The 24/7 Dick Cheney interview tour keeps defending torture–and keeps giving evidence that could be used in future trials against him and his regime. The blogs are abuzz because he said Sunday that Bush authorized the torture programs. When will he be confronted with these claims under oath in a court of law? Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who has enormous contacts deep in the intelligence community and has broken many a govt. conspiracy over the years, has claimed that high-ranking intelligence officials have told him of a Bush-era “assassination squad” that ran directly out of Cheney’s office. I wish he could get them to go on the record, publicly. Could others in Congress or the Dept. of Justice know of these squads? Do they fear that they still exist and still report to Cheney? Is this why Obama and Congress are so reluctant to hold the Bush admin. accountable? Did even G.W. Bush keep going along with Cheney out of fear for his life? I don’t know. I do know we ordinary Americans have to keep pushing for real investigations and prosecutions by a special prosecutor.
But Cheney’s bold defense of his lawbreaking is not new. What was new Sunday was that he seemed to “come out” as a racist. We have long known of the deepseated ill will between Dick Cheney and former Sec. of State Colin Powell, dating back to before Powell was Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Personal animosity between two people of different races is no proof of racial prejudice. I don’t like RNC Chair Michael Steele (though he’s entertaining), but it has nothing to do with his race. If he knew me, I assume he’d dislike me, too, but I wouldn’t attribute it to any anti-white feelings on his part. Sometimes folks just clash. So, Cheney’s Sunday claim that the GOP should stick with Rush Limbaugh as its voice and reject that of Powell need not, on its face, be racist.
But. . . .
Limbaugh has claimed repeatedly that Powell, perhaps one of the most widely respected Republicans beyond GOP circles, had no other reason for his endorsement of Barack Obama for Pres. last Fall than race. He repeated that recently and Powell told Republicans that Rush is a poison to their party. So, in endorsing Rush over Powell–and questioning whether Powell was still a Republican–was Cheney also claiming that Powell had been motivated strictly by race in his late Fall endorsement of Obama? (Remember, grassroots Republicans tried to draft Powell as a presidential candidate in 2000. Had they succeeded, they might have had a black presidential nominee BEFORE the Democrats. Among young Republicans and conservative independents I know, Powell is their favorite Republican.)
Still, agreeing with a radio loudmouth that a former 4 star general (one who served for years in Vietnam while both Cheney and Rush, huge supporters of that war in theory, sought and received numerous deferments), former Chair of the Joint Chiefs under both a Republican and Democratic administration, and former Secretary of State is a black racist doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY make Cheney himself racist–just a fool.
So, are their other indications that Cheney is racially prejudiced? Well, in 1986, Cheney, then a Rep. from Wyoming, voted AGAINST a Congressional resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa. Cheney, like Pres. Ronald Reagan, supported the deeply racist SA Pres. P.W. Botha and considered Mandela a terrorist. (In 1986, Botha ordered the bombing of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, but MANDELA was a terrorist?)
Cheney also voted against making Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday when he was a Republican Congressman (1979). He voted against Head Start which, though facially race neutral, helps out African-Americans and Latino children disproportionately because they are more likely to come from the impoverished backgrounds that need the extra help to be ready for Kindergarten. (It is significant that Rep. Linda Chavez (D-CA), the first Head Start grad to become a sitting member of Congress, is also sometimes mentioned as a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court. Would Cheney have apoplexy?)
Cheney has generally hated the press. He has given more interviews since leaving the Vice Presidency than in his entire career as a legislative aid, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Ford White House (during which time he tried to get the DoJ to perform the kinds of illegalities it eventually got caught doing under Ashcroft and Gonzalez–which always led me to think Cheney was behind it all), 5 term Republican Congressman from WY, Secretary of Defense for George H.W. Bush or VP under Bush II. So, there’s not a lot of verbal record to compare and say conclusively that Cheney is a racist. But neither is there anything in the record to refute the claim. The evidence is slim, but it all points one way.
