative to detention programs had a far lower recidivism rate than youth who remained incarcerated while awaiting sentencing.

An international criminal justice reform group, Justice Initiative, has established pretrial detention reform study projects in 10 countries. In Mexico, the project has worked with prosecutors in several areas to provide a more efficient and effective bail supervision program, bail assistance and counseling programs to ensure that defendants have access to fair and reasonable bail. This has reduced the number of defendants who skip bail, and has lowered recidivism rates.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other international legal and human rights groups have fiercely condemned excessive pretrial imprisonment in the United States and other countries. They have labeled it a gross violation of civil liberties. It also mocks the U.S. Constitution's precept of a defendant's right to a speedy trial.

The outrage and condemnation of international legal and human rights bodies and the efforts by some states at reforms in the way defendants awaiting disposition of their cases are handled is welcome. However, it won't do much to ease the anxiety of Pomier's family. They have waited for nearly four years to find out the ultimate legal fate of Pomier. Unfortunately, there's no sign that their wait will end any time soon.

Verdict in Bell Shooting Is No Big Surprise

Even before the first witness was called in the Sean Bell trial, a defense attorney for one of the three officers charged with gunning down Bell flatly said that he thought his client and the other two officers would be acquitted in the killing of Bell. This was not typical attorney bluster. The defense attorney was right.

At first glance, there was good reason to think that he was off base in his prediction and that the cops that fired the volley of shots that killed Bell would be convicted. An anguished New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly questioned the shooting. Two of Bell's companions gave eyewitness testimony that the officers acted like Wild West cowboys and opened up without warning. And most importantly Bell was unarmed and seemingly posed no threat to the officers.

But expectations, witness testimony, seemingly unimpeachable evidence, and the official condemnation of the deadly shooting by city officials obviously weren't enough. There's equally good reason why it almost never is.

When cops go on trial for overuse of deadly force, their victims are generally young blacks and Latinos. The attorneys that defend them are top gun defense attorneys and have had much experience defending police officers accused of misconduct. Police unions pay them and they spare no expense in their defense. The cops rarely serve any pre-trial jail time, and are released on ridiculously low bail.

If the cops are tried by a jury, police defense attorneys seek to get as many middle-class whites on the panel as possible. The presumption is that they are much more likely to believe the testimony of police and prosecution witnesses than black witnesses, defendants, or even the victims.

Prosecutors have a big task in trying to overcome pro-police attitudes and the negative racial stereotypes. Two Penn State University studies on racial perceptions and stereotypes, one in 2003 and a follow-up study in 2008, found that many whites are likely to associate pictures of blacks with violent crimes, and in some cases where crimes were not committed by blacks they misidentified the perpetrator as an African American. Defense attorneys played hard on that perception and depicted Bell and his companions as thugs and drunkards who posed a threat to the officers.

Defense attorneys for the New York cops didn't have the advantage of a potentially pro-police jury. They requested and got a bench trial. But this wasn't a disadvantage to the defense. In a racially and emotionally charged case such as the Bell shooting, they figured they'd stand a better chance trying to massage and hone their evidence and testimony to a judge.

There is also no ironclad standard of what is or isn't acceptable use of force. It often comes down to a judgment call by the officer. In the Rodney King beating case in 1992 in which four LAPD officers stood trial, defense attorneys turned the tables and painted King as the aggressor and claimed that the level of force used against him was justified.

The four New York City cops tried for gunning down African immigrant, Amadou Diallo in 1999, also claimed that they feared for their lives. The jury believed them and acquitted them.

In Cincinnati, a municipal judge summarily acquitted white Cincinnati police officer, Stephen Roach of criminal charges in the slaying of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas during a traffic pursuit in 2001. The shooting ignited three days of riots. The judge bought Roach's tale that he feared for his life and fired in self-defense.

In the Bell case, the officer's attorneys used the same tact and argued that the officers feared for their lives when they fired. In his initial call to a supervising police lieutenant one of the charged officers, Gescard Isnora said he thought one of the suspects had a gun, made a suspicious move, and that the car they were in bumped him.

Isnora did not take the stand during the trial and say that. But fellow officer Michael Carey did and testified that the officers shouted warnings before blazing away at the unarmed Bell.

The code of silence is another powerful obstacle to convicting cops charged with crimes. Officers hide behind it and refuse to testify against other officers, or tailor their testimony to put the officer's action in the best possible light.

Prosecutors often are barred from using statements made during internal investigations of officer misconduct in court proceedings on grounds of self-incrimination. This knocks out another potentially crucial prosecution weapon. Federal prosecutors that retried the officers that beat King learned a vital lesson from the abysmal failure of local prosecutors to convict them. They did not rely exclusively on the videotape but on expert testimony on the use of force to prove that the officers went way over the top against King. Yet, they still only managed to convict two of the four officers.

Nailing cops for bad shootings is virtually impossible for even the most diligent prosecutor. The Bell case again proved that to be the case.

Race Is Still the X Factor for Obama

There's a good and bad note for Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama in the recent exit polls of white voters in Democratic primaries. The good note is that by a lopsided majority of six to one, whites said that race was not a factor in considering whether to back Obama or not. That pretty much conforms to virtually every poll that's been taken since Obama tossed his hat in the presidential ring a year ago. His red state Democratic primary and caucus wins and the handful of endorsements he's gotten from the red state Democratic senators and governors seem to bolster the poll findings as well as his camp's contention that the majority of whites have bought his race neutral change and unity pitch.

The bad note for him, though, is buried in the racial rose-tinged poll numbers. In fact, it was actually buried there even as he rolled up big numbers in his primary victories in Georgia, Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, and South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. Blacks make up a substantial percentage of the vote in those states, and he bagged eighty to ninety percent of their vote. But much less noted was that Clinton got almost sixty-five to seventy percent of white votes.

It wasn't just the reverse racial numbers for Clinton and Obama. Obama does incredibly well in netting the vote of college-educated, upscale whites. But Clinton does just as well in bagging support from lower-income, downscale, and rural white voters. This has huge potential downside implications for Obama in a head to head battle with John McCain in the red states. A significant percent of the voters there are lower income, rural and less educated whites. Obama banks that he can pry one or two of the red states from the GOP. Yet, if he can't convince Clinton's white vote supporters, and they are Democrats, to back him, the chances are nil that he'll have any more success with Republican and independent white voters in these states.

A hint of that came in the Democratic primary in Ohio. Clinton beat out Obama in the primary, and she did it mainly with white votes. But that wasn't the whole story. Nearly one quarter of whites in Ohio flatly said race did matter in voting. Presumably that meant that they would not vote for a black candidate no matter how politically attractive or competent he was.

An even bigger hint of the race difficulty could come in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary. The voter demographics in the state perfectly match those in Ohio. A huge percent of Pennsylvania voters are blue collar, anti-big government, socially conservative, pro defense, and intently patriotic, and there's a tormenting history of a racial polarization in the state. Pundit James Carville has even described Pennsylvania as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between. Carville's characterization is hyperbolic, but devastatingly accurate. Take the state's two big, racially diverse cities out of the vote equation, and Pennsylvania would be rock solid red state Republican. While polls show some fluctuation in Clinton's decisive lead over Obama there, she still has a solid lead.

The near unanimous backing that whites give to the notion of voting for a black candidate for president also deserves to be put to a political test to see how much truth there is to it. The question: "Would you vote for a black candidate for president?" is a direct question, and to flatly say no to it makes one sound like a bigot, and in the era of verbal racial correctness (ask Don Imus), it's simply not fashionable to come off to pollsters sounding like one. That's hardly the only measure of a respondent's veracity. In a 2006 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, a Yale political economist found that white Republicans are 25 percentage points more likely to cross over and vote for a Democratic senatorial candidate against a black Republican foe. The study also found that in the near twenty year stretch from 1982 to 2000, when the GOP candidate was black, the greater majority of white independent voters backed the white candidate.

Republicans and independents weren't the only ones guilty of dubious Election Day color-blindness. Many Democrats were too. In House races, the study found that Democrats were nearly 40 percent less likely to back a black Democratic candidate than a white Democrat.

Obama's Democratic primary and caucus wins certainly show that many white voters will vote for him. They obviously feel that he has the right presidential stuff. But a large number of whites aren't quite ready to strap on their racial blinders even for a candidate who has leaned way over backward to run a race neutral, bipartisan, unity campaign. The big question is just how many whites will refuse to strap on the racial blinders on Election Day. That's still the X factor for Obama.

Does Obama Profit from White Guilt?

Virginia Congressman Tom Davis flatly said that whites could rid themselves of 400 years of guilt by voting for Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. Davis's proof of this was a voter survey in his district that purportedly showed that white voters by a good margin backed Obama over Clinton. Davis was recently cited and commended by the Lehrer Hour Duet of Mark Green and David Brooks. His quip may have been flippant, or said tongue-in-cheek. But then again maybe he actually believes that whites are so guilt-ridden they vote for Obama.

If so, he's hardly the first to say that. Black conservative pundit Shelby Steele kicked up a fuss when he argued pretty much the same thing in his book on Obama. He cast him as the breathing embodiment of black victimhood and white guilt over it.

