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20081101issuecovus400Barack Obama won the 2008 election!!! The first black American president.

I was overseas in Rome at the time. There were posters of him all over the place. One said “Il Mondo Cambia” (“The world changes”), another said, “Yes He Can” and a third said, “Oh yeah”.

Overseas, people seemed to think it was a great day in American history. They were proud of America! It was almost as if Obama had become the president of the world, not just 4.6% of it.

It was not till I got back home to America that I began to hear of the ugly doubts and fears: the flags at half-mast, white people buying guns, the Associated Press asking whether whites should be frightened.

Sad. But what is sadder still is that it does not surprise me. There is something dark and ugly in the American soul that is still far from dead. A side that has been there for hundreds of years and which Sarah Palin tried to call forth.

Obama’s victory speech – the whole thing, not the little bits that CNN kept showing – was so beautiful it made me cry. No speech has ever affected me like that. I know he will be a great man, one of the best presidents America has ever had. A good thing too since we seem to be entering bad times.

Of all the reactions I liked that of Condoleezza Rice the best, a black Republican who remembers the Jim Crow South. I forget what she said, but the look on her face – the joy, the pride and the happy wonder – said it all.

The best newspaper headline: “In Our Lifetime”. How many of us even a year ago ever thought we would live to see this day?

It seems too good to be true. So good that it makes me afraid that something terrible will take it all away.

Barack Obama is only a man. He cannot walk on water. He cannot cast out demons from the American soul. He cannot work wonders: America will remain divided by race. But a black president is still a huge step forward and a cause for hope.

Most white people voted for McCain, it is true, yet Obama won because race in America is changing: partly because it is not as white as it used to be, partly because the bad old Jim Crow ideas of race are dying out (even as the more subtle ones of colour-blind racism live on).

If nothing else, with a black man as the commander-in-chief and a black woman as the first lady – the closest thing America has to a king and queen – white people will never be able to think about blacks quite the same way again.

And, if nothing else, my two sons, 11 and 13, who take Obama’s victory for granted, being too young to understand how wonderful a thing it is, they will know – better yet, take for granted – that they can do anything they set their minds to.

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Christopher Hitchens has come out for Obama, but mainly because of how sad the Republicans are (the bold lettering is mine):

...the Obama campaign’s choice of the word erratic to describe McCain is also an insinuation. But really, it’s only a euphemism. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear had to feel sorry for the old lion on his last outing and wish that he could be taken somewhere soothing and restful before the night was out. The train-wreck sentences, the whistlings in the pipes, the alarming and bewildered handhold phrases—”My friends”—to get him through the next 10 seconds. I haven’t felt such pity for anyone since the late Adm. James Stockdale humiliated himself as Ross Perot’s running mate. And I am sorry to have to say it, but Stockdale had also distinguished himself in America’s most disastrous and shameful war, and it didn’t qualify him then and it doesn’t qualify McCain now.

The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: “What does he take me for?” Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party’s right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama’s position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.

Read the whole thing on Salon.com: “Vote for Obama”.

I do not agree with everything that Hitchens has said over the years, but I respect him for being honest enough to call a spade a spade. And in this case I think he is mostly right.

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As I write this a month before the 2008 election for the next American president, Barack Obama is leading in the opinion polls over John McCain by 11 percentage points. So at the rate things are going Obama should crush McCain.

But wait, not so fast!

In 1982 Tom Bradley ran for governor of California. He was leading in the polls and even on election day the exit polls showed that he would win. But he lost.

Tom Bradley was black. As it turns out, when a black man runs against a white man in America, between 5% to 15% of white voters will lie when answering opinion polls and even exit polls. Maybe because they do not want to seem racist.

This is called the Bradley Effect. It affects not just blacks, but women too.

So will the Bradley Effect affect Obama, a black man running against John McCain, a white man? Well, it did in some of the Democratic primaries earlier in the year when he ran against Hillary Clinton, a white woman. You saw it in some of the states, but not all of them: mainly those that were less than 8% black. In other states stronger-than-expected black support was able to match or overcome the Bradley Effect.

