When Barack Obama was running for president, I liked to pick up on the song, “Party Like a Rock Star” and change it to “Party Like a Barack Star.” President Obama and first lady Michelle, sure did rock the house when they were in Europe. The queen was so moved by Mrs. Obama that she allowed the first Black first lady to touch her. EGADS!! And the photo-op of the queen and Prince Phillip with the Obamas looked like a reunion with old friends at a barbecue.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was very cordial to President Obama. And let me debunk this: Obama and Brown get along just fine. There have been press reports that the two have a chilly relationship but my sources say that is silly. Brown’s wife and Mrs. Obama have a great relationship, also.
When I looked at how the Europeans went goo goo over Mrs. Obama it reminded me of when I read a history of John F. Kennedy. When he visited Paris as president, his wife Jacqueline went along and the French press and people went nuts. So much so, Kennedy quipped that he was the “man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.”
The same could be said of Obama. Instead of a Dick Cheney-like “it-is-my-way-or-the-highway”-attitude, Obama tried to negotiate with his fellow world leaders in America’s interest and, indeed, everyone’s interest. He won points from the presidents of Russia and France for his style and willingness to accomplish things instead of bullying and scaring allies with talk of terrorism and al-qaeda.
Obama’s speech in France showed that he was willing to say what many of us have long thought. America has made mistakes and we were wrong for that. But he also issued a challenge to the Europeans to become more aggressive on world issues instead of deferring to America and blaming the U.S. when things go wrong.
In Prague, he rightly blasted North Korea for its missile program and said that the world community had a right to see that it is shut down.
This was Obama’s first stage on the world scene as president and he performed magnificently. There will be challenges ahead of course, but this was a good start. And yes, he and Michelle were Baracking Europe.
Yesterday, I wrote about the success that Rep. Chris Van Hollen is having keeping the Democrats in Power in the House and the strong likelihood that the Dems number may expand in 2010. Usually, a successful political leader who expands the numbers in his/her party can look forward to moving to the next level.
That is why there is this talk of Chris Van Hollen replacing Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate when she retires. There is every indication that Mikulski will run again in 2010 and no one in their right mind will challenge her. But that should be her last term because in 2016 she will be 80 and would have served the people of Maryland and the country well.
I like Chris Van Hollen but I really think that it is time for an African American to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Maryland. My choice would be Baltimore Rep. Elijah Cummings, a man who has shown that he can work with both Democrats and Republicans and represent urban as well as suburban interests. The year, 2016, would be ripe for Cummings because demographics show that Maryland is poised to become a majority-minority state in 2020. That year, minority voting strength would likely be at its highest ever.
Right now, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, the state’s third and first Democratic voting blocs, respectively, are majority minority. Charles County will soon be 50 percent minority by 2014 and Montgomery County may be majority minority by 2012. Not only are these jurisdictions the largest in the state but they are urban-suburban, where minorities tend to reside and are Democrats bulwarks.
Cummings, who will be about 64 in 2016, will be a well-seasoned pol in Washington and would know how to represent Maryland well in the U.S. Senate. It is no secret that often the best U.S. senators served in the U.S. House of Representatives for a number of terms.
As I said before I like Van Hollen, but it is time for Blacks to break up the “old boy” and “old girl” network in Maryland. Baltimore and Prince George’s County consistently deliver for the Democratic Party but often what happens is that the Black community gets crumbs.
I say enough already! When Barbara Mikulski wins in 2010, I think Cummings should secretly start building his base of support and money for 2016. Marylanders can no longer have one race represent the state in the Senate.
Other politically-talented people of color deserve a chance. I think it should start in 2016 with Elijah Cummings.
The Democrats are in full control of the U.S. House of Representatives and within a senator (can you say Al Franken) of functional control of the U.S. Senate. The American people flocked to the Democratic Party in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama, the election of seven senators and a two dozen members of the House.
