Last Friday an extraordinary event took place when President Obama and Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all spoke out on the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin.
To varying degrees they all spoke on the death of Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed Black teenager who was shot to death last month by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando.
The shooter, George Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, a questionable claim since Zimmerman pursued Martin with a 9mm. Martin was carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Martin’s death has sparked a national outcry and the demand that Zimmerman be arrested and charged.
Yet the comments by Obama, Romney, Gingrich and Santorum last Friday on such an explosive case were remarkable.
Obama spoke in highly personal terms about how the shooting of Martin had affected him, saying that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
He cautioned that his comments would be limited because the Justice Department was investigating.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” Obama said.
The comments by the president were remarkable because he has been careful not to speak on racial sensitive issues.
The Republican presidential candidates also remarked on the Martin killing.
Romney, the presumed front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said: “What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.”
Santorum’s pointed remarks criticized the police handling of the case and rebuffed suggestions that Florida’s stand your ground law — which give citizens wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat — should be applied in this case.
“Well, stand your ground is not doing what this man did,” he said. ‘There’s a difference between stand your ground and doing what he did. It’s a horrible case. I mean it’s chilling to hear what happened, and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made by people in the process.”
Gingrich said the district attorney had done “the right thing,” in empanelling a grand jury. But speaking of Zimmerman, he said it was “pretty clear that this is a guy who found a hobby that’s very dangerous.”
Both Santorum and Gingrich had played to racial politics earlier in the campaign by linking Obama and African Americans in general with increased food stamps usage.
But their comments reveal how the national outrage and grassroots protests over the Martin killing have shaken the nation’s political establishment.
The hope is that this case will not be racially or politically exploited.
Justice must be served.
There are those who believe that the core of American politics is spoiled rotten. Therefore, justified or not, there are critics of both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, who believe things are about to spin out of control.
The issue these days is the president’s harsh criticism of Romney’s record at Bain Capital, considering he too has prominent donors who are also in private equity. And at a recent White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney explained the difference between the two, and responded to Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s latest criticism of the campaign.
“Those folks aren’t running for president,” Carney responded. “They do not believe that their experience in their line of work wholly qualifies them to sit in the Oval Office, and be Commander-in-Chief, and make the kinds of decisions on the economy that the president must make.”
Carney continued, “he (the president) appreciates the support of Americans from every walk of life … every area of the economy, and as I’m sure you know, you reported on it, the fact of the matter is the president’s support, as demonstrated by contributions, comes demonstrably from people who just give a little bit, they’re not from huge donors.”
The administrations defense of their actions did not stop there. President Obama, responding to criticism from some Democratic supporters, said last week that attacks on Mitt Romney’s experience at Bain Capital were fair game and that Romney’s years at the helm of a private equity firm were worthy of serious debate.
The focus on the Bain attacks has added to the clash between the two campaigns and their allies about the increasingly negative tone of the 2012 presidential campaign, especially as President Obama seeks to define Romney in the eyes of voters.
Targeting Bain carries risks for the president, not least with wealthy Wall Street executives whose largess in 2008 helped finance his campaign. Some of those supporters have already soured on the president after his efforts to tighten regulation of their industry.
“This is not a distraction,” President Obama said about Romney’s record at Bain during a news conference at the end of the NATO summit meeting in Chicago. “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”
President Obama’s comments came shortly after Booker called the Obama campaign’s focus on Bain Capital a “nauseating” part of negative campaigning on both sides.
Booker later made an about-face on Twitter and in a video; he said Romney’s record at Bain was fair game.
Last week, Republicans were quick to point out how uneasy some in President Obama’s own party are about the criticism of private equity investors, and they started an “I Stand with Cory” petition to try to embarrass the president.
“President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against,” Romney said in a statement. “What this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty.”
The president’s comments were his first explicit endorsement of his campaign’s aggressive strategy attacking Bain Capital. The Obama campaign’s full-throated assault, through ads, statements and Web videos, is now in its third week and portrays Romney in highly personal and unflattering ways. A video released earlier in the month highlights an office supply company in Indiana whose workers were fired when it was bought by a Bain company.
“You can tell by the way he acts, the way he talks,” one former employee said of Romney in the new ad. “He doesn’t care anything about the middle-class or the lower-class people.”
President Obama has denied that such attacks were unfair or unjustified. “(Romney’s) main calling card” for becoming president was his business experience. He said Romney’s years of buying and selling companies for profit gave him little understanding of the president’s role.
