THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

Here We Go

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 31, 2008

Successful and confident African American men have heard this before, “you’re arrogant.”  Usually leveled by those that confuse cool with arrogance and who are beset by a lack of self confidence and who are scared for their jobs and their positions.

We suspect the Harvard educated, successful and confident presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama has heard this before he burst upon the national scene.  So we presume he was ready for the claim to follow him to his present level of success.

We first heard the whispers after the stunning win in Iowa in January.  Since then whispers have grown into a full blown complaint and “stories” by traditional news outlets in recent days including an article by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post today which accused Obama…gasp…of being “hustled…through a side door…” by Secret Service during his meeting yesterday  with House Democrats.  We guess Mr. Millbank would like Obama to walk around without the protection despite the legitimate death threats so as not to appear so arrogant. 

Meanwhile, insecure folks start name calling and harassing Obama about telling supporters at a fundraiser for his campaign that the chances of his victory in November are “very good,” um was he suppose to say “we stink, we got no shot!” The chances are good, some say very good that he will win in the fall but the critics of his fundraiser comments always seem to leave out what he said after “our chances are very good,” he went on to say “but it will be difficult.”  Ah yes the ramblings of an arrogant man. 

Yes Obama has a streak of arrogance as do all elected officials.  Anyone who thinks they can lead people and speak for the public has a touch of arrogance.  But is Obama more arrogant than another elected official?  More then the last Democratic standard bearer Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) or the current president?  Or than Obama’s primary opponents especially Senators Clinton and Biden?  We think not.

We understand there is a fine line between cool and arrogance just look at the football fields of the fall and basketball courts of the winter.  But to say Obama has crossed that line because 200,000 people in Germany came see him and world leaders showered him with praise in his recent tour of Europe and the Middle East is a complete misunderstanding of how an African American male has to carry himself in history breaking moments or it is a revealing of the insecurities of low self esteem club.    

Whatever it is don’t hate, appreciate and try to emulate and if that is too heavy a lift just move out of the way.

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U.S. House Says “We’re Sorry”

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 30, 2008

Today on a voice vote the United States House of Representatives apologized for slavery and “…also acknowledged the “injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow.”

The non-binding resolution, House Resolution 194, was sponsored by Memphis, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen (D).  Cohen, who faces stiff African American opposition in next week’s Democratic primary, gathered 120 co-sponsors and issued the following statement after the Resolution’s passage:

“I am very proud that my colleagues in the House of Representatives passed our resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow in the United States.  This is a historic moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and I hope that this legislation can serve to open the dialogue on race and equality for all.  Apologies are not empty gestures, but are a necessary first step towards any sort of reconciliation between people. I thank Congressman John Conyers (MI-10), whose assistance in moving this resolution forward was indispensible, for his strong support for this bill.”

“We’re Sorry” Maybe

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 29, 2008

There has been a long time cry for America to apologize for slavery and for racial segregation in American history.  Several bills have been introduced and another one is one the scene and will be heard today.  

The resolutions are generally offered by members of the Congressional Black Caucus who represent congressional districts that are majority African American. While the district of the representative carrying HR 194 is a majority African American district the Representative is not. 

Congressman Steve Cohen will make the pitch this week in a bill that according to the Politico “…makes no mention of reparations, but it does state that black Americans “continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow — long after both systems were formally abolished ….” 

The resolution also acknowledges that an apology “cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help Americans confront the ghosts of their past.”   

The bill will require two-thirds for passage under the archaic rules of the House and currently has 120 co-sponsors.  The Resolution is non-binding.

This sense of the House will engender a great deal of discussion on the House floor but the back story is Cohen and his consistent and persistent courting of the African American vote.  Cohen stunned the political establishment with his win in 2006 in a seat that had been held by African Americans for over three decades.  The district, that is made up of the city of Memphis, came open after then Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. declined to run for reelection and opted for a shot at a Senate seat.  Cohen won the primary by only 4,000 votes in a field that featured six African American candidates who sliced and diced each other and the vote. 

After his primary victory and beating the GOP candidate and independent candidate Jake Ford, Harold’s younger brother, Cohen thought about asking to be part of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).  He later decided against pursuing a spot in the CBC after he told he wouldn’t be allowed in.  That didn’t stop his outreach efforts to African Americans especially in the legislation that he has introduced. 

Despite those outreaches Cohen faces more African American opposition this primary season.  On August 7th the incumbent faces five African Americans including Nikki Tinker, who ran second to Cohen in ’06, and state Representative Joe Towns.  In 2006 Cohen was outspent 2-1, but this time around he has nearly tripled Tinker fundraising despite her support from Emily’s List. 

If Cohen is successful next week he’ll face Jake Ford again who is mounting another independent challenge.

UPDATE — House Poised to Pass Apologize for Slavery, Jim Crow

McCain on Affirmative Action

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 28, 2008

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain has struggled some getiing conservatives in the fold and taken several measures to assure them of his conservative credentials. 

In another move in that direction McCain announced his support for a anti-Affirmative Action initiative in his home state of Arizona on the Sunday program “This Week.”