We might add one more piece of evidence: Cheney’s endorsement of the “Shock and Awe” strategy in the Iraq war–his complete disregard for civilian life. (Bush I had to reign him in during Gulf War I and insist on the standards of international law.) Was this because Iraquis are generally darker skinned? Would Cheney have endorsed such tactics if the U.S. was at war with a white majority society like France? (Some would say that Cheney only cares about his own life.) This, too, is not conclusive.
But I think the evidence is definitely starting to pile up that Dick Cheney is a racist bigot.
I’m used to politicians (of all stripes) to lying to people–including politicians I support. But clergy are a different matter.
Rev. Rick Warren and I disagree about same sex marriage–as well as much else. We have very different theologies and even very different understandings of the way faith and politics should interact. That’s all well and good. But lying about his views is NOT. If he’s changed his mind, that’s one thing. But if he lies about his views, that’s something else–it tarnishes the reputation of Christian clergy–and that doesn’t need any more tarnishing.
On CNN’s Larry King Live, Warren lied. From the transcript, Warren says, “In the first place, I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist. I never have been, never will be. ” Warren also says, “During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never—never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.”
Well, Rick, we have video proving otherwise.
See, Rick, that’s you ENDORSING Proposition 8 IN A VIDEO AD FOR Prop 8. So, you lied.
Repent of your lying ways! And, while you are at it, repent of your homophobia, too.
Eric Holder, the first African-American U.S. Attorney General, has given an excellent speech on the problems of racism in the U.S. in 2009. Holder talks about the progress made in the U.S. since the end of legal segregation (’64, ’65), but also spells out how far we have to go. He notes that the media has been far too quick to view the election of Barack Obama to the presidency as proof that we now live in a “post-racial” society.
Noting that most workplaces are now integrated, Holder also points out that work is about the only place that whites and blacks (not to mention Asians, Latinos, etc.) associate regularly. We mostly don’t live in the same neighborhoods. We don’t hang out with each other after work. On weekends, we mostly associate only within our own racial groupings–both in terms of socializing and definitely in terms of where we worship. (11 a.m. Sunday is STILL the most segregated hour in America as very few churches make any real efforts to be multi-racial or multi-cultural–even if they are located in such areas.)
Holder also claims, rightly, that while most Americans no longer use openly racist language, we are “cowards” about talking about racial issues–especially with those of other racial/ethnic groups. Because such conversations are uncomfortable, and could offend, we avoid them–and thus avoid challenging ourselves to go beyond superficial friendliness or civility to actually breaking down barriers of misunderstanding.
The speech lacks the power of Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race and religion in America last year during the Democratic primaries. But this is still a bold speech that is provocative in a manner that may actually help us as a nation. I do think some critics have a point that Holder could have gone further and spelled out some of the issues that should be raised in these painful, uncomfortable dialogues–but this speech is a beginning, not an end.
Read Mr. Holder’s full remarks here. Then, take him up on the challenge: Invite colleagues from work who are of different racial/ethnic background home for dinner. If you have friends from different racial/ethnic backgrounds, try to find ways to begin such conversations. Challenge your church (and, if it is not multi-cultural, it should team up with one or more churches of different backgrounds) to provide “safe space” for such dialogues.
Honestly, folks: The military was integrated in 1948 and, sadly, it remains one of the most integrated institutions in the United States. I went to a mostly black junior high in Orlando in the ’70s (I was easy to spot in school group photos!) and to a pretty mixed (Caucasian, black, Asian, Latino) high school in Jacksonville Beach later in the same decade. I have taught at two historically black colleges (an experience both fun and VERY challenging) and I live in a mixed neighborhood and go to a somewhat multicultural congregation (it used to do better than currently). And I am constantly surprised at how far we HAVEN’T come in this country. We are having to fight the resegregation of the public schools (not helped at all by the “home schooling” movement).
How many white pastors or theologians regularly read African-American, Latino/a, or Asian American theologians or biblical scholars? (If you look at the footnotes and bibliographies of “minority” scholars, they are always fully abreast of the scholarship of the dominant Caucasian culture, but the reverse is not very often true.) Look at how little diversity there is in major news anchors (although local stations do better than the networks). If you are a well-read, college educated, white American and I came over your house, how many non-white authors (fiction, non-fiction) would I easily find on your bookshelves?
