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Fear of a Black Debate

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (left), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (center) and

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (left), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (center) and Sen. John McCain, along with former Sen. Fred Thompson, have indicated they will not attend a presidential forum organized by Tavis Smiley at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Darren McCollester/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Darren McCollester/Getty Images

When I write a post, my hope is to be pithy, or insightful or at the very least to take a sideways view of an otherwise warmed-over topic.

This time the Republican presidential candidates have got me beat.

I can think of no good, new or clever way to dissect what is, honestly, a dumb move on the part of the top-tier candidates — former Sen. Fred Thompson, Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. All are giving the go-by to the Sept. 27 All American Presidential Forum organized by Tavis Smiley at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS.

This on top of all the Republican presidential candidates — save for McCain — putting the dodge on the Univision debate. Univision being the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States.

It's not as if the Republicans have so much political capital they can afford to throw anyone a cold shoulder. They certainly can't run on the war. And polls show the electorate trusts the Democrats with national security more than Republicans. The scandals involving Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter have taken family values off the table, along with the Republican candidates themselves and their multiple wives.

So why ignore voters of color? The Washington Post quotes one anonymous source as saying the candidates are afraid if they show up at Morgan State "they're probably going to be booed."

Two things here. Thing one. Fear of a hostile reception: Isn't that logic the same slam the conservatives — and, uh, me from time to time — throw at the Dems for avoiding Fox News? If they can't stand a hot discussion, how are they going to stand up to other world leaders/dictators/terrorists?

Thing number two: A debate at Morgan State ain't Showtime at the Apollo! Do the candidates really think black folks are going to sit there and boo their asses all night? Sandman's ghost isn't going to sweep them off stage.

I remember going to the first Republican presidential debate this year, held just days after the 15th anniversary of the Rodney King riots, in Simi Valley, Calif. (where the jury acquitted the cops who beat King). It was held at the Reagan library — Ronald Reagan having infamously launched his 1980 presidential bid in Philadelphia, Miss., where civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. About the only two minorities in the joint were me and — as a stretch — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I remember at the time, looking at all those old white guys lined up like a string of pearls. They might be well meaning, but those guys on that day in that location... I sure got the feeling the party couldn't communicate with me less if they tried.

With this latest snub, they've proven me wrong.



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It's not fear, it's more like "why bother". That is to say why fish where the fish are not biting.

Time is finite on the trail, would Edwards spend his time at a tort reform convention? They likley vote 90% one way vs. 10% the other just like "voters of color".

Sent by buzz | 9:08 PM | 9-24-2007

america is the most racist country in the world. why is it so hard for people to understand that cold hard in point....while being defeated on alqueda...they still take time out to go on a good old fashioned "coon hunt". witness the most recent hapless victims...OJ simpson...michael vick,(if only emmet till, amadou diallo...and sean bell had been pitbulls), and the jena 6.any debate given under the aegis of black meaningless and a waste of white racist republican candidates time.thank you for allowing me to comment as huffpo a so-called liberal blog has banned me from posting my hard hitting no nonsense cutting edge diatribes.

Sent by drow1stboy | 11:46 AM | 9-25-2007

Joe Frazier once said to Muhammad Ali before a fight, "If I man tell me he???s gon???na push me out a window at midnight, about 11:59 I???m gon???na start watching him real close. And that???s all I got to say.??? And that was the one time Frazier beat Ali.

Now, let me put it to you this way: If you are a staunch Democrat, here is a test of your Democratic Party endurance. Go before a mirror. Say to yourself, ???Hillary can win.??? If you can say this without breaking out into laughter, then go stand on a street corner, waving a Hillary banner, while butt naked in the driving rain.

Bill will be sitting in the clubhouse having drinks with George the Elder.

Right now, the GOP is doing the smart thing. They are letting the Democrats hang themselves while not applauding or gloating. Like the advice Steve McQueen gave to an aspiring actor named Chuck Norris, ???The less you say, the better an actor you will be.???

The other night I???m watching the DVD movie ???Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.??? Fred Thompson is portraying President U.S. Grant. Grant and General Sherman and Senator Dawes are in the White House having a conversation what to do with the Sioux Indian after the Little Big Horn massacre of Custer???s troops. I???m watching Fred Thompson do his little President Grant impersonation and I???m saying to myself, ???All the GOP has to do to save money on advertising is take this five minute segment and pass it around. The American voters will totally forget Reagan???s ???Bedtime With Bonzo.???