And from across the pond Trevor Phillips, controversial chairman of Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission, also recently weighed in on the white guilt equals Obama surge conversation. He claimed that Obama is cut whole cloth from white guilt and that if elected he would set back race relations by letting whites that vote for him puff their chests out, pat themselves on the back, and proclaim that racism is dead as a door nail.

Davis, Steele, and Howard got it wrong. After all how do you measure guilt, whether it is racial or personal? Psychologists say guilt stems from a deep feeling on the part of an individual that they committed a wrong through neglect, dislike, or injury to another. It manifests itself as anxiety, remorse, anguish, and depression. Obama is a candidate for president, not an innocent victim that someone splattered on the side of the road in an accident, or a child or relative that someone harmed and now feels an acute need for atonement.

Moreover, he's hardly the first African-American politician who's gotten elected wholly or with substantial white votes. The list stretching back years to L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley to Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is legion. Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. in his run for U.S. Senate is oft cited as a victim of white polling voting booth duplicity. Yet he still got more than forty percent of the white vote in his election defeat. Obama's fresh face, new politics pitch for hope, change, and unity has touched a real nerve with whites, especially young whites. This has nothing to do with race, let alone any guilt over slavery or lynchings (not even concepts in their thinking).

The deluge of court rulings, legislature knock downs of affirmative action statutes, the frantic sprint by colleges and government agencies, including moderate Democratic president Bill Clinton, to water down affirmative action programs, and the overwhelming cheer by white voters in Northern states of anti-affirmative action measures should have long since killed any notion that the majority of whites are hopeless bleeding hearts when it comes to giving a preferential leg up to blacks and minorities.

Now having piled all the dismissals, qualifiers and retorts to the racial guilt theory about Obama, the nagging question is not so much whether some whites think that punching the ticket for Obama salves some vague, plumed in the mental depth stirrings of racial guilt over the treatment of blacks. It's why race is still such a taboo subject and pricks so many fears and sensibilities that the media and much of the public has given Obama a feather touch when it comes to a laser scrutiny of his past, politics, performance record in the Illinois legislature and the Senate, as well as demand to know how he'll implement the changes he says he's about once in the White House.

This writer has continually argued that if there's a racial tilt it falls on not holding him to a tough standard of scrutiny. This does a horrible disservice to voters. In turn voters, and that especially includes fanatically loyal Obama backers, do a horrible disservice to themselves in not demanding that a hard standard of accountability be applied to him.

The media mania over loose cannon statements by Obama's radical, afro-centric spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright hardly fits that bill. That's just standard cheap, tawdry, shock journalism to grab headlines, sell papers, and get the gossip tongues wagging.

Ultimately, the debate over whether Obama benefits from racial guilt is facile, dime store psychology, and ultimately irrelevant (a guilty vote is still a vote). What's relevant is for the media and the public to do its job and dissect Obama's positions as it does with any other credible and bona fide candidate for the highest office in the land. Until it does that the gates will always be wide open for the Davis's and Steeles to scream that he's where he is because of racial shame. In fact, Obama, instead of publicly cringing at even the most tepid criticism, should scream loudest of all against any media and public preferential treatment. He should be the last one to want anyone to think that he's a balm for any white supposedly tormented by racial guilt.

Super Tuesday Answers Some Questions But Raises More for Clinton and Obama

The odds are that Democratic presidential arch rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will know no more about which of the two will be the party's standard bearer the day after Super Tuesday than they did when the day started.

The early talk about the "inevitability" of Hillary's march to the Democratic nomination has long since ceased. And any talk about Obama's inevitability, despite his rock star size crowds, poll surge and high profile endorsements, is just as nonsensical and wishful thinking. Obama will win some of the 15 Democratic state primaries and seven caucuses and one in American Samoa and Clinton will win some others. In the biggest and most crucial delegate-rich state of California, the delegates are parceled out proportionally, so both Clinton and Obama will get their share.

But even with no Clinton or Obama knockout punch on Super Tuesday, the day will still answer some questions while raising a couple of large questions for which ever one grabs the top Democratic prize. The first question for Obama is will white voters en masse back an African-American candidate. Nearly every white voter in every poll profusely swears that they are color blind, and many back pat Obama, and say they will vote solely on the basis of competence, qualification and vision. They've said the same thing in head to head contests between black and white candidates in past elections and then once in the privacy of the voting booth done just the reverse. The result: the black candidate has gone down to flaming defeat.

But Obama's race neutral change pitch has had earth rattling political reverb and he will likely get a significant number of white votes, particularly from younger voters. That will in part bury the Bradley effect and that's the penchant for many white voters to dupe pollsters and interviewers about their feelings on race. At least that is, bury it in the primaries where his opponent is a woman with towering negatives with many voters. The questions for Clinton on the gender side is will male voters in big numbers back her. In some polls more than half of male voters say they wouldn't vote for her, and are even less charitable toward the notion of a woman president than a black president.

A question and a worry for Obama is can he win a big number of Hispanic voters over. That's only an issue in part because of the tensions and conflicts that have marred relations between blacks and Hispanics in some places, and in greater part because of the long standing ties, heartfelt affection, and political court of Latinos by the Clintons. His success at chipping away some of Clinton's Latino firewall in California and the Western states where Hispanic voters make up ten to twenty percent of the vote could be a deal maker or breaker in his drive to the nomination and beyond.

The question for both is: Do Americans really want the change that they say they want. Obama is betting the political bank they do and even Hillary has done everything she can to counter the charge that she's old guard politics and that she is just a much as a change maker as Obama.

Another question for both is how big the issue of the Iraq war still is to voters. Obama has pushed hard to sell himself as the only top tier candidate that opposed the war from the start, and that Hillary at least initially backed it. But polls now show that the war with the appearance of stabilization and the military surge in Iraq is not the top campaign issue it once was.

The last daunting question for the Democrats is how to keep the momentum going after Super Tuesday for the months up to the convention in August and make sure the muddled outcome of Super Tuesday doesn't split the Democrats into two warring and irreconcilable factions. That would spell doom for the party in the fall.

The Republicans don't have to answer that question. Ten of the Republican primaries are winner take all affairs. If one candidate, and from the big time endorsements that he's gotten and the poll numbers, that candidate is likely to be John McCain. He almost certainly will emerge with a commanding lead over Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in the number of delegates needed for the GOP nomination. He will have six months to do internal fence mending, unite the warring and wavering GOP core factions, pile up key endorsements, massage, streamline, and sharpen the party's message, further bulge his campaign war chest, and further distance himself from Bush's unpopularity. That guarantees the most important thing of all: a united Republican Party without the albatross of the Bush legacy.

Super Tuesday will answer questions for the Republicans. And raise more questions for the Democrats. That makes Super Tuesday much less super than Obama or Clinton would like.

Writing the Obituary for Bradley Effect is Premature and Foolhardy

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama has never publicly made mention of the Bradley Effect. The Bradley Effect is the label that's been plopped onto the penchant of many white voters to shade, deceive or just plain lie to pollsters and interviewers when they tell them that color doesn't mean anything to them in an election.

The only thing they claim they look at is the competence and experience of the candidates in an election. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp.poll released on Martin Luther King', Jr.'s birthday nearly three out of four whites say America's ready for a black president, presumably that means they'd vote for Obama without batting an eye.

After Obama's breakthrough win in the Iowa caucus election and his narrow loss in New Hampshire, two of the whitest voting states, political experts trumpeted that the vote for Obama was close to that of his numbers in the final polls. They gleefully rushed to write the obituary for the Bradley Effect. They moved to fast. The Bradley Effect is alive and well, and it appeared to be very much in play in Nevada. Hillary Clinton trounced Obama among the state's white voters. Obama got the overwhelming backing of black voters and that markedly bumped up his vote totals. But they make up less than one in five of the state's black voters.

The white vote or lack of it that Obama got in Nevada is far more representative and ominous for Obama than the white votes he got in Iowa or New Hampshire. Many Iowa Democrats are independent, populist leaning, and have broken ranks in the past with the Democratic Party's odds on favored candidates. Obama also got a huge boost from young voters. They were fired up enough by his change message, relative youth and the novelty of his campaign to flood the polls for him. In New Hampshire, legions of voters are independent, even contrarian, in who and how they pick their candidates. But Nevada was a far different story.
Bush won Nevada twice but Bill Clinton also won the state in 1996. At first glance, the state is a political oddity when stacked up against the rock solid GOP states to the North and to the East of Nevada. Its relative political flexibility also makes it a state that seems very much in play for the Democrats. Thousands of the state's voters are young, and could be considered moderate Democrats.

But that's what makes it even more troubling for Obama. A big cornerstone of his pitch is to younger, moderate Democrats, and independents. He has done everything possible to tailor his message, style, persona, and even the appearances he makes in the most racially neutral way possible. There is absolutely no chance that there will be a Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton sighting in his campaign at least in the swing states.

That's wise. They would be the political kiss of death for him if there is even the vaguest hint that they are visible in his campaign or too enthusiastically cheer lead his campaign. In fact Sharpton hasn't endorsed Obama, and Jackson's endorsement has been perfunctory. He has even criticized him a couple of times. Their noticeable hands off his campaign are tacit recognition of the Bradley Effect. Their active involvement in it or even favorable words by them about it could stir the Bradley Effect.