I went to a briefing with Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) yesterday at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Van Hollen talked about the New York congressional race that took place on March 31 in which Steve Murphy defeated a well-entrenched Republican leader in the General Assembly by a handful of votes. But he also hinted at possibly expanding their majority in the House.
“In 2006, we went into Republican terrority and took back the House,” he said. “In 2008, we went deeper and gained more members. In 2010, we want to get more members.”
There is a strong possibility that may happen. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain carried 49 districts that elected Democrats to Congress. However, Barack Obama carried 35 districts that elected Republicans as their representative in the House. There are 255 Democrats, and 178 Republicans with 2 vacancies. It appears that the Dems will pick up those two to increase their numbers to 257.
It takes 218 to control the chamber.
If the Democrats can hold the McCain 49 and pick up, let’s say, five of Obama’s 35, the Dems number will increase to 262 while the GOP will fall to a useless 173. The Dems will be close to a supermajority, which means that they can pass legislation without any type of procedural maneuvers by the Republican minority.
While I am impressed with the Dems who won their seats while McCain carried their districts, I am elated that more pickups could come from the Obama 35. While some GOP legislators are safe as a Illena Ros-Lehten of Florida, some of the Califorians such as Dan Lungren could be in real trouble.
“We feel good about our chances in California in 2010,” Van Hollen said.
One member that will likely lose in 2010 is Joseph Chao of Louisiana, who represents predominantly Black New Orleans. The first Vietnamese American elected to Congress will probably be a one-termer as the Blacks in that city and district want it back.
The Dems gaining more seats will only help the Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC will have more clout with more Democratic members. Chairman Charles Rangel, John Conyers and Bennie Thompson will be able to move their own agenda with less Republican opposition and be able to offer carrots to conservative Dems in terms of choice subcommittee assignments and more money for their districts.
All of this is dependent on how popular President Obama is in 2010 and the state of the economy.
“It is way to early to predict how things are going to come out,” Van Hollen said. “But let me say that things look good for us.”
Indeed. While some fear that a near Democratic super majority in the House may not be good for democracy, I would argue otherwise. Until the Republican Party gets serious about reaching out to people other than wealthy Whites, super religious White Christians and White blue collar workers, it will remain the minority party in the House. With people of color becoming more numerous and politically active, the prospect of a GOP takeover is less and less likely unless the party is committed to change.
Van Hollen success in 2008 has already won him points in the House leadership. In addition to running the DCCC, he holds the title of Assistant to the Speaker of the House. If he does well in 2010 by gaining more seats, he can look to a Senate run in the near future or leapfrogging his way as House Majority Whip, as James Clyburn looks to wind down his political career.
If present trends hold, it looks like the Dems may be in control of the House for the next decade. How sweet it is.
When I first moved to Washington, D.C. in 1987 I was surprised to find out that the city did not have any representation in the U.S. Congress. I knew there were no senators but I thought that the representative had a vote.
Considering that I was a Free South Africa activist and writer out of college in Texas, I believed in human rights and all that good stuff. Imagine my shock when I found out that Walter Fauntroy, the D.C. congressman’s could not cast a vote on behalf of residents of the city on the House floor.
I said to myself, some is wrong here!!
What really bothered me was the fact that D.C. residents were’nt up in arms. I mean, D.C. residents pay federal taxes. Let me say that again, D.C. residents pay federal taxes. And they have no real voice on how that money is spent. D.C. residents can go to war and have the same obligations as other American citizens, except that they do not have a voting representative in the U.S. Congress.
What really bothered me in 1987 and even now, nobody is angry about it. Seriously!! While D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s Warrior on the Hill, fights like a junkyward dog for the city, the residents seem to be a sleep. Is there activism on the issue of voting rights and statehood-yes. But what is really needed is a serious effort to inform the rest of the country and the world about how the citizens in the city are disenfranchised. There needs to be civil disobedience as well as a public relations strategy to combat this injustice.