“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you are missing what this job is about,” President Obama said, putting an emphasis on the words “this job.” “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity. But that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some.”
Bain Capital was also moved to defend itself, issuing a statement that said, “revenues grew in 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested.”
And Romney said the attacks on his record at Bain were intended to suggest that, “I’m not a good person, or a good guy.” President Obama’s campaign dismissed that criticism, saying its ads and statements were efforts to describe how the values Romney pursued at Bain would color his actions as president.
President Obama said he views private equity firms like Bain Capital as a “healthy part of the free market” that are designed to “maximize profits.” He said that among them there are “folks who do good work.”
But he made it clear that he believes private equity firms put profits above all else, which, he said, is too limited a view at a time of economic struggle.
“Their priority is to maximize profits, and that’s not always going to be good for businesses or communities or workers,” President Obama said.
Referring to his campaign’s videos that feature workers laid off by Bain companies, President Obama said, “I’ve got to think about those workers in that video just as much as I’m thinking about folks who have been much more successful.”
Romney’s campaign has also described President Obama in harsh and personal ways. Romney has repeatedly said the president “doesn’t get it,” painting the president as an amateur. His campaign often accuses the president of personally breaking promises he made to the American people.
And the Republican super PACs have also targeted President Obama personally. The New York Times reported last week on a plan by one of them to link President Obama to his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. It was later dropped.
Both campaigns have made it clear that they intend to focus as much on the candidates themselves as the policies they support. Booker, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” two weeks ago, said the attacks were crowding out more serious conversations about the economy and other issues.
“My concern is we are about to go into a significant political campaign that will affect the destiny of our nation,” Booker said in his video clarification. “I am, indeed, upset. I am, indeed, frustrated. But I believe the American public, working together, we can begin to more and more denounce this type of campaigning.”
The New York Times contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is an enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com and followed on Twitter @zackburgess1.
Make no mistake.
The recently published book by former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell is another product of this man’s savvy proclivity for self-promotion.
However, irrespective of the man’s motives, Rendell is on target with the alarmingly accurate title of that book, “A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great.”
‘Wuss’ is variously defined as timid, weakling and wimp.
That term is realistically applicable to too many of those either elected to, elevated into or having usurped positions within American leadership circles across spheres from academic to scientific, financial to political and religious.
Wusses accurately describes the many Philadelphia leaders that persistently permit local construction industry trade unions to practice prejudicial employment practices, unlawful discrimination that aggravates the unemployment contributing to this city’s grinding rates of entrenched poverty.
Interestingly, Rendell spent time in the wuss category when cold-shouldering discrimination complaints against construction unions during his terms as Philly mayor and Pa.’s governor.
Wusses is arguably applicable to many Black religious leaders now shouting about President Obama’s mere support for the idea of same-sex marriages while remaining silent on racism in corporate suites that contributes to the economic strangulation encountered by their church members of varying sexual preferences and marital status.
This spring for example, the Wilmington, Del.-based pharma giant AstraZeneca gave a $65-million exit package to its sacked CEO David Brennan, who during his few years of tenure presided over massive revenue losses and the [alleged cost-cutting] discharge of more than 21,000 employees while doing nothing about discrimination in that corporation’s ranks.
Like many U.S. corporations AZ employed few Blacks in its most high-wage job positions.
Some of those Blacks working their way into AZ’s lucrative salary slots found themselves drop-kicked by discrimination that Brennan practically did nothing about.
One former Black professional athlete working in an AZ sales division found himself canned coinciding with his raising concerns about lack of diversity.
Apparently some Black ministers need reminding that they can publicly oppose both same-sex marriage and employment segregation by corporations at the same time if sincere in fulfilling their charge to help those relying on their leadership.
Wusses accurately describes the Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina bent on ignoring scientific facts about rising sea levels arising from global warming by lap-dogging to pressure from powerful developers wanting to cash in by building on shorelines that decades from now will be awash with waves requiring bailouts.
Those N.C. legislators push legislation prohibiting governmental agencies in N.C. from even recommending the need to prepare for inevitable rising ocean levels by head-in-the-sand demands that the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission eliminate global warming based predictions from a major report on legislator’s crap contention that global warming doesn’t exist.
There are multiple ironies in the title of Rendell’s book.
One irony is that Rendell benefitted from wuss behavior enabling him to continue compiling his illustrative career that provides the platform for publishers having an interest in a book from him.
