FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Time for our bloggers to give us their spin on the presidential race. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts endorsed Barack Obama today. Did that tweak his old pals, the Clintons? And the GOP hopefuls prepare for tomorrow's primary in Florida. Also, more fallout from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's racy text messages. Joining me now are Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik, creator of afrobella.com and Eric Brown, blogger for the Detroit News' political and government blog, plus Jay Smooth who video blogs at illdoctrine.com.
Mr. JAY SMOOTH (Video Blogger, illdoctrine.com): Hello.
Ms. PATRICE ELIZABETH GRELL YURSIK (Creator, afrobella.com): Hi.
Mr. ERIC BROWN (Blogger, Detroit News' Political and Government Blog): How are you doing?
CHIDEYA: I am doing great. There's so much popping off. This weekend, Senator Barack Obama won big in South Carolina's Democratic primary. He also got a boost from the Kenney camp. Let's take a listen to Senator Ted Kennedy.
Senator TED KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.
(Soundbite of applause)
Sen. KENNEDY: With Barack Obama, we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.
CHIDEYA: So it sounds like basically Barack Obama is the tonic to all of America's ills from - judging from that clip. Patrice, do you think an endorsement like that which - I mean, you know, if someone was speaking at my funeral, I'd love them to say something like that. Is this going to sway the hearts and minds of undecided voters?
Ms. YURSIK: I think that a lot of people who kind of are undecided might be swayed by Ted Kennedy's, you know? I like the phrasing of what he said, you know? I think the Barack Obama does represent kind of a new politics. I like how he's doing - how he's dealing with the slings and arrows that are being thrown at him right now by taking the high road. It seems to be working wonderfully for his campaign. And I think that the Kennedy endorsement from Caroline and from Ted, it looks very good for him right now.
CHIDEYA: Eric, is there a sense that some people are raising the drawbridges, if not burning the bridges, to the Clinton campaign at this point?
Mr. BROWN: Well, I think so. I also think that what a lot of these senators that are endorsing Obama is doing is telling the Clintons that, you know, out with the old, in with the new. And it also sends a very serious message down in South Carolina that the Clintons, I think, felt that they had the black vote sewn up. A message was sent Saturday in South Carolina.
CHIDEYA: So, Jay, when you look at this, you know, topography, there has been the black primary, South Carolina. Do you think that there's a situation coming up where African-Americans have kind of had their say and had their day, or is there going to be a continued focus on how the African-American vote is going to affect the Democratic primary system?
Mr. SMOOTH: That certainly seemed to be what Bill Clinton was implying with his random non sequitur about Jesse Jackson that the black vote had their say in South Carolina. I mean, I think it remains to be seen. And I think those campaign tactics that we saw from the Clintons over the last week will alienate many people, not only black voters, but I think people across the board, like myself, who've always had a fondness and respect for the Clintons even when I disagreed with them on policy.
I feel like what we've seen with this bizarre Jesse Jackson comment and the incident a couple of days before, where we saw Bill Clinton proclaiming that we shouldn't focus on race but going about it in such a way that was basically saying that we shouldn't focus on race the same way that Br'er Rabbit says not to put him in the Briar Patch. He was going about it in such a way that he was guaranteeing the opposite result would come by making such a big show out of proclaiming as he ensured that the race question would be the top story on that evening's news.
So I think it's clear that the Clintons have been playing very cynical games with the race issue, and I think that's leaving a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. It could come back to hunt them between now and the rest of the primaries.
CHIDEYA: All right.
Mr. BROWN: I agree. And one more point, Farai, I want to make is the fact that the victory speech that Obama gave Saturday should be the mainstay for the rest of his campaign because that was an amazing speech.
CHIDEYA: All right guys. I am going to have to come back to you. I'm speaking to Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik of afrobella.com, Eric Brown of the Detroit News' political and government blog and Jay Smooth of illdoctrine.com. We'll be back with more Bloggers Roundtable shortly.
(Soundbite of music)
CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.
We're back with more buzz from the blogosphere. I'm talking with Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik, creator of afrobella.com; Eric Brown, blogger for the Detroit News' political and government blog; and Jay Smooth who videoblogs at illdoctrine.com.
So welcome back, folks. And I'm going to jump right into it. So, Jay, you are in New York. I lived there for a long time, and folks had some very strong opinions and different ways about Rudy Giuliani. So how do New Yorkers now feel about what the former mayor is doing in the campaign? Has he lost his 9/11 luster?
