Bloggers' Roundtable: Part II The conversation continues: presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama tells a group of students about his high school drug use and reignites a controversy. Plus, Jesse Jackson says most Democratic candidates are ignoring African Americans.
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Bloggers' Roundtable: Part II

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Bloggers' Roundtable: Part II

Bloggers' Roundtable: Part II

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I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

We are moving on with our Bloggers' Roundtable. With us, we've got Debra Dickerson. She blogs at, L.N. Rock, otherwise known as the African American Political Pundit, and education analyst and blogger Casey Lartigue. His blog is The Casey Lartigue Show!

So we were just talking about Senator Obama talking about his drug use in high school and how he got himself together, whether that was oversharing. The first thing that came to my mind, L.N., was the whole I've committed adultery in my heart, the whole Jimmy Carter speech or interview.

Are there times when honesty is too much? Was this one of them?

Mr. L.N. ROCK (Blogger, African American Political Pundit): Oh, no. In fact, as I was listening and I heard it, it sounded similar to myself. There were times when I got into drinking, experimenting with drugs. There was a stretch of time where I did not really apply myself. Wow. That sounded like me before I went on to get my undergrad and graduate degree. I mean, he did and talked exactly what the American people want to hear: honesty. How dear we have good, honest politicians. That's the credibility gap that has existed in politics for so long. And I'm so thankful that Obama was willing to say, hey, listen, I make mistakes, and I'm honest about those mistakes, and I learned from those mistakes.

Mr. CASEY LARTIGUE (Blogger, The Casey Lartigue Show!): Yeah. This is Casey.

CHIDEYA: Go ahead, Casey.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. When a politician becomes honest and speaks the truth, I think we should not attack that endangered species. Let these people tell the truth. Let's encourage it in effect.

Now, I think that Obama had a couple of things. We're looking for, like, a bigger point. I think, for him, is strategy, first of all, to contrast himself with Bill Clinton. And I think the second thing is that there has been this cosmic question about is he really black, is he a magic Negro, that he may be trying to prove he has regret that, you know, by pointing out the fact that he smoked weed in his dorm room years ago.

CHIDEYA: Well, that could also this whole credit…

Ms. DEBRA DICKERSON (Blogger, I think he's afraid of getting busted.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKERSON: I think he's afraid that somebody has got some photos that they're offering it to The National Enquirer. So I think he's covering a lot of bases at once.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. Well, he already talked about this stuff in his book. But I think, yeah, he's bringing it on this time probably, you know, for reason Debra just mentioned because he wants to get out in front of it so.

Mr. ROCK: And that's a good thing. That's a real good thing.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: Well, I want to move on in a second to another topic about Barack Obama. But 45 percent of voters said that they be less likely to choose a candidate who use drugs. So does that just fly in the face? I mean, Casey, does that fly in the face of what you guys just been saying?


CHIDEYA: You seemed to all agree.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. But see, this is the problem with polls because you bring out like four or five, and you're going to find contrasting things all the time. And ultimately, people are just going to make a decision on, you know, whatever is of, you know, value to them. It might turn out that yeah, I don't want a candidate who's for the drugs. But they might like something else that Obama does but they'll look pass it.

Now, maybe on the Republican side, that might be a little more serious where at least, I think, they take a stand against, you know, people being allowed to use drugs, at least publicly, they do that.

CHIDEYA: Well, actually…

Ms. DICKERSON: Well, I didn't…

CHIDEYA: We don't see a lot of the Republican candidates announcing this stance. Debra?

Ms. DICKERSON: Yeah, I think I didn't look at the wording of that poll. But I don't think most Americans would vote for someone who was presently using drugs. He is saying I did it, you know, 25 years ago, which is and it was a mistake and I'm lucky that I got away with it. If he said, yes, I light up every now and then. Remember, he had to quit smoking. This is hypocritical(ph) this country is. So if he said, yeah, I've been there, done that. And (unintelligible) and, you know, and smoke a little bud. No, he's not going to get elected. But he's doing something useful by saying I used to do it a long time ago. Luckily for me, I was able to stop that train. But you don't know if you're going to be able to so don't go there. But he's never going to admit to doing drugs currently.

CHIDEYA: But what I just said very glibly, you know, the Republicans haven't announced their stance. What I meant was that there has not been as much questioning of Republican candidates around drug uses. There seems to have been around Democrats right now. There hasn't been a lot of attention, for example, to whether Giuliani or Romney or any of the other candidates have ever used drugs. Is it still a litmus test? I guess, Debra or L.N., do you think that it's still a litmus test that people really want to know about, or is that fading?

