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Pundits Reach for Obama Comparisons

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Commentators Weigh In on New Front-Runner

Pundits likened Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to everyone from Ronald Reagan to Harold Washington as New Hampshire voters prepared to go to the polls Tuesday for their first-in-the-nation primary, five days after Obama's decisive victory in the Iowa caucuses.


"Could Obama be a potential liberal version of Ronald Reagan?" Andrew Sullivan, the onetime editor of the New Republic magazine, asked Sunday in the Times of London. "Could he do for the Democrats what Reagan did for the Republicans a quarter century ago?"

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page saw an analogy with Washington, elected Chicago's first black mayor in 1983. "Echoes of Harold Washington are easy to hear when Obama delivers his robust oratory about how we're not 'blue states' or 'red states,' but 'the United States of America,'" Page wrote. "Washington similarly rallied Chicago to make the city more comfortable with its own diversity. First, he had to accomplish what Obama accomplished in Iowa: Washington proved to his own supporters that he was electable.

"Before Washington could pursue anyone else's support, he had to inspire his mostly black and liberal-progressive base. He needed to get Chicago voters so excited that they would walk over hot coals, if necessary, to vote for him."

In a blunt column in Advertising Age, "Why Even Hardened Racists Will Vote for Barack Obama: In the Electoral Marketplace, He Had to Pass the Halle Berry Test," Bob Garfield said:

"1) Even hardened racists feel the impulse to believe they are no such thing.

"2) Hence, they are always in the market for someone 'acceptably black.'

"Yes, the market. And, yes, acceptably black. We used that term the other day on 'Hardball with Chris Matthews' to talk about Sen. Barack Obama and watched the interviewer visibly flinch. 'I'm gonna take some of the edge off of what you just said,' he said.

"What edge? Acceptably black means being nonthreatening to white people inclined to feeling threatened by black people. It means standard English, clean-cut appearance (or, as Joe Biden fumbled, 'clean') and the most Caucasian features possible. These obviously are not objective measures of character or worth; just as obviously, they are measures of what sells to the vast, white audience. Halle Berry and Denzel Washington are acceptably black. Your local news anchors are acceptably black. Tupac was not."

David S. Broder of the Washington Post, considered the dean of political reporters, wrote on Sunday that New Hampshire, where Obama is 10 to 13 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls, could just about determine the Democratic nominee. "Any way you view it, the race is now Obama's to lose," he wrote.

Here is what some columnists of color were writing:

      Eric Easter, ?"Expect dramatically greater scrutiny, particularly where international policy comes into play. Obama's ride on this cloud of collective joy will depend largely on the stability of world affairs during the race. If it gets too crazy — like it already has in his Dad's native Kenya — Obama will be asked to weigh in, and his facts better be dead on, or he risks tough attacks from the Clintonistas. ?"In that regard, Susan Rice, Obama's foreign policy advisor, becomes the single most important political staffer in the race."

      Shanna Flowers, Roanoke (Va.) Times: ?"Black conservative Shelby Steele has written a book, 'A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win.' In an interview last month promoting the book, Steele contended that Obama hasn't shared his deep convictions and vision and won't win the presidency until he does so, that he can't win by merely giving people 'a warm and fuzzy feeling.' ?"Hours after the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, Steele focused on the candidate's racial dynamic on the 'Charlie Rose' talk show. The author called Obama a 'bargainer,' a black person who makes an unspoken pact with white America: ?"'I won't rub America's shameful history of racism in your face, if you won't hold my race against me.'"

      Carlos Guerra, San Antonio Express-News: ?In Iowa, "Entrance polls of caucus-goers reveal that immigration was the top issue for 36 percent of Republicans, compared with 33 percent who cited the Iraq war as their top issue and 32 percent who named the economy. ?"And among Democrats, immigration didn't even register among the top five concerns. It was a lot of bluster about nada."

      Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ?"Obama's early lead gives hope to all of those baby boomer dreamers who want to see a black president sworn into office before they die as the ultimate culmination of Martin Luther King's dream about a colorblind society. For those people, that day will represent a fresh era in politics even if that doesn't really represent the reality about the way things are done in Washington."

      Deborah Mathis, ?"In the old days, the black community would be in full celebratory mode — parties, parades, prayer services, the whole shebang. ?". . . It is clear, however, that some of us are not merely speechless, it's just that we have nothing nice to say. True to the crab mentality for which we have often been self-accused, the successful black man is being met not with pride, open arms and encouragement, but rather with boiling suspicion and conspiratorial claims."

      Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: ?In one congregation in Waterloo, Iowa, "the majority of black people who said they were supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton cited their belief that white people would not vote for Obama. ?"So Obama's impressive victory in Iowa didn't just show the country that Iowans at least were willing to judge him by the content of his character; it buried the one excuse that Clinton supporters have pushed among African-American voters. ?"Another curious aspect of the Iowa caucuses was the overwhelming support black voters gave to Obama. The impressive showing calls into question polls and news stories that suggest Clinton has a lot of support in the black community. That could also be a myth."

      Ruben Navarrette, San Diego Union-Tribune: ?"As an African-American with a serious shot at winning the Democratic nomination, Obama immediately ran into condescension and hostility from white liberals who had other ideas about who should be president. ?"Much of this hostility comes not in response to anything that Obama said or did, but rather what he represents — namely, an attempt by an African-American to shake up the Democratic electoral drama by going from supporting role to lead actor."

      Les Payne, Newsday: ?"Obama's Iraq stance, I submit, accounts for Iowans' view of him in polls as genuine, credible, for real, and a man of integrity. Conversely, John Edwards' slick apology and Hillary Clinton's policy calculations got both trapped in the undertow of Bush's war policy. It is not so much that Obama comes with an Iraq solution as that he has come clean about the region. ?". . . Bill Clinton said that the Illinois senator is not fit to be president and that electing him would be a 'roll of the dice.' ?"The comment with which Clinton dismissed Obama's possible nomination was ironic given his own nomination in 1992. The former Arkansas governor had presided over a bottom-feeding state with a $2.5-billion budget that was only one-third the size of that managed by the schools chancellor of New York City. ?"The thorniest decision Gov. Clinton appears to have faced daily was whether to jog to Gennifer Flowers' house for a quickie before, or after, he hit McDonald's for a cheeseburger."

      Albor Ruiz, New York Daily News:

      "On the immigration issue, next to Huckabee," a reference to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Republican caucus vote, "Obama's position on undocumented immigration is truly enlightened. ?" 'It behooves us to remember that not every single immigrant who came into the United States through Ellis Island had proper documentation,' Obama has said. 'Not every one of our grandparents or great-grandparents would have necessarily qualified for legal immigration. But they came here in search of a dream, in search of hope. Americans understand that, and they are willing to give an opportunity to those who are already here, as long as we get serious about making sure that our borders actually mean something.'" ?". . . Huckabee's is a different story. This is a guy who has vowed to expel — listen to this — the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants within 120 days, if he is elected President. And this is a guy who has touted the fact that Jim Gilchrist, one of the founders of the anti-immigrant Minutemen Project vigilante group, endorsed him. ?"Racism by any other name is still racism."

      Joe Gray, AOL Black Voices: Obama a Step Closer on the Good Foot

      Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: What to (and not to) Expect from an Obama White House

      Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: A night for the newcomers

      Dwight Lewis, Nashville Tennessean: Iowa affirms our mood for change

      Rhonda Chriss Lokeman, Kansas City Star: Enough With the Clintons Already

      Errol Louis, New York Daily News: Barack Obama's riding words of hope

      Dawn Turner Trice, Chicago Tribune: After Iowa, hope really not so audacious

      Dorreen Yellow Bird, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald: All Iowa needed was a Goblet of Fire

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Earl Graves: Voters Will Decide Obama's Readiness

As the cover of his magazine features Barack Obama and the line, "Why Barack Obama Should Be President," Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves Sr. issued his endorsement Monday:

"No one asked if America was ready to see a black man in Major League Baseball. It wasn't — until the right man, Jackie Robinson, accepted the challenge and made the most of it, and in the process changed our nation forever. Nor did anyone ask if America was ready for the first black CEOs of multinational corporations such as American Express, TimeWarner, or Aetna.

