DAVENPORT, Iowa — President Barack Obama asked the Iowans who first voted for him as president to give him another chance to accomplish his goals, including the immigration overhaul that he predicts Republicans will want to accomplish if they are defeated in the White House race.
The president kicked off the busiest day of his re-election campaign with an appeal to the Iowa voters who selected him in the first-in-the-nation Democratic caucus in 2008. Obama later won the state in the general election, but it's a toss-up this year against Republican Mitt Romney and a suffering economy. Romney planned to visit the state later Wednesday with a stop in Cedar Rapids.
Obama, speaking to a crowd of 3,500 before falling yellow leaves at the Mississippi Valley Fairground, acknowledged he hasn't done all he set out to do four years ago. But he said he's been fighting for the people every day he's been in office.
"This is where it got started, Iowa," Obama said. "I believe in you, and I'm asking you to keep believing in me."
One of the goals he hasn't been able to meet is his promise to overhaul the nation's immigration system in his first year in office. He said he was confident he could pass reform in 2013 if re-elected because he said Republicans will have learned their lesson and will have "have a deep interest in getting that done."
The president originally made the comments Tuesday in an off-the-record interview with The Des Moines Register in pursuit of its endorsement. His campaign released the transcript Wednesday under pressure from the newspaper.
"Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt," Obama said. "Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."
Obama also predicted he would get a so-called "grand bargain" on the deficit within the first six months but says it "will probably be messy."
The Romney campaign criticized another part of the interview in which Obama said he had no regrets for focusing on health care instead of the economy during his first two years in office. He rejected the notion that he could have accomplished more on the economy if he hadn't been pursuing health care reform.
Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said Obama didn't learn from his mistake.
"In the face of a struggling economy, President Obama took his eye off the ball, and spent over a year focused on passing Obamacare - a massive government takeover of health care that cuts Medicare for today's seniors, raises taxes on millions of middle-class families and impedes job creation," she said in a statement.
The two candidates were picking up their pace of travel with just 13 days left in the election. Their mission remains to sway the small pool of undecided voters, but their increasing emphasis is to implore their millions of supporters to vote, particularly in the battleground states that allow early ballots to be cast.
With polls showing more women backing Romney in recent weeks, Obama's campaign tried to tie his rival to a Republican Senate candidate's comments on rape.
Richard Mourdock, who is running for Senate in Indiana, said during a debate Tuesday that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that's something God intended."
Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters that the president finds Mourdock's comments "outrageous and demeaning to women." Romney's campaign has said he does not agree, but Psaki said it was "perplexing" that Romney hasn't demanded Mourdock take down the ad he taped endorsing the candidate.
Romney traveled Wednesday to Reno, Nev., and then planned to stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before a three-stop swing in Ohio on Thursday. He got some help on the airwaves in seven swing states from actor Clint Eastwood, who filmed an ad backing Romney for the Republican independent group American Crossroads. Eastwood says a second Obama term would be a "rerun of the first and our country just couldn't survive that."
Obama's campaign came out with a new 30-second ad Wednesday using the lesson of the 2000 Florida recount to urge its supporters to get vote. The ad points out that just 537 votes in that one state decided that election.
"If you're thinking your vote doesn't count, that it won't matter, well, back then, there were probably at least 537 people who felt the same way," the narrator says, speaking over images of war, economic collapse and ballot counting in Florida.
Obama was to campaign nearly around the clock Wednesday in what he told the Iowa crowd was "a 48-hour, fly-around marathon campaign extravaganza."
"We're going to pull an all-nighter. No sleep," Obama beamed as the end of the long campaign closed in.
His day was taking him from Washington to Iowa, Colorado, California and Nevada, and then overnight to Florida. Not stopping to sleep in a hotel was meant to signal spirit and drive — although, with a comfortable suite on Air Force One, Obama was hardly crashing out in the coach section for his red-eye flight.
It was the first time Obama was spending the night on his plane for a domestic trip, but far from unprecedented for an incumbent scrambling to keep his job.
Across the miles, Obama was holding rallies from morning to night, appearing on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and calling some voters from the plane. It is the first half of a two-day trip that will see him going to Florida, Virginia and Ohio on Thursday, with a stop sandwiched in for him to cast his vote in Chicago.
With Obama holding an edge in the uncontested states, Romney must win more of the battlegrounds to reach the minimum 270 electoral votes for the presidency. Those states are Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire.
All of them will be drawing enormous personal attention from Romney and Obama, their wives, their running mates and other surrogates through Nov. 6.
From the Romney campaign, aides to Ryan were casting his speech Wednesday at Cleveland State University as a significant pitch.