Now, as for Mr. Obama?????????America is still too white, and too Republican. For the vast majority of Americans, long as the war is over there, and not here, they have no complaints. They've paid their four dollars per gallon and kept on keeping on. Which they will continue to do until someone comes up with a real and better plan. Which the Democrats haven't done. They took seats in the midterm, and more troops have been sent to Iraq. Plain and simple.

And like I said, Clarence Thomas and Oprah will vote Republican. Anybody who thinks that blacks and women across America all think alike and all vote Democrat just don't understand political demographics.

Sorry. Call me a racist. Call me a misogynist. Okay, this is what I got to say to those of you who want to deride me. Among our troops in Iraq there are women soldiers and there are soldiers from the minorities of America. Some of them have been in Iraq two or three times already, or more. Waiting for the ???08 elections while the Democratic Party Bosses play some more of their games is not like our troops are waiting on the beaches of Hawaii.

Nope. The GOP is playing it smart doing mime and Marcel Marceau impersonations while the Democrats first shoot one foot, hop around screaming and hollering, then shoot their other foot.

With Gore and Kerry, at least there was a semblance of a fight. A Democrat who worked and toiled for their party could at least say afterward, ???Well, it could???ve been.???

The way the Democratic Party Bosses have sold out this time around, there isn???t even the solace of saying there was the slightest sign of someone not taking a dive in a prize fight.

And I???m not the only Democrat who is saying this. A lot of us have done went and thrown up our hands in disgust. We don???t mind losing if it???s a hard fight. But losing for losing???s sake just don???t make it.

So, GOP, just stand there and look pretty and don???t say nothing that might cause you the least little harm. Fred Thompson looked great as President Grant. You guys got nothing to worry about.

I've listened to Tavis Smiley's commentary on NPR. He has impressed me many times as a man who knows how to use the language. He is good. Very good. I have no doubt he could out-debate every Republican on the list. But the GOP is doing the politically savvy thing by staying mute on the subject.

Sorry, but political reality is political reality.

Now, everyone, get out there and vote early and often.

fred call aka bigbro

Sent by fred call | 12:11 PM | 9-25-2007

If I can explain one more point along these lines about the failure of the Democratic Party. The Democrats are hedging a lot of their bets on the antiwar movement. And the antiwar movement is a dismal failure. Allow me to explain.

I???ve been having discussions comparing the Iraq antiwar movement to the Vietnam antiwar movement. One of the major failings of the Iraq antiwar movement is that there is no military draft.

Why is this separate Vietnam from Iraq???s antiwar movement? First off, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War was a major backbone to the Vietnam antiwar movement. Different states had different chapters. When it came to organizing, we had a more coalesced system/

Why? Well, first off, we guys lived and served together. We came from California. We came from Mississippi. We came from Chicago and New York. We came from Boise. We were white and black and red and brown. We fought together. We fought each other. Those of us that survived figured out a way to live together. We had a common face-to-face situation. After Vietnam, when we got together to protest, we had a solid foundation of experience. We not only re-shared that experience with each other. We shared that experience with other protestors who had not served.

The VVAW was something unique in the history of American antiwar protestation. I don???t think you will see much of an Iraq Veterans Against the War. All the soldiers today volunteered.

So, what do you have as a foundation for the antiwar movement today? You got people on computers. Sitting in their living rooms. Faceless. Nameless. Chances are they will never meet. They have an illusion that cyberspace is creating a unity that can defeat the GOP. Guess what. When William Gibson coined the phrase cyberspace, he was talking about an illusion.

The Democrats are hedging their bets on the illusion of virtual reality.

If I might paraphrase what Truman Capote said about Jack Kerouac, ???That???s not protesting. That???s typing.???

Meanwhile, those of us who are veterans, we need to find a way to support our troops in Iraq. Not only do we need to back them up, we need to do it in an efficient way. So far, the troops are getting shafted. One of the platforms of the coming election should be a way to support the troops. The voters waiting for the Democrats to come up with a solution are deeply, deeply disappointed. Because too many Democrats have sold out. Hence, you got a backlash vote in the making.