The position seems to be a switch for McCain who called such measures “divisive” when the Arizona state legislature was debating the issue in 1998.

Image and Contrast Gap Emerging?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 27, 2008

200,000 screaming German citizens.  A quiet ride in a golf cart.  Smiling and confident photos with smiling and confident world leaders.  A video of a suited uncomfortable grocery store shopper. 

Images and contrast make elections.  The better the images and the more striking the contrast the better for the candidate striking the images and creating the contrast. 

Those images above are just some of the images from this past week in the presidential campaign.  Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama visited eight countries, covered tens of thousands of miles and location after location produced stunning photos that showed Obama in a positive “presidential” image.  The stories coming out of the trip were good if you’re supporting the Illinois Senator and the quotes from the world leaders the Democrat met with were even better.  But what had to please the campaign most had to be the pictures that emerged.  The photo of a confident Obama “looking presidential” as he waved to the throng in Germany at the historic Victory Column probably meant more to the campaign than the speech. 

This foreign trip was all about image for Obama, it was an opportunity for America to see him as Commander in Chief as he made “presidential appearances.”  Presidential appearances like meeting with the troops, meeting in “serious” settings with allies and world leaders, speaking about America’s greatness before foreign citizens as a potential “leader of the free world” and meeting with the world press with world leaders who praised him and America. 

The image success of the trip was not lost on the Republican supposed nominee Sen. John McCain who mocked the trip as a “victory lap” and said he’d rather give the speech in Germany as the “president” not a “candidate.”  But McCain missed the point, it wasn’t the speech or the trip it was the images produced by the trip and the speech that mattered.  It was those images that were juxtaposed to McCain’s for the week, the golf cart and the grocery store.  The Obama photos in Germany when showed along historic German speeches by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan.  And to top it off it was McCain who teased Obama about going abroad in the first place.  It was the classic political example of you better be careful what you hope for. 

Republicans have long worried privately about how the young, taller and fitter Obama contrasted with the older, shorter and stumpier McCain.  With the recent photos and videos showing a potential image gap emerging the GOP will have to come up with a way to better present McCain and they might want to do it soon. 

Obama will accept the nomination in an open air National Football League stadium that could be configured to seat 80,000 plus people.  Then three weeks later Obama and McCain will walk out from opposite sides of a stage for the their first debate and greet each with the younger Obama looking down on the older McCain. 

Bad image. 

The McCain campaign will have to figure out how to show their candidate in way that closes this image gap before it widens further.  The question is how do they place him in the right atmosphere and not make it look manufactured.  

But then again they could hope for a torrential downpour in an open air stadium during an acceptance speech. 

Bad Image.

Alabama Sued

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 23, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) has decided to sue the state of Alabama over how it may disenfranchise voters.  In a story in today’s New York Times, the ACLU says that Alabama is too “expansive” in its policy regarding the voting rights of felons:  

“Like virtually all states, Alabama restricts the rights of many felons to vote, but in Monday’s suit the group contends the state is going beyond even its own laws. People convicted of nonviolent offenses like income tax evasion or forgery are at risk of being turned away by voter registrars in Alabama, the A.C.L.U. says.

Alabama does not bar all felons from voting, only those convicted of crimes involving “moral turpitude.” In 2003, the civil liberties group says, the State Legislature clearly defined what those crimes are: murder, rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, incest, sexual torture and nine other crimes mainly involving pornography and abuses against children.

At issue in the lawsuit is not the list enacted in law but an expanded “moral turpitude” list developed by the state’s attorney general, Troy King, in 2005. That list includes about a dozen additional offenses, most of them nonviolent, and several including the sale of marijuana.

The A.C.L.U. contends that the attorney general’s list violates the Alabama Constitution, saying only the Legislature can decide what crimes fit the “moral turpitude” category. Georgia, by contrast, bars those convicted of moral turpitude from voting but promulgates no list of crimes fitting that definition. A.C.L.U. officials say that results in a “blanket” policy of disenfranchisement.”

 The disenfranchisement of African Americans, especially males, in the south is nothing new.  Some reports say that a quarter of African American males in the south are ineligible to vote because of past felonies.  That massive number without question impacts electoral politics in the south.  This suit certainly could have a tremendous effect on elections in Alabama and lay a blueprint for other southern states to follow.   

This story and the outcome of the suit are certainly ones that requires watching.

Already!?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 22, 2008

CNN is reporting that presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain is possibly set to announce his Vice Presidential choice.  CNN is saying that some “sources in the McCain camp” have told the news network that talks are occuring about whether making the announcement this week. 

We wonder first if this isn’t an effort to get a little attention and news as McCain’s opponent Sen. Barack Obama receives a lot of press as he moves through the Middle East and Europe? 

Not to be too cynical our next thought was if the discussions are honest and occurring we have to ask why?  

With only a a weekend between the Democratic National Convention and the GOP soiree McCain can cut into Obama’s post convention bounce with a Friday or Saturday VP announcement right after the DNC.  Not only can McCain shortcircuit Obama’s leap out of Denver but he could dictate his pick on what Obama had done in front him.  In a year where the pick of the number two could actually impact the race some argue that McCain is in the driver’s seat.  He has had longer to vet the pick since clinching the nomination earlier, may have a longer and deeper list of initially choices and he could conceivable pick second. 