The country as a whole is 13% black, so while Obama might not win by 11 points, he would still win. But in the primaries he was running against a white woman. Against McCain, a white man, the Bradley Effect should be worse.

The Bradley Effect only concerns whites who lie when answering polls. Some whites, of course, are plain about not voting for Obama just because he is black.

What the primaries told us:

Obama did well among those whites who are under 45 and have a university degree; he did poorly among whites who are old enough to remember Jim Crow.

Going state by state:

  • Obama won the 10 blackest states and 15 of the 20 whitest states.
  • Clinton won 16 of the 21 states in between – those that are between 4% and 19% black.

Going county by county:

  • Obama won the black belt of counties that stretches from Maryland to east Texas by way of Atlanta and goes up the Mississippi as far as Memphis.
  • Clinton won the redneck belt that runs just north of that from Arkansas to Pennsylvania by way of Kentucky. Black T-shirt country. The very places where people are most likely to Google the n-word.
  • Clinton did well in the Hispanic belt from south Texas to California.
  • Obama did well in the Yankee belt that runs from New England to Washington state by way of Minnesota. It is whiter than the redneck belt, but in general it is richer and more liberal.

In the closing days of the primary race, Hillary Clinton appealed to the white racist vote more and more nakedly. Now McCain and his supporters are starting to do that by drawing attention to Obama’s middle name (Hussein) and William Ayers, trying to make Obama seem different and dangerous.

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I know what I saw at the Palin-Biden debate for the next American vice president on October 2nd 2008: Sarah Palin could not answer all the questions. She did not even try. She was like a talking doll: she could only give canned answers. And if one of her canned answers did not fit the question, she would just pick any old one and start saying that with a smile, pouring on the charm and the gosh-darns and doggone-its.

Proof that she was not thinking on her feet, that her performance was completely canned, that it was not at all her true self, was what she did when Biden came close to tears telling of his dead wife: she did nothing. There was nothing in her canned answers or her notes about dead wives.

And yet some Republican talking heads said she did great! That she is fit to be vice president! Maybe they were blinded by her charm. Maybe they were blinded by their party loyalty or the party line. Maybe they were just not honest. Whatever the reason might be, you cannot trust what comes out of their mouths!

If they are like that now, how will they be if she ever becomes president? Or, more to the point, how can we trust anything they say from now on?  Being Republican is one thing, but drinking the Kool-Aid is something else.

So for future reference here are some of those who belong to the Sarah Palin Kool-Aid Drinking Society (links go to their opinions of the debate where I could find them expressed online):

Those who do not drink her Kool-Aid (though they may well be drinking someone else’s):

Most of these are known or suspected Obama supporters, like me, but not all of them. George Will, Rick Santorum and The Economist, for example, are all well to the right.

A Kool-Aid drinker is someone whose common sense judgement is blinded by his loyalty to an idea or a person. Like when nearly a thousand followers of Jim Jones died after drinking poisoned Flavor Aid (not Kool-Aid, like people think) at Jonestown in 1978.

Thanks goes to The Black Snob, who unwittingly did some of the research for this post!

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I saw this at the Black Snob:

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Cindy Lou McCain (1954- ) is the wife of John McCain, the American senator from Arizona who is running for president in 2008.

John McCain met her in 1979 at a party in Hawaii. He was 42 and married, she was 24 and the daughter of one of the richest men in Arizona. They had an affair. A year later he left his wife: “he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona”, as Ross Perot put it. Cindy used her fortune – she is worth about $100 million (8 million crowns) – to help John run for Congress.

Her father was the country’s third largest beer distributor for Anheuser-Busch. Cindy McCain is now the head of his company, Hensley & Co, employing about 650 people. She does not run the company day-to-day, leaving that to others.

She keeps her money separate from her husband’s. She is far richer than he is.

In addition to beer, she founded the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) in 1988, which helps to get doctors, nurses and medicine to parts of the world struck by war and disaster, places like Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Although AVMT came to an end in 1995, she still continues doing that sort of work, frequently going overseas to see how her money is spent to help the poor and the suffering.