The GOP, all they have to do is sit back and comb their hair for the cameras. George Bush has done it for eight years. Jeb's getting ready in the wings.

Don't mean to be cruel. Just mean to be honest to let others know what others are honestly thinking. Beyond being politically correct. All the pretty, false words aside.

But, hey, there's always the bright side. A nuclear winter will cool off the global warming.

fred call

Sent by fred call | 1:50 PM | 9-25-2007

I'm a life-long registered Republican. Even though I'm far from a decision, I'm less inclined to vote for any of these four candidates because of "cold shoulder-ing" Smiley's debate.

Sent by kevin pensoneau | 4:57 PM | 9-25-2007

It's clear top-tier Republican candidates are not giving blacks the "cold shoulder," but are rather making a strategic decision to pass on the All American Presidential Forum. They are aware, just as Mr. Ridley is, that blacks tend to vote Democratic. Democrats make up something like 85% of the black cohort. Thus it is safe to say that, from a candidate's perspective, participation in the Forum is unlikely to sway African-American voters in either direction. There is an obvious disconnect between the Republican party and blacks in America, and most top-tier candidates stand to lose more than they could possibly gain by participating in an African-American-centric forum.
But do take note that Congressmen Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter, Senator Sam Brownback, and Former Governor Mike Huckabee are all participating in the event. They have little to lose and much to gain by their appearance.

Sent by Ian Boles | 5:01 PM | 9-25-2007

This confirms my belief that the Republican Party only pays lip service to all minorities. It is and always will be the "HAVES" & the "have-nots" and to make sure that the "have-nots" have less every year.

Sent by Mark | 6:56 PM | 9-25-2007

You guys really stun me with your allegiance to either of these parties. If you think that either one gives you the slightest bit more than lip service, you are sadly smokescreened. It is always the rich and powerful that get the little man to fight their battles. When you buy into either party line, you are merely a footsoldier in the battle of the elite to gain more power for themselves. Honestly, you need to pay more attention.

Sent by Russ Ward | 10:30 PM | 9-25-2007

The best way to support a stereotype is by feeding into it, and that is exactly what these four Repub candidates are doing.

"Why waste our time? Black's won't vote for us, no matter what we say."

In a nutshell that is what each one is saying by not taking the time, energy, and thoughtfulness to appear at this event. Needless to say, this kind of attitude is clearly representative of someone that doesn't America to evolve.

I don't know about the rest of America, but Im certainly ready for a president that has a different way of thinking. Not the clear cut and dry Democrat Vs Rep way.

Sent by Rashid | 1:02 PM | 9-26-2007

"I remember at the time, looking at all those old white guys lined up like a string of pearls. They might be well meaning, but those guys on that day in that location... I sure got the feeling the party couldn't communicate with me less if they tried.'

if that comment were made by an anglo about any people or party of colour, they would be viscerated for it.

i am thoroughly sick of hearing the conversation only from the assumed perspective that anglos are the only racist group in this country.

you just lost any credible argument with this reader/listener mr. ridley

Sent by AL | 5:38 PM | 9-26-2007

I don't care if blacks vote almost 90 percent democrat; the fact that the top-tier Republican candidates could snub a debate geared towards them speak volumes. It speaks to why blacks would rather go to a Democratic party that courts them yet takes them for granted after winning their votes than to a party that merely tolerates them.

Sent by Moji | 7:45 PM | 9-26-2007

I think the reason behind these politicians refusal to appear at the venue is because Tavis Smiley asks hard questions, doesn't play favorites, tries to give equal time to ALL candidates and makes the participants stick to the forum.
I've watched all of the Democratic "debates" this year and Tavis Smiley's was, hands down, the best and the most fair. Maybe Mr. Smiley can get the answers that the mainstream media is too afraid to even ask.

Sent by Jan | 8:23 AM | 9-27-2007

Brother John, you have both parties correctly pegged, but the Republiscum most of all. Please remember that Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were a black man and two Jews. Despite the chill that has poisoned many Black-Jewish relationships in recent years, most Jews still remember the Exodus from Egypt and what values that memory compels us to live by.