Is it any wonder we are so incredibly IGNORANT of each other–and, thus, regularly fear and misunderstand each other even when we have no desire to be personally prejudiced?
Our current Attorney General has laid down a significant challenge. Let’s take him up on it, shall we?
We have talked before about how a “Bradley Effect” (more white voters telling pollsters they will vote for a black candidate than actually do) could hinder Obama from winning the White House even with his large polling leads. But there is evidence in the primaries that Obama won MANY white voters (even in traditionally racist areas of the country) and some studies showing that the Bradley effect may have disappeared or, at least, lessened. Nate Silver has excellent thoughts on this that are worth reading, and he cites an article by Lance Tarrance (the pollster that worked on L.A. mayor Tom Bradley’s campaign) that argues that the polling was flawed in that race and Bradley’s internal polling showed a much closer race. No matter whether one supports McCain or Obama, we all have an interest in eliminating racism. (Silver’s suggestion that one see if a “Bradley effect” exists for Republican black candidates, few as they are, is an excellent one for those interested who have the skills.) So, I urge you to read the article and, as you discuss the election with friends, urge them to vote for the best candidate–regardless of race. (If a woman was at the top of either ticket–people seldom vote for a ticket because of the VP candidate–I would be having similar posts about overcoming sexism in elections, too.)
When former Sen. George Allen (R-VA), once one of the GOP’s stars and seen as a major presidential contender, referred to an independent, student journalist filming the campaign as “Macaca,” an apparent racial slur, it wasn’t just a gaffe or a stumble. It was also an opening for VA voters to consider seriously for the first time the candidacy of his challenger, Jim Webb, a former Republican who was Sec. of Navy under Reagan and whose son was serving in Iraq–but who was strongly against the war and running for the Senate to stop it. Since VA, like the rest of the U.S. in ’06 (and still–the latest numbers are 68% of the population wanting the troops home within 6 months and 85% of Democrats wanting the same!) wanted to end the Iraq War, they gave Allen the boot and welcomed Webb.
I have no idea whether or not George Allen is a racist or intended his “Macaca comment” to be a racial slur. (I had never heard the term before the controversy.) But the term has now entered the U.S. political lexicon as a huge, possibly fatal, gaffe on matters of race. Earlier this week, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) had her very own “Macaca moment.”
She was telling USA Today why she should remain in the race for the Democratic nomination. That she had a coalition that was more electable than Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)’s coalition in the general election because “she had the hard working, working class white people.” Well. I am a white Southern male. I come from working class roots (and she doesn’t). Although I have spent time in the ivory towers of the academy and in other white collar situations, I currently work a blue collar job for the union based health insurance and other benefits. I have to tell you, I found Clinton’s comments insulting. It seemed like she was trying to recreate Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy or channeling the ghost of (former Alabama Gov.) George Wallace and saying, “Vote for me. You and I are white together–not like YOU KNOW WHO!” I felt that I was being called a racist and urged to vote for because I am (supposedly) a racist at the same time. That was incredibly insulting.
Clinton has insulted me and other Obama supporters throughout the primaries. We are not the right kind of voters. We live in the “wrong” states. We are college educated or college students. We make too much money (Is she kidding me? First off, my wife and I work 3 jobs to make less than $45,000 for a family of 4–in which we are trying to save for both our children’s upcoming college costs and our retirement–as the GOP keeps trying to privatize Social Security. Second, she and Bill made $109 million since leaving the White House. WHO makes too much money!!!) We are too intellectual. And now, we are not white working class. Well, I AM BOTH a highly educated intellectual AND white working class. And I am proud to support Obama.
BTW, by calling the white working class voters who support her “hard working” is she implying that African-Americans are lazy? I’d expect a comment like this from Trent Lott (former GOP Sen. from Mississippi), but this is Hillary Clinton. What gives?