Mr. SMOOTH: That certainly seems to be the case. And, I mean, I think I'm one of many New Yorkers who's basically reveling in Giuliani's humiliation at this point. I mean, we've seen the stubbornness that always characterized his presence here be his downfall. Everyone told him that you couldn't ignore those early states, and he tried to go against the grain with that. And it seems like it's going to be his downfall here. So I think, you know, that all the shortcomings that we knew so well would be what did him, but it seems like getting to know him, you know, didn't even have an opportunity to be what brought him down. This initial strategic error is ruining him. So, I mean, I think, this is karmic retribution that was a long time coming for Giuliani in my opinion.
CHIDEYA: Eric, Giuliani had some high-profile struggles with African-Americans, particularly over policing. Not that there's that much of an interaction between the Republican Party and black folks right now, but do you think those issues even would have come up or even will come up if Giuliani stays in the race?
Mr. BROWN: Well, I doubt very seriously that he will stay in the race, number one, and so they won't have a chance to come up. But one of the things that any politician in the future needs to do is whoever his campaign people are -don't hire them.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHIDEYA: Yeah. Well, I will leave that one to set awhile. Patrice, I'm going to lead us on to a different aspect on the Republican side - Cuban Americans. They're expected to make up one of 10 of Florida's voters tomorrow. And while there's a great diversity in Latino populations in, you know, ethnicity and identification and politics, Cuban Americans have a strong track record of supporting Republican candidates. What about Cuban Americans as a voting bloc, how important is that?
Ms. YURSIK: Oh, it's very important. I mean, just here in Miami alone, you see that it tends to be more of a Republican display. You see more stickers on cars, you see more signs for people who are supporting, especially McCain. Like, just this last week, a whole gang of John McCain signs have been going up all over town. I think that Charlie Crist and Mel Martinez's support bodes extremely well for McCain here in Florida. And I think the Cuban bloc will vote for him.
CHIDEYA: What do you, I mean, literally on the street when you see African-American communities, like there's a Haitian American community, is there a dialogue around the Republican contest at all or is that have people really mainly put their eggs in the Democratic basket as they did in South Carolina among African-Americans?
Ms. YURSIK: I think, I think, I definitely think in the communities here in Miami, the Haitian community and the Carribean community which I am a member of, I think there's a very strong support for Barack Obama just for something new for that, you know, people are seeing it as an end to the political dynasties. And this is, you know, exactly what Caroline Kennedy was saying, like, it's that sign of hope that feeling of maybe JFK had given back in the day.
CHIDEYA: Eric, please, go ahead.
Mr. BROWN: I mean, I agree with her because one of the things that I'm noticing is the fact that though a lot of blacks were very skeptical about Obama early on, you know, the old is-he-black-enough test, my question was always to my peers: What makes Hillary black enough or anyone else black enough when they don't share the same skin as us? I think what you saw in Iowa, what you saw in New Hampshire, and what you have seen in South Carolina, because even though he got a lot of the black vote down in South Carolina - excuse me - he still got 25 percent of the white vote.
And even if John Edwards were not in the race still, there's a chance he would have gotten some of his vote just based on anti-Clinton alone. That's what it is. There are a lot of anti-Clinton votes out there. And with regards to Republicans, I think if she is the candidate come November, blacks may very well go over to the Republican side. I mean, I will. I mean, I'm not a Democrat. I'm an independent voter. But I will definitely be voting for a Republican if she is the person I have to choose from in November for the Democratic Party.
CHIDEYA: Why so strong a feeling?
Mr. BROWN: I think that she's a fraud. I think that she is not who she say she is. She tries to run on the coattails of her husband, and it was proven just this past Saturday, you can't do that particularly when you try to pander to a particular race. That race is telling her now, meaning black people, that, no, you're not your husband.
Ms. YURSIK: Yup.
CHIDEYA: Well, I mean, Patrice, do you think there is going to be any chance of a potential defection of black voters from the Democratic Party? I mean, that's - that would be quite against the grain of history to this point.
Ms. YURSIK: Oh, God. Yeah, I've had some of my readers make comments like that, and I hope they don't really mean what they're saying and they're just speaking out of the total disenchantment with the Clintons right now. I think the best thing that Hillary Clinton can do is just rein in Bill, let him just sit on the stage and smile as he did in the earlier stages of the campaigns. He is not doing them any favors right now. I don't know. I mean, I would like to think that black women and black people in general would not go over to the Republican Party just to spite Hillary.
