By Russell Sadler
It was one of those incidents that cause the videotape of your life to click into fast rewind. You watch your past fly by until the tape slows again and plays some similar incident out of your past. It began when my MacBook chimed announcing one of those “news alerts” I sign up for.
“Moments ago,” said the alert, “Sen. Barack Obama announced he will run for President.”
A couple more clicks and I’m at his website watching his announcement video.
“Our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way,” a relaxed Obama intones. “Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions.”
Obama had put into words what is in the minds of millions of Americans, especially the non-ideological crossover voters. “ I just may be looking at the next President of the United States,” I thought.
That’s when my internal videotape click into fast rewind until it slowed to 1960. I was watching an interview with Sen. John F. Kennedy talking about creating a Peace Corps that would allow young Americans to give something back to their country. It was the theme that eventually morphed into one of the most quoted lines from his inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Kennedy’s buoying call to duty was a welcome antidote after the name calling and blacklisting of McCarthyism and influence peddling scandals involving Vice President Richard Nixon. Many voters hungered, as they do now, for a more productive and positive politics.
My internal videotape kicked into fast forward again, stopping in the late 1960s and early 1970s and playing speeches by Oregon Gov. Tom McCall. He promised to clean up the Willamette River, calling the mills at Albany, “a festering cancer on the broad, green bosom of the Willamette Valley” and demanding land use laws to rein in “sagebrush subdivisions and coastal condomania.”
Obama, JFK and McCall were successful leaders because they were gifted with the ability to put into words what many people were thinking in a way that produces genuine empathy.
Democratic Party presidential candidates have not displayed this quality in decades. Among the present pretenders for the nomination, Sens. Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd and Rep. Dennis Kucinitch do not display it. John Kerry and Al Gore? Nope. John Edwards displays it, but his base of support is too narrow. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will best serve as Secretary of State if a Democrat wins the presidency.
That leaves Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Unfortunately, her greatest strength is also her greatest weakness -- experience. The Republicans are in disarray. More than half the party is still in denial about why they lost control of Congress. A Clinton candidacy will be a lightning rod that will unite the Republicans, allowing them to paper over their differences to attack an old foe and get back in the game. That will be more difficult to do with Obama, who really represents a different generation.
The Republican frontrunner is Sen. John McCain. He has positioned himself for the race ever since losing the 2004 primaries to George Bush. But McCain has undercut his vaunted reputation for “straight talk” by cultivating support of Christian conservatives and supporting the escalation of the Iraq war, alienating crossover voters who want nothing to do with American mullahs like James Dobson and want to end the war.
The real question is whether Oregonians get to express themselves on Obama and other candidates in a timely way during next year’s presidential primary.
John F. Kennedy’s campaign people said he got his momentum nationally from winning the Oregon Primary in 1960. Most states chose delegates to party conventions in closed door caucuses. Oregon created the first partisan primary and frequently the Oregon voting was the first public indication of the popular support for a party’s candidate. Most states have primaries now and the Oregon primary in May is often too late in the year for Oregonians to have any national influence.
The legislature is considering a bill giving the Oregon Secretary of State the discretion to schedule the Oregon primary anytime during the first half of 2008 at a time when the result might have an effect on the national momentum of the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.
A targeted presidential primary could give Oregonians a renewed voice in determining whether the candidacies of Obama or McCain have legs or whether some other candidate will become their party’s standard bearer.
Editor's Note: Let's hope the Oregon legislature gives our Secretary of State the ability to frontload our primary when our votes would mean something, probably sometime in March. This will also help local school districts and other jurisdictions which saw their local levies defeated in November get a chance to put up a new levy before the year drags on and budgets are set in stone and before the legislature closes down. But RS is right on - it's time to bring Oregon back into the primary/caucus mainstream, the political version of "An American Idol."
Barack Obama as a new face brings some sizzle to the '08 presidential race a field cluttered with old, tired political faces. However, he's only 2 years away from being a state legislator in Illinois. He doesn't have a track record as a US Senator except his opposition to the war in Iraq even before he was elected - a positive from RAD's view. And his appeal to "common sense" not ideology is appealing but also a convenient strategy which allows everyone to see in him their own values and concerns.