Sent by Mark Gary Blumenthal, MD, MPH | 9:50 AM | 9-27-2007

I think that by being absent from a scheduled debate shows the total disregard and disrespect that the Republican candidates have for people of color. One argument that is constantly posed is that they already know what to expect from the audience. First of all, to make such assumption falls into the same category as Bill O'Reilly's Sylvia's Restaurant comments. Secondly, if the questions were given to the candidates for preparation prior to the debate, why can they not attend and answer them. For example, when Sen. McCain visited Bob Jones University, did he not already know what to expect? After all, it was in South Carolina that he was accused of having a black child during the 2000 election. It is a sad commentary for the front runners of the Republican party. I could never vote for either of them based upon this incident. Tavis Smiley is a highly respected journalist and should receive the same respect as Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, etc. Sorry that blacks don't matter to the Republican party.

Sent by WT | 12:30 PM | 9-27-2007

The problem with snubbing both the Univision debate and the All-American debate is that the Republican Party has gambled the 2008 election on the notion that that this election will be determined by a traditional white majority. That may hold true in the short term, but it doesn't bode well for the future of the party. More and more non-white people are demanding, not asking, for respect in the political process. Say what you will about President Bush, but he realizes that the majority of Americans will not be white male or white female by the year 2020.

Sent by Cecily | 6:08 PM | 9-27-2007

I did not remember that Reagan announced his 1980 candidacy in Philadelphia, Miss. The symbolism and the message is appalling. Thanks for noting that sad and disturbing bit of history.

As for the Morgan State University debate, I am most surprised that Sen. McCain skipped it. While I disagree with him on any number of issues (and would not vote for him or for any of that crowd), I have thought him the most honest or ethical of the leading Republican candidates (if he fits that category), the one who has proven himself in more ways to have earned a role in the presidential discussion. But weakness and strategy win out, it seems.

Sent by Dan Hortsch | 1:11 AM | 9-30-2007

It is plain stupid when people say, "if that were said by a white guy in a room of colors" etc. and "whites aren't the only racists." Look up the terminology of racism, then follow up with it's distinctions between bigotry, and discrimination, etc. They dont' all mean the same thing. Racism has to do with power and privelege. If you are a white male, I'm sorry, you'll have to deal with the fact that, as tough as it may be...that "racism" was devised and put in place by white males. So it looks pretty stupid when it's said "if that were said by a white guy" when reversing comments made by someone from the non-supremist group. Anyone can be bigotted against another, but racist doesn't really work with ANY group against another. It works as a bianary with superior and minority. Hence when you look at any report or statistics how is it devised? You often get the stats, then following are seperate stats for African American, Hispanics, etc. which in some cases is changing, but how come we have the word "minorities". People who point out that if a "white guy said that" what kind of trouble they would get should really consider WHY they would be given a hard time for saying it.

Sent by Christine LaCoursiere | 11:09 AM | 10-2-2007

The other night I finally got to see the movie Borat. Yeah, I do get late behind in my movies. And there was Sacha Cohen talking to Alan Keyes. I'd forgotten all about Mr. Keyes. So, I went looking to see what he's up to. Now, this whole race (pardon the pun, I meant campaign race) issue thing is getting real interesting. Barack the Democrat. Keyes the Republican? You know what. All this '08 election need is Joe Lieberman and all the bases are covered.

Fred call

Alan Keyes Running For President
By Eric Kleefeld - September 16, 2007, 1:30PM
Frequent candidate Alan Keyes announced on Friday that he has filed a statement of candidacy for president with the Federal Election Commission. Keyes, a former diplomat in the Reagan administration, ran for senator from Maryland in 1988 and 1992, for president in 1996 and 2000, and for senator from Illinois in 2004.
A press release on his Renew America site says that Keyes will seek to attend the September 17 Values Voter Presidential Debate in Florida. Will they let him in?
Late Update: Keyes said on Janet Parshall's radio show on Friday that he has in fact been invited to the Values Voter Debate. But will he show up at any other debates, such as the ones on cable news channels?

Alan Keyes' website for grassroots activism -- designed to foster a nationwide movement to restore America to its founding ideals.

Alan Keyes excluded from Oct. 9 Michigan Presidential Debate
Michigan conservative leaders appalled

Sent by fred call | 2:24 PM | 10-4-2007