Though Obama has said nothing publicly about the Bradley Effect, he is very much aware that it derailed Bradley's drive to be the nation's first black governor in modern times, caused Doug Wilder to sweat nervously on Election night in Virginia before he squeaked out a win there for governor in 1989, and helped do in Harvey Gantt and Harold Ford, Jr. in their Senate campaigns in North Carolina and Tennessee. It wreaked havoc in other campaigns where a black has squared off face to face with a white candidate.

Though there's no proof that the Bradley Effect played any role in Obama's defeat in New Hampshire, Obama campaign insiders admit that they are keeping a hawk like eye out for any sign that it could crop up and hurt their man. They're smart to do that. The plain truth is that if Obama bagged every black vote in every state it wouldn't insure him the Democratic nomination, let alone the White House.

White males still make up nearly forty percent of the American electorate, and older white women make up a big bloc of voters, and the majority of them are Democrats. He can't win without their votes.

The Bradley Effect is murky, amorphous, and virtually defies fingering. Yet, it will cause nervous moments for Obama's campaign when it rolls into the South and the other Western and heartland states. There's a lot of campaign left. To write the obituary for the Bradley Effect is premature, and worse, foolhardy.

Obama Needs a History Lesson about Hillary and King

The Obama camp did it again. They manufactured yet another issue out of a non issue when they pounded Hillary Clinton for supposedly defiling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by minimizing his role in the civil rights struggle. Here's Hillary's terrible sin per the Obama campaign crowd: She said that Dr. King's dream was realized when President Lyndon Johnson shoved the 1964 Civil Rights Bill through Congress. This was anything but a put down of King.

Hillary paid tribute to King for laying the groundwork for the civil rights bill and gave justifiable credit to Johnson for ramming the bill through a bickering, divided and very recalcitrant Congress. Her point was that presidents that have their public policy priorities screwed on right can make changes, monumental changes, for good.

If Hillary could be faulted for anything it's that she didn't go far enough. If Johnson hadn't forcefully intervened and jawboned, prodded, arm twisted, and embarrassed the slew of wavering and hostile Congressmen to the bill into supporting the bill, or at least tempering their opposition to it, King's dream would have remained just that, an empty dream. King recognized that.

In a Playboy interview in 1965, he said this about Johnson: "He has demonstrated his wisdom and commitment in coming to grips with the problem (racial discrimination). My impression is that he will remain a strong president for civil rights." History amply proved that, and Johnson despite his Vietnam War tumble from historical grace, still is regarded as the president that did more for civil rights than any other president.

But I'd go even further still. King gets much deserved praise and is much honored for igniting the national fervor for civil rights and galvanizing thousands to put their bodies on the line in the civil rights battles. Yet, there's an ugly side and often forgotten note to that. The street marches and demonstrations also stirred the first tremors of white backlash.

The George Wallace surge in the North, the open hostility of many Northern whites to housing and school integration, and the Republican reawakening in the South was a direct outcropping of the civil rights push. This stiffened the spines of Southern Democrats and conservative Northern Republicans who dug their heels in and flatly opposed the bill, piled amendment after crippling amendment onto the bill initially, and employed every legal and parliamentary dodge and stall tactic they could dredge up to delay a vote on it, if not to kill it outright.

King could do nothing about this. JFK who introduced the bill couldn't do anything about it either. He was at his wits end after months and months of Congressional ducking and dodging on the bill about how to get it moving. By the time Johnson took office, following JFK's murder, the bill was still born in Congress. There was every chance that it could be shelved.

However, Johnson would have none of that. He was a Southerner and he knew the mood and temper of the South. From his decades in the Senate he knew where the political skeletons were buried and how to rattle them. He did what King and Kennedy didn't have a prayer of doing, he got the sympathetic ear of enough Southerners to take some of the steam out of their vehement opposition to the bill. The rest of course is history. The Civil Rights Bill, not King's marches and demonstrations, broke the back of legal segregation in America and became the watchword for progressive, visionary social legislation for decades to come.

King and all the top civil rights leaders knew that history had been made with the passage of the bill, and that the man that played the towering role in making that history was LBJ. At the signing ceremony for the bill, King and the other civil rights leaders beamed when Johnson handed them the pens after the signing. They effusively praised him for his tireless effort.

Hillary's statement was a simple, honest, and respectful nod to Johnson for his indispensable part in making civil rights a legal fact and reality in America. This was the same nod that King and the civil rights leaders made more than four decades ago to him.

This is a nod that the Hillary haters have forgotten or deliberately distorted in their clinical obsession to smash mouth every Hillary utterance. This is a history lesson that Hillary got right about King and Johnson, and one that the Obama campaign flunked badly.

Richly Deserved Bad Night for Hillary Haters in New Hampshire

It was a bad night for Hillary haters in New Hampshire. First, the woman who they love to loathe did what they dread most, she won. But that was just the start of their dismal night. She held two powerful constituencies together; older women voters and core Democrats.

They, not the much overblown independents, are the true ticket to the Democratic presidential nomination and beyond that the White House. The night got even worse for them. The big smile on Clinton's face told why. It wasn't a gloat, or and I told you so, the smile was a visceral and defiant expression of a rejuvenated and even more ready to do battle Clinton. The night sunk finally into the pits for the haters who had glibly and gloatingly assured one and all that an Obama steamroll of Clinton in New Hampshire and beyond was inevitable.

Predicting inevitability is a terrible burden to dump on the shoulders of a novice presidential contender who is still at the very front of the learning curve on foreign and national domestic policy issues, talks of hope and change but is vague on just what that hope and change will be, and is still pounding out a program on health care, education, tax policy, not to mention trying to figure out what and how to get us out of Iraq.

The Hillary haters got another hard lesson in American realpolitik in New Hampshire. It's risky, no dangerous, to predict a knockout of a seasoned political fighter before the first bell even sounds. That was pretty much what they did. But they forgot many things about Clinton and the campaign. Obama had won a grand total of one state, Iowa, and even that was less than met the eye. Iowa is a mildly Democratic leaning state, with a strong independent, even contrarian tradition among many voters.

Nominations, let alone, presidential contests are seldom won based on a candidate's showing in one state, or even a handful of early primary states. There have been countless examples in recent presidential campaigns where a candidate has won big in some states, and then lost the nomination. One example is Jesse Jackson. He, not Obama, has won more state primaries than any other black presidential candidate in 1988. Yet, Jackson's candidacy ultimately floundered over the course of a long and grueling campaign. New Hampshire, not Iowa, was the first true primary state where the popular vote, party loyalties, and a candidate's campaign savvy can be measured and tested.

Clinton knows what Obama has discovered, and her legion of loathers are to blind to see, and that's that elections are won not in early popularity polls, but in tough, gritty work in the state party caucuses, recruiting crack field organizers, and dedicated volunteers. Voters elect presidents that they feel will do three things: bring stability, strength, and experience to the top spot.

In every poll, and that includes the ones that have shown Obama gaping Clinton in popularity and likeability, voters give her top marks on experience and strength (They still give Obama short shrift on both). That's another way of saying that they don't want someone in the White House that will stumble and bumble on policy issues. Bush was elected and re-elected precisely because voters got conned into thinking that they were putting a guy in and back in the White House who was tough and experienced and would not fall on his face on policy issues. They were terribly wrong. Core Democrats won't make that mistake again.

Then there's the issue of constituency strength, or more particularly, who can do the best job in identifying where their strength is and corralling it. The 2008 presidential race will come down to a showdown in Florida, several of the key Western states, and the ability to unhinge one or two Southern states out of the GOP orbit. Victories in these states can seal the White House for the Democrats. Democrats won none of them in 2000 and 2004. The key to snaring those states require a big turnout from core Democrats, women, Latinos and blacks. Clinton divvies up the black vote with Obama and beats him handily with older women, core Democrats, and Latinos in those states.

Obama did well enough in New Hampshire. He handily won the independent vote and the youth vote (although they voted in far less numbers than expected, and that's not a good sign either for the candidate that banks on riding the crest of young voters to the nomination). But it's Democrats, lots of them, that seal nominations and potentially elect presidents. New Hampshire taught the Hillary haters that, and in the process tarnished the myth of Obama inevitability. It was truly a richly deserved bad night for Hillary haters in New Hampshire.

GOP Hit Squads Load Up For Obama

Barack Obama Exposed! This provocative, better to say inflammatory, headline screamed from the website and a handful of other websites virtually from the moment that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama announced his "dream campaign" for presidency on the steps of the State Capitol at Springfield, Illinois last February.

The website promised to reveal the "truth" about Obama, from his alleged role in corruption scandals to doubletalk on the issues. This was rightly laughed off as a typical smear and slander hit by one of the pack of ultra-conservative hit squads. The squad consists of the Fox News Network, talk shock jocks, New York Times neo-liberal, Wall St. Journal neo-con columnists, and Christian Evangelical politicos. In this case, the squad member doing the Obama hit was Human Events, a fringe, ultraconservative outfit.

The laughter at the Human Events attack was before Obama's smash win in Iowa. That instantly marked him as the potential Democrat's presidential go-to guy. It also set off alarm bells and whistles among the hit squads. With the exception of Human Event's website, they have rapped Obama with the most tepid criticism or kept hands off.