Yes, Clinton has done better among white working class voters than Obama. But it’s not like Obama has not had any voting for him. In some states, including Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama, he got the majority of white voters as well as the majority of black voters. In many states, he won where there are hardly ANY African Americans (e.g., Iowa, Wisconsin, Washington State, Vermont, Idaho, Wyoming, etc.) Yes, some of those states will NOT likely go Democratic in the Fall. And, YES, Clinton’s edge with white, working class voters in OH, PA, WV, and KY gives her the (current) edge in the Electoral College delegate math. But, as everyone knows, that edge is fluent. And, if she urges her supporters to support Obama in the general election, there is no reason to think that enough of them won’t help him win. Nationally, he is once more out-polling (slightly) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) after falling behind him during the month long smears in March.
Look, Democrats cannot win the White House without working class whites in key states, it’s true. But neither can they win without African-Americans (13% of the population that votes 90% Democratic). For Hillary to try to create or widen divisions instead of healing them shows that her desire to be president is outweighing the interests of the Party and the Nation. I hate to see her and Bill Clinton, who used to try for national dialogues on race to try to address our divisions, now become remembered for race-bating. But they have been guilty of it at several times during this campaign. Now, it seems Hillary is trying to get in touch with her inner Klansman and urging whites in WV and KY (and superdelegates) to do the same. This blue collar evangelical WASP from the South says–“No thanks!”
P. S.: Jimmy Carter in 1976 was the last Democrat to win the majority of white working class voters. Bill Clinton only got 39% of white males in ’92 and owed his election to Ross Perot. John Kerry only had the same % of white males as Obama does at this point in the ’04 campaign, but went on to lose the popular vote by less than 1%. I don’t know if Obama will get the majority of the white working class, but in a year in which the economy stinks, in which 68% of Americans want the troops withdrawn from Iraq(not stay indefinitely as McCain urges), and in which the GOP brand-name itself is very unpopular (as recently both Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich both warned their GOP colleagues!), I think it quite possible that Obama can win enough white working class voters that, combined with the other parts of the coalition, can beat McCain in November. John Kerry lost in ’04 by less than 1 million votes. In the 7 primaries that culminated in PA, alone, there have been 1.8 million new Democratic voters. Obama, who has great experience in voter registration drives, just launched a 50 state voter registration drive that hopes to register millions of new voters between now and November. He’s growing the Party. Clinton is pandering to racial stereotypes. What has happened to her?
The faultlines in U.S. politics over race and gender are becoming extremely obvious. But this is hardly new. This country, including it’s great promise, was built on the genocide and stolen land of Native peoples and the chattel slavery of Africans–and almost every civilization throughout history has oppressed women.
As a white, male, Southerner, I continue to grieve at the way the Powers That Be use race and gender to exploit not only women and racial minorities, but also poor whites. Poor and lower-middle class whites continue to allow racism to be used to harm our own best interests. Slavery didn’t help poor whites–because free labor beats cheap labor every time! So how did rich white slaveowners convince thousands of poor whites in the South to fight and kill and die so that other people could continue to own human beings as property??
After the Civil War, during the Gilded Age of Robber Barons (our current economic inequality is reaching those levels), the Populist movement rose up fight money power with people power, led by Tom Watson, a Southern white who tried to forge a multi-racial coalition to overcome economic exploitation. Racism was used to break up the coalition and, by the end, Watson himself had become a racist demagogue who supported the worst of the Jim Crow segregation laws.
In the North, they used race and ethnicity to set Irish against Italian against Pole–and all of them against African-Americans, while the rich laughed all the way to the bank.
The first women’s movement came from the involvement of white women in the work to abolish slavery–and women’s rights were championed by black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass. But when the only version of the 15th Amendment (banning restrictions on voting based on race) which would pass enfranchised only black males, a schism appeared between the movements for racial and gender equality. Hurtful things were said on both sides.
This reappeared during the Civil Rights movement and the 2nd Wave Feminist movement: Remember Stokely Carmichael’s infamous comment that the only role for women in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was “prone!”