He was to argue that Americans stuck in poverty cannot afford four more years like the past four. Ryan also planned to tell voters that Romney offers a better pathway for low-income Americans to improve their lives through opportunity and upward mobility, including school choice and public-private partnerships. -- (AP)
The Obama campaign has stepped up its efforts to make sure Philadelphians — African-Americans in particular — get out and vote for President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.
“It’s more important now than ever before. In particular, because of the choices that are laid out, especially for the African-American community,” said Setti Warren, mayor of Newton, Mass., during a visit to the city this week.
The Obama campaign has been bringing people from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania — a battleground state — for the last several weeks to discuss what Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney was like as governor. Warren was in Philadelphia Wednesday for a few hours attending community meetings and speaking to reporters before heading to Harrisburg for more meetings.
Aware of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID laws, Warren urged all Philadelphians to make sure they had the required ID, and that they plan in advance to get what they needed.
“These are things that affect the African-American community directly,” he said. “So, it’s more important than ever to get people to register with these new laws on the books so that they can vote for the president in the fall.”
Obama holds an edge in Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday. It showed Obama with a 6 point lead over Romney, with 45 percent of Pennsylvanians saying they backed the president, over 39 for Romney.
Obama has the overwhelming support of African-American voters. According to the latest Gallup Poll, 83 percent of Blacks support the president. That number has dipped slightly in recent months, falling slightly from more typical levels above 85 percent, but it remains far higher among Blacks than among other ethnic groups.
And, Obama has worked hard for African Americans, Warren said, ticking off a list of things that included: $960 million invested in minority-owned businesses; working to keep Pell grants, which give Black youth a better chance to get to college, and stimulus funding for the Head Start program that allowed 61,000 instructors to remain on the job or be added to the program.
“For those families that are trying to put food on the table, trying to pay for health care, trying to pay the mortgage, we need a president that understands that,” said Warren. “Mitt Romney does not understand that.”
Romney has been on a bus tour of the state in recent weeks, and he contends it’s Obama who is out of touch.
“President Obama has offered no hope for the future, and he has left American families to bear the burden of his failed policies,” he told reporters at a campaign stop last week. “Too many American families have experienced a lost job, faced foreclosure, or been forced to spend their kids’ college savings just to make ends meet. These are not statistics — these are our fellow Americans. In America’s small towns, you don’t find despair — you find boundless optimism. We know we can make America better, and that is why I am running for president.”
Warren disagrees, and wants Pennsylvanians to see the Mitt Romney he’s seen.
“I believe strongly that we’re at a critical juncture in this country,” he said. “I also feel strongly that people around this country, in Pennsylvania, need to know Mitt Romney’s record. I was there.”
The mayor of a suburban Boston town of about 85,000 people, Warren describes Romney’s tenure as governor as a “failure.”
Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. He won the state’s highest office with a campaign that is remarkably similar to his run for the presidency.
“It was a failed track record he had in Massachusetts, and I don’t want to see him do it to the country,” said Warren.
As a lifelong resident of Newton, Warren said he’s watched as Romney’s policies weakened the middle class through outsourcing state jobs and tax breaks for the wealthy.
“He advertises himself as a businessman that can cure the problems of the country,” Warren said. “But the facts are we were 47th in job creation. He used the same method of outsourcing that he did in the private sector. We lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs … and he actually vetoed legislation in the state that would have prevented outsourcing.”
Personally, Warren, the father of two children — a 1- and 4-year-old — worries about what Romney would do to education if he’s elected.
“He wants to get rid of the Department of Education,” said Warren, adding that Romney cut education spending in Massachusetts, which among other things, increased the number of children in each classroom.
“If this is the kind of leadership he’s promising, it’s not what we need right now as a country,” said Warren.
A veteran of the Iraq war, Warren served in the Navy in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He comes from a family with a military tradition. His father was in the Air Force and Navy Reserve.
His story is like that of many other African Americans, he said, His parents were both from New York City, his father from Harlem and his mother from the Bronx. Both were active in the Civil Rights Movement, travelling to North Carolina to fight. Military service gave the family the tools it needed to settle comfortably into the middle class.
His father eventually became assistant secretary of education for Massachusetts.
“If not for that ladder of opportunity that the United States of America provided my parents … they would have never gotten to Newton,” he said. “So, for me this election is about the future, about families like my own. This is a president that gets it — that knows that the greatness of America is about leveling the playing field.”
No matter which of the four remaining doofuses (or is that doofii?) survives the spring primaries to emerge as President Barack Obama’s GOP opponent in November, my vote is going to Obama.
Not because we share a political party, or even because we share a skin tone, but because he is simply the best man for the job. Better than that, Barack Hussein Obama is the coolest guy ever to walk planet Earth. Cooler than the Rat Pack. Even cooler than Steve McQueen, if that’s possible.