"When the best candidates for those positions happened to be black, the way was cleared for Kenneth Chenault, Richard Parsons, and Ron Williams. Similarly, Barack Obama is the right person, in the right place, at the right time to be America's next president. If we continue to lend credence to the idea that it can't happen, that we as a nation are not 'ready' (whatever that means), then it won't. The proof of whether America is ready or not should be determined on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008— and not by political pundits or polls."

Black Enterprise spokesman Andrew P. Wadium, asked whether the publication had ever endorsed a candidate in this way, told Journal-isms, "We have had candidates on the cover before," naming former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., and Jesse Jackson, "which I guess could be considered a defacto endorsement, but never so directly. Ever."

      Roger Friedman, Fox News: Obama: No Cash From Denzel, Spike, Motown, Despite Oprah Backing

      Amy Goodman, "Democracy Now!" Pacifica Radio: "I Respect the Distance He is Trying to Create"—Jesse Jackson on Why He Supports But Hasn't Been Asked to Campaign for Obama

      Timothy Noah, Slate: Jesse Jackson Jr., Saboteur? Obama's campaign co-chairman compares his candidate to a murderer.

      Janny Scott, New York Times: Iowa Caucus Results Put Pressure on Black Leaders for Endorsements

      Dylan Stableford, Folio magazine blog: Why Newsweek Chose Obama


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Alycia Lane Fired from Philly Anchor Job

The CBS affiliate in Philadelphia on Monday fired Alycia Lane, an anchor on KYW-TV whom "local newspapers dubbed . . . Philly's anchorbabe, a Latina bombshell, and the sexiest face in town," as Tanya Barrientos wrote two years ago in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The action came "three weeks after the anchor was accused of assaulting an undercover New York policewoman in a middle-of-the-night street encounter," Michael Klein reported on the Philadelphia Inquirer Web site.

"Lane, who coanchored the 6 and 11 p.m. news with Larry Mendte, was last seen on the air Dec. 14, the night before her arrest. Lane, 35, is accused of felony assault, and has a hearing scheduled for April 3," Klein continued.

"Her arrest seems to be the final straw in a four-year-plus career in Philadelphia marked by high ratings and high drama, including a widely publicized event last spring in which she e-mailed photos of herself wearing a bikini to sports reporter Rich Eisen. Those e-mails were intercepted by Eisen's wife."

Lane's lawyer, Paul Rosen, said in a statement, "The termination is unfair because Alycia has never had an opportunity to defend against this charge, and tell her side of the story publicly, before KYW-TV has taken this unusual and unwarranted step to terminate her employment.

"Obviously, on the advice of counsel, Alycia cannot talk about these matters because of the matter that is pending in New York."


      Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: She could use some therapy [Jan. 8]

      Regina Medina and Dan Gross, Philadelphia Daily News: Exit Lane: CBS 3 fires Alycia [Jan. 8]

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Virginia's Marvin Lake Caps 40-Year Career

The piece below appeared Dec. 20 on the Intranet at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.:

Marvin Lake, first black summer intern at The Pilot, caps a 40-year career in journalism

By Roger Chesley, Pilot Editorial

If he hadn't been so persistent, Marvin Lake wouldn't have been hired at The Virginian-Pilot more than 40 years ago. Both the newspaper and Hampton Roads should thank his resolve.

In a career that would go on to include numerous reporting beats, city editor slots, and stints as recruitment director and finally, public editor, Marvin first had to convince the institution to bring him on board. Before Marvin, there had been no black summer interns, no black reporters.