Rendell is a lawyer, and lawyers are not supposed to lie according to the ethical and professional standards provisions covering that profession.
In 1978, while Rendell was serving as Philadelphia’s district attorney the Pennsylvania Supreme Court castigated Philly homicide prosecutors for “perpetrating a falsehood and fraud” (a/k/a — lying) on that court during a push to win a conviction.
The caustic language in that high court ruling included the unusual step of specifically naming Rendell citing his “misleading” testimony as a prosecution witness during the trial that court ruling voided.
If that Supreme Court and its professional standards body were not wusses Rendell and his prosecutorial confederates would have faced disciplinary procedures if not disbarment for that courtroom misconduct.
And, losing a legal license would not have been the best résumé builder listing for a politician aspiring to higher offices ... thus reducing the likelihood of Rendell’s subsequent climbs into the offices of mayor and governor.
Another irony of sorts is that the “Wuss of the Week Award,” at least the Wuss Award for last week, goes to an entity Rendell once headed: the Democratic National Committee.
The DNC took a dive on the critical gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin declining to drop needed dimes into the populist driven campaign to removed union busting/middle class bashing tea party-corporate prostitute Scott Walker on the stupid claim that Walker’s recall had little national significance or symbolism.
“Thousands and thousands of people here worked millions of hours in response to which the chair of the DNC offered no money and no help saying it was a local race with no national implications,” a Wisconsin academic said expressing disappointment that President Obama also wuss-ed out on that recall.
“Conversely, the money flowed in from the RNC and the Republican Governors as well as the ‘Koch roaches,’ etc. who framed it as a very important platform and Mitt Romney declared Walker was “his hero.”
Rendell’s book may not make it onto any best-selling list, but this wuss-inflection rampant in American leadership circles is killing this country.
Truth be told, the re-election of President Barack Obama is perhaps more problematic than many of his supporters think due to Obama assuming a wuss role, like constantly caving in to Republicans on Capitol Hill in the name of bipartisanship after the Republican establishment declared ending the Obama presidency its Number One mission.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
The most distressing aspect of the whole Mitt Romney “47 percent controversy” is that, if we’re wide awake, it absolutely has to make us wonder whether our current electoral processes really do deliver to us, for the General Election, the two best candidates in the country who might serve as president of the United States.
In fact, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to why so many of us are not excited by either candidate, and asking myself how we, as a nation, can move toward having a better-qualified, more-impressive list of presidential aspirants.
The problem can probably be traced back to our willingness to conduct our most important elections as if we were all still living in 1787, when the Constitution was signed.
It's clear that the responsibilities of the president of the United States today are infinitely more complicated than when George Washington first held down that job, about 225 years ago. I’m pretty confident in saying there’s virtually nothing that we do today the same way that we did back then. We're not the same country, by any stretch of the imagination.
Think about it: Poverty levels are historically high; mortgage foreclosures are a routine occurrence; homelessness is rampant, even for veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pension funds have been underfunded at alarming levels; prices of gasoline and food are frighteningly high and increasing on a daily basis. For the first time in U.S. history, the life expectancy of American citizens is actually declining from year-to-year. And, American women now rank 41st in that category, among countries that comprise the United Nations.
There’s growing evidence that racial and ethnic tensions and hate crimes are all on the rise. And, if all that weren’t enough domestically, it’s even worse for us overseas, where the U.S. seems to be substantially less influential than it once was. Other nations are “eating our economic lunch” in manufacturing and technology, and growing numbers of Middle Eastern and North African nations are demonstrating outright hostility — including the burning of American flags and embassy buildings.
Despite all of that, we’re still selecting our country’s top elected officials in the same way we did when men were still wearing powdered wigs, when horses were the dominant mode of transportation and when virtually no one on earth believed that China, Brazil or India would ever be seen as global powers.
Being president of the United States during such tumultuous times is unquestionably a big job. And yet, in a time when even mid-size, not-for-profit agencies and for-profit corporations routinely conduct national searches to identify candidates who are best qualified to run their operations, the United States of America still selects its "CEO" without benefit of a generally agreed upon set of strategic objectives, without any clear delineation of the skill set required to do the job, without even a formal job description.
Instead of a skill set, the President has an embarrassingly short list of "qualifications." You probably remember them from your fifth-grade civics classes: Candidates for president must be natural-born citizens of the United States, they must be a resident of the country for at least 14 years, and they must be at least 35 years of age.