Here’s a guy who mercilessly ridiculed Donald Trump at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner — and I mean he lit into ol’ Helmet Hair with such ferocity that the loudmouthed television host immediately abandoned his wild talk about securing the Republican nomination — then calmly went back to the situation room and ordered the Navy SEALs to put two slugs in Osama bin Laden’s head.
This same guy stood before Congress and the nation for an hour and five minutes Tuesday night and delivered one of the most passionate, well-written State of the Union speeches I have ever heard. Meanwhile, what he knew, and we didn’t — was that he had ordered that same SEAL team to storm a compound in Somalia where American aid worker Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, have been held hostage since they were kidnapped at gunpoint by Somali pirates in October.
The SEALs safely rescued the pair, and killed all nine of their captors — all while their commander-in-chief nonchalantly laid out his case for a lasting economy and an end to obstructionist partisan bickering.
That is too cool for words. We should replace the tune they always play when the president enters the room, “Hail to the Chief,” with Isaac Hayes’ theme from “Shaft.”
(I can almost hear it now. “You see this cat Obama was a baaaaad… shut yo’ mouth.”)
The only clue he left, and purely accidentally, was when microphones picked up his congratulations to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he entered the House chamber. Obama pointed his index finger in a “You da man” gesture at a smiling Panetta and said, “Good job tonight. Good job.” Enterprising reporters descended on the Pentagon to find out what the president meant, and were then told about the rescue operation.
The State of the Union speech itself was a classic, on par with Bill Clinton’s historic final speech to Congress — and almost as long. Obama covered a lot of ground — from jump-starting the economy, to green energy, to the widening gap between the haves and the have nots — with the ease and deftness of a master orator.
To be fair, even for Democrats, there are many reasons to question Obama’s policies, especially when it comes to capitulating to GOP demands in the name of compromise. The Republicans have proven time and again that their only goal is to bring down his administration, and aren’t interested in anything that doesn’t help them accomplish that goal. Yet he continues to seek the high road, to reach across the aisle in search of common ground — and to vainly attempt diplomacy and negotiation with people who can’t spell or define either word. I suppose you could argue that those are good qualities, but I have to admit it’s starting to get on my nerves.
The time has come, Mr. President, to fully implement your most progressive, liberal agenda — intact and undiminished — and let them cry about it later. That is exactly what the Republicans do when they gain power, and how they get things done. Sign the executive orders limiting greenhouse gases, and double our investment in alternative energy sources like wind and solar. Take care of veterans and seniors, and hold corporations and greedy bankers accountable for driving us off the cliff in the first place.
This president has more than earned a shot at a second term. He has proven himself the smartest, most visionary and forward thinking president we could ask for, and stands head and shoulders above the illiterate boob who last held the office. He’s got more family values than Newt Gingrich ever had, more compassion for the middle class than Rick Santorum could ever muster; could never be the entitled elitist Mitt Romney is, and unlike Ron Paul, is completely sane.
At next year’s State of the Union, the entire audience should stand and sing his new theme song in one gravelly, funky voice, “Who’s the cat who won’t cop out, when there’s danger all about? Damn right.”
Can you dig it?
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Calling a politician out for being a hypocrite is so easy, there’s just no sport in it. It’s almost redundant — as Martin Sheen’s character famously said in “Apocalypse Now” — like giving out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.
But once in a great while, some propped-up empty suit of a candidate goes so far over the hypocrisy line that you just have to say something, out of a sense of sheer decency. Your intelligence can only take a finite number of insults, after all.
Thus is the case this week with presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Republican Party who backs him and the plight of working women.
But, back to the beginning. It all started last week when someone asked Romney about the struggles of working women, and he deferred to his wife, Ann, saying he’s talked to her, and she gave him insight and practical advice.
That tidbit was seized upon by Democratic pundits, whose eyebrow-raising bemusement was voiced by strategist Hilary Rosen, who questioned Mrs. Romney’s bona fides on the subject, saying, “Ann Romney never worked a day in her life.”
Rosen’s point, that the born-rich, married-rich and still-filthy-rich Ann Romney is a poor choice of advisor on the day-to-day tribulations of working moms, was lost in the resulting brouhaha, as the GOP launched into full outrage mode, saying that President Obama, who somehow became an extension of Hilary Rosen, has no respect for women who work inside the home.
“I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys,” Ann Romney tweeted huffily. “Believe me, it was hard work.”
Yes, raising children, especially five boys, is a handful for any mom. Most mothers, though, don’t have the advantages Mrs. Romney enjoyed — specifically, having a small army of maids, nannies, an au pair, housekeepers, cooks and gardeners to do the hard work for them.