There are two reasons. One is Hillary Clinton. The media driven vendetta against her has been unprecedented. It has matched, and at times exceeded, even the worst of the hit attacks on hubby, Bill. The thousands of Stop Hillary websites that sprouted up piled shrill personal attack on shrill attack on her.

The second reason is the sneaky and sometimes open smugly expressed belief that an African-American had about as much chance of bagging the White House as a Martian. Legions of white voters in Iowa, one of the whitest, and most rural states, donned their color neutral lens and bought Obama's much touted pitch that he's a change agent and can repair the shambles reverse of Bush's domestic and foreign policies shattered that belief.

There were early warning signals of the ugliness that could come. Talk show gasser Rush Limbaugh took the first real swipe when he derisively sneered at Obama as the Magic Negro. Limbaugh kind of sort of backed away from it (the guns were still holstered).

But the message was that Obama was not exempt from a racial dig. That was also evident in the knock at Obama's Southside Chicago church, or to be more exact the minister at the church, Jeremiah Wright. He is an outspoken afro-centric activist on racial and social issues. The inference was that Obama's guilt by membership and friendship with him made him a closet radical and a race baiter.

There were the whispers and innuendos about Obama's self-admitted youthful drug use; the hint was that there might be a character issue with him ala Bill Clinton. That got no traction either but sent a signal that he was fair game for character assassination and dirt digging. The picking continued on the most trivial things such as his chain smoking, and pokes at his wife, Michelle as outspoken, bossy and domineering.

Then there was Oprah's much heralded barnstorm for Obama. That drew veiled snickers and jibes that Obama was an Oprah creation. Some mused out loud that Oprah was blatantly playing the race card by publicly gushing over a black candidate. Some cartoonists had a field day drawing an oversized, muscular Oprah dangling a puny Obama puppet style from her fingertips.

But this was mostly fun and games stuff, and few took it seriously since Obama at that point hadn't got a single vote from anyone in a primary election. Now that he has, the hit squads will dig and dig and dig, and comb through every inch of his personal life and poke through his voting record in the Illinois state legislature to find any bit of dirt, damaging scandal or damaging accusation.

Obama's zig and zag record on some issues during his stint in the state legislature, and his still work in progress positions on health care, education, terrorism, and foreign policy will be ripe for the pickings.

Then there's the inexperienced tag 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.

If none of that works, there's always the favored trump card: 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. It's always lurking in the deck waiting to be pulled.

Obama well knows the history of dirty political tricks against Democrats, especially liberals, black and women Democrats. If his surge becomes a tidal wave, the hit squads will load up on him as they have on countless others. It's nasty and brutal, but sadly, it's what passes for politics American style.

Why Rove Is Cheerleading for Obama

It's one of the oldest ethnic clichés in the book. The one that says beware of Greeks bearing gifts. But there's nothing ethnically incorrect about saying it when former Bush political guru Karl Rove bears political gifts to a Democrat.

The recipient of the Rove largesse is Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. In an open memo to Obama, Rove caused a titter when he ticked off six things that Obama should and could do to nail Hillary Clinton. Rove's sage suggestions were that he should mount an all-out no holds barred attack on her personality, record, and demeanor. Rove told Obama to stop sounding wishy-washy on the hot button issues such as immigration, and to tell the voters just who he is and what kind of change they'd expect in an Obama White House.

Since Rove is not a paid or unpaid consultant for Obama, those sound political stratagems he offered Obama on a public platter come with a price, or maybe better to say with Rove, an ulterior motive. It's not hard to figure it out what that is. Rove wants Obama to win. That seems to defy conventional GOP thinking that conservative Republicans are giddy with delight at the prospect of a Hillary nomination. Hillary carries mounds of baggage, being a woman, the Clinton name, the deep and resonant hate Bill residue from ultra rightists and Christian fundamentalists, and polls that consistently show Clinton has the lowest likeability ratings among the major candidates. She's so polarizing, so the thinking goes, that she'll single-handedly drive legions of Republican conservatives and fence leaning independents to storm the polls chanting an anybody but Hillary mantra.

The clinical hate for Clinton in some circles dripped off shock jock Don Imus's lips his first day back on the job. Imus picked up the throw-away line from the late avowed Clinton basher Jerry Falwell who likened Clinton to the great Satan a couple of years back and refused to take it back when he got flack for it.

Rove also knows something else about Hillary. While she bottoms out on the issue of likeability, polls also show that voters like her for her strength and experience. And top gun Democrats will back her to the hilt. Despite a ton of negatives, these are the qualities that ultimately powered Rove's boss back into the White House.

These are also the same qualities that ultimately could prove fatal to Obama's candidacy. Though he scores high on the likeability scale, he's swaps places with Clinton on the crucial issue of experience. He's still widely regarded as too new, too untested, and too inexperienced to win a head to head contest with Giuliani. Rove's Obama ploy, and that what it is, is a slick, sophisticated, reversal of the conservative Republican's Devil tag on Clinton. But it's every bit as cynical, and calculating. Paint Obama as a good guy, a fresh face, and someone who can make a real change for America.

The exact last things that Rove wants to see in a Democrat in the White House. But an on the attack Obama, that dogs Clinton at every step can create havoc in the Democratic Party. It could plunge the Party into an orgy of Clinton-Obama sniping, bashing, and finger pointing. That would fuel dissension, stoke bitter divisions and deflect attacks from Bush policies and the GOP candidates that for better or worse are Siamese twin like welded to him and his policies.

The contest would be reduced to a referendum on Hillary. The sores and wounds would be so deep that countless numbers of Democrats, especially black Democrats, who are torn down the middle between Clinton and Obama, would be lukewarm toward the eventual Democratic nominee, maybe lukewarm enough in the GOP's fondest hopes to stay home on Election Day.

Rove banks that Obama as the Democratic nominee would be even riper for the Republican pickings than Hillary. Though Obama is touted as the post civil rights generation candidate; meaning that he doesn't spew race politics as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and doesn't make white voters viscerally cringe, he's still an African-American. And race still matters in politics, and in some places matters a lot, especially as Rove well knows in the crucial battleground states of Ohio, Florida and other must win states.

Obama is tailor made for sneaky, closet reminders that his color and allegiance to race neutral politics is suspect. While white voters swear to interviewers and pollsters that they vote competence not color, after all who wants to come off looking and sounding like a bigot, there's still the ever murky phenomena of election booth conversion.

That's the phenomena where many white voters despite public declarations of color-blindness get sudden 20-20 color vision in the privacy of the voting booth when the race is between a black and a white candidate. Voter duplicity did in black Democrats Harvey Gant and Harold Ford in their respective Senate races against well-heeled white GOP opponents. Rove knows that too.

Rove gave Obama seemingly some priceless advice on beating Clinton. But the advice was not given to put Obama in the White House, but to make sure that he and no other Democrat gets there.

Distorting the Murder of Football Star Sean Taylor

A handful of black sportswriters hit the ceiling when they read initial press reports on the shooting death of Washington Redskins All-Pro safety Sean Taylor. The issue was the perennial, suspect, and sneaky alleged double standard in the reporting on and public view of tragedies that befall blacks and whites, especially athletes and celebrities.

The howl of protest goes up that when a black athlete is accused of bad behavior, criminality or boorishness the press and public go ballistic. They dredge up every misdeed the player has committed and ad nauseum drill it home that they are bad guys (or girls) and deserve the scorn of the nation.

When white athletes are accused of the same or worse bad behavior, criminality or boorishness, the excuses fly like raindrops in a hurricane, and then the news of their misdeeds vanishes from print and the airwaves faster than a Houdini disappearing act. Taylor is no exception to this rule, and the black journalists that raised the hue and cry were right to scream their lungs out about it.

The first accounts of Taylor's murder were spare on details of the shooting, since there was almost none, and there were no suspects, no reported clues, and no reported motivation for the shooting. But the reports more than made up for the sparseness by dredging up every sordid detail about Taylor's past run-ins with the law.

The image rammed into the public brain, what's become a template for depicting supposedly bad behaving, was bad acting young black males. The war of words was now on with a vengeance. The denials flew hot and heavy that any disrespect, and minimizing the tragedy, or that a subtle dump the blame for Taylor's death on his alleged thug lifestyle was intended. After all, those run-ins did badly color his life.

As distasteful as they might be, they were fair game for reporting. That's a good, even valid, point. Taylor did have problems, and there was nothing inherently inappropriate from a reporting, fact finding, or just plain human interest standpoint in saying that. The double standard line, however, is vaulted when a black athlete's woes are continuously repeated, and endlessly speculated about as a possible reason for his murder.

Though in most accounts after the initial harp on Taylor's past, balance was restored, and the reports emphasized the suffering of his parents, friends, and fans. There were sympathetic quotes about Taylor being a mature, positive role model, and about the pace of the investigation.

Yet, while follow-up stories mercifully dropped the dig at his past, the new take on him was that he had turned his life around. That still left the bitter taste that Taylor was a bad guy that went good, but it might have been too late to save him. To their credit most fans and writers and much of the public were more than willing to step past the blatant initial and ongoing subtle bias and give Taylor his mournful due.