Surprisingly, with the largest national budget in the Western world, a presidential candidate needs no special financial management skill set to qualify. With the country in constant economic turmoil, the candidate for U.S. president is not required to have any specific understanding of micro- or macro-economics. Elastic demand? In-elastic demand? Whatever.
To aspire to manage the institution that is the world's largest employer, a presidential candidate needs to demonstrate no prior management experience to “throw his hat in the ring.”
The South rising up, again, against the North? Whites organizing against Blacks? Asians not getting along with Hispanics? Foreign dignitaries trying to beat the country down at the negotiating table?
No sweat! If you want to be a presidential candidate, prior experience in negotiating, mediating, making peace or minimizing hostility through personal leadership is simply not required.
Is there another critical job anywhere in the country with so much responsibility that requires so little from the applicants? How else do you explain the diverse group of obnoxious, low-potential underachievers that we had to endure for so many months during the recent Republican Primary Election process?
Why did we have to sit, or sleep, through Rick Santorum, Newt Gingwrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michele Bachman and Rick Perry, when there certainly must have been another process available to narrow down the field to have a better-experienced, more-capable group of potential candidates?
Suppose, for example, we had a process in place wherein we actually established a job description and a desired set of skills for the next president, and conducted a national search, digitally, for people who actually matched those criteria, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.
Wouldn’t we come up with thousands of high-potential candidates from which to select? Didn’t LinkedIn, as far back as January 2011, claim to have 44 million mostly professional U.S. people in its membership base?
No, what we do instead is “suffer fools gladly," even as we say we’re selecting the person to fill the most important job in the country. Even worse, in the absence of real criteria or any minimum standards, we have turned this critical process over to the mainstream media, especially to cable TV networks.
In the absence of other substantive criteria, it is the media outlets that schedule the debates, that create the issues-of-the-day, and that drive candidates who bore them, or who don’t cooperate with them, out of the race.
In presidential campaigns driven by broadcast media, we wind up with discussions about which candidate is the most telegenic, which has the best “presidential hair,” which is the tallest, and which is prepared to do a successful interview with Katie Couric.
It’s not a surprise, therefore, that we wind up, through such a process, with a man on the Democratic side named Barack Obama who, aside from his complexion, is scarcely distinguishable, on an issues basis, from the average Republican. And, on the Republican side, we were left, when all was said and done, with a man named Mitt Romney, a candidate who seems remarkably ill-at-ease, given the lofty position he aspires to, and a candidate who can’t seem to control a terrible tendency to say insulting, condescending, and disrespectful things to large numbers of the people that he needs to vote for him.
It’s not working anymore.
At this late date, with so much at risk, America doesn’t really need a Republican candidate whose job it is to appeal to the “right,” or a Democratic candidate whose job it is to appeal to the “left.”
In fact, the two-major-party-approach to leadership selection is probably the single most divisive factor in creating, finally, a true United States of America — or a true “united Pennsylvania" or a true "united Los Angeles."
We need the people of this country to put down, both, their "elephant" buttons and their "donkey" buttons and offer a description of the most important tasks they’d like to see the next president accomplish, over his four-year term. Then, we need to reduce those objectives to a valid job description, for use in conducting a national search for the candidate we need to run our country.
If we come up with 40, 50 or 17 of them, at least we’ll know they’ll all be qualified to get the job done.
Once we’ve accomplished all of that, it will finally be time to vote. It shouldn’t take very long, and it can’t be anywhere near as painful or non-productive as what we currently have.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
The campaign is now over. It is now up to you the voter. If you are thinking about not voting today here are five reasons why you vote in this important election:
1. Re-elect President Barack Obama -- President Barack Obama deserves re-election because he brought economic stability to the nation after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Ending the war in Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan are major accomplishments. Where several other presidents failed, Obama was able to get a landmark health care reform bill passed that will give millions of American health care insurance.
2. Voter Suppression — President Obama said in a campaign rally this weekend the best revenge is voting. He is right. The best response to conservatives seeking to suppress the vote through new voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and other states, reduced voting hours, voter purging and other voter suppression attempts is strong voter turnout.
3. Statewide, local elections and ballot questions -- President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are at the top of the ballot but they are not the only names on the ballot. Philadelphia voters will also be choosing a state attorney general, auditor general, state treasurer, representatives to Congress, state legislators and important ballot questions.
