Welcome to Friday! Tonight, a preview of what could be the tone of this fall’s general election. A new ad released by the North Carolina Republican Party features the most contentious sermons from Rev. Wright. We’ll have much more of Rev. Wright’s lengthy interview with Bill Moyers and reaction from Sen. Obama.
Also tonight, accusations from Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC). He says the primary has become so venomous that some African Americans believe that the Clintons are doing everything they possibly can to damage Sen. Barack Obama to the point that he could never win in the general election. We’ll take a closer look at that and at the impact Bill Clinton is having on his wife’s campaign. Is he helping or would she be better off if he just stayed home?
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Chief National Correspondent
The politics of race is a dicey topic, and one not to be treated lightly. So when we decided to spend some time tonight exploring race and the presidential campaign, I decided to check in with an old friend: Professor Merle Black of Atlanta’s Emory University.
I have been touching base with Merle for the past two decades; he and his twin brother Earl are among the best in the nation at analyzing political trends, and have for the past quarter century watched race play a role in the region they know best, the South. Their book, “Divided America,” is a good read for anyone who wants to take a closer look at the factors that drive American politics today.
The brothers Black don’t play the hyperbole game – they let history and data do the talking. So this got my attention: “The reappearance of Pastor Wright here is a nightmare for the Obama campaign.”
Merle’s point was that be believes across the Midwest and South, in the smaller communities that tend to settle close races for president, voters will have questions about Obama’s 20-year relationship with a church whose pastor has said some pretty controversial things. It is in part a question or race; if he wins the nomination Obama will be asking the country to make history.
“The contradiction is that Obama is someone who presents himself as someone who has transcended race, and this is a church where race is clearly central to its theology,” Merle Black told us.
And, Merle says, it is also about the questions every candidate for president faces.
“It goes to the character and judgment of Barack Obama,” he said. “Across the South and the heartland of the United States, you know many are, especially rural small town Americans … they really couldn’t understand why someone would be a member of that church for 20 years.”
The Obama campaign is correct in saying voters want to hear more about the candidates’ views on the economy and health care and the war in Iraq.
But all candidates for president, especially those who are newcomers to the national stage, also face the considerable challenge of introducing themselves to the American people. And my conversations with Merle and others today leave me convinced Senator Obama, for all his strengths as a candidate, still has his work cut out for him when it comes to introducing and defining himself – before his critics and opponents do it for him.
Program Note: John King anchors AC360 Friday night at 10p ET
We just passed the one year anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech, but these wounds are understandably still very raw, and likely to be for some time. Which is why I was so surprised to read the owner of an online gun store that sold on of the guns used by Seung-Hui Cho spoke at the school. The event – sponsored by the Students for Concealed Carry of Campus organization – was about just that. A topic and a talk stronlgy opposed by the school’s administration.
"Free speech is a hallmark of university life," Virginina Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said. "Still, I find it terribly offensive to learn that the gun-seller of the weapons used in the Virginia Tech campus murders would set foot on this campus. “
Tough to imagine our lives without this blog, the internet to get us here, email, cell phones…and all the conveniences they bring us. They can also be incredibly useful – just ask UC Berkeley grad student James Buck. In Egyot covering an anti-government protest, Buck suddenly found himself and his translator arrested. Luckily, he was able to keep his cell phone, and send a message to his friends letting them know what happened.
In a matter of seconds, his friends in Egypt and co-workers back home knew he’d been detained.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/25/art.holtfatherson.jpg caption="Ronald Holt, with his son Blair"]
It’s been nearly a year since gun violence took my son.
He was shot while jumping in front of gun fire, protecting a friend who was in harm's way. Blair was a smart, good and loving young man. This was supposed to be the year we picked out a University, talked about girlfriends and watched his talent take off.
But since he was killed May 10th of last year, his mother, Annette and I made our son a promise. Do everything we can to stop gun violence. We can’t do this alone. There are far too many kids getting killed in our communities.
Please help me by taking action against this senseless gun violence. Congressman Bobby Rush has sponsored House bill 2666, dubbed “Blair’s Bill” which works to have people register their gun purchases into a federal database, helping track down those guns involved in crimes.