It would seem curious to jump now, but if the concept was for us to just ask why and talk about the option…I guess he got us.

Don’t Forget the Dollars

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 19, 2008

 A lot of attention will accompany Sen. Barack Obama to Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq as he takes his presidential campaign on the road.  The presumptive Democratic nominee is now on his critical trip abroad as he looks to add foreign policy and defense gravitas to his rock star political persona at home. 

As important as this trip is to the Obama effort and the need for America to “picture” him as Commander-In-Chief and as interesting and entertaining as the recent back and forth between Obama and GOP presumptive candidate Sen. John McCain on issues of war, defense, security and the like, the major issue remains the economy. 

History tells us that people vote their pocketbook and in this tough economic situation the presidential conversation will always meander back to the rocky economic predicament. 

An interesting article in the New York Times today highlights the fact that the economy is on a parcarious point and that we may not have seen the worse.  “Something has clearly gone wrong with the economy. But how bad are things, really? And how bad might they get before better days return? Even to many economists who recently thought the gloom was overblown, the situation looks grim. The economy is in the midst of a very rough patch. The worst is probably still ahead.”

 If Peter Goodman, the writer of the Times piece, is right and consumers are upside down in loans and credit it won’t matter how Obama looks overseas or how McCain’s experience stacks up against that Obama image voters will ask who has the better economic plan?

Whoever can answer that question and create a level of comfort among the voters may very will be the next President of the United States no mattter how they look overseas.

McCain Makes the Pitch

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 18, 2008

A week or so ago we were critical of presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain for not accepting the invitation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to speak to the church’s recent General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  Democratic likely nominee Sen. Barack Obama managed to speak to the 40,000 plus church group making the McCain absence that much more conspicuous. 

However, to his credit McCain did not pass up the opportunity to greet the nation’s oldest civil rights organization at its annual conference.  In a twenty minute plus speech to the delegates of the NAACP in Cincinnati, Ohio yesterday McCain laid out an ambitious education plan that was greeted with more than just polite “golf” applause as he acknowledged the shortcomings of the present education system and African American students. 

McCain said that the present education system is failing African American children and there needs for some substantive reform and the NAACP can help “…[N]owhere are the limitations of conventional thinking any more apparent than in education policy. Education reform has long been a priority of the NAACP, and for good reason. For all the best efforts of teachers and administrators, the worst problems of our public school system are often found in black communities. Black and Latino students are among the most likely to drop out of high school. African Americans are also among the least likely to go on to college…”

Many people, including Rev. Al Sharpton and some African American elected officials, think that education reform is the next frontier on the civil rights movement and or the most pressing issue facing African Americans in the country.  The applause received by McCain, who has talked about educational failure and African Americans before, should cause the Democratic Party some pause.  It has traditionally been the Republican Party that has walked the talk on education reform while the Democratic Party has scarcely mentioned the topic for fear of ticking off the powerful teacher’s union. 

While Obama sounds promising on the issue of reform, the party at large remains immobilized while it’s most faithful base shows growing signs of support for substantive reform.  Many in the GOP have long tried to figure out how to become competitive again with African Americans and we wonder if the issue of education reform will be the entry point that makes the Republican Party open to attracting African Americans again? 

After listening to Sen. John McCain yesterday he certainly hopes so.

Appearance Time

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 18, 2008

The one constant in most presidential campaign polls is that Sen. John McCain the presumptive Republican nominee has an edge on Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama when respondents are asked which one do they trust on defense and foreign policy matters.  McCain usually has an edge of a few points but in some  polls the advantage can be double digits.  In a recent Rasmussen Poll McCain lead Obama on trust in the national security by 14 points. 

In most other categories Obama leads.  In fact, in the 14 areas in the Rasmussen Reports “trust on issues” polls Obama leads in 12 classifications.  The feeling in the Obama campaign must be if they can close the national security gap, that has impaled many Democratic nominees, the door may be wide open for Obama.

To open that door the campaign needs to show Obama as “commander in chief.”  They have to put the image in the minds of American voters that Obama can lead this country and be the face of America abroad.  America will get a glimpse of what a “President Obama” overseas will look like next week when Obama heads on a 12,000 mile five country trip. 

Obama will hit England, France, Germany, Israel and Jordan.  We suspect he may slip Iraq into that schedule as well.  Obama may very well be treated to large cheering crowds, especially in France where his popularity rating is around 80%, which will make for a good visual but the real test and the appearance the campaign wants most are the photos with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other heads of state and those videos with Obama meeting and talking policy with those leaders.  The campaign is treating this like a “presidential trip.”  The campaign plane will have staff, other Senators and a full press entourage including the all three major network news anchors. 

If the anchors lead off their evening telecasts with Obama standing next to France President Nicolas Sarkozy and giving a speech from the former location of the Berlin Wall with little to no mistake or incidents will give the campaign the “Head of State” image they couldn’t create staying in toss up states or talking about how Obama grew up for a period of time in Indonesia.