4. Supreme Court — The next president of the United States could possibly pick two or three justices for the Supreme Court in the next four years. We know what to expect from the president since he has already picked two highly qualified for the nation’s highest court in his selection of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. What can we expect from a President Romney who described himself during the Republican primaries as a “severe conservative,”?
5. Expected close presidential election -- The fifth and final reason you should vote today is that this is expected to be a close election. The polls show that Obama and Romney are in a tight race. This means every vote will count. Romney is making a big 11th-hour push to win Pennsylvania, a state with the fifth most electoral votes. A stronger voter turnout in Philadelphia for Obama could be the difference in the president winning Pennsylvania.
Last week we saw the political spectacle otherwise known as the Republican National Convention. As predicted, we saw party speakers, one after the other, discuss the virtues of their nominee, Mitt Romney, and how he would fix the country’s woes, and how our current president’s best is simply not good enough.
Starting this Tuesday, tens of thousands of Democrats will descend on Charlotte, N.C., to do the same, but this time the roles are reversed. Party officials will talk about the past four years in the context of how things would have been much worse had their party not obtained power. You will hear party officials, one after the other, talk about the positive attributes of President Obama and how Republicans are out of sync with the American electorate.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? I’ll let you decide come Election Day, but you will recall that I used this column space last week to talk about how the Republican Party and its prospective Convention and how it needed to do a better job of attracting more African Americans into the fold. I still stand behind those comments, but I also think the Democratic Party needs to do an equally better job of simply not taking our votes for granted. Let’s face it, many Democratic officials assume that African Americans will vote for their party, and give little to no interest to actually coming into the community and respectfully asking for our votes through the power of ideas and persuasion. Over the years, I have heard from many African Americans who are tired of the assumption that just because we are of a particular race, we will vote for the Democratic Party. Some African Americans have even gone so far as to register as Independents to voice their frustration and to force party officials to take notice. But do party officials take notice? No. They continue on with the same old talking points, and the same old tactics of knowing that African Americans and the union organizations will remain solidly in their camp.
Let’s hope that this week’s Democratic National Convention will be different. Let’s hope there will be fresh ideas, new energy and new faces that articulate their vision for America and will not just tear the other party down and take brown faces’ votes for granted. It will be interesting to see if the president, vice president and other party leaders earnestly ask for our votes not just because we are Black, but because we are free-thinking individuals who not only have independent thought, but have the choice to align ourselves with another political party, whether it is the Republican, Independent or Green party. Exactly as I charged the Republican Party in last week’s column to think outside the box and to aggressively court African-American voters, I challenge the Democratic Party to court African Americans the same way — and to not assume that we all think alike and thus will gravitate to one party just because it has always been done that way.
Finally, we as African Americans need to stand up for ourselves and demand that all parties listen to our wants and execute our wishes. We are guilty if we do not hold public officials accountable through the power of our votes, and we are even guiltier in accepting the status quo. Let’s see if this week’s gathering in Charlotte is any different.
Follow me on Twitter at @roberttraynham.
Houston, we have a problem. It’s troubling when surrogates — people charged with speaking on behalf of the candidate — stumble, but it’s quite another when the candidate himself stumbles. We all bristled when Newark Mayor Cory Booker made comments that put the candidate’s team on defense, and we gasped again when former president Bill Clinton did the same thing a few days later, but we were all surprised — very surprised — when the candidate himself stepped off message. Especially when the candidate himself has historically been so good at staying on offense and keeping his opponent on defense.
Who am I talking about? No, not Romney — he actually has had a pretty good couple of weeks from a message perspective (and not too bad in the fundraising department either). No, I’m talking about President Barack Obama. He really stepped in it when he made the comment a few days ago that “the private sector of the economy is doing fine.” You and I both know that the no sector of the economy is doing fine, and although technically the private sector is growing — albeit slowly — millions of Americans in no way shape or form are experiencing any of those benefits. In fact, recent polling data suggest that many Americans — and especially African Americans and Latinos — still feel that the economy is not moving in the right direction.
The White House knew that the president stepped in it and very quickly organized a second press conference where he could clarify his remarks. He tried to clean it up by saying, “It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That’s the reason I had the press conference. The folks who are hurting, where we have problems and where we can do better, is small businesses that are having a tough time getting financing. We have seen teachers and police officers and firefighters who’ve been laid off.”
