Artur Davis’ 180 Degrees of Separation

Published by Joyce Jones on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm.

(Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It felt like old times earlier today when I spent close to an hour stalking former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis while he participated in a Google meet-up here at the Republican National Convention.

Aside from a friendly hello, Davis wasn’t talking and his handlers were fiercely protective of both the new Republican and the speech he would deliver later.

The waiting is over and there’s no turning back for Davis.

I knew that his speech would target Democrats and independents, who like him, are disappointed in President Obama’s record. What I didn’t expect, however, were the snarky references to what he described as Obama’s celebrity.

“What a difference four years makes,” Davis said. “The Democrats’ ads convince me that Gov. Romney can’t sing, but his record convinces me he knows how to lead, and I think you know which skill we need more.”

Citing the 2008 Democratic National Convention, he said that some people may have mistaken the glare of the lights as Obama spoke for a halo.


I have no problem with Davis’ switch in party affiliation. In fact, it spices things up a bit and lends not just another African-American voice on that ideological side of the aisle but also a smart one. But weren’t he and Obama kind of friends or at least friendly? If some people, including Davis, it seems, mistook the man for a messiah back then, shame on them.

And shame on Davis for repeating his new party’s false claim that the president is gutting the welfare to work requirement. Less than an hour after he made it, Politifact tweeted: “Again: Not true.”

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The Calm Before the Real Storm?

Published by Joyce Jones on Monday, August 27, 2012 at 6:38 pm.

(Photo: NOAA via Getty Images)

What’s up with the Republican Party and hurricanes? After all the hand wringing and rearranging of events, Tampa has been largely spared the wrath of Isaac. Aside from the sweltering humidity and occasional rainstorm that is to some part of just another day in paradise, it’s a perfect day for a convention.

Meanwhile, Isaac is making its thunderous way toward Louisiana, and could hit New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was set to address the convention Wednesday night, has canceled his trip.

“There is no time for politics here in Louisiana,” he said at a Monday press conference.

Jindal had to scrap plans to attend the 2008 convention, too, thanks to Hurricane Gustav. In an act of solidarity and to not appear insensitive, the GOP delayed the start of its convention in Minneapolis.

Journalists are a jaded lot and on what was supposed to be the first day of this year’s confab, we find ourselves with a bit of time on our hands to speculate: Did the GOP jump the gun this year? And while understandable, it’s a move Republican leaders could regret.

Few people will likely ever erase from their memory the visual of Katrina’s thousands of mostly African-American victims stranded on rooftops, the football stadium and other places. And no matter how many thoughts and prayers everyone in Tampa sends to Louisiana on Wednesday or Thursday night, the visual of the party fêting itself  juxtaposed against victims of another potentially devastating storm  is also a sight many Americans won’t likely forget.

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Things That Make Me Say Hmmm

Published by Joyce Jones on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm.

(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Just last week Mitt Romney was simply aghast by what he called the negative tone of the presidential campaign and accused President Obama of taking things to a new low.

“Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago,” he said at a campaign event in Ohio.

And then what does he turn around and do this week? Makes a birth certificate joke on Friday while campaigning in Michigan, the state where he grew up and hopes to put in play in November.

“Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” Romney said. “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

The remark sounded an awful lot like it came straight out of the playbook of so-called birthers who’ve insisted that the president wasn’t born in the United States even after he publicly released  copies of his birth certificate. Romney’s campaign hastened to say that he believes Obama is an American citizen and it was just his way of expressing hometown pride.

But to some people it will seem more like his way of speaking in code to appeal to certain members of the GOP’s far-right base. The Obama campaign definitely sees it that way.

“Throughout this campaign, Gov. Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them. It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio and Kris Kobach. But Gov. Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America,” said Obama for America national spokesman Ben LaBolt.

As if to underscore LaBolt’s point, radio host Rush Limbaugh applauded  the incident on his program, proclaiming Romney’s remarks “right on, right on, right on.”