But the bad taste of the initial paint of Taylor as a bad actor stuck like a lead weight in the craw. This isn't the only thing that's hurtful in the coverage of Taylor. There was the hint, and some talking heads did more than hint, that though Taylor was a rich, star athlete, he was still a young black male. And like all young black males he was in mortal peril of being gunned down.

In other words his fame and athletic prowess did not shield him from the black on black violence that supposedly rages in all big city poor black neighborhoods. The problem with that as with the skewed initial picture of Taylor is that it's a lie. Taylor did not live in a poor, black inner city Miami neighborhood. He lived in a palatial suburban home with his long time companion and daughter. Those that actually knew him said that he was a loner and that he did not hang out with a drug peddling, gang connected crowd.

But even if Taylor was the thug that initial accounts subtly implied he once was, the Taylor as a casualty of black violence line still is a falsity. Murder rates among young black males in Tayor's 16 to 24 year old age group are still far higher than those among young white males. But those rates in Taylor's age group have plummeted in the last decade according to FBI crime reports, as have murder rates in most urban areas.

In New York City, for instance, murder rates have dropped to the lowest level in forty years. In Miami-Dade County, crime plunged more than 20 percent and murder rates also dropped. The chances of a young black male dying at the hands of another young black male are far less today than in the past. The senseless snuffing out of Taylor's life was a heartbreaking tragedy. But it's Taylor's death, not his life, that's the only thing that should leave a bad taste. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

How to Beat Down a Black Sports Star

Beat 'em when they're down and beat 'em again for good measure before they can get up. The beat down supposedly is not the American way of dealing with those that are down. The ground rules radically changed the moment Marion Jones, Michael Vick, Barry Bonds and O.J. Simpson were dumped in a court docket. With them, the beat down has been on with a vengeance.

Let's look at them. Marion Jones. She gave her medals back voluntarily, came clean about her steroid use, did a profuse mea culpa, will probably do some jail time, doesn't have a nickel to her name, and is permanently disgraced. But that's not enough. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) screams for more gore. They will wipe her records from the books, demand that she repay $700,000 in prize money, and that the other women that ran on the gold medal winning relay teams with Jones give their medals back. There is not a scrap of evidence that they cheated.

This is the same IAAF that waxed fat off of Jones, raking in millions in promotional fees, soaring attendance at meets where she ran, and endorsement deals. This is the same IAAF that didn't lift a finger to go after some other big time (white) cheaters in track (the Greek Olympic silver medalist runner-up to Jones for example).

Barry Bonds. The hate Bonds mania rose to a shrill pitch long before his indictment for lying to a grand jury. The fans, sportswriters, and media talking heads feasted off Bonds' homerun exploits, the MLB wheels that watched in giddy delight as the fans dashed to the ballparks to see Bonds and admitted cheaters whack the ball out of there. In the process they jingled the turnstiles and resuscitated America's sinking favorite pastime. The MLB wheels did nothing when steroid use wasn't banned or illegal. The same bunch now has suddenly turned into pious saints on Bonds. The key players who say they'll testify against Bonds are a disgruntled trainer, an ex-mistress, and the best man at his wedding and tainted business partner.

Michael Vick. Dog fighting is cruel and reprehensible. But it's also legal in many countries, cheered on and reveled in by bettors, promoters and fans in this country, and winked and nodded at by law enforcement and prosecutors. Vick, as Jones, copped to his guilt, did mea culpa on top of mea culpa, and groveled to PETA. It didn't make a whit of difference. The state sniffed blood and a little notoriety and piled charges on him on top of those of the feds. Though he single-handedly rung his team's cash registers, and revived a dismally performing, attendance deflated Atlanta team, the Falcon's management demands every cent of his pay back. The ultimate insult is that the feds demand that he pay nearly a million dollars to them for keeping the confiscated dogs.

The Juice. O.J. has a good case that the sports stuff that he went after was his. The cast of characters lined up to testify against him are a motley collection of con men, shysters, hanger's ons, druggies and convicted felons. Yet, the press and prosecutors are in ecstasy reminding one and all that Simpson could get life in prison when, not if, he's convicted.

Jones, Bonds, Vick and Simpson were one time black sports icons. But there's a price, a steep price, to be paid for resting on that high perch. One misstep and they become the instant poster boys (and girls) for all that's allegedly wrong with sport and society.

There are two reasons for that. When Jones burned up the cinders, Bonds tore up the bleachers with his shots, Vick darted up and down the field, and Simpson successfully juked his way from Hall of Fame glory into the broadcast booth, they became the gatekeepers for the storehouse of fantasies and delusions of a sports crazed public as well as advertisers, sportswriters, and TV executives that are in desperate need of vicarious escape, titillation, excitement, and profits. The maligned four were the ultimate sports heroes that fulfilled that need.

They were expected to move in the rarified air above the fray of human problems while raising society's expectation of what's good and wholesome. They were rewarded handsomely for fulfilling that fantasy even though they are terribly flawed persons as are most sports icons.

The other reason for the beat down is they're black, rich and famous. The hurt the black super stars caused when they betrayed the collective self delusion of sport as pure and pristine is layered over and under with jealousy and resentment. That's evident in the constant fan and sportswriter carping about how spoiled, pampered and over paid black athletes supposedly are. The first hint of any bad behavior by them ignites a torrent of self-righteous columns and commentary that reinforce the stereotype of the crime prone, ignorant, untutored, bonehead black athlete.

Jones, Bonds, Vick and Simpson have had their day in court, the court of public opinion that is. They were tried, convicted and sentenced long before they had or will have their trials. Their sentences are cruel, but given who they are, not unusual. It's called the beat down.

Why Al Sharpton is the Man Millions Love to Hate

The only thing really remarkable about the warning from the FBI to Al Sharpton that an unnamed, and unspecified dangerous substance may have been mailed to his National Action Network office in New York was that it came from the FBI.

For months Sharpton has bitterly complained that he had been receiving a steady stream of hate mail, and death threats, and had repeatedly told law enforcement and the FBI about the threats. He questioned just how seriously they took them. This time the FBI apparently took the substance threat serious enough to warn him.

That Sharpton should be under attack is hardly a surprise. If it's a police shooting, a protest over housing discrimination, a Jena six march, the charge to dump Dump Don Imus, a fist shake at the Bush administration, the bet is that Sharpton will be in the thick of the action.

When Sharpton toppled Jesse Jackson from the top spot as black America's main man, the notoriety, and the hostility, that that title carries with it, insured that he'd take the heat for whatever went right or wrong when blacks took to the streets in protest. Sharpton's ubiquitous visibility on the protest front and willingness to go virtually anywhere as the visible, face and voice of angry black America makes him a universal punching bag.

But that doesn't totally explain the deep, and almost clinical loathing that the mere mention of Sharpton's name stirs among far too many whites, and a fair number of blacks. There are two bigger reasons why the hatred-fascination for Sharpton. He shakes, rattles, and ignites the goblin of racial denial in many whites.

Sharpton is a breathing, walking, reminder that race still matters, and matters a lot in America. He is a slap in the face to the legions that duck, dodge, deflect, and flat out deny that there's still a lot of racial hurt inflicted on blacks. Sharpton shatters their comforting delusion that racial hate is a dusty antique thing of a bygone past, a figment of the overwrought, paranoid imagination of many blacks, or better still that blacks themselves with their alleged incessant penchant for playing the race card are the only bigots left in America.

The flap over Imus or Dog the Bounty Hunter was a textbook example of that. The instant they copped to their racial sins, the predictable happened. Legions of whites unleashed a torrent of self-righteous, angry, and near paranoid rants on internet chat rooms, on the comment section of news blogs, and in emails to this writer, hysterically defending Imus and Dog. They cussed Sharpton, always Sharpton, even though he had nothing to do with Dog or Imus opening their traps and blurting out their racist digs. Sharpton got the by now familiar taunts -- race baiter, hustler, clown, buffoon, and racial pimp.

For an instant one would have thought that Sharpton had called whites the C word, and the Duke Lacrosse players accused of rape, nappy headed honkies. But then again if there wasn't a Sharpton, he'd have to be invented, or someone such as him. That's because blacks are eternally straight-jacketed with the tiresome monolith of race burden. Think how ludicrous it sounds to say the white leader, the Latino leader, the Asian Leader.

But that's not the case with blacks, whites demand a one-size-fits-all black leader; the "black leader." There's a method to this absurdity. When the mantle of black leadership is wrapped tightly around one man, the presumption is that he or she speaks for all blacks. Jackson, pre-Sharpton's muscling him off the top perch, was the whipping boy.

In the 1980s when he talked about forming the Rainbow Coalition, blacks were attacked as radicals. When he talked about building an independent black political organization, blacks were attacked as separatists. When he talked about boycotting corporations and baseball leagues that racially discriminate in hiring and promotion, blacks were attacked as disruptive. When he called New York "hymietown," blacks were attacked as anti-Semitic. When he talked about leading a national crusade to save affirmative action, blacks were attacked as wanting quotas and special preferences for the unqualified.