Mr. ROCK: I don't think so. I really don't think that people want to know what they did in their past. They want to know what is their plans for the future of the country. I really - if anything I want to know of all the candidates, if any of them have any closet things in regards to, you know, playing footsies in the - what you call it - in the airport. If they got problems like that, then - or issues like that, they should bring them out right now. This is not a problem; it's just an issue that they need to bring out. But if they have smoked some marijuana when they were teenager, I could care less and I think the American public could care less.

CHIDEYA: All right. Very briefly, in April, Reverend Jackson endorsed Barack Obama for president. And yesterday, he wrote an op-ed piece for the Chicago Sun Times. He basically called out Obama and other Democrats for not paying attention to issues important to African-Americans. And the one exception, he says, is John Edwards mostly because he started campaigning in the 9th Ward in New Orleans and made addressing poverty central to his campaign - that's according to Reverend Jackson. Do you think that that's really the case, Casey, that Reverend Jackson is pointing out that the Democrats have not been digging in on social issues?

Mr. LARTIGUE: You know, first of all, John Edwards opening his campaign in the 9th Ward is like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime. I mean, right at the time he was doing that, you know, his company was foreclosing on poor people. So for me, Reverend Jackson is still more impressed with people's words rather than their actions. So I don't really see much enough about that.

CHIDEYA: L.N., any thoughts?

Mr. ROCK: Yeah. I thought it was some kind of hypocritical that Jackson, at first, is supporting Obama and then saying, well, Obama, you're not speaking to the issues and none of the other Democratic candidates. They are not, I agree with him, that they are not - they haven't come up with a strategic plan, no outline on what they're going to do for New Orleans or any other urban area across America. What is your strategy? What's your approach? And what are the outcomes that are expected? You know, he is right on that, but he is wrong on supporting Obama first, and then saying, well, Obama, come up with a plan - sounds like a contradiction to me.

CHIDEYA: Debra, I'm going to do something terrible to you. I'm going to throw you…


CHIDEYA: …a totally different topic, okay?


CHIDEYA: Well, you know what? I have to…

Ms. DICKERSON: I'll log my answer to the last question.

CHIDEYA: No, you know what? Go ahead. Go ahead. You're going to just mess up Michael Jackson. But please, go ahead. Tell us what you think about Barack Obama.

Ms. DICKERSON: You cannot mess Michael Jackson enough anymore than he already is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKERSON: No, I would just say that I think it's perfectly legitimate. I think it's your job to critique and write (unintelligible) on the people you endorsed. What's the point of writing (unintelligible) on George Bush when you're supporting Clinton or Obama. I think it's perfectly legitimate and said - if I find out - if I'm watching whoever I'm going to vote for now, and if they make me unhappy, I'm not going to vote for him in November of '08. So I don't have a problem with criticizing the people you endorse as long as it's legitimate. I do think…

Mr. ROCK: Get the commitments, first.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah, you should have - exactly. I agree with that. Yeah.

Mr. ROCK: Get the commitment first. There's no accountability.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Then there was the - then he shows he made a mistake by committing so quickly, by endorsing him so quickly.

Mr. ROCK: He has not laid out a plan for urban areas,of all things, Chicago? You haven't come up with a plan?

Ms. DICKERSON: Well, I think that speaks to how dragged out our electoral process is. It's ridiculous how long people have to campaign. So I don't have a problem with - and if they probably have criticized him privately, didn't see any changes that they wanted and now there are - I don't have a problem with criticism that is legitimate.

Mr. ROCK: This is a guy that ran for public office. He ran for president previously. I'm talking not about Obama but Jesse Jackson. He knows the play. They tell us what you're going to commit to Obama and laid it out to us in a master plan for urban areas. Tell us what you plan to do.

CHIDEYA: Well, L.N. - you got the final word, L.N.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: And Casey and Debra. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is 25 years old. That's all we have to say on that topic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Thank you guys for joining us.

Ms. DICKERSON: Thanks a lot.

CHIDEYA: We have been talking with education analyst Casey Lartigue. His blog is the Casey Lartigue Show. L.N. Rock, otherwise known as the African-American Political Pundit. They both were at our NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. We also had Debra Dickerson, author of the books "An American Story" and "The End of Blackness." She blogs at She was at member station WAMC in Albany, New York. And you can find links to their blogs and ours at

The conversation doesn't stop there. On our online series, Speak Your Mind, you can get the chance to sound off on the issues that you care about. To find out how, go to our blog,, and click on Speak Your Mind.

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