Please log onto these websites to learn how to get involved.
We can’t do this alone.
It was our son who lost his life to senseless gun violence, it could be yours tomorrow.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/14/art.faye.wattleton.jpg caption="Faye Wattleton, President, Center for the Advancement of Women"]
President, Center for the Advancement of Women
Running for president of the United States isn’t the same as running for Sunday School principal. As the stakes are the highest for the most powerful position on the planet, the contest will only grow hotter in intensity. This is, after all, the run for the presidency, the closest thing we have to royalty. The presidential candidates are crying foul with every attack ad that’s launched on them. Complaining about one another’s ads is a waste of valuable air time in an electorate with a short attention span and awaiting clarity on vital issues.
Frankly, the tone at this point has been relatively civilized. Willie Horton and Swift boat ads, which were patent distortions of the candidates’ actions, have not yet appeared on the campaigns. Many fear the current attacks will weaken the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the general election. They may be right, not because of the ads, but because of the vagueness of the candidate’s positions.
The exhilarating phase of the campaign is coming to an end, and the scrutiny is tightening on the candidate’s character and ability to lead a nation with many challenges. If the candidates and their surrogates are genuinely concerned about how attack ads might be distracting voters, they should stop complaining and use them as a backdrop to give Americans more substantial issues to think about. Rather than disparaging, dismissing or brushing off their attacker, the candidates should explain their positions on specific issues. Failure to do so is an injustice of the democratic process.
What's going on? Happy Friday! It's time for a little ‘Beat 360°.’
Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption. Our staff will get in on the action too.
Tune in every night at 10p ET to see if you are our favorite! Can you Beat 360°?
Here is today’s “Beat 360°” pic of the day: Here we see New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sharing a moment during a luncheon last week New York City.
Here's one to get you started:
"Forget pumping iron Arnold, I can bench press 400 million dollars with this arm."
Have fun with it.
Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
– David Reisner, 360° Digital Producer
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/25/book.292.320.bloom.jpg caption="Sandra L. L. Bloom, co-author of 'Bearing Witness: Violence and Collective Responsibility' shares her thoughts on young people and violence." width=292 height=320]
Sandra Bloom, MD
Linda Rich, MA
Theodore J. Corbin, MD
John A Rich, MD, MPH
The Center for nonviolence and Social Justice
Drexel University School of Public Health
With the number of killings reported in the news, it can be easy to lose sight of all the young people in the inner city who make up the "walking wounded.” Violence is contagious. Community violence affects everyone in the community – and that means all of us. Many young people in the inner city have been victims of nonfatal violence – shot, stabbed or assaulted. Many others have witnessed violence against their friends or family, endured graphic, daily news reports about neighborhood violence or been treated as perpetrators, even when they are not.
Sometimes the trauma that these young people go through leaves them feeling raw and unsafe and even threatened by their own peers. We now know a great deal about the science of trauma. Over the past 20 years the scientific community has accumulated a vast store of knowledge about how the brain and the body are negatively affected by repetitive violence. In many ways, urban youth become like the traumatized veterans who return from Afghanistan and Iraq whose bodies and minds are stressed to the point where they cannot distinguish between real and imagined threat.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/24/art.demsplit.jpg%5D
spokesman and deputy press secretary at the Republican National Committee during the 2000 presidential campaign,
Author, “Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other.”
For reasons it will take us a long time to sort out, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both failed to connect with lower-income, working class rural and small town white voters in the Rust Belt. These are critical voters in swing states like Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia, even in blue or purple states like Pennsylvania and perhaps New York.
Six full weeks after we expected Hillary's Coronation, (remember on Super Tuesday, February 5), the battle between them slogs on, getting uglier and uglier by the day. Clinton has alienated two thirds of the black voters in the Rust Belt. Obama, meanwhile, seems unable to connect with females and working-class Democrats over 65.
Can either of these candidates, who seem to be alienating critical portions of their base, deliver these states against John McCain, who for the moment has independents all to himself? I'm beginning to doubt it.