Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One America

John Edwards:

One America, one America that works for everybody.

One America where struggling towns and factories come back to life because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil.

One America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will be honored for that work.

One America where no child will go to bed hungry because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty.

One America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care.

One America with one public school system that works for all of our children.

One America that finally brings this war in Iraq to an end. And brings our service members home with the hero's welcome that they have earned and that they deserve....

John Edwards, who spoke with passion about the challenge of a nation split into haves and have-nots, into "two Americas", has dropped out of the 2008 Presidential race. In doing so, he reaffirmed his commitment to the cause of those whose voices are often not heard, the voices of those who have fallen by the wayside in a globalized economy, of workers without health benefits and veterans without shelter, of parents and families that struggle in a country that has allowed the greed of a few outweigh the needs and purposes of the broader population.

He has been called a phony, a class-warmonger, a populist, and worse, but he is an American hero. He drove the agenda of Clinton and Obama. His positions and policy proposals were deeply defined, well-considered, and extensively communicated; in a campaign that often dissolved into silly and even embarrassingly petty personal attacks, ridiculous protests, and phony claims of racism and sexism, Edwards was focused on specific proposals to achieve worthy goals. He may have been beaten, but he was never outclassed.

Now, I wish him and Elizabeth well. I hope they will take some time for themselves and for their family. He should take some time and think about the role he might want in the next administration. Personally, I would like to see him take on the repairs needed at Justice. Attorney General Edwards in 2009.

Tomorrow, I hope Edwards will endorse Obama. It has to happen. Listening to Obama on Saturday, after he won South Carolina, I couldn't help but notice that he had picked up the Edwards line -- it sounded as if he had adopted the Edwards stump speech. The music was Obama's but the lyrics were clearly crafted to reach the ears and touch the hearts of every Edwards man and woman in America.

Now, today, I hear in the words of Edwards an important theme of Barack Obama's. Edwards, who frequently addressed the problem of "two America's", was talking about "One America" - the frame usually expressed by Obama. Words matter to these men, and I think before we go to the polls on Tuesday, Obama will have Edwards's endorsement.

Let us go forward now and do what is right and just. It is about time.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Changing My Mind

After giving further thought to what I heard Obama say last night, I have come to the conclusion that Edwards should drop out of the campaign before Super Tuesday, and give his personal endorsement to Barack Obama. Obama's South Carolina victory speech may be the best political speech I have ever heard - not only for what he had to say, but also, in the context of an ugly campaign in that state, for how he said it.

As always, he was classy - he didn't even mention Hillary or Bill in his remarks. Though he took apart their arguments and turned them around to build a positive case for his own candidacy, his purpose was clearly not about bashing them as it was selling us on his view of how we should go forward as a nation.

John Edwards, Joe Biden - even Hillary Clinton - would have made a good President. But I am now convinced: Barack Obama is the best candidate for President in 2008.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dum Spiro Spero

While I breathe, I hope.

This must be a thought on John Edwards's mind tonight - this son of South Carolina must know this motto of the Palmetto State. Finishing third in this primary must really smart. He pulled out all the stops - I heard one reporter today say that he spent more on tv ads than his two opponents, combined.

I am not terribly disappointed. I listened to the Obama victory speech. Aside from the rhetorical elegance, the music of his high-minded and visionary words, there was something about his speech that was very apparent to me, and very reassuring: he was pitching the Edwards agenda.

So I congratulate Barack Obama and his multitude of supporters, but I also thank John Edwards for setting the Democratic agenda in this campaign. No matter how this campaign comes out, Edwards has had a tremendous impact and his ideas and convictions have defined the platform for the party and for the government that will be formed in January 2009.

We are heading in the right direction, under inspired and talented leadership. Yes, even up here in New Jersey, while I breathe, I am filled with hope.


John Edwards Rising?

I have long been a supporter of John Edwards for President. I supported his campaign for President in 2004, and have supported him throughout this campaign as well. As voters go to the polls in South Carolina, I am hopeful that Edwards will continue to surge as he has done in recent polls - should he win, he could open up great possibilities on February 5, and it would be a great day for working class Americans.

Edwards is a rich former trial lawyer with a 28,000 square foot home and an unfortunate You Tube grooming incident who has dedicated the balance of his life to the eradication of poverty in America; a devoted husband and family man who is campaigning even while his wife, Elizabeth, is facing a truly grave illness; a man whose two-America theme and call for universal health coverage was eclipsed by the more positive one-America anthem of a man who would settle for nearly universal health coverage; a man who trails in the polls and is dismissed by a media and electorate used to horserace-thinking and unwilling to weigh the issues and positions of the candidates when the alternatives are polls and mud.