Mr. BROWN: Well, it's not just to spite Hillary. I mean, Bill has shown his true colors. The comment he made on Saturday…
Ms. YURSIK: He really has…
Mr. BROWN: …even Jessie Jackson won on South Carolina in '80, '84 as well as the comment she made about M.L. King not being able to get his initiative passed, you know, in light of what he tried to do, but it took a white person to get it passed. I mean, come on. We're - we as black people are tired of that crap.
CHIDEYA: All right. Well, let me…
Mr. SMOOTH: You know, why not give someone else a chance?
CHIDEYA: Let me move on to another topic, another hot government topic. Eric…
Mr. BROWN: Yes.
CHIDEYA: What's up with your city? What's going on? What's happening in Detroit? You know, you've had the mayor's chief of…
Mr. BROWN: Let me clarify something.
CHIDEYA: …mayor's chief of staff resigning, you know, amid allegations that she and the mayor lied under oath about an affair. We have hot and heavy text messages. Is this a daytime soap opera? Or is this like C-SPAN, or is this a combination?
Mr. BROWN: Well, let me clarify something. I was born and raised in Detroit. I am not a voter in Detroit. I live in a suburb of Detroit. But be that as it may, I still have family there. In this situation, Detroit is very sad. It's sad because the lies that they told initially could have rectified all of this and we would not be where we are at right now. We would not see CNN doing a live news conference with the prosecutor for Wayne County, to give her assessment what she's going to do with this situation. We would not see the New York Times, Newsweek carrying front-page articles about this. The big issue is not the text messaging and or the affair that went on. The big issue that people are missing, I know, is the fact that they lied on the stand, they lied from the start. Had they not lied, to begin with - you know, people lost their jobs and…
Mr. BROWN: …allegedly, there are some strippers that lost their lives. So feel the need to understand. It's not about the philandering. It's about the lies, and it cost the city $9 million.
CHIDEYA: Just briefly, describe the initial lawsuit that led to this?
Mr. BROWN: The initial lawsuit was a whistleblower lawsuit by a couple of cops that felt that they were there investigating into the mayor's affairs as well - when I say affairs, I mean, literally, mess around with a bunch of women as well as a party that took place, a last party that took place at the mayor's house, which is called the Manoogian Mansion. That was blocked, so the two cops, Deputy Chief Gary Brown and Harold Nelthrope as well as another cop by the name of Walt Harris, they filed a whistleblower suit. And that whistleblower suit was stalled. And now, we have what we have right now.
CHIDEYA: Now, when you hear about stuff like this, Jay, do you think of it as a failure of African-Americans in a predominantly African-American community to hold black leaders accountable. I mean, is that kind of a broad inference you can draw or do you think of this as something that's more localized?
Mr. SMOOTH: I think of it as more localized and I think, I mean, Kwame Kilpatrick was a really bright, charismatic figure, so I think it's only natural that people were being inclined to stick with him at first when such charges come out. But I mean, I think it's really sad to see because he was so bright and has so much potential that, I mean, you know, he's been known as the hip-hop mayor, and I hope that this will not be taken as a reflection on the hip-hop generation that's working their way into the political realm now. Because, I mean, if you wanted to put that sort of spin on it, you could compare him to some rappers in that he had so much promise and potential but had a really profound lack of discipline and judgment, so now, he's squandering that promise. But I, you know, I think there are many other people of this generation that will be coming into office and holding it together much better. So I hope that this won't have a lasting effect on how people judge us hip-hoppers when we enter the political realm.
CHIDEYA: Patrice, when you look at this, is this a situation where people are more concerned with sex than policy? I'm thinking of, for example, Bill Clinton's time in office. There were a lot of policy questions, but what seemed to get Americans really going were sexual allegations. Does that speak to something about how we are as people?
Ms. YURSIK: I mean, the details of the story are so salacious. It's very difficult to the kind of - I mean, I think if you're from Detroit, definitely you know you see the larger issues and where this would affect the community and the people that he claimed to represent. And for the people who are reading it in the news and seeing it on TV, the text messaging and the L-O-L and all that stuff it's just, it's so juicy and so meaty. As you said, it's kind of like a soap opera. So in this particular case, I think policy would definitely be overlooked for the sexual and more salacious aspects of this case.
CHIDEYA: All right. Well folks, we're going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much.
Mr. BROWN: You're welcome.
Mr. SMOOTH: Thank you.
Ms. YURSIK: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik is the creator of afrobella.com and she joined me from member station WLRN in Miami. Eric Brown writes for the Detroit News' political and government blog. I spoke to him from WYCD in Detroit. And Jay Smooth video blogs at Ill Doctrine.com. He was on the line from our NPR studios in New York.
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