Unfortunately for team Obama, the damage had already been done. Team Romney sensed the opening and went offensive with a campaign commercial that portrayed the president as out of touch with the reality of everyday working Americans.
So what’s wrong with team Obama? To be clear, this is a small bump on the long road to Nov. 6. The recent misstatements of the president and his team are not going to cost him the election, but it has caused and will continue to cause anxiety for many of his strongest and most loyal supporters. Here’s why: The misstatements by the president are so uncharacteristic of him.
“No-drama Obama,” as he has been known, is always on message, always on offense and seemingly always on point. Many donors and senior Democrats are worried that this White House may in fact be out of touch with the realities of everyday Americans and by default rusty on their political skills. I have heard more than one Democrat openly talk about the significant headwinds (a tough sluggish economy, a united Republican base, a possible defeat on health care from the Supreme Court) the president faces toward his reelection. In other words, even though Governor Romney may not be setting his base on fire with enthusiastic crowds and soaring speeches, he will in fact give President Obama a run for his money due to a lackluster economy that is not doing fine, a Democratic base that is not as energized as it was four years ago, and a Republican base that wants revenge.
If you think the last cycle of negative ads was bad, hold on tight, ladies and gentlemen, because you have not seen anything yet.
Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU) is throwing the weight of its 2.1 million members behind President Barack Obama’s campaign — working to convince African-American and Latino voters in eight battleground states to cast their ballots to re-elect the president.
“We’re focusing on the rising American electorate,” said Eliseo Medina, SEIU International secretary treasurer. “Labor households, Latino voters, African-American voters and young voters.”
Union officials hope to register as many as 600,000 new voters.
“We’re probably going to talk to three times as many general voters as we ever have,” said Brandon Davis, the union’s political director.
SEIU is focusing its efforts in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — all key battleground states in the upcoming election. According to union officials, they will be making 13 million phone calls and knocking on 3 million doors.
Medina and other union officials announced the new blitz Tuesday. It followed the announcement of a $4 million Spanish language TV and radio campaign last week aimed at Latino voters in Colorado, Florida and Nevada.
The president has the overwhelming support of Black voters.
According to Gallup Poll’s latest figures, 83 percent of African Americans support Obama, a slight decrease from the 85 percent and above the president has enjoyed for most of his term. Latinos also continue to support Obama in large majorities, with Gallup finding 61 percent approve of the president.
But, union officials want to make sure they vote.
“Far too much is at stake this election cycle. We are using our human and capital resources to stand by candidates who will stand up for working people, and not return the country to the failed policies of the past,” said Medina. “We know our communities can make a difference when they go to the polls.”
SEIU member Samara Knight, a nursing assistant from Cleveland, Ohio, is one of about 700 union members who will be paid to organize in her community.
“There is a lot at stake for my family in this election, and the difference between where President Obama stands and Mitt Romney’s policies couldn’t be clearer,” Knight said, crying as she spoke about losing her home and being overwhelmed with her son’s medical bills.
Overall, union officials said they hoped to have 100,000 volunteers on the streets.
Their efforts are being helped by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Medina said.
“God bless his little heart … when he is going out and making clear to the Latino community where he stands. He makes very clear where he stands … from our point of view all we have to do is tell the Latino community in his own words where he stands,” he said.
SEIU spent approximately $85 million during Obama’s 2008 campaign, and endorsed him over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.
Since then, its political activities have come under scrutiny.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule, possibly this month, on a case involving the union. In Knox v. SEIU, a case that started in California, a union member sued after the union temporarily raised dues to help pay for political activities.
According to officials taking part in this week’s announcement, members pay about $7 each to fund campaign activities.
Alicia Keys to visit Philly, give her support at Women Vote Summit
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney may have an edge on President Barack Obama in fundraising, but Obama appears to have cornered the political market on hip entertainers pushing his message.
R&B sensation and multi-platinum singer Alicia Keys is the next celebrity to work on Obama’s behalf. She’ll be the prime draw to Monday’s Women Vote 2012 Summit, which begins at 5 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street.
The event is free and open to the public.
Keys will join Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and senior Democratic strategist Valerie Jarrett in discussions of Obama’s various women-related initiatives, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the merits of the recently upheld Affordable Health Care Act.
“As a mother and a daughter, I know there is too much at stake in the upcoming elections to sit on the sidelines. I’m excited for next week’s Women Vote summit to talk about issues that are important to me and my family,” said Keys. “In his three years in office, President Obama has been an advocate for us since day one — from making health care more accessible and affordable to ensuring women can fight for equal pay for an equal day’s work. He has proven that he has the people in his heart! As a new mom, I am going to do everything I can to re-elect the president because this election will determine where we go as a country and what kind of world my child will grow up in.”