He is the first of the three remaining Democratic candidates to have proposed a universal health coverage plan, one that has been the model for each of the later proposals from Hillary and Barack. Now that Dennis "UFO" Kucinich has returned to his home planet, Edwards is the Democrat most clearly committed to a prompt and complete withdrawal from Iraq. He is the candidate who - unlike Hillary - has foregone corporate funding and therefore will be able to take on corporate power and corporate interests in order to advance the interests and needs of the American people. He is the candidate who - unlike Obama - understands that the dead hand of the American Hezbollah (party of God) must be pried forcefully from the levers of power if we are to significantly raise the minimum wage and provide health care to all Americans.

Just a few years ago, Edwards was a centrist in the Democratic party - a guy not unlike Bill Clinton in 1990 - and was not known as a champion of the poor working-class Americans that he claims to be today. Some of his votes as Senator go against the principles and values he espouses today. He explains this as a maturation in leadership - saying that he had compromised much in the political arena in order to have a chance to be elected. When he lost in 2004, he resolved to be more authentic, to give full voice to his values, and to work passionately for the causes he believes in.

Some people don't believe him.

They say his haircut was too expensive and his house is too big and he has too much money to be a tribune for poor folks. They don't much like lawyers and litigation, even if he was suing large companies to protect the interests of individuals who could not fight on equal terms without the help of a lawyer. You can't help sensing that some of these folks resent his money as much as they clearly envy his youthful good looks - they take so much pleasure in calling him "pretty" and some go so far as to question his manhood (Ann Coulter has nothing on some of these Democrats). Some offer only one criticism of Edwards - the poll-driven assessment that "he can't win, he's toast" Taken as a whole, the case against Edwards offered by these people is an indictment of the maturity of the American voter. How pathetic, how superficial.

The many people who claim he is a phony, that his concern for the poor is inauthentic, that his whole campaign is a sham, never deal with the obvious counter-argument to all that negativity. The man loves his wife and his family. His wife is dying of cancer and together they have decided that he should continue this campaign - that this work is the most important work of their lives. Somehow, people ignore this compelling evidence of personal commitment. Once again I am reminded that shallow minds abound in America.

For myself, three things are clear:

  1. We need a President who understands the tragic, immoral and ruinously expensive war in Iraq must come to an immediate end, and that we the American people want to reverse the course set by the idiot from Crawford. And we must have a President who will attend to the needs of our veterans and end the disgraceful Republican era of neglect.
  2. We must enact programs to provide all Americans with decent health care coverage and a minimum wage. The Bush tax cuts which mainly benefited the most wealthy must be reversed to pay for economic equity and security for those Americans who work and struggle to get by.
  3. We need a President who recognizes from Day One that the GOP who ran roughshod over the Democrats while they had power are not going to cooperate in some blissful bi-partisan agenda. Their idea of bi-partisan was established clearly over the past eight years. We need someone who can fight them and beat them. Someone who can make the case to the people and overcome resistance by getting the people behind him. Nobody makes the case for what he believes in as clearly and compellingly as Edwards. Obama has lofty rhetoric, to be sure, but Edwards is more skillful at persuading the common folks of the American jury.
We need John Edwards in the White House.

I like Obama well enough, and he will be the perfect guy to come in after the knife fight is over and we have what we want - that is when you want a conciliator to take charge. Why would you want to call a truce while the other guy is holding all the prizes? Let's fix what's broken, roll back the Bush crimes, and then when the patient is stabilized, Dr Obama will be perfect. For now, though, we need a fighter, not a conciliator.

I like Hillary well enough. Next to Edwards, she is the best choice for the next four years. But she will lose the fight - at least some parts of it. She is smart, well-prepared, seasoned, and committed. But a lot of Americans find her off-putting. The Republicans will use that to undermine her and she will end up as her husband did, compromising and triangulating, and falling short of all our expectations and hopes.

Good luck today, John Edwards!