The question is what does he stand for? So far the only thing he can hang his hat on is the famous "speech" before the DNC in '04. The last person credited with such powers was none other than Ronald Reagan whose famous "speech" for Goldwater vaulted him into the national political limelight. But he came to the presidency as the two term governor of California. One assumes there is more there to Obama than Ronnie. But who really knows?
History has not been very kind to presidents who came to power as new faces and/or outsiders. One immediately thinks of Jimmy Carter who was a disappointment as president but the gold standard as an ex-president. But being the candidate of experience is no guarantee either - JFK, LBJ and Nixon proved that! Let's hope during the long campaign trail of '08 that Barack Obama shows us he has the leadership 'chops' people think he has. In the meantime I'll steal a line from my son's recent blog on Barack - "Run Barack, Run."
By Russell Sadler
Here's a powerful excerpt from a speech by Bill Moyers, "For America's Sake"
Moyers speaks of two stories or narratives which have dominated US history - one a shriveled, parsimonious, narrow vision, the other an inclusive, sweeping and hopeful vision. Which candidate for '08 is best equipped to deliver such a message?
Bill Moyers - "...One story would return America to the days of radical laissez-faire, when there was no social contract and the strong took what they could and the weak were left to forage. The other story joins the memory of struggles that have been waged with the possibility of victories yet to be won, including healthcare for every American and a living wage for every worker.
Like the mustard seed to which Jesus compared the Kingdom of God, nurtured from small beginnings in a soil thirsty for new roots, our story has been a long time unfolding. It reminds us that the freedoms and rights we treasure were not sent from heaven and did not grow on trees.
They were, as John Powers has written, "born of centuries of struggle by untold millions who fought and bled and died to assure that the government can't just walk into our bedrooms and read our mail, to protect ordinary people from being overrun by massive corporations, to win a safety net against the often-cruel workings of the market, to guarantee that businessmen couldn't compel workers to work more than forty hours a week without extra compensation, to make us free to criticize our government without having our patriotism impugned, and to make sure that our leaders are answerable to the people when they choose to send our soldiers into war."
The eight-hour day, the minimum wage, the conservation of natural resources, free trade unions, old-age pensions, clean air and water, safe food--all these began with citizens and won the endorsement of the political class only after long struggles and bitter attacks. Democracy works when people claim it as their own..."
RAD: Democracy requires an engaged citizenry! Which candidate will mobilize an army of the concerned for the vulnerable among us?
Surprise, surprise US Senator Barack Obama (D, Ill) has announced the creation of an "exploratory committee" to help him decide if he should throw his hat in the presidential circus ring for 2008.
Political junkies know that the euphemistic EC is really a disguised form of dialing for dollars where the candidate asks high rollers to bank roll one's candidacy. After all, TV stations don't give up their air waves for free!
This is the early "money" primary where candidates find out if they are 'contenders' if the big money people step up to "show 'em the money" so to speak. What's the quid pro quo or IOUs of this vetting process? Don't ask, don't tell.
The Democratic field is getting rather crowded with declared candidates and undeclared candidates out with their tin cups - John Edwards, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Vilsack, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark and Al Sharpton.
It seems the campaign season has gotten jumped started very early because of Hillary Clinton's likely run for the brass ring. As they say - the early bird gets the worm. Or might it be that since it is still winter the worms might not be too plentiful while we wait for the Queen Bee to send the worker bees out of the hive.
Yes, these are mixed metaphors, but RAD is NOT an English professor!
Jerry Boone's Oregonian column for Monday's January 15, 2007 edition "Prosperity leaves a lot of people behind" hits the nail on the head - well almost.
JB: Charlie Cameron, as he was leaving his longtime job as Washington County administrator last year, remarked that many of the people who work the hardest to stoke the county's economic engine can't afford to live where they work.
And the gap between the well-to-dos and just-getting-bys grows larger.
RAD: Charlie Cameron was right on. He also knew that those who could not live in the county near their jobs were on the Sunset Highway, I-5, 205 or 217 clogging those roads every morning and evening adding to global warming and road rage. But it's not their fault - as long as our county is only passively committed to building affordable housing (for those at 50% of under of MFI) this will continue.
Charlie Cameron, one of the brightest county executives in the USA, and the county commission did little about this issue over the last 20 years. There are relatively few county general fund dollars put into getting low-income housing built here. Most of the money for low-income rental housing is federal and state money leveraged with private money.