She sits on the board of CARE.

Her children:

  • 1984: Meghan, news reporter
  • 1986: Jack, in the Navy
  • 1988: Jimmy, in the Marines
  • 1991: Bridget, adopted from Bangladesh

In the 2000 election John McCain’s enemies spread a lie that he had Bridget by a black woman out of wedlock.

Cindy McCain’s sufferings:

  • 1980s: several miscarriages
  • 1989: slipped disc (twice)
  • 1989: became hooked on the painkillers Percocet and Vicodin
  • 1993: hysterectomy
  • 2004: stroke, short-term memory loss
  • 2000s: carpal tunnel syndrome

She suffered back pains from at least 1989 to 1993. That was when she became hooked on painkillers. She got a doctor who worked for her as part of the AVMT to prescribe them.

In 1993 Tom Gosinski, who also worked for the AVMT, told the government about what was going on. That brought the DEA down on her. If it was one of us, we would be in prison.

A year before Gosinski wrote this in his journal:

In reality, I am working for a very sad, lonely woman whose marriage of convenience to a U.S. Senator has driven her to: distance herself from friends; cover feelings of despair with drugs; and replace lonely moments with self-indulgences.

That same year John McCain called her a “cunt” in public: she said his hair was getting thin and he said, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.”

She lives in Arizona, seeing her husband mainly on weekends.

When she was younger she worked with children with Down syndrome, like what Sarah Palin’s youngest child has.

In the 2008 election she informed us:

I have and always will be proud of my country.

This was in answer to Michelle Obama’s comment about being really proud of America for the first time in her adult life.

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Sarah Palin (1964- ) is the governor of the state of Alaska and John McCain’s pick for Republican vice president for 2008. She is part of the Christian right and once supported Pat Buchanan on the far right.

McCain’s choice was so surprising that some wonder about his judgement. It seems like a cheap, desperate move. It is either that or a bold and brave master stroke. Only time will tell.

The choice is not quite as desperate as it might seem at first sight. Of all the Republican governors she is the most beloved by her citizens: she cuts taxes and cleans up government. She stands up to the bad apples even in her own party and gets them kicked out.

She has courage and faith in God. Instead of working all the angles and playing the game, like a Hillary Clinton, she looks at it this way:

I believe everything happens for a purpose. In my own personal life, if I dedicated back to my Creator what I’m trying to create for the good . . . everything will turn out fine.

Like most Republican voters she is a regular church-going Christian who believs in old-time Christian morals. She is a Pentecostal Christian (Assemblies of God) who is against same-sex marriage and abortion. She has said  creationism should be taught in schools.

If the 2008 election comes down to voter turn-out, as it looks like it will, then McCain needs a vice president that the Christian right can go wild for.

Palin’s main drawback is her lack of experience. She has even less of it than Obama. Which seems to destroy McCain’s main argument against him.

She grew up in Alaska hunting moose with her father and used to work with her husband in his fishing boat. As a hunter she is a strong supporter of gun rights.

Her husband has worked for BP, one of the three big oil companies in Alaska. She is for pumping all the oil out of ANWR, the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, a vast untouched piece of wilderness in Alaska.

She has five children:

  • 1989: Track, joined the army on September 11th 2007. He will soon be in Iraq.
  • 1990: Bristol, pregnant but intends to marry the father.
  • 1995: Willow, a girl
  • 2001: Piper Indy, a girl
  • 2008: Trig, a boy. When Palin was four-months pregnant she knew he would be born with Down syndrome.

The daughter of schoolteachers, she is from Wasilla, a town north of Anchorage:

  • In high school she led its basketball team to state-wide victory, getting the name Sarah Barracuda.
  • In 1984 she was crowned the town’s beauty queen, and almost became Miss Alaska (she came in second).
  • In 1996 she became its mayor.

After her two terms as mayor, ending in 2002, she went on to become the state’s regulator of the oil and gas industry and then, in December 2006, the governor, defeating men with bigger names and bigger money.

Of past presidents she seems most like Harry Truman.

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