Monday, January 21, 2008


I was 12 years old when Dr. King was killed in Memphis. Growing up in northern New Jersey, I remember the riots in Newark and other cities in the summer of 1967. I remember a neighbor inviting my father to join him and other vigilante-bigots in going to Newark to beat up any black person who might be unlucky enough to be targeted for such senseless brutality (Dad stayed home -- my parents were appalled by the violence but sympathetic with the plight of the Negroes. They didn't teach their children to hate, but they thought the civil rights protesters were pushing too hard, and hurting their own cause).

That fall, I started eigth grade and my homeroom teacher was Sister Eileen Marie, a sincere but baffling woman known by the derisive nickname "Fish" among the smart-mouths at St Phillip's School. Sr. Eileen Marie was very deeply involved in issues of social justice and racial harmony - but my hometown was lily-white and I really didn't get it. I thought she was more than a little bit nuts. Still, I was picking up the vibe of the times: it was tense, unhappy, and pessimistic -- would there be more violence? Were the prayers of Sr. Eileen Marie ever to be answered, or was God laughing her off like the kids in my eighth-grade class? Was it too much to ask - just too much change for America?

In the years that followed - as I completed my education and entered a more diverse world of work and of living in a much more integrated community than the one I had grown-up in - I came to understand a great deal about our long-troubled and profoundly and pathologically unjust experience with race in America. I read the history of the civil rights movement, and especially valued the three-volume work of Taylor Branch for its close rendering of the the details of that struggle, and of the role of Dr King.

When I think of great Americans, Washington and Lincoln come to mind, of course: Washington, for resisting the monarchical suggestions of his admirers and maintaining the republican ideal; Lincoln for his commitment to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the pragmatic genius necessary to protect those ideals; and King for changing the hearts of a nation and moving us forward, dramatically, towards the day when his dream of racial justice and harmony would become fact.

It may be hard for people much younger than myself to see it, but for me the change in American racial attitudes have changed dramatically since 1968. There's no doubt in my mind that we still have race issues in America, or that we still have a large problem with race-related social injustice. There's also no doubt in my mind that the advances in civil rights for blacks, women, gays, Jews and other Americans, are the legacy of a man whose conscience, courage, vision, oratory, and ultimate blood sacrifice won over the hearts and minds of the nation.

In 2008, now almost 40 years since Dr King was assassinated, I am grateful to a man I know mostly from books and film. King showed us the gap between our reality and our ideals, and inspired us to close that gap. Were he alive today, I think he would still be hard at work - but I think he would also agree with my view that we have come a remarkably long way.

Barack Obama is running for President, and his race is not an issue. Whether he will be "ready on day one", whether his health insurance plan should include a "Mandatory" provision, whether his Iraq exit plan is fast enough, and whether he is too moderate to fight the GOP -- these are the decision factors being weighed, and not the color of his skin.

Sister Eileen Marie's prayers have not all been answered, and the challenges of social justice are still before us, but in 2008 we have come so far that we can be optimistic about the tasks still ahead of us. I hope my own children will say when they are 52 that this noble cause advanced dramatically in their lifetimes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Unshaken Tempest Viewer, Betrothed

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-- William Shakespeare (Sonnet 116)

The date has been set. September 27, 2009. I am to be wed.

I am a happy man, and settled in my heart and mind.

Quoting the Bard once more:

"When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married."

Is life not an endless source of amazement, of unexpected pleasures, and undeserved joy?


Friday, January 04, 2008

What's in it for us?

Just watching BET on cable -- they're promoting a program soon to be aired on that channel focusing on Barack Obama and the Black vote. Should be an interesting program, but I'm guessing it will make the candidate a little uncomfortable. Funny thing, race in America. A few weeks ago the majority of Black voters were supporting Hillary, and now those voters may be giving their allegiance a second thought. Who would have thought white Iowa could have made such a difference among African-American voters?

What's in it for us - the title of the BET program - is a fair question, I guess. I'm okay with it, though I see Obama's candidacy as having importance that transcends specific deliverables. A President Obama would take this nation much further than Frederick Douglas or Jackie Robinson could have imagined (though Dr. King surely had this very thing in mind when he spoke to the country of his dream).

I support John Edwards. I think he'll fight for things that matter to me, and I think he has forced Obama and Clinton to take positions closer to the lefty end of the Democratic party. Clinton will sell that agenda down the river, as did her husband. And Obama is a complete unknown -- I love his rhetoric and high-mindedness, but I don't know what he would be committed to achieving as President.

I guess I am asking the BET question, Mr Obama. Beyond the dream we share with Dr. King, what's in it for America?