And persuading people to make you "the first" is never easy.

Here's the story: It was 1966, during a time of social upheaval and civil unrest in America. Marvin was a junior at Norfolk State University, and the budding writer learned that The Pilot had one summer internship available — at least, that's what newspaper officials told him by phone. If he could get in quickly for an interview, he might snag the slot. A day or two later, Marvin showed up at the human resources department. Suddenly, the position was "filled."

He didn't make a scene, but Marvin wouldn't leave until officials looked at his strong package of clips, including his weekly columns for The Journal and Guide [Norfolk's prominent black newspaper] and a story from The Pilot noting he was the editor of NSU's student newspaper.

A couple of months later, he was a Pilot intern.

"Somebody appreciated the possibilities," Marvin, 63, told me recently. His tenure here would stretch 41 years, until his retirement in December.

To newcomers on the editorial side, he's that persnickety guy who's an accuracy scold, fixing the slightest of errors that have appeared in print. He even wrote a correction when someone left out an exclamation point in the TV game show "Jeopardy!"

That caricature, however, doesn't do him justice. Colleagues and folks he's mentored over the years say he was a dogged reporter who, through vivid details and painstaking craftsmanship, placed readers in the middle of the story.

Reporter Bill Burke has known Marvin since the early 1970s, and says he was a thorough reporter who was "intellectually fair." Marvin could capture the essence of his subjects, Burke said. He cited a profile of Rosa Mae Alexander, a matriarch in the black community.

"Marvin knew Norfolk. Marvin knew politics," said Derek T. Dingle, 46, a former copy aide and intern at the paper who today is vice president/executive editor of Black Enterprise magazine. "He was one of the best-read persons I knew. . . .He always made you want to gain more knowledge in general."

Dingle counts Marvin as a key mentor, but also one who could be a tough task master. Dingle often would show his raw copy to Marvin, seeking advice. "Many times I'd regret it, because it would come back bleeding in red ink," Dingle recalled, chuckling. "Marvin was a precise editor for words, language . . . especially using 10-dollar words when you could use 5-cent words." But those exercises "led me to becoming a better writer."

His guidance propelled many careers around the country. Michelle Mizal-Archer, 31, is a former Pilot reporter now working as a TV reporter in Hawthorne, Calif. She credits Marvin with helping her get a job at The Pilot while she was still a teen, and counseling her throughout her years in the business. "He's always been a mentor to me," she said by phone from California. "I just called him a few months ago to talk. He's always a listening ear."

Just as important to Marvin, though, was bringing broader perspectives to The Pilot, both inside the newsroom and within its pages. He wanted the paper to be more sensitive to the minority communities it covered, and he sought the hiring of more blacks and other minorities on staff.

For example, he said in his farewell column, he successfully advocated "that it was discriminatory to report the race of blacks charged with crimes but not that of whites."

"There was a big distrust among blacks of The Virginian-Pilot," he told me.

Over the decades, he did what he could to improve the relationship. Among his greatest accomplishments at the paper, he says, was conceiving, narrating and hosting the television documentary, "Church Street: Harlem of the South," and helping to conceive and edit a three-day newspaper series, "Church Street: What Was Lost." At various times, he directed the paper's Summer Minority Journalism Workshop for high school students and ran the Landmark Minority Internship, a year-long program that brought minorities into newsroom jobs with the company's newspapers.

Away from work, Marvin's passions ranged from books to music, from working with community organizations to teaching at Norfolk State and Hampton universities. He formerly produced a weekly jazz radio program for WOWI-FM. He was the longtime co-chair of the Virginia Press Association's Diversity Committee.

In April 2007, he was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. That's part of his stash of numerous journalism awards and citations.

Retirement affords him more time to spend with his wife, Ruby, read more books, free-lance and maybe even take up an exercise program at the gym. "If they have a steam room, that would be nice."

One thing's for sure: Like the young man who wouldn't take no for an answer 41 years ago, if Marvin sets his mind to it, he'll succeed.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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