It's the same with Sharpton. While he took much heat for the Tawana Brawley rape controversy, the burning down of a Jewish-owned store in Harlem after picketing that he endorsed, and his then penchant for shoot-from-the-lip inflammatory statements, so did blacks. They were forced to publicly defend him from the attacks while privately grousing that he made them look like idiots. Like clockwork, even though the Brawley case happened nearly two decades ago, whenever there's a Sharpton sighting on an issue it's instantly thrown up in his face.

When the FBI notified him of the dangerous substance threat, Sharpton quickly sent out an alert to his regional offices. Whether the dangerous substance threat was real, or more likely a crank, it won't change one thing. Sharpton will continue to be the man that millions love to hate.

The Escalation of Girl Fights

The term "'b**** fighting" is what some women privately call a pier room brawl that a pack of girls or young women engage in with one another. The term and the behavior is loathsome and offensive. But it was that sort of brawl that claimed the life of 23-year-old Shontae Blanche, and even more shockingly, her 7 month unborn child. The young expectant mother and part time student was killed when another young woman allegedly ran over her and dragged her.

Blanche had tried to break up a fight between a dozen women at a service station in South Los Angeles in early November. The women were young, black, and reportedly some had ties with gang members. They had gathered at the station to battle it out following a dispute between two of the women.

The altercation did more than claim the life of a young mother. It tossed the ugly glare on an age old problem that has grown worse in the past few years. And that's the escalation in violence by and among young women. A decade ago the Center for Women's Policy Studies published a landmark study on girls and violence. More than one third of girls they surveyed said that they had engaged in physical fights within a year's time. Nearly 20 percent said they carried weapons. And nearly half said they believed that girls were nearly as violent as boys. A Justice Department study found that from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s the number of women jailed for violent crimes had more than doubled.

A decade later the willingness of more young women, especially black women, to resort to fisticuffs and even weapons to settle disputes or commit crimes has become an even bigger problem. Girls Inc., a non profit advocacy group that monitors violence by and toward young women, found that far more black girls were injured in school fights than white girls. The spiraling cycle of violence that entraps many black girls was on naked and tormenting display last year when nine black girls were hauled into a Long Beach, California court in shackles.

The girls were charged with a violent hate crime attack on three young white women on Halloween night in 2006 in Long Beach. The sight of so many girls standing trial at one time on a charge, especially the hate crimes charge, was rare. But the sight of so many black girls in a court docket and increasingly in America's juvenile jails and prisons has become anything but rare.

Black women in some states are being imprisoned at alarming rates. And they are being jailed at younger ages than ever. An American Bar Association study in 2001 found that teen girls account for more than one-quarter of the juvenile arrests. They are charged with more violent crimes, and are being shoved back into detention centers after release, in some cases even faster than boys.

The ABA has not done a follow-up study since then to determine if there's been any change in the troubling dilemma so many black girls face in the juvenile system. But, almost certainly, the high arrest and incarceration rate for black teen girls is likely the same if not greater today, and many of them are there for violent crimes. They have engaged in physical fights and assaults, and even school yard brawls with other girls, or even boys.

The explanations for the up tick in female violence are varied. The near glorification of the male code of toughness to get ahead in business, politics, and sport has virtually been enshrined as a prized virtue in society. Women have not been immune from it. There's the bloat of Gladiator spectacles such as WWF matches with women tossing each other around in a ring, posturing, swaggering, and cussing like drunken sailors, and barroom toughs. The toughness virtue has even slipped into politics. In polls, women by big margins said the thing they admire most about Hillary Clinton is her toughness.

Many young black women are continually exposed to violence in their communities. They have ties with male gang members, they themselves are members of gangs, or they have committed assaults. The Center for Women's Policy Studies also found that many of the women that engaged in physical fights have been victims of rape, assault, or robbery. This further imprints the tacit stamp that violence is the pervasive method to control, dominate, bully, and gain advantage over people and situations.

There's a double dilemma for the girls and young women that commit violent acts. The risk is great that they can be maimed, killed or wind up serving a long prison stretch. And since violence is still thought of almost exclusively as a male preserve, there's a near total absence of studies on the causes and consequences of female violence. That means even fewer fewer resources, programs and support outlets to keep at-risk girls and young women out of harm's way and from harming other women. The Blanche killing is tragic proof of that.

Obama Plays to Anti-Gay Sentiment

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama ripped a page straight from the Bush campaign playbook with his announced upcoming three date barnstorm tour through South Carolina with notorious gay basher, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The Grammy winning black gospel singer's last effort on the political scene was his song and shill for Bush's re-election at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Obama has hitched his string to McClurkin's high flying gay bash kite in part out of religious belief (he purports to be somewhat of an evangelical), in bigger part because he's falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton with the black vote in South Carolina and everywhere else, and in the biggest part of all because he hopes that what worked for Bush's re-election will work for him. Enter McClurkin. He's black, he's popular, and gospel plays big with blacks in South Carolina, especially black evangelicals, and many of them openly and even more of them quietly loathe gays.

Bush masterfully tapped that homophobic sentiment in 2000 in part with McClurkin and even more masterfully in 2004 again with McClurkin and the top gun mega black preachers in Ohio and Florida. He tapped it so masterfully that Bush's naked pander to gay bashing with the GOP spawned anti-gay marriage initiative in Ohio did much to win over a big chunk of black evangelical leaning voter to Bush.

In fact, the great untold story of the 2004 presidential elections was the black evangelical vote. Although black evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, they gave Bush the cushion he needed to bag Ohio and win the White House. There were early warning signs that might happen. The same polls that showed black's prime concern was with bread and butter issues -- and that Kerry was seen as the candidate who could deliver on those issues -- also revealed that a sizeable number of blacks ranked abortion, gay marriage and school prayer as priority issues. Their concern for these issues didn't come anywhere close to that of white evangelicals, but it was still higher than that of the general voting public.

A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll in 2004 found that blacks by a far larger margin than the overall population opposed gay marriage. That raised a few eyebrows among some political pundits, but there were much earlier signs of blacks' relentless hostility to gays and gay rights. A survey that measured black attitudes toward gays published in Jet magazine in 1994 found that a sizable number of blacks were suspicious and scornful of them. Many blacks also were put off by Kerry's perceived support of abortion. In polls, Kerry got 20 percent less support from black conservative evangelicals than Democratic presidential contender Al Gore received in 2000.

In Florida and Wisconsin, Republicans aggressively courted and wooed key black religious leaders. They dumped big bucks from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative program into church-run education and youth programs. Black church leaders not only endorsed Bush but in some cases they actively worked for his re-election, and encouraged members of their congregations to do the same.

This lesson isn't lost on Obama. Desperate to snatch back some of the political ground with black voters that are slipping away from him and to Hillary; Bush's black evangelical card seems like the perfect play. Obama wouldn't dare go down the knock gay path, and risk drawing the inevitable heat for it, if he didn't think as Bush that anti-gay sentiment is still wide and deep among many blacks.

And that's what makes Obama's ala Bush pander to anti-gay mania even more shameless and reprehensible. From the moment that he tossed his hat in the presidential ring, Obama has done everything he could to sell himself to voters, as the Man on the White Horse, a fresh new face on the scene, with new ideas, and the candidate that's not afraid to boldly challenge Bush and the GOP on everything from the Iraq war to health care. He's also sold himself as a healer and consensus builder. Legions have bought his pitch, and have shelled out millions to bankroll his campaign. But healing and consensus building does not mean sucking up to someone that publicly boasts that he's in "a war" against gays, and that the aim of his war is to "cure" them. That's what McClurkin has said. Polls show that more Americans than ever say that they support civil rights for gays, and a torrent of gay themed TV shows present non-stereotypical depictions of gays. But this increased tolerance has not dissipated the hostility that far too many blacks, especially hard core Bible thumping blacks, feel toward gays.

Obama has spent months telling everyone that he's everything that Bush isn't. He can proof it by saying a resounding no to McClurkin and to gay bashing. He can repudiate and cancel the South Carolina "gospel" tour, and do it now.

Understanding Clarence Thomas

A little more than a year after his bruising Supreme Court confirmation battle a media gun shy Clarence Thomas made his first cautious public appearance. He wanted the friendly of friendliest audiences and chose Mercer University, a conservative law school in Georgia for his speech.

In his talk, Thomas got right to what he wanted to say or more particularly whom he wanted to lambaste. He cloaked himself in the martyr's garment and said that he expected to be treated badly by blacks for daring to challenge the tenets of racial orthodoxy. "You were considered a traitor to your race, and not considered a real black person."

A decade and a half later Thomas hasn't budged one inch from his relentless public and private war against civil rights leaders and liberal Democrats. In his autobiography, My Grandfather's Son, his war of ideology and words shows no signs of abating. He wraps himself just as tightly in the martyr's garment as he did in his Mercer speech. He sledgehammers liberal Democrats and civil rights groups just as hard as before.

In trying to make sense of Thomas' doctrinaire, contrarian court votes and opinions, and his private war against civil rights groups the plain answer is that they are payback to civil rights and civil liberties groups for trying to wreck his confirmation to the high court. But there's more to it than that. For the thin-skinned Thomas race has always lurked close to the surface -- often too close. And it's intimately, but falsely, intertwined with the debate over conservative ideology.

