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The opposition against President Obama is not like what we saw against Clinton and Bush. It comes from a darker, more dangerous place. It expresses itself in a more troubling form.

People disagreed with Bush and Clinton. They questioned their character and intelligence. The Republicans even tried to bring down Clinton by impeaching him. But through it all they continued to respect the office of the presidency – even if they did not like the man holding that office. That is how Americans have been. Not so with Obama. A line is being crossed.

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That line was crossed when Congressman Joe Wilson said “You lie!” in the middle of speech by the president to the country, openly disrespecting him.

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That line was crossed when Sean Delonas of the New York Post drew a cartoon showing the president being shot dead (as a chimp).

Before Obama no one has doubted the president’s right to be the president, not in living memory.

Bush in 2000 lost the popular vote, winning only through a questionable vote count in a state where his brother was governor.  Yet there was no movement that continued to question his right to hold his office.

Reagan in 1980 won by less than Obama, destroyed the power of the labour unions and pushed through much more extreme policies than Obama’s. Yet you did not hear about people “taking their country back”.

Further, none of these men had their Americanness questioned. None were required to show their hospital birth record because suddenly the one from their state of birth would not do.

The only thing that makes sense of all this is that some have a hard time accepting a black man as president. So they question his right to be president or act towards him like he is not the president.

If so then it is coming from a dark and dangerous place in the American soul, a place of whips and chains and hangings. Dangerous because no one knows how it will end. It could do more than simply take down a president, it could divide the country to a dangerous degree. Already it seems like racism is becoming much more open and naked than it was even six months ago.

Unlike a president’s sex life or bad English, race is one of the few things that can tear the country apart.

lewinskydressThe Republicans hammered Clinton. Even in 1996, two years before Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress, it seemed like Clinton might not make it through another four years. It seemed like sooner or later the Republicans would find something that would stick.

Yet the worse it was ever going to do was to bring down Clinton. It was not going to shape the nature of the country. Its damage would be limited.

If Republican opposition to Obama was based mainly on stuff like ACORN and Tony Rezko, then it would be like what they did to Clinton. But it is not. This is something different.

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This one is just a picture, but I could not pass it up. Notice Condi. And the angels. And the Boy Child. The sheep. All of it. I saw it on the blog Keep It Trill. Enjoy.

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Gary Graham

Gary Graham (1963-2000), also known as Shaka Sankofa, was a small-time armed robber from Houston, Texas who was put to death in 2000 for the murder of Bobby Lambert. It made the news across America and overseas because the governor of Texas at the time was George Bush, who was then running for president.

It was widely condemned overseas because Graham was 17 at the time of the murder. Only four other countries apply capital punishment to children: Iran, Pakistan, Congo and Nigeria.

The case against Graham was strikingly weak: His gun did not match the bullet that killed Lambert. Only one of the five witnesses placed him at the scene of the crime. Two were sure it was not him. Bobby Lambert did have enemies, but Graham was not one of them.

In 1981 Bobby Lambert gave testimony in court against some drug dealers. One night soon after in front of a Safeway food store in Houston he was shot dead. He was not robbed. Five people saw it.

Ten days later Graham was arrested. A 17-year-old boy with a gun, he was robbing and raping the good people of Houston. He found himself put in police line-ups just when the police were looking for Lambert’s killer.

Only one of the five witnesses picked him out of the line-up and even she failed to pick out his picture earlier.

Having no one else, the police pinned the murder on Graham.

He had no money for a lawyer so the court appointed him one, Ronald Mock. Court appointed lawyers are underpaid and overworked. They try to get you to admit guilt so they can get through their cases quickly.

Graham said he had robbed some people but he never killed anyone, so it went to trial. Mock did little work on the case. He did not know about the other four witnesses. He did not know about the gun not matching the bullet. So neither did the judge and jury.

The judge sentenced Graham to die.

For the next 19 years Graham fought it. No judge wanted to reopen the case. No judge wanted to hear from the other four witnesses. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, refused to hear it. The case was reviewed by 33 judges in all. Graham had run out of appeals.

The New York Times was against it and so was the United Nations and Amnesty International. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton came to support Graham. So did Amnesty International in the person of Bianca Jagger. The Ku Klux Klan came too, but probably not in support of Graham, who was black. (Lambert was a white man.)

It took five guards to take him away to be killed. Just before he died he gave an angry speech. He said he was being lynched, that this sort of thing will go on for another hundred years if black people do nothing. Bianca Jagger cried. Then he died.

Bush said justice had been done.

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