Raising five boys was such hard work, Ann Romney hardly found time to ride her dressage horses or attend yachting classes.
Think of all the hard working yet struggling moms you know. Any of them own dressage horses, or even have the slightest idea what dressage is? Probably not. They’re too busy washing and ironing clothes, cleaning the house, helping with homework, paying the bills and stretching the meager grocery budget as far as it can go.
Mitt, God bless him, waded into the fray with this tidbit, “All moms are working moms.” It’s a nice sound bite, and certainly applies to the vast majority of moms in America, but not necessarily the ones who take weekly yachting classes.
Just a few weeks ago, this same Mitt Romney defended the welfare-to-work program he signed into law as Massachusetts’s governor by saying low-income moms on the public dole “need to learn the dignity of work.”
Wait a minute, you say. If poor moms need to learn the dignity of work outside the home, how come rich moms don’t? Don’t they deserve the same dignity, or could it be that the work ethic of the wealthy should remain unquestioned, while that of the working poor should be attacked at every turn?
The worst of it is that the whole supposed controversy was completely made up, and played like a violin by the GOP. Ann Romney admitted as much herself, when she giddily described Rosen’s comments as “an early birthday gift” in an interview with ABC News.
See, the Republicans know full well they’re anywhere from 16 to 20 points down among women voters, according to recent polls. This, by the way, is entirely their own fault.
From criminally invasive abortion requirements, to their opposition to the Family Medical and Leave Act, to the asinine attempt to limit women’s access to birth control, to Romney’s own refusal to support the Ledbetter Act, which ensures women equal pay for equal work, the GOP record on women’s issues has come into sharp focus in recent months.
But rather than admit their own policies are hurting them with the single largest voting bloc, they’ve tried to somehow shift the woman-hater label onto Obama — which is ridiculous on its face. Obama, who elevated two women to the Supreme Court, has long been a champion of women’s rights. In fact, the aforementioned Ledbetter Act was the first bill he signed into law upon taking office.
The GOP is afraid. They should be.
They’re hoping that those women who need to learn the dignity of work don’t also discover the empowerment of the voting booth.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
At the Democratic National Convention, a number of issues were brought to the spotlight, showing the vast differences between the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan platform and President Barack Obama’s administration.
On Tuesday night, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julian Castro, electrified the audience with his speech, as did first lady Michelle Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. They touched on women’s rights, the continuing political wrestling over same-sex marriage, veteran’s benefits and other national issues and problems.
Absent was any statement regarding the national epidemic of Black on Black violence — violence which consumes cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Camden and Chicago. Even President Barack Obama has been noticeably silent on the issue, according to some community leaders — and they’re starting to ask why.
“I’ve noticed this, and normally they’re quiet on this issue, but there’s a silence on many serious domestic issues like structural poverty. There are issues that need to be addressed and aren’t,” said author and sociologist Dr. Elijah Anderson. “When it comes to the problem of crime and violence in Black and Latino communities, could it be indifference? We can speculate that it is. Certainly these communities are hurting; there is a national recession and a depression in inner city poor communities.”
Bilal Qayyum, executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee also said that he noticed the silence on the part of various speakers regarding the high numbers of young Black and Latino men who are killed every day in America. Qayyum said both parties are afraid of the National Rifle Association.
“Both parties have been very silent, haven’t they? I think it’s because they’re scared of the NRA,” Qayyum said. “Now in the light of the shootings in Colorado, there’s renewed discussion on banning assault weapons. But when it comes to Black and Latino males gunning each other down, I can tell you that Mitt Romney doesn’t really care — but then both parties have been silent on the issue of violence in America in general.
“Mayor Castro didn’t say anything about it and neither did the first lady. Patrick did mention the problem of crime, but didn’t get into specifics. It’s an issue that they’re not really sure how white voters would respond to. What they could do is cloak the subject by speaking about crime and violence in general because really, when it comes down to it, it is an American problem, not a Black American problem. I’d bet that if you took a national poll and asked the average American what were their two biggest concerns, the first would be jobs and the second would be crime. I also think that if you politicize this, you’ll find yourself in a fight with the NRA. The only person who is likely to mention this problem is Mayor Michael Nutter, who has spoken about this before as a national issue.”
Mayor Michael Nutter was scheduled to speak at the convention on Wednesday, but was rescheduled for Thursday night. In the past, as president of the United States Conference of Mayors, Nutter has been outspoken concerning the high murder rate among young Black and Latino men and the issue of illegal guns that fuel the violence.
According to figures from reports researched by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 85 percent of the Black victims of homicide are male and 51 percent are between the ages of 17 and 19. Across the nation, Blacks accounted for 49 percent of all murder victims in 2005. Black males accounted for 52 percent. If those figures were reversed and white males were killing each other at such a rate, no national resource would be spared to stop it, said Chad Lassiter, president of Black Men at Penn.
