The USA

Another GOP Profile In Courage

Herman Cain opened himself up to uncomfortable, personal questions when he went on a tour to promote his new book, which promotes his run for president. In the book, he explains in detail why he chose not to get involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, depite being a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta between 1963-1967.

I want to make it very clear that it involvement in the civil rights movement should never be a litmus test for office, much in the same way military service in Vietnam used to be a litmus test for national, male politicians. No black man or woman who was an adult between 1955 and 1970 should be required to reveal their involvement in the civil rights movement, nor should it be expected or assumed that they were involved simply on the basis of their skin color. Everyone had reasons for speaking out or remaining silent, and a lot of it had to do with geographic location and income.

No one should have to be interrogated about what they did in the 1960s. That is, unless they are running for president and bring it up themselves.

Lawrence O'Donnell went straight for the jugluar in his interview with Herman Cain last week. Mr. Cain, in his book, tells the story that while he was in high school, his father advised him not to get involved in civil rights rallies, marches, petitions, or other public events. For everyone who lived through that era in the south, getting involved was assuming at least some risk, be it legal, professional, or in some case, physical. I would agree that a black teenager being arrested in 1962 or 1963 Atlanta would not have been easy to shake off. I don't judge Herman Cain's reasons for not getting involved.  

But I do think it is appropriate to ask Mr. Cain about 1963 if he himself brings it up. In his book, Mr. Cain writes: 

On a day-to-day basis, because the civil rights movement was a few years in front of me, I was too young to participate when they first started the Freedom Rides, and the sit-ins. So on a day-to-day basis, it didn't have an impact. I just kept going to school, doing what I was supposed to do, and stayed out of trouble--I didn't go downtown and try to participate in sit-ins. But I well remember, as a young teenager, seeing signs printed in large black letters at the fronts of buses: "White seat from front, colored seat from rear." One day when I was thirteen, my friends and I were riding home from school in a half-empty bus--this was at the time when the civil rights movement was just getting off the ground and some police officers were just looking for a reason to shoot a black person who "got out of line." So, counter to our real feelings, we decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the bus when the driver told us to. By that time, the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides had kind of broken the ice, even though things hadn't fully changed. So we saw it every day on TV and read about it in the news. Dad always said, "Stay out of trouble," and we did.

That passage almost makes it seem as if Mr. Cain would have gotten involved in sit ins and protests if he wasn't so young at the time. However, Mr. Cain was 19 years old and in college during Freedom Summer. He must have been surrounded by fellow students who were involved. So if he agreed with ending segregation and discrimination, why didn't he step forward just a little when history came knocking on his door in Atlanta in the mid 1960s? He wasn't in a northern city. He wasn't overseas. He was living near the epicenter of a movement that changed this country and opened the door for him to run for national office. 

Now if I were interviewing Herman Cain here, I might start the line of questioning with something gentle like, "Did you ever consider participating in a civil rights event while at Morehouse?" Or I might ask if he had friends who did. Or I might ask if he ever regreetted not getting involved, especually after the Freedom Summer of 1964, which was a media breakthrough for the movement. But that's why I am not an aggressive journalist. That's why I don't have Lawrence O'Donnell's job. Civil rights era questions at 07:20:

And if you thought O'Donnell was blunt and to the point, check out Martin Bashir laying a massive smackdown on CNN International (H/T We Are Respectable Negroes). 

And on Friday October 7, a day after his heated interview with Cain, Lawrence O'Donnell got some constructive feedback from Al Sharpton, Professor Mellissa Harris-Perry, and Goldie Taylor.

For all the shit Democrats have had to go through after volunteering their service and putting their asses on the line (both Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered for Vietnam and skipped the draft lottery process), should the news media be giving a pass to candidates who almost boast about sitting out opportunities to put themselves on the line?

It is obvious that the book passage (which seems very random, sandwiched betweeen other little stories from Cain's teenage years) was meant to reassure the GOP and potential voters that he is not a rebellous black man. He's no community organizer. He never flirted with liberation theology or black power. He's a corporate manager. And he is runnign to protect corporate interests. The GOP need not fear the color of his skin. They'll just have to put up with his volunteer peanut gallery (which can be heard in the O'Donnell interview videos).

Fixing A Wingnut's Analogy

I shouldn't do this. This is such a moot point. But it bothered me the moment Hank Williams, Jr. made his flippant remark while on Fox & Friends over a week ago. He threw in a dead guy to construct an analogy between two pairs of people. As an ameteur editor, I have to say that is not a best practice in analogies.

Williams touched on a couple of Wingnut talking points when he said what he said. First, he reinforced the narrative that Obama is the GOPs worst enemy. But that can't be true. As Ted Rall has said many times (and as I finally agree), most in the GOP and Democratic party engage in political theater, in which they act that they are opposed to each other. Obama is not the GOP's enemy. The GOPs real enemies are the American progressives who might finally be taking to the streets in sigificant numbers after ten years of economic decline.

Second, Williams reinforced the myth that Obams is strongly anti Isreal. This completey ignores two facts that (1) Obama and Clinton's Isreal policy is exactly the same as Bush and Rice's, and (2) Obama made it clear at his annual UN speech that the Palestinians will not be able to solve their crisis through speeches or resolutions at the UN. It was a firm message that the actions of the Palestinian authority two weeks ago at the UN were, in the end, meaningless and not supported by the US. How is that anti-Israel? Oh right, Obama is a radical black man and of course, all radical black men are anti Semites, just like Louis Farrakhan, or Professor Griff.

So what does a seeming hungover Williams say on live TV about President Obama playing golf with Speaker Boehner?

It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.

Let me fix that for you Hank, as one of the four people in your analogy is dead.

It would be like Hitler Ahmadinejad playing golf with Netanyahu.

There. Fixed. Not that the analogy is correct. Obama is still not the enemy of Israel. But if you are going to claim that he is, at least drop the dead guy out of your analogy. Not that Williams knows who the president of Iran is, or is able to pronounce his name. But you don't really expect wingnuts to be educated, do you?