Sunday, December 28, 2008

The test

"Mark my words. Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it's gonna happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you, not financially to help him, we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Who knew that the test would be launched by Israel?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Purpose-Driven Pastor Selection

Every news source I regularly read or watch has pronounced Obama's choice of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation as his first real mistake. Gavin Newsom is disappointed; some supporters are going to boycott the inauguration.

Let's take a breath. Obama does not do anything reflexively. He has carefully thought out these first few months. In his economic and defense picks, it looks very much as if he is intent on covering his flank for dramatic initiatives, assigning some of the most dangerous critics of his policies the task of implementing them. It's a pretty neat trick.

With the Warren choice, he has either comitted a grievous offense against several core groups of his supporters, particulalry gays and lesbians--or he has performed another high-stakes flanking maneuver. Thus, here is my prediction: Just as Clinton's first major initiative was the botched, and later compromised, executive order to end discrimination against gays in the military, Obama will do the same--except this time, he will have the blessing of key segments of the evangelical community (Warren and the other younger, less-ideological leaders), as well as military brass who will agree that we can no longer afford the luxury of turning away competent, courageous would-be members of the armed services on the basis of sexual orientation.

Of course, I could be wrong. In that case, I stand corrected.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

RNC still in self-immolation mode

Twelve more months of W? Is this calendar part of the RNC's "comeback plan"?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A more nuanced look at the American Colonization Society

A student cited this link to an essay by Doug Egerton and Judith Mulcahey. The key passage:

"Despite the widespread opposition to the ACS in northern cities, the group was never the planter-controlled organization that Walker and its abolitionist critics claimed it to be, and assertions by modern scholars that proslavery activists endorsed the society in the hope of removing dangerous free blacks like Vesey are largely without foundation. Admittedly, in the border South, proslavery politicians such as President John Tyler and Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur hoped to use the organization to rid their state of free blacks, whom they believed inspired perilous dreams of liberty in those yet enslaved. But despite the racist tone of their public rhetoric, many white colonizationists privately harbored progressive views regarding black capabilities. Society spokespersons insisted that southern poverty was not the result of alleged African American incompetence, but rather that an economic institution based on unwaged labor deprived blacks of both the incentives and the education that made northern free wage workers so productive. Because many border state colonizationists boldly advocated the complete elimination of the African American labor force, slave and free alike, in the name of greater regional prosperity, Lower South planter politicians like Robert Turnbull of South Carolina bitterly castigated the organization as an “abolition society.”

"Modern historians also tend to regard any scheme of mass removal as an impossible one. But the society estimated the cost of sending one black settler to Liberia to be only twenty-five dollars. Since the black population during the early antebellum period grew by roughly six thousand people per year, it would cost Congress only $120,000 annually to remove every newborn or recently emancipated slave. Over the course of two to three decades, the white population would continue to grow, while the proportion of blacks in the national population would plummet, marginalizing unfree labor in the process. ACS defenders observed that a government that could force Native Americans to move west into Oklahoma was perfectly capable of compelling free blacks to sail east toward West Africa. Some politicians even noted that Washington could have conveyed 1.2 million black Americans to Liberia for the same sum that it spent crushing native resistance in the Second Seminole War."

What changes if we have to take the ACS more seriously?

Source: Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Coalition Government

"Abraham Lincoln managed to appoint to his cabinet four of his rivals to the 1860 Republican nomination. Barack Obama has now made one of his, his vice president, another of his, secretary of state, a third likely to become his secretary of commerce. But in our fifth story on the Countdown, as he rolled out his national security team, the president-elect could now out-Lincoln Lincoln. He also has a secretary of defense fresh from the Bush administration, an attorney-general and a U.N. ambassador from the Clinton administration, a head of an economic recovery advisory board out of the Carter and Reagan administrations, and a national security advisor who appeared at at least one campaign event for the senator Obama defeated in the election last month. This is not the dream of Doris Kearns Goodwin"s publishers come true, a Team of Rivals; this is now bordering on a coalition government."

Keith Olberman, December 1, 2008