In the Mercer speech, and anyplace else where he's gotten the chance, Thomas has repeatedly bristled at the knock that civil rights leaders don't consider him a real black person because of his ultra conservative views. He railed at that and them in his Mercer speech but for far different reasons than his black critics say.

Many blacks expect whites to espouse conservative views. That expectation is deeply colored by race. They can't separate racism from conservatism. Since many blacks view whites as racist or as having racist views, they believe that conservatism must be an expression of racial blinders. But racism and conservatism can be mutually incompatible.

There is no one-to-one correlation between a conservative's espousal of free market economics and their attack on government regulations and them being a racial bigot. Yet the notion that a conservative is by definition a racist is deeply ingrained in the belief of many blacks.

Thomas has occasionally warned Republicans about racial insensitivity. And there are many blacks whose views are just as conservative as his in opposing abortion and gay rights and affirmative action and are just as hard line on crime and punishment. It matters not. Thomas can't win.

Civil rights leaders will continue to brand him as a fake, inauthentic black man. He's the black guy who sold his soul for a few pieces of conservative and even racist silver to them. The genteel 60 Minutes profile on him so infuriated Thomas bashers that they announced that they'd take the airwaves to set the record straight about him.

The notion that Thomas is not just a Judas and traitor but unfit to be called a real black man bothered the man that Thomas replaced on the high court, Thurgood Marshall. The liberal, activist, blunt spoken, civil rights icon Marshall is everything that civil rights groups consider to be the stuff that makes up a real black man. In other words everything Thomas isn't. But in a two hour meeting after his nomination, Marshall warned Thomas that he would be held to a far harsher standard of scrutiny on and away from the bench than a white conservative in the same spot.

That's even more glaring in the way civil rights leaders link Thomas to Antonin Scalia. The ultra conservative Scalia is so organically welded to Thomas in their lock step judicial votes and opinions, civil rights groups routinely slam him as Scalia's lackey. That's another way to say that black conservatives are the puppets and Republicans are the string pullers. Yet there was not a peep of criticism that Marshall and liberal justice William Brennan were virtual bobsey twins in their votes and opinions. There was no suggestion that Marshall took orders from the liberal white justice.

Thomas's conservative, unorthodox, views and legal opinions on the death penalty, age and gender bias, first amendment, prisoner rights and affirmative action cases were well known by the time he hit the court in 1991. It could hardly be said that Thomas latched on to judicial conservatism solely to curry favor with white conservatives to snatch a seat on the high court. Yet the belief that he did guarantees that the grandfather's son will be man civil rights groups and Democrats will perennially loathe as the black that got away. Judging from his book, Thomas will return the favor.

Why Top GOP Candidates Skipped the Black College Debate

It was galling to hear the top gun Republican presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson weasel out of the Republican presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 27 at historically black Morgan State University with the well-worn ploy of a scheduling conflict. It probably wasn't much consolation to the debate sponsors that the fearsome foursome candidates also flagged out of the YouTube, Univision, and the so-called values debates at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Some chalked their no-show at these yak sessions to a case of the GOP reverting back to its ugly type. That being a return to its long standing pre-Bush Jr. political encrusted political mantra to say and do as little about civil rights and social issues. Bush supposedly changed all that. Though few blacks bought his much ballyhooed vow to make the GOP a big tent part of diversity, it at least held out some promise of eventually transforming the GOP into something other than a clubby good ole white guys dorm party. But calling the GOP's candidates' debate snub as a reversal to benign neglect is much too simplistic.

The GOP candidates didn't bug out solely because they have an acute phobia of discussing racial matters, or worse because they have a phobia for black folks. The big four are hard nosed politicians. They count numbers first and last, and the number that counts most is 270. That's the electoral count that it takes to rebag the White House. In a year when millions hold the GOP in only slightly higher regard than disgraced former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and O.J. Simpson, the GOP must do anything and everything it can to again win the South and the stretch of states from the heartland to the West. They have the big chunk of the votes to win those state's electoral votes.

The GOP candidates can't rely again on the Christian right to deliver en masse. It's too fragmented, alienated and disillusioned with GOP scandals and broken promises. The GOP's trump card is conservative but centrist white males. They make up a big share of the America's electorate. In a debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley in May, the GOP candidates tipped their hand on how they aim to get their votes in 2008.

They wrapped themselves tightly in the mantle of Ronald Reagan, and each jockeyed to position themselves as the heir apparent. At the debate, the ten presidential candidates bellowed out his name nineteen times. Their Reagan love fest was not solely a calculated political ploy to play on the name of the man that millions still hold in reverential awe. Reagan did not actively court the Christian fundamentalists, Hispanics, and it's doubtful if YouTube had been around then he wouldn't have anything to do with it. Reagan courted Nixon's forgotten man.

The Reagan revolution didn't merely return America to a world in which God, patriotism, rugged individualism, militant anti-communism and family values ruled supreme. Reagan, far more adroitly, than Nixon a decade before him parlayed the forgotten American sentiment and a sanitized image of the past into a powerful conservative ideological movement. He stoked their fervent hope that a telegenic, conservative Republican could fulfill Nixon and Goldwater's promise to restore law and order, clamp down on permissiveness and restore prosperity.

Reagan upped Goldwater and Nixon's ante. His first task was to eliminate the remnants of the Great Society programs rejected by an increasingly disenchanted public as government handouts to minorities. He didn't totally succeed. But he further eroded public enthusiasm for massive spending on social and education programs. Reagan fixated Middle Americans on the government as pro-higher taxes, pro-bureaucracy, pro-immigrant and especially pro-welfare and pro-rights of criminals.

He painted government as a destructive, bloated, inefficient white elephant, weighting down the backs of Americans. He claimed that government entitlement programs that benefited the poor were a crushing drain on the budget. The Reagan wannabes have played hard on these themes and vowed to cut taxes and tighten the reins even more on federal spending in their debates.

The top GOP contenders Giuliani, McCain, Romney, as well as the other seven that stood on the podium at the Reagan library in May, owe their political life to Reagan. Their stay the course talk on Iraq, terrorism, taxes and curbing federal spending, and of course, staying mute on social issues are pages straight from Reagan's playbook. The not-so-subtle aim is to shore up any wavering GOP backing in the South.

They will continue to invoke Reagan's patented winning God, country, and patriotic themes in debates through 2007 and in the primaries in 2008. The big four hope that Reagan's legacy and themes will be the winning formula for them too. Saying no to a debate at historically black Morgan State and any other similar forum is merely there way of trying to capitalize on that formula.

Jena Six Case Shows Black Teens Get Short End of Stick

Editor's note: When a Louisiana judge locked up six black teens in the Jena case an investigative team cried foul. On Sept. 14, an appeals court vacated the remaining conviction for second degree battery against one of the accused, saying the charges should have been brought in juvenile court.

Four years before an indifferent, drowsy press and public finally fumed at the news that a prosecutor and judge tossed the book at six black teens in a small Louisiana town for beating up a white teen following a racially charged incident, a Louisiana legislative investigating team sternly warned that the state's juvenile justice system was horribly mangled.

It found that the state couldn't lock up juveniles fast enough for mostly non-violent crimes. The team noted that the sentences slapped on them were wildly out of proportion to their crimes, and that the kids had almost no access to counseling, job and skills training, and family support programs that could ensure that they didn't wind up back in the slammer.

Though alternative sentencing programs are far more cost effective than jailing, they are scarce and under-funded, and Louisiana officials have resisted calls to increase funding and resources to boost these programs.

The investigators also found unsurprisingly that black teens were hit with far stiffer sentences than white teens for the same crimes. It made no difference whether the whites had a prior history of criminal or bad behavior and the black teens were altar boys and had a squeaky clean record. The blacks still got harsher sentences. Countless studies show that a black teen is six times more likely to be tried and sentenced to prison than a young white, even when the crimes are similar, or even less severe than those committed by white teens.

Nationally, blacks make up 40 percent of youths tried in adult courts and nearly 60 percent of those sentenced to state prisons.

In Jena, the prosecutor, mostly because of the public furor over the case, reduced charges against two of the youth. But that's an exception. Prosecutors nearly always push for hard time for offenders. This is infuriatingly apparent in Jena. One of the defendants, a star football player, was convicted on a reduced battery charge. Yet, he still could get a 15-year prison sentence.

The investigators implored the legislature to do something to correct the problem. They came up with a series of reform recommendations. They were largely ignored and four years later, state legislators have shown little inclination to fully enact the juvenile justice reforms.

Louisiana legislators haven't turned a tin ear to screams for reform solely out of ignorance, inertia, or fear of a public backlash. The legislators read and watch the same relentless stream of newspaper and television reports of drive-by shootings, drug shootouts, and gang wars, most of them involving young blacks. This confirms the terrified feeling that many Americans have that young people - especially young black males - are out of control.

They are convinced that teen violence has spawned a new class of youthful "super predators" and that the juvenile justice system is far too easy on them.

The notion that juveniles are running wild though is a myth.

According to recent FBI crime figures, the rates for murder and assault among teenagers have plummeted since 1993, even among black teens.

Yet politicians have overreacted badly to the public panic. In the past decade, more than 30 states have loosened, if not eliminated, laws requiring juveniles be tried and sentenced in juvenile courts.