Race affects even the healthcare debate: Bill Clinton has rightly mentioned several times that we came closest to getting universal healthcare under Harry Truman’s post-WWII presidency. That’s the time period when Canada and most of Europe adopted universal healthcare and was a perfect time for us to do so as well. Truman had campaigned on completing Roosevelt’s New Deal. Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. Healthcare expenses were a much lower percentage of the economy. But it was blocked by Southern legislators, despite the fact that the South would have benefitted most and contributed the least to the plan in taxes. Why? Southern legislators feared that universal healthcare would force them to integrate their hospitals! (They were probably right. Southern hospitals were finally integrated after the 1965 passage of the Medicare and Medicaid Bills–which were nearly blocked by Southern Senate filibusters!)
And no one should be surprised at the Black/Latino split in the U.S. (though it is not as wide as white media pundits make it out). In many places following the Civil Rights movement, white power brokers would allow one “minority position” in city councils or business boards, etc. so that Brown presence meant no Black presence and vice versa. White politicians would and still do condemn a black owned business, wipe it out, and rebuild with a white company–and hire all Latino workers to build the new construction.
This election could end tragically with divisions along race and gender lines. The Powers of repression, economic exploitation, ecological degradation, and military imperialism could get their way by exploiting our fears and resentments. Or we could refuse to let that happen this time.
Regardless, we clearly need more national conversations–real dialogues–on race and gender matters. They will not always be comfortable, especially for white males. We have benefitted from our race and gender even when we have not asked to–and when we are struggling ourselves it can feel as if we are blamed for what others have done in our names.
Healing has to begin somewhere. Let it begin in each of homes, churches, and communities.
It’s time to stop the anti-Muslim hate speech. We begin with super-bigot demagogue Michael Savage. Yes, I believe in freech speech. Yes, I love Voltaire’s dictum, “I may disagree with everything you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” But we don’t have to pay for it. Hate speech creates an atmosphere of fear that leads to crimes created by a mob mentality. In the 1930s, Henry Ford bought a newspaper and used it to spew anti-Jewish propaganda–that was so vindictively anti-semitic that Adolf Hitler praised Henry Ford in Mein Kampf and later gave him a medal. The renegade Catholic priest, Fr. Joseph Coughlin, used a radio show to spew such anti-semitic bigotry across the airwaves. So successful was this anti-Jewish propaganda here in the land of the free that, even as the Nazis began their anti-Jewish campaigns in the ’30s, polls showed that 50% of Americans believed Jews brought at least some of this treatment on themselves! (Source for that statistic: The Jewish Americans series on PBS. It is worth watching.)
Now, this same kind of bigotry campaign is targetting Muslims. We cannot stand back and let it happen. Those of us who are Christians have specifically religious obligations to stop it: including the commands against bearing false witness, the commands to love neighbors and enemies, the command to treat others as we would want to be treated. Some of us come from traditions that have known our own persecution–and in that history we would have wanted others to speak out on our behalf. Now our Muslim sisters and brothers need that kind of courage from us. This is not about whose religion is right or wrong. This is not about questions of soteriology (exclusive, inclusive, etc.), but about simple truthtelling and defending the rights and dignity of our neighbors and fellow citizens.
We begin by taking on the demagogue Michael Savage. See the following video. Then go to NoSavage.org and take action: email him and call his talk show to protest. Contact his sponsors and urge them to pull out or we boycott their products–we do not have to pay for his hate speech. (One major sponsor has already pulled out.) Does Savage have free speech? Absolutely. In this country, he can spew whatever bile he wants without fear of arrest. But we DON’T have to give him a microphone. Do something. Fight back against this bile, now.