“We know why there’s a silence on this issue,” Lassiter said. “There’s lots of jibber-jabber and well-rehearsed, well-written speeches that are calculated to get an emotional response — but are thin on substance. I’m not surprised there’s no real discussion on the issue of Black and Latino males murdering each other, because we’re talking about a segment of the population that’s not part of the landscape. These young men are seen as a permanent underclass, as sub-human and ostracized from society. To raise these issues means you have to talk about institutional racism, the high incarceration and drop out rates — and they’re not going to risk their lobby contracts or their political futures. When it comes to this kind of violence there isn’t a real effort on the part of the power elite to address it. Poverty is a ‘no-no’ and Black male violence is a ‘no-no.’
Philadelphia criminal defense attorney and community activist Michael Coard said the problem won’t be raised because of racism.
“Why isn’t this issue being raised? Because Romney doesn’t give a damn and Obama is afraid to give a damn,” Coard said. “But really, if you think about it, there’s no such thing as Black on Black crime. People don’t commit crime because of race, but because of opportunity and because it’s convenient — it’s neighbor on neighbor crime. Statistically speaking, white males commit more crimes because they’re a larger segment of the population, but the white media doesn’t report that — and why? Because just like America is racist, the media is also racist.”
In making multiple visits to Philadelphia, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has shown he isn’t afraid to take the fight deep inside a longtime Democratic stronghold. And Romney’s campaign is attacking President Barack Obama’s stance on the one issue most critical to the majority of Philadelphians: public education.
Romney visited Guion S. Bluford Elementary School in West Philadelphia — a Renaissance School matched with a “turnaround” team led by Universal Companies and its founder, Kenny Gamble — on Thursday. In declaring that African-American schools need more money, Romney ripped a page from Obama’s playbook by bringing the conversation to the group of people affected the most.
The Republican presidential candidate visited the school a day after declaring education is the “civil rights issue of our era.”
Romney repeated that declaration during the school visit, but struggled to defend his view that class sizes aren’t a major factor in educational success. Local African-American leaders also said his push for more two-parent families isn’t realistic in their community.
As of press time, officials with Universal haven’t returned calls seeking comment. The School District of Philadelphia also wasn’t aware of Romney’s visit. Bluford sits in City Councilman Curtis Jones’ 4th district, and during Thursday’s Council meeting, Jones voiced his displeasure at both Romney’s low-key visit, and the presidential hopeful’s stance on education.
“Unbeknownst to many people [Romney] was here this morning at Bluford Elementary school where he was espousing his ‘class sizes don’t matter’ and everybody knows, even internally, size matters — class sizes,” Jones said, thanking his Republican colleagues on council for not meeting up with the former Massachusetts governor.
Jones said he only became aware of Romney’s visit through an update on KWY newsradio. Mayor Michael Nutter and District Attorney Seth Williams joined a rally outside of Bluford, condemning Romney’s stances — and for creeping quietly into Philadelphia.
In advance of his visit, Romney and his election campaign have simultaneously attacked Obama’s stance as elitist while urging districts to do away teacher unions.
“You know, President Obama likes to talk about how he’s for the underprivileged, but when it comes to the money that comes from the teachers union, he’s putting that campaign cash ahead of the needs of our kids. We have to recognize it’s time to put kids first, to get education on track by giving people greater choice in schools, by making sure we reward the very best teachers with great careers and rising income,” Romney said via a statement released by his campaign. “We know what to do to make our schools better.”
Those remarks mirror what Romney recently told Fox News’ Stave Doocy. When asked about the president’s education agenda, Romney wasted little time in going into attack mode, pointing to a Washington, D.C., school choice program that Romney claims Obama and the teachers union shuttled.
“We have a teachers’ union that too often stands in the way of the kind of reforms that would make education work. We know, for instance, in Washington, D.C., that school choice there helped immeasurably with young people - improving their quality of learning and their skills, and yet the President shut down the program,” Romney said on the news program. “We’ve got to put the unions behind, and put the kids first.”
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan assailed the notion that teacher unions are standing in the way of school reform. Jordan noted that the PFT has sacrificed and produced several rounds of givebacks during recent contract discussions. Jordan said there are other factors in union negotiations that either Romney doesn’t know about or fails to acknowledge.
“We have consistently [partnered with the district on cuts] and I would defy anyone from the board who suggests we haven’t been very effective in working with the district to keep health care costs as low as they can possibly be through negotiations,” Jordan said, during a recent editorial board meeting at The Tribune. “That’s a reality that all organizations have to build in; you shouldn’t ask people to work and not have health care.”