Hmmmm …

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Tuesday at the White House

Published by Joyce Jones on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Remember when the Drudge Report was the first thing that the people who live and breathe politics turned to in the morning for the latest scoop? Now, it seems, not so much. At his daily briefing with reporters on Aug. 7, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed a report on the web site that President Obama had told a supporter that Central Intelligence Agency chief Gen. David Petraeus will be rival Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice.

“I can say with absolute confidence that such an assertion has never been uttered by the president,” Carney said, adding this warning to his questioner: “Be mindful of your sources.”

Carney, who frequently punts campaign-related questions to the campaign, also denounced a new Romney campaign ad that accuses the president of trying to “gut welfare reform” implemented by Bill Clinton that requires recipients to conduct serious job searches in exchange for benefits.

“This advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest,” Carney said.

But Carney was not so adamant when asked about a new television ad produced the Priorities USA super PAC that suggests Romney was responsible for the death of the wife of Joe Soptic, who lost his job and benefits after the steel mill he worked at was acquired and sold by Bain Capital.

“You know, I have not seen the ad, and I would refer you to the campaign or to the organization,” Carney said. “I can’t comment on an ad I haven’t seen.”

He may not like what he sees, however. A fact check has found that Soptic’s wife was employed and had access to health care coverage through her job when her husband lost his and she actually died in 2006, as Romney was nearing the end of his term as Massachusetts governor.

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Published by Joyce Jones on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm.

President Obama’s re-election campaign released an ad over the weekend that featured Republican rival Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful” and a series of headlines that say Romney as governor of Massachusetts outsourced jobs and that he offshores his millions in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. In retaliation, and to steer attention from calls for Romney to disclose multiple tax returns and more details about his tenure at Bain Capital, his campaign on Monday released an online video with President Obama crooning the opening lyrics of the Al Green classic “Let’s Stay Together” and headlines that accuse the president of political cronyism.

By Monday afternoon, BMG Rights Management, which owns the rights to the Al Green song said, “Let’s not stay together” and claiming copyright infringement, forced the campaign to remove the video (“America the Beautiful” is in the public domain).

When will Team Romney learn?

The Republican, who was still in the midst of his primary battle, broke into song at a campaign event after Obama pretty much wowed the world with his singing ability during a January fundraiser at the Apollo Theater. It was like Romney’s competitive nature got the best of him and the result was not pretty. Instead of coming off as cheeky and charming like Obama, his performance was kind of embarrassing to watch. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul accused the president of mocking “America the Beautiful,” which this politi-chick finds laughably tone deaf.

At any rate, the Romney team has denied copyright infringement and has vowed to get its video back up.

“Our use was 100 percent proper, under fair use, and we plan to defend ourselves,” a campaign official said.

But they’ve got bigger fish to fry. People on both sides of the ideological aisle are still clamoring to know what’s in those tax returns and the exact nature of Romney’s role at Bain during his “retroactive retirement.”

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Maiden Voyages

Published by Joyce Jones on Monday, July 16, 2012 at 9:09 am.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When you spend your workdays surrounded by hundreds of the nation’s most powerful men and women, it’s easy to grow a little jaded. You lose appreciation for the richly patterned tile floors as you breeze past the bronze and marble statues, sculptures and frescoed murals in the U.S. Capital–until a visitor reminds you that such beauty shouldn’t be taken for granted.

That same ennui happens when you’ve been to the White House more times than you can count. The first few times are a thrill but you quickly get over it.

But today as I embarked on my maiden voyage on the presidential campaign trail, I felt that thrill again, especially as I watched the reactions of the people who had stood in line for hours to hear President Obama speak, that ranged from glee to absolute rapture. One woman was so overcome with emotion that she required medical assistance.

Minnae Chabwera, 20, is a Hampton University student majoring physics. She will participate in her first presidential election this November and cannot wait.