The criminal justice system's harsh treatment of young blacks, like the Jena teens, fuels the suspicion of many blacks that judges, prosecutors and probation officers bend way over backwards to give young white offenders the benefit of the doubt and are far less willing to label and treat them as dangerous habitual offenders, even when they commit violent crimes.

One study of the attitudes of probation officers toward black and white teen offenders found that they were far more likely to attribute black juvenile crimes to such family or character flaws as chronic disrespect toward authority and to brand them as inherent troublemakers.

They were more likely to blame white bad behavior on conditions outside their control such as hanging out with the wrong crowd, or to troubling family conflicts. Judges and prosecutors read the probation reports and heed their recommendations and if they are favorable, as they are more often than not with young whites, judges are much more inclined to approve alternative sentencing or treatment programs for them. An unfavorable report is just as likely to result in hard time in juvenile or adult jails.

The outrage over the Jena case will probably force town prosecutors to edge away a little more from the harsh charges against the teens, but only a little. They, like prosecutors everywhere, are convinced that black teens are habitual lawbreakers and that the public clamors for them to heave the book at them. And that's exactly what they routinely do in daily courts throughout the country.

It's business as usual for black teen offenders and Jena won't change that. And that's an even bigger tragedy.

Will They Arrest Britney in Mansfield for Sagging Pants?

It's a good thing that Britney was at the MTV TRL show in London a year or so ago and not in Mansfield, Louisiana when she pranced across the stage with her pants slung low around her behind. If Spears had dared to show so much belly and behind flesh in the town on September 15 she would be fined $150 or tossed in the slammer for 15 days. But we all know that the screwy, harebrained law that the fashion censors in Mansfield and a handful of other Louisiana cities passed in recent years that mandate fines, community service, and now jail time for sagging pants wearers don't really apply to the male or female Britneys of the world. They apply to young black males. The laws are much more than a terribly wrong headed effort to regulate public dress, decency, discipline or moral values. They reinforce the worst media and publicly ingrained stereotype of young black males as drug dealers, drive by shooters, gang bangers and educational cripples.

Sagging pants are an easy and convenient symbol of the supposed dereliction and menace of young blacks. The consequence of that symbol and thinking has been devastating. Despite the plummet in crime rates, racial stereotypes have deeply embedded the popular and terrifying belief that crime in America comes exclusively with a young, black male face. The result: nearly one million blacks are now warehoused in America's jails, the majority of them young blacks, and a significant number of them are there for non-violent, petty drug crimes.

Sagging pants are such a soft and juicy target for the scapegoat of young black males that even comedian Bill Cosby couldn't resist taking a swipe at it and them in his now legendary tirade a couple of years ago against low-achieving, badly behaving young blacks. He fingered sagging pants as proof to him that they had become a menace. Cosby later made a partial recant of his knock and explained that it was a call for action and not a broad brush stroke indictment of all young black males. But it was too little, too late. The sagging pants equals black male perversity notion was even more firmly imprinted in the public psyche

Though Cosby is one of the best-known blacks to fan negative racial stereotypes, he's hardly the only one. Despite much evidence to the contrary, many blacks routinely trash, demean and ridicule themselves. In fact, it was the African-American councilpersons in Shreveport, Mansfield and the other small towns that dredged up the ridiculous sagging pants laws. Some blacks in the rap and hip-hop world, of course, are deeply complicit in fanning the stereotype. The rap moguls have reaped king's ransoms peddling their music-video-cartoon version of the thug life. The rebellious young of all colors that shell out billions to enrich them are almost totally mindless of the social complexities, and the artistic and intellectual richness of the black experience. Even more tragic, some blacks further bolster the thug life stereotype by committing or winding up as victims of violence. The murders of rap icons Tupac Shakur, and Notorious BIG have been the stuff of cheap media sensationalism.

The spate of sagging pants laws does even more social damage than just reinforcing vile stereotypes and potentially swelling the jail population. It also confirms for many that the problems of poor blacks are self-made and insoluble. Many employers admit that they won't hire young blacks because they believe they are lazier, more crime prone, and educationally deficient. Many politicians, even without the excuse of ballooning state and federal budget deficits and cutbacks, mightily resist efforts to increase spending on job, health and education programs for the poor.

In Shreveport, where the sagging pants law passed by a narrow four to three vote, the opponents raised the standard arguments that the law infringes on personal and freedoms, probably violates free speech, free expression, constitutional protections, and will overburden police and the courts by forcing them to waste valuable time and resources measuring the hem line on pants when they should be about the business of dealing with serious crimes. The opponents of the law though didn't raise any protest that the law won't provide jobs, skills training, fix failing schools, and provide greater mentoring and family support programs for young black males.

The sagging pants law has been the butt (pardon the pun) of jokes, and much ribald fun-poking. But stereotypes and bad social policy are no laughing matter. The city fathers and mothers in Mansfield, and the other towns that foisted the law on their books should stop the craziness, realize that this law solves no problems, and wipe it off their books. That is before some other cities are tempted to follow their lead and make themselves look silly and pass this crazy law too. That is unless they plan to arrest Britney for her bottom dragging pants.

Fonda Should Apologize for Gutter Name Call of Hillary

Last June actress and inveterate antiwar activist Jane Fonda soared to the top of a club that boasts millions of charter members. It's the hate Hillary Clinton club. Fonda called Clinton a "ventriloquist for the patriarchy with a skirt and a vagina." The big, crude, tasteless dig at Hillary wallows in the name calling gutter. The most hardline, shrill bash-Hillary Christian fundamentalists haven't stooped that low in name calling. And they've said and continue to say some pretty nasty things about her.

Fonda's quote has been picked up and run with by a legion of conservative website yakkers and bloggers. They have virtually made Fonda a perverse kind of heroine. Her silly broadside loaded up their ammo bandolier and they are firing away at Clinton. The sudden Fonda conservative love fest has stood politics and personalities on its head because Fonda for decades has bordered on being a virtual anti-Christ to many ultra-right conservatives. But Fonda's quote (not her) was redeeming and again tells much about the near clinical Hillary Hatred that those that style themselves progressives and even liberal Democrats froth with.

At last count there were more than 17,000 websites devoted solely to gabbing about, or more accurately knocking Hillary, and though most are put up jobs by conservative political hit groups, a handful of them are by liberal and progressive bloggers. They take much giddy delight in pounding Hillary. The comments so-called progressive respondents make to any and every Hillary piece (including those of this writer) that try to take even a hint of a balanced look at Hillary and her candidacy make the digs at Clinton on arch conservative sites such as Newsmax and Townhall pale in comparison.

Even Elizabeth Edwards couldn't resist tossing her two cents into the Hillary distaste ring when she claimed that Hillary hatred could ruin the Democrat's bid for the White House.

Clinton's sins are A. She initially backed the Iraq war and has refused to apologize for it ala Edwards or claimed ala Obama that he was a closet anti-Bush, anti-war guy all along; B. She is a clubby good ole girl, deal-making, centrist, Democrat who doesn't shout loudly enough about feminism; C. Is anointed by the big money, Democratic Party shot callers; and D. Is married to womanizer, Bill.

A few weeks after the Fonda salvo and a week before the Edward's Clinton hit, polls showed that she was the runaway choice as the most disliked of the big gun candidates. The only two constituent groups that give Clinton anything that faintly resembles unconditional love are black women and Latino voters.

But among other voters, polarization is still the watchword with Hillary. A recent Post-ABC poll found that those who liked her dead heated with those who didn't. (49 to 48 percent). But if the black and Latino respondents were taken out of the poll the dislike of her among whites would have been crushing. And that's not solely among conservatives. That includes a lot of liberals and progressives too.

The anybody but Hillary mania is also driven by two other things. One is named Obama. The other is named Edwards. Liberal Democrats and progressives rhapsodize that they are for gutsier, visionary, progressive, and far less likely to wheel and deal in high Washington and corporate circles than Hillary.

Edwards maybe, and that's a maybe only because he has been willing to stick his neck out and relentlessly beat up on Bush, the GOP and DLC leaning Democrats for not saying and doing more on labor and poverty issues. If Edwards got the nomination, it would be interesting to see how hard he kept pushing the populist envelope when confronted with the very real chance of bagging the White House. That would mean having to appeal to a big swatch of independents in the South and the heartland, and it would mean getting the bucks and the backing of those same DLC Democrats that he has savaged.

The ancient political truism for White House aspirants would kick in with a vengeance with Edwards. That's run to the right or left when you're on the outside looking in, flee to the middle when you're on the inside and want to win. As for Obama, there's little in his track record in the Illinois legislator, the U.S. Senate, or his mostly obscured from public view dealing with the big wig Democrat and corporate money changers to indicate that he's the populist/radical that many fantasize that he is.

Fonda's enmity toward Clinton certainly won't, nor is it really designed to, help her candidacy. In fact, it's designed to torpedo it. If Fonda is to be taken at her vindictive worst about her, and Hillary as expected gets the Democratic nod, then the logical meaning of her rap is that she'd rather see a Giuliani or even a Romney in the White House than Hillary. After all they aren't ventriloquists for chauvinistic males and they don't have vaginas. Let's hope Jane hasn't gone that far off the deep end. If she has she owes Hillary an apology.




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