Lis Smith, a spokeswoman with President Obama’s reelection campaign, quickly responded to Romney’s visit to Philadelphia — and to the assertions Romney made; striking at Romney’s often-criticized business models and asking if the presidential hopeful will apply the same tactics to education as he did while at Bain Capital.
“When he’s in Philadelphia today, will Mitt Romney tell the truth about how he wants to apply Romney Economics to education? As we’ve seen throughout Mitt Romney’s career in both the private and public sectors, Romney Economics is all about the short term,” Smith said via a statement released by the Obama reelection campaign. “We’ve already seen what Romney Economics meant for Massachusetts students — larger class sizes, a de-emphasis on critical early education, teachers laid off, and in one year alone, the second-largest per-pupil cuts in the nation … these aren’t the priorities Americans want in our President.”
Tribune staff writer Eric Mayes and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By refusing to block Pennsylvania’s callous and draconian voter ID law, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson has left the door open to voter suppression tactics that haven’t been used since the 1960s, when white southerners were finally shamed into doing the right thing after a horrified America watched footage of the police dogs and fire hoses used to keep Blacks and other undesirables away from the polls.
Progressives immediately went on a public relations rampage, vowing to fight on through appeals and every available legal avenue until some jurist with a conscience and sense of right and wrong nips this thing in the bud.
I hope they win on appeal, and not just because those most adversely affected by the law are minorities — but because the law is anti-American, and flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, the document held above all others by the hypocrites who authored the voter ID law in the first place.
What could be more anti-American, more constitutionally incorrect, than the notion that some citizens’ votes count more than others? That by keeping certain people away from the polls, you somehow end up with a free and fair election? It’s galling and ridiculous, and frankly I’m ashamed we have to have this fight almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act.
Those facts notwithstanding, and despite my continued belief that President Obama will be re-elected in November by a sizable margin, I can’t help but wonder how much effect all this will have on the election in practical terms. Just read the newspapers. Voter ID laws, voter purges and similar machinations are taking place all over the country, not just here in Pennsylvania.
Is it possible that GOP House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was actually onto something when he guaranteed a partisan crowd in June that, “Voter ID will allow Gov. Romney to win the state in November”?
I’ve tried not to think about that, just as I’ve convinced myself that in the end, all this won’t matter when Obama stands on the podium in triumph on election night.
But what if the worst should happen?
What if the concerned organizations and valiant lawyers on the front lines of the voter ID battle lose their appeals, and the law is in full effect on Election Day? Worse, what if Turzai is right, and key swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida (coincidentally, those states specifically targeted by the GOP’s suppression strategists) fall into Romney’s hands?
And even worse than that, what if winning those key states is just enough to put Plastic Man over the top, and we’re faced with four years of watching people who own dressage horses and offshore accounts snatch food from the mouths of babies and senior citizens?
I know. Too horrible to contemplate, but in the name of pragmatism, we should at least consider the possibility, however remote — and what we’d do about it. I don’t have a doomsday scenario strategy mapped out, but I’m pretty sure how I’d handle a Romney presidency. It is remarkably similar to how the Republicans have handled President Obama these past three years.
First, taking my cues from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the knuckle-draggers, I’d never, ever call him President Romney. Just Romney, or better yet, just Willard.
Second, I would never miss an opportunity to bring up the racist past of the Mormon Church. I’d quote Mormon founders and leaders who taught until 1978 that my Black skin is a curse, and I am therefore unworthy of the blessings of God, or entrance to white heaven. (If you think this is a nasty, unfair swipe at the man’s religious beliefs, you should take up your appeal with my complaint officer, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.)
Third, I would spend a great deal of time and effort writing catchy sayings for bumper stickers and T-shirts. Mitt and Ryan – Always Lyin’, Need Healthcare? Just Die Already, and Utah is for Haters spring immediately to mind. Think I’m being unfair again? Check out the anti-Obama signs and bumper stickers at a tea party rally, then get back to me.
Finally, I would use this column to berate, harass and ridicule the Romney administration at every turn — rewriting history to suit my own purposes, and making up “facts” as I go along. I would do this every single week, without regard to relevance or context. There are too many examples to list here, but check out Ann Coulter or Cal Thomas if you have an objection.
If the other shoe indeed drops, I hope it’s a size 14. I know just where to put it.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
I didn’t know this was National Cut and Run Week. I guess I didn’t get the memo.
Rick Santorum got it, and at long last decided to get out of the race for the Republican nomination before suffering another embarrassing loss in his home state of Pennsylvania. Which brings me to a side point: just how did we get to be Zippy the Pinhead’s ‘home state’ in the first place? He was born in Virginia, where his family still resides. He (presumably) pays taxes in Virginia, and if his kids weren’t home schooled to keep them away from free thinkers, they’d probably be educated in Virginia. He lived in Pennsylvania long enough to purchase property and run for office.