Faith in Public Life has the story here. Exit and entrance polls asked Thursday night’s Iowa caucus goers whether or not they were “born again,” or “evangelical.” This helped the pundits see what the rest of us knew already–Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)’s Iowa win was the result of a huge effort by conservative Christians in Iowa. But the media didn’t ask this question of Democratic caucus goers. So, in a state that is mostly filled with white evangelicals, but in which the Democratic turnout was twice as big as the GOP turnout, we have no data on how many Democratic caucus goers were “born again,” “evangelical” or some other type of person of faith. Did evangelicals of a different persuasion also make the difference for Sen. Barack Obama(D-IL) or were they evenly distributed between Obama, fmr. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)? We don’t know, because the media didn’t ask! Are we to assume that in IOWA, most of those huge Democratic caucus goers are secular or agnostic or atheist? I don’t think so.
I would have thought that the media had caught on this year to the existence of a broad religious left, including an evangelical left (as well as an evangelical center!) in this nation. They have covered the candidate’s faith in great detail, including more on Democratic candidates’ faith than at any time since Jimmy Carter ran in 1976 and had to explain to Time magazine what being “born again” meant. (Time went on to describe 1976 as “Year of the Evangelical.”) They have covered first Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton speaking at Rick Warren’s mega-church conference on the AIDS crisis. They have covered the resurgent environmentalism among evangelicals. They have covered the Catholic population as the ultimate swing vote (because on issues like abortion and gay rights, Catholics agree more with conservative Republicans, but on issues like poverty, the death penalty, war, and the environment, Catholics think more like liberal Democrats).
And yet, still, the media are stuck in their narrative from the ’80s and ’90s: “Christian,” “evangelical,” and “person of faith,” necessarily means “conservative Republican.” How else to explain their failure to ask about the faith identifications of Democratic caucus goers? Let’s hope they do better in New Hampshire and beyond. We need raw data to know whether our stereotypes of the voting patterns of persons of faith are matching the reality of the nation.
Without such data, far too many will assume that if early predictions are right (and early predictions are notoriously shaky) and the Democrats win both the White House and increase their majorities in Congress this year, it will mean that the country somehow has become “more secular.” (Yep. That’s right. We all were overnight persuaded by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to abandon our faith. Don’t believe it.)
Let the media and the pollsters know you don’t appreciate this bias. UPDATE: Center to Left Evangelical Leaders have now written an open letter to pollsters asking that this be corrected–asking that polls help us find out how many evangelicals are voting Democratic and for which Democratic candidates. This will keep from giving the public the false impression that all evangelicals vote Republican.
One of the fascinating people we’ve had with us this year is Rabbi Lynne Gottlieb, one of the women to be ordained a rabbi in the history of Judaism. I met her a few years ago when the Fellowship of Reconciliation (see link at the right of this blog) celebrated its 90th birthday at a conference in L.A. Rabbi Gottlieb is the creator of the Muslim-Jewish Peace Walks and I, as a Christian, joined them. Rabbi Lynne’s Hebrew name is Miriam, which is also the first name of my youngest daughter (7). This has delighted my Miriam and she has adopted R. Gottlieb as her rabbi–and has been learning how to write “Miriam” in Hebrew.
R. Gottlieb, along with Hector Arizabotl from Colombia, has been helping us to use theatre to work on peace issues, especially a participatory technique called “theatre of the oppressed.” It has been bitter-sweet that she has helped us focus on the descending spiral of violence in the Middle East just as news reports have reached us of continued fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon –as if the Gaza standoff wasn’t enough.
Another fascinating person is Rev. Elise Elrod–whose full name is Ronald Elise Elrod. She is transgendered and lost her church when she came to terms with this and got corrective surgery to become outwardly female. Her wife, Joanie, has remained married even though they now have no sex life since Joanie is straight and Elise is now asexual. She has incredible humor and has used it to help us begin to understand the situations of the transgendered –very different from the sexual orientation issues of gays, lesbians, and bi-sexuals. I am hoping thatwe can have Elise come speak at my church, Jeff Street in Louisville. For Elise’s fascinating story of transformation from an overweight, conservative, male Southern Baptist minister and former engineer to a thin, liberal, secretary and itinterant preacher, her work in diversity training (IYQYQR or I Like You Like You Are), and information on gender identity disorder and transgendered persons (where, unlike with gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons, the issue has nothing to do with sexual orientation!), see her website: http://www.eliseelrod.com !