“I wanted to see him and support my president because I’m going to vote for him [for the first time] in November, and I’m going to volunteer,” she said at a campaign rally in Hampton, Virginia.

Minnae, who dreams of being an astronaut and has interned at NASA, was just 17 when Obama was first elected, but she volunteered for his campaign. She and some friends skipped school and braved Washington’s scary-cold weather on Inauguration Day to witness him taking the oath of office. Minnae has since voted in congressional races, which she also believes is important.

“People don’t go out and vote every two years like they’re supposed to and then get upset when things don’t go their way,” she said.

Casting that first presidential ballot, however, will be very special. Minnae says it means she’s “finally grown up enough to make a difference in the world.”

When asked if she’s noticed a lower level of enthusiasm for Obama among college students, she said that’s definitely not the case on her campus, where the president delivered a commencement speech a couple of years ago. Upperclassmen are fired up and ready to make sure the incoming freshman class members register to vote, Minnae explained, and the school holds registration drives every year. Students also are checking out Virginia’s new voter ID law and will vote absentee in their home states if it turns out to be an obstacle.

The most moving encounter, however, was with a woman in Norfolk, Virginia, whom  I wrote about earlier, who was recently diagnosed with myeloma. Sandra Brooks Green is the kind of brave woman with a heartbreaking tale that the president sometimes talks about during his stump speeches. I saw her as Obama made his way through the crowd in Norfolk, and wished she could have gotten a hug.

But just being in the same him was enough.

“I feel more empowered than I did before. It’s clear we need him for another four years to make a change,” said Green, who was seeing the president in person for the first time. “I feel humbled and honored to be here.”

Many of the people I will meet along the campaign trail between now and November, like Green, will be poignant reminders to never take anything for granted.

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Obama Cares

Published by Joyce Jones on Friday, July 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm.

(Photo: Courtesy Sandra Brooks Green)

Like the hundreds of other supporters and volunteers who lined up today to hear President Obama speak at Green Run High School in Norfolk, Virginia, Sandra Brooks Green is feeling lucky in what has been the unluckiest of weeks. Just two days ago, she explained as tears rolled down her face, Green was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. But despite feeling overwhelmed by her diagnosis and trying to understand her treatment options, it was important for her to be there to show her support for a president whom she feels has supported her by pushing so hard to pass the Affordable Care Act.

“I came here primarily to support him and hope we’ll have him for another term,” said Green, who owns a hair salon and is earning an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland-University College.

Before Republicans came into power, Green says, her business thrived. But as is the case with many entrepreneurs, as her clients have suffered, she has experienced a trickle-down effect. But she is particularly bothered by the GOP’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act, particularly Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who once considered health care reform in Massachusetts one of his signature achievements.

“The other party has put out negative information and that leads everyone to think it won’t work, it will cost more, they’ll run out of money,” she said. “It needs to be explained in layman’s terms” in digestible pieces.

Green believes the public’s divided views on the issue can be attributed to the fact that they simply don’t understand it. And they believe that having insurance coverage shouldn’t be mandated — until they are suddenly struck by illness, she said.

“That’s when it hits you,” Green added. “If I didn’t have insurance, I probably would never have been diagnosed.”

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Black Conservatives Offer Advice to Eric Holder

Published by Joyce Jones on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm.

(Photo: Courtesy The American Civil Rights Union)

I don’t think that former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain and Kenneth Blackwell, who previously served as Ohio’s secretary of state, were going for irony when they teamed up to produce a video on voting rights. That is, however, the result they’ve achieved. The video, which opens with iconic images of the civil rights movement, targets Attorney General Eric Holder’s efforts to protect African-Americans and other groups who may be disproportionately affected by harsh new voter ID and election laws.

At the center of their message is the notion that the laws are not at all about race but instead aim to ensure the validity of elections and put an end to voter fraud. They admonish Holder to “do his job” and to “keep politics out of the Justice Department.”

“Elections should never be about color,” Cain says.