Apparently, just buying a home somewhere makes you a born-again native. Well, you can claim him if you want, but speaking as a native Pennsylvanian, I refuse to accept him as a neighbor. We have more than our fair share of reality-challenged dullards as it is.
I will admit, though, that getting out now was about the smartest thing Zippy’s done in the past few months. If he’d held on past next Tuesday, and probably taken a butt whipping in Pennsylvania in the process, the next several news cycles would have been dominated by television talking heads using phrases like “humiliating,” “devastating” and “crushing” to describe his defeat here.
If Santorum has any ambition for running again in 2016, and you know he does, this week was the time to bow out — while his stock, and positive poll numbers, are about as high as they’re going to get.
I will further admit to a tiny pang of disappointment. I was hoping he’d hang on until the GOP convention in Tampa, and help Newt Gingrich throw a monkey wrench into the machine by way of a brokered convention. Not because I’m a Democrat, but because I’m a columnist, and Santorum’s shoot-from-the-lip style makes good copy. No one in politics says as many stupid things as he does on a minute-by-minute basis, and I’ll miss him — especially since his departure leaves us with little to slow down the Mitt Romney Express.
The good part is, though, that the more people find out about Romney, the less there is to like. Wait until the mainstream gets hold of the fact that Romney, until 1978, believed the tenets of the Mormon church that Black skin was a curse, (albeit one that can be reversed upon ascension to heaven, where the cursed melanin will be changed to pure white), and that interracial dating was punishable by death.
But there will be time to dissect Romney later, and you can bet that’s going to happen.
Back to the Week of the Quitters, and the big news that George Zimmerman’s legal team dropped him like a faulty transmission Tuesday.
That revelation brought its own set of strange questions, as we found out that not one of his lawyers had ever met Zimmerman face to face.
Think about that for a minute.
For the past several weeks, we’ve seen these doofuses or their surrogates describe Zimmerman’s broken nose and cuts to the back of his head. They recounted the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death with authoritative detail, and made every effort to paint the 17-year-old as an aggressive thug who was probably up to no good.
But the truth is, they’d never met Zimmerman, never seen any injuries, and never spoke to paramedics or police officers on the scene. They conducted no independent investigation, and based their entire case outline on the word of a man so cowardly he wouldn’t even tell his defense team which rock he was hiding under.
Why would a cadre of greedy, amoral lawyers back away from the biggest case of their lives, and a trial that would have made them famous? A trial, which by the way, would have been televised coast-to-coast, and the resulting book and movie deals would have made them all very rich men, win or lose?
You know why. Because Zimmerman’s case is a guaranteed dead loser, and as soon as they figured that out, they decided it was in their best interests not to stand their ground.
They ran for the hills the minute the special prosecutor announced she wouldn’t empanel a grand jury, and would probably charge the trigger-happy vigilante herself, which she did a few days later.
Like Santorum, that was probably the lawyers’ smartest move too.
Maybe it wasn’t Cut and Run Week. It was more like Cut Your Losses Week.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s recent statement, “I’m not concerned about the very poor….We have a safety net…. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it,” has caused once again considerable debate about poverty in America. But for millions of impoverished Black Americans the focus should be on encouraging education, self-empowerment and economic development as a means of getting out of poverty rather than waiting on some non-caring presidential candidate to patch a gaping hole in the so-called poverty-prevention safety net.
In a democracy all citizens should have the right to run for President. Of course qualifications and experience are factors that voters should weigh when making a decision about who to vote for and to support. For over 45 million Black Americans, the 2012 elections are extremely important. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and to take the November 2012 elections for granted. I keep emphasizing that it is counterproductive for Black people in the United States to be cynical or non-involved in the national political debate concerning the issues that affect the quality of life in the Black community across the nation.
Mitt Romney’s confession did more than expose his seemingly insensitivity toward the poor. It revealed Romney’s comfort with a certain percentage of the population that will according to his logic always remain in poverty in need of a safety net. Romney rhetorically joined the likes of Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly who condescendingly reminded a national television audience that in the Bible it says, “The poor will always be with us.” African Americans do not always have to be poor! Again, what Romney said or what O’Rielly said should not come as a shock. Those statements just remind us that if we do not get ourselves up out of poverty, there will be no others that we should depend on to change the situation of poverty that too many continue to face in our communities.
Noted scholar and author Earl Ofari Hutchinson raised an appropriate question with respect to the absence of Black Americans who have some noticeable role in the Romney presidential campaign staff or support. Hutchinson observed, “The scorecard then reads like this: Gingrich, Santorum and Paul, all have asked for and gotten endorsements and support from African Americans. There is no record or evidence that the supposed more moderate Romney has asked for or gotten any Black support or even taken a photo-op with some dutiful Blacks. The question that will loom even larger as Romney closes in on the GOP nomination is. Where are Romney’s Blacks?”