However, if you bring up a strategy such as not paying federal taxes or preventing Capitol Hill from getting city services, D.C. residents cower and say that they don’t want to make folks on Capitol Hill mad. Well…the founding fathers of this country made plenty of people in Great Britain mad when they stood up for their rights. Sometimes you have to make powers that be mad in order for them to do the right thing.
But this goes back to what I was writing about in an earlier blog: leadership. The leadership in the District, other than Eleanor, is too passive. They go to too many cocktail parties and act too bourgeoise instead of getting into the grassroots and taking to the streets. The leadership of this city, not necessarily elected officials, need to make statehood a priority.
The time is right for D.C. to move forward in its quest for political equity. President Obama supports D.C. statehood, both houses of Congress would support statehood if there was an up and down vote and I would venture to guess that the American people would support statehood if they knew what the situation was.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room-the Blacks in Washington-is no longer a reason to deny D.C. its rights. Simply put, color should not be a barrier to a citizen exercising their rights. Remember, even when D.C. reached its peak of 71.1 percent Black in 1975, the city had hundreds of thousands of Whites in it.
In other words, by denying Blacks in D.C. their full rights, Whites are also being disenfranchised.
Retrocession into Maryland is a dumb idea. The people of Maryland don’t want it and neither do District residents.
There should be a full throttle move toward the District of Columbia becoming the state of New Columbia. This effort should be led by people in the grassroots not the elected leadership.
If a vote in the U.S. House leads in that direction, then so be it. Either way, people in the District need to get mad and do something.
When I was a young political pup in 1980, I supported Sen. Edward Kennedy in the primaries against President Carter. To me, at the time, President Carter seemed like a nice man but I did not think he was a good leader. As a youngster, I was impressed with the Kennedy legacy, Camelot etc. and thought that if we had another Kennedy as president, everything would be fine. Of course, Kennedy lost but gave a fine concession speech at the Democratic Convention that year. While Carter won the most delegates, Kennedy won everyone’s heart. The thing that hurt Carter was his perceived lack of leadership skills. That is why Reagan beat him so badly that November.
Many Americans thought that Ronald Reagan was going to be a stronger leader….Let me say this.
Leadership is not about who can coin the best phrase or who can speak the loudest. Leadership is not about this thing called charisma because a pro football player can have that and not do anything on or off the field of substance.
Leadership is not about barking orders to subordinates because often times that is not leadership but bullying. Bullying breeds resentment and thereafter a leader follows.
Leadership is about helping people reach their goals. As I told a friend, leadership is not about giving orders but getting things done.
Barack Obama has proven that he is a great orator but if he can move the country to higher heights, then he is a true leader.
If President Obama is successful in his efforts to change the way the federal government conducts business and the culture of inner-Beltway Washington, he will be the first president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to do so. Oh sure, Ronald Reagan attempted to change Washington to make it a more private-sector friendly environment but all he really did during his eight years in D.C. was to make it more politically polarized and bring to the public dialogue obnoxious, dull-intellected pols who slavishly followed the right wing agenda lock-step. Indeed, Washington did change under Ronald Reagan-it became a nastier place.
What President Obama is trying to do is to make the government more citizen friendly, the same thing that Roosevelt did. While it is unlikely that Obama will have the huge public work projects that Roosevelt advocated or start a life-changing program such as Social Security, he will work to see that the average middle class citizen will have access to a job, money to buy a house or an education and have access to the Internet. Obama wants to give Americans the tools they need in order to succeed. As for the Republicans, I don’t know what they want to do. They made a critical error when they gave their agenda over to George W. Bush. No party should ever let a president dictate their complete agenda!!
Only time will tell whether Obama becomes Roosevely-like. In the meantime, I suggest people contact the White House to let Obama and his team know what is on their mind. It worked for Roosevelt.