“Unless it’s purple,” adds Blackwell, referring to the bipartisan blend of Republican red and Democrat blue.

“Now, purple is a very nice color,” says Cain.

Cain, who grew up in the Deep South and has probably drunk from his fair share of “Coloreds Only” water fountains, says in the video that “it is the right of every American to vote without intimidation,” and argues that if Holder isn’t “prepared to protect the integrity of the vote, send him home.”

The line practically guaranteed to produce the biggest laughs comes from Blackwell, who says that as secretary of state in Ohio, he “was responsible for the integrity of the vote.”

Perhaps he’s forgotten that his tenure in Ohio is marked with an asterisk after he was alleged to have thrown the key swing state’s 2004 election results in favor of George W. Bush amidst irregularities that reportedly disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters.

Indeed, it kind of seems like both Cain and Blackwell have forgotten a lot — including their history.

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Misadventures in Twitterverse

Published by Joyce Jones on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 10:19 am.

(Photo: Courtesy MSNBC)

Ah, Twitter. So alluring, yet so, so dangerous. Just ask Joe Williams, who may or may not be on his way out as the White House correspondent for the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico.

The veteran reporter was suspended indefinitely without pay last week after suggesting during an appearance on Martin Bashir’s MSNBC show that Republican Mitt Romney only feels comfortable with the “white folks at Fox and Friends.”

“That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that,” Williams told host Martin Bashir.  “But when he comes on Fox and Friends, they’re like him, they’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company.”

Yes, Williams was a bit frank, but plenty of other reporters have publicly commented on how Romney does indeed seem to vastly prefer Fox and shies away from appearing on other networks. But they framed it as more of a conservative thing than a white thing, which is not to say they weren’t thinking it.

A video of his comment was flagged by the conservative Web site Washington Free Beacon., the site founded by the late Andrew Breitbart, who tried to bring down former Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, also posted the video.

The incident has prompted debate about whether racism played a role in the decision to suspend Williams because Politico’s newsroom is widely considered to be woefully lacking in diversity. But when they announced the suspension, founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei told the staff in a memo that, “Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams’s public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment” to his responsibility to be fair and unbiased.

On its own, the “white folks at Fox” comment likely would not have led to the suspension. But apparently Williams also has in the past tweeted some incendiary and politically incorrect messages, including one about a part of Romney’s anatomy that rhymes with politi-chick.

Twitter is so seductive and spontaneous a medium that it’s easy to get carried away in 140 characters or less. It’s kind of like that sexy bad boy mothers warn their daughters about. Even though you really want to, if you think about it, you know you can’t. And that’s the key, Twitterlings — you’ve got to think about it. Just ask Joe Williams.

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Published by Joyce Jones on Monday, June 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm.

(Photo: Courtesy Fox News)

In a move designed to lure African-Americans from that plantation conservatives like to call the Democratic Party, the Tea Party group FreedomWorks has hired a minority recruiter. According to a Daily Caller report, Deneen Borelli, a prominent Black conservative, is taking on the role of “director of outreach.” She is a frequent commentator on Fox News and the author of Blacklash: How Obama and the Left Are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation.

“In her new role, Deneen will speak at events promoting FreedomWorks’ pro-liberty agenda, participating in recruiting grassroots activists — including minorities — and aggressively challenge the misleading voices of the liberal Black establishment,” the organization said in a press release.

That’s assuming that African-Americans at those events haven’t already drunk the tea.

FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe told the Web site that there’s “an amazing amount of diversity” in the Tea Party in terms of skin color and people from different walks of life. And while I’m sure there are several minorities who embrace the idea of smaller government and fiscal restraint, they might be slow to embrace a group whose members all too regularly make headlines for calling Obama a “monkey president” and other racially-charged comments, while its leaders stand by and say nothing.

And where are those Black conservative voices when their fellow patriots demonstrate an unprecedented level of disrespect toward the nation’s first African-American president. To me their silence is the true exemplification of plantation mentality.

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