Romney’s comments on poverty, therefore, were not a mere slip of a politicians tongue during the heat of a tense campaign. He is not in touch with the reality that most Americans have to endure in 2012. And in particular, Romney is so far out of the loop of reality when it comes to Black Americans’ state of existence, that it is cause for serious concern. The fact is for Black children and youth the poverty rate is nearly 40 percent as a direct of the systematic underdevelopment of the African-American community during the last 50 years. Too many African Americans live in poverty today at a rate greater than one out of every four persons. Of course our economic and social predicament is not the result of statements by Mitt Romney. The point here is, however, that for the vast majority of Black people in America and throughout the African world, the candidacy of Romney for President raises serious implications about his stated sense of inclusion and of ‘caring’ and empathy for poor people in general and for poor Black people specifically.
Regardless of who emerges as the Republican nominee, Black Americans have to take a proactive responsibility to ensure the largest voter turnout in American history come this November. To all of the “playa haters” some of whom are white and Black who are trying to seduce Black people into the self-destructive lethargy of not voting, copping out and non-civic engagement: “We will not be put asleep. We will remain wide awake. We are going to mobilize voter participation in record numbers in the face of voter repression in more than 30 states across the nation.”
Please do not underestimate the power and the importance of every vote this year. We have to join with others who share our interests for a better future for ourselves and for all people. The worst form of oppression is self-destruction and the fear of liberation. Mitt Romney has made clear where he stands. Where do you stand? How will you vote? — (NNPA)
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is president of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and Education Online Services Corporation and can be reached at www.HSAN.org.
As attorneys from several community advocacy groups prepare to challenge the state’s new voter ID law in court later this month, others are gearing up to get voters registered and equipped with proper identification so they can vote on Nov. 6.
“Our vote is the most powerful tool we have in a democracy,” said Sharon Williams Losier, an attorney who is helping state Sen. Shirley Kitchen organize a city-wide campaign to educate Philadelphians about the new law, and help them get the ID they will need to cast a ballot.
Attorneys from the NAACP, the ACLU and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia have filed suit in an attempt to block the law. The case is scheduled to begin July 25 in Commonwealth Court.
But, residents shouldn’t be counting on a win in court to preserve their rights, said one attorney in the case.
“We can’t bank on this lawsuit,” said Ben Geffen, a staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Center.
Like Losier, he urged Philadelphians to get the ID they will need without delay.
“This isn’t something you can deal with the day before the election,” Geffen said. “Folks need to be aware of this right now and get the ball rolling.”
Kitchen’s office held the public meeting with attorneys and voter advocates Wednesday in North Philadelphia to solicit community input as to how they can spread the word about the new law and get people motivated.
The state Department of State, which oversees elections, recently estimated that 18 percent of Philadelphians — or 186,830 of the city’s registered voters — do not have a photo ID that meets the state’s requirement to cast a ballot in November.
The numbers, part of a report released last week, found that about 758,000 voters across the state lacked the necessary ID. That translated to 9.2 percent of all registered voters. Losier noted that President Barack Obama won the state in 2008 with a 10 percent edge — an edge that would be removed if the new law succeeds in keeping people away from the polls.
A more detailed look at who state officials expect to be affected by the new law is expected this week. It will take a more detailed look at the demographics of exactly who will be most affected by the new law. Critics have said since the debate on the law started that it would keep the poor, minorities, the elderly and youth from the polls.
“Older adults give up their cars and driver’s licenses but still vote,” said Jim Palmquist, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the AARP, adding that others were born at a time when birth certificates were not always issued. “It’s very difficult to get their birth certificates.”
Geffen said he expected another segment of the population to be hard hit — women. The Pennsylvania law requires that name on a state ID match that on other documents, which means that women who are married may have a more difficult time obtaining proper identification.
“All documents need to show the same first and last name,” he said.
The City Commissioners’ Office has launched a citywide effort to get people registered and make sure they have the ID required.
“We want to make sure that everyone who is registered gets out and votes,” said Gregory Irving, the acting voter registration administrator with the commissioners’ office.
The state’s new law has long been controversial with critics. Supporters said the law was needed to stop voter fraud.
Critics, however, were given ammunition in their argument when Republican state house leader Rep. Mike Turzai said the law will “allow” Mitt Romney to win the state in November, according to a report.
“(The) Voter ID … is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” Turzai told a group of Republicans in late June.
For more information on the state’s new ID requirements, visit www.votespa.com.