The late chairman of the board of Johnson Publishing, John Johnson, wrote in his book, “Succeeding Against the Odds” about a story regarding his mother, Gertrude Johnson. In the mid-1930s, Miss Gertrude was having trouble with a federal agency because she had just moved to Chicago from Arkansas. So, Johnson said that his mother sat a table one day and wrote a letter to President Roosevelt.
Johnson said that she did not get a response but was contacted by a federal worker and the problem was solved. The point is that if there is an issue with the federal government, write or e-mail Obama a letter and watch to see it resolved. As a matter of fact, Obama encourages the American people to do that.
It seems to me that Obama is more Rooseveltian every day. That is good for America.
There are many Black Americans who believe that the election of the first Black president of the United States means that they do not have to keep an eye on “The Man” anymore. They say that because Obama is Black, he will have the Black community’s interest when it comes to economics, criminal justice, civil rights and international relations, which should translate into better relations with Africa and the Carribean. Hmmmm….it is my opinion that Black people need to be more vigilant now that Obama is president. He has so much to deal with on his plate, it is easy to see how he could overlook some of the Black community’s concerns. Black people should not repeat the mistakes of what happen when Blacks became mayors of major cities. There was a sense that these mayors would look out for us in city hall. Sometimes that happened but for the most part the Black mayors were so tied down to performing their duties that they neglected some neighborhood concerns. This is why when you mention Black mayors, a lot of African Americans roll their eyes. We should not roll our eyes at Obama.
Call him at the White House. E-mail. Write a letter to him and send it snail mail. Fax him. Whatever you do Black people get involved in the process of engaging Obama. Do not leave it to the Congressional Black Caucus. It is up to you!!!
Most people have no idea what a U.S. trade representative is. It is one of the most important, yet obscure positions in the federal government. In a nutchell, this office and the person who holds it (called an Ambassador) negotiates trade deals with foreign countries, enforces U.S. trade policy and serves as an advocate to world markets for American trade. If this job is done right, millions of jobs will be saved and created. If it is done haphazardly, millions of jobs will be lost and America will lose its credibility with the world financial powers. Obama did a wise thing by picking Kirk because he understands that U.S. trade can generate jobs for millions of Americans in the small business sector. Too many times in the past, this job has gone to a political hack, a big business flunkee or a business intellectual who has no idea how trade really works. With Kirk, you have a man who has cut his teeth in local politics, run one of the largest cities in the country and someone who has learned to negotiate with differing factions to reach a consensus. Kirk will need a lot of luck in his new job but he is a smart man and someone who has proven that he can get things done.
Here’s what happened:
I guess being out of place has its advantages. I accidently met Michelle Obama today.
I was being escorted along with other members of the media to an event that I thought was Ron Kirk’s swearing-in. We started walking out to the South Lawn and I began to get suspicious. So, I turned to my friend, Pamela Gentry of BET News and CNN commentator and asked if were going to Ron Kirk’s swearing-in.
She looked at me like I was crazy and said that we were going to the First Lady’s Garden Party.
Oh geez, I said…and I noticed that Pam was giggling at me. I asked a press aide to take me to the Executive Office Building and she agreed to do so.
As we were walking to the Executive Office Building, I saw Mrs. Obama walking with a bunch of aides, including executive usher Admiral Roshon. Roshon and I have the same barber in Seat Pleasant.
The press aide yelled out to Mrs. Obama as we passed and told me to introduce my self to her. I did, she stopped, shook my hand and walked on. Rochon yelled “Hey, good seeing you Mr. Wright” and proceeded to whisper to the first lady.
By the way, I did get to the Kirk swearing-in on time and one of his aides said that he would like to have a private lunch with me in the future. As you know, Kirk and I are from Austin, Texas and went to the same high school and belonged to Jack and Jill, though he is much older than I.
It was a crazy, but HISTORIC day in my life. Thanks to the AFRO for all of the opportunities.
I can’t wait to tell Mom.