Recent polls show that the Obama-Romney gender gap is growing; in fact, Romney is facing a wider gender gap than John McCain did in 2008.
And the National Organization for Women recently endorsed Obama’s re-election, which will perhaps further motivate NOW’s 500,000 members and women voters in general.
“It is with great pride that I announce on behalf of the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots women’s rights organization, that the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee endorses President Barack Obama for re-election as president of the United States. NOW/PAC is proud to stand behind a president who unquestionably represents the path forward to achieve equality for women,” said NOW/PAC Chairwoman Terry O’Neill. “Throughout the past four years President Obama has listened to our concerns and repeatedly stood up for women’s rights against a right-wing juggernaut bent on undermining our access to reproductive health care, our economic security and even our safety from intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
“The extremists’ War on Women is all too real, and in order to win this struggle we must have strong allies in the White House who will work with us to implement policies that empower the women of this country to live healthy, safe and productive lives,” O’Neill continued. “President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have shown time and again that they are our allies.”
Mitt Romney may have moved closer to wrapping up the Republican nomination for president, but he can’t seem to move his foot away from his mouth whenever he goes off script. Throughout this campaign, the former Massachusetts governor has been his worst enemy as he struggles to connect with average voters.
Here are some examples:
April 25, 2011 – In an op-ed in the Manchester Union Leader, Romney accused President Obama of going on “one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history.”
Simultaneously fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hardly qualifies as “peacetime.”
April 30 – Speaking at an Americans for Prosperity dinner in Manchester, N.H., Romney said: “Reagan came up with this great thing about the ‘misery index’ and he hung that around Jimmy Carter’s neck. Well, we’re going to have to hang the ‘Obama Misery Index’ around his neck.” He continued, “…We’re going to hang him…” After stopping mid-sentence, Romney added, “So to speak — metaphorically. You have to be careful these days.”
Yes, Mitt, you do have to be careful these days. And saying even metaphorically that you want to hang a Black man, in this case the president of the United States, shows appalling insensitivity to this country’s long and ugly history of lynching.
June 16 – Speaking to unemployed workers in Tampa, Fla., Romney said, “I am also unemployed.”
When you are worth between $190 million and $250 million and receive more than $20 million a year from investments, you don’t have to work.
Aug. 11 – At the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Romney said: “Corporations are people, my friend.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the comment was “one more indication that Romney and the Republicans on the campaign trail and in Washington have misplaced priorities.”
Dec. 10 – During the Sioux City GOP debate: “Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet?”
Oct. 18 – In the GOP debate in Las Vegas, recalling a conversation he had with his lawn-care service that had employed illegal immigrants: “We went to the company and we said, Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”
Would it be all right if Romney wasn’t running for office?
Jan. 9 – Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce function in Nashua, N.H.: “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”
Jan. 17 – In Greenville, S.C., Romney called the $370,000 he earned in speaking fees in 2011 “not very much money.” According to the Census Bureau, that’s more than seven times the average household income of $49,445.
Feb. 1 – CNN interview: “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
Romney made it very clear that he is no John F. Kennedy. And although he professed not to be concerned for the very rich, independent analyses of his tax plan show that’s the group that would most benefit under his proposal.
Comedian Jon Stewart said on his “Daily Show”: “It’s like a doctor going, ‘I’m not concerned about the very healthy, because they’re doing fine, or the very sick because, you know, morphine.’”
Feb. 24 – Speaking in Detroit: “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”
Way to go, Mitt. Remind the audience that your wife drives two vehicles that sell for $35,485-$54,525 each and that you have two homes, each with its own Cadillac. Working-class people can really relate to that.
Feb. 26 – When asked by a reporter at the Daytona 500 if he followed racing, Romney replied: “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”
One blogger said Romney saying he had friends that were NASCAR owners was akin to saying you enjoy football because you hang out with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a skybox at the Super Bowl.
But Romney didn’t stop there. He told a group of racing fans wearing plastic ponchos: “I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” Describing ponchos as “fancy raincoats” shows that Romney needs to get out of his mansions more often.
Despite Romney’s effort to put his best foot forward, he usually sticks it in his mouth. – (NNPA)
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderato, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.