The only county money that goes into the low income housing pot comes from the Public Safety levy just passed in November which will help fund the county's 4 shelters for the next 4 years. That's the good news. But for every 100 people who go to one of the 4 county shelters, only 12 can be helped. That leaves 88 on the streets! For example, Beaverton has no shelter.
As the chair of a county review committee on low income housing in '93-94 we came up with lots of ideas, but few of them have been implemented. 300 units of affordable housing for those in the 60% and under MFI level are acquired or built annually by the Housing Authority and non-profit developers. But the need is for @ ten times that amount on an annual basis - especially for those under 50% MFI.
JB: Unlike the African Americans of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have A Dream" speech, they can't be identified by color. But in the midst of one of the nation's most economically virile areas, they are as oppressed today by economics as African Americans were oppressed decades earlier by society.
What they have in common is an uphill struggle to make ends meet in a community of escalating costs and diminishing opportunities in a society that barely recognizes they exist.
RAD: Katrina showed the fault lines in the USA between the haves and have nots. It's important to remember that MLK's last national campaign and march on Washington was a Poor People's March, not a Black Pride March.
With the loss of MLK and RFK we lost two charismatic leaders who were clearly able to connect the dots - poverty is NOT a racial issue per se - it's a class issue. The Civil Rights Revolution benefited what E. Franklin Frazier termed the Black bourgeoisie, but it left in the dust the working poor in the hood, in the rural south now joined by Latinos in the barrio or on the farms. It also made the white poor even more invisible.
JB: Patients line up outside the Essential Health Care Clinic in Hillsboro well before it opens each Monday and Thursday.
Most of them are draftees into the army of the working poor.
They do the jobs many of us wouldn't think of doing, yet still need to have done.
Some make just enough money to pay the rent, but many have to "double up" with another family to afford adequate housing, says Ann Blaker, the health clinic's interim executive director and also a grant writer for the county's Housing Development Corporation. The group is charged with creating housing options for low-income families.
RAD: Our county, state and nation face a series of interconnected crises: housing insecurity, food insecurity and health care disparities. As long as the working poor don't make a family wage job they will be mired in these so-called pockets of poverty. But in the richest nation in the world this is unforgivable!
We also know that having a home of your own (more likely a rented home) is a key to family stability, economic success and kids doing well in school. NCLB tests kids annually on their progress to meet national and state educational benchmarks. Instead we need to establish benchmarks for pols to meet community needs.
We have over 5000 people on the Housing Authority's waiting list. At the current rate of building affordable housing for such folks it will take us over 16 years to meet the current need. But data indicates the metro region will grow by a million people by 2025. What will we do then?
JB: Mobile home courts -- the last bastion of affordable housing -- are disappearing. Homes that low-wage earners can afford are being bulldozed daily to make room for in-fill subdivisions.
A home of their own? The cheapest real estate in current listings is $185,000. And for that, you don't get much beyond a roof and walls.
Health insurance? You can't plan for the future when your kids are undernourished today.
Seventy percent of the clinic's customers are employed, Blaker says.
"But the sad fact is that most of the new jobs being created in the county are jobs without any benefits," she says. "Low-wage earners can't pay for the things employers once used to provide."
Not all the clinic's customers are Latino. Not all are in the country legally. Some are homeless. Thirty percent are youngsters.
Among those seeking the clinic's help, there's only one common trait: None would be there if they had an option.
And on any day, a few of those seeking medical attention are longtime Washington County residents who simply can't stretch their meager incomes to meet their expenses.
RAD: Our neighbor to the north Canada and all of Europe have national health care systems which cost less than our bureaucratic multi-layered private/public health care delivery system. They also have an extensive safety net of early childhood care, housing subsidies and progressive tax systems to support a national safety net which creates an economic floor for the poor. How can we do less while we squander 8 billion dollars per month in Iraq? It's immoral and insane!
JB: Some community and religious leaders recognize the problem.
The Oregon Food Bank and community food closets are deluged with requests for help.
Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity meet only a fraction of the housing need.
In the past three years, Essential Health Care Clinic has expanded from one day a week to two in Hillsboro, in addition to adding a weekly clinic in the Tigard-Tualatin area.
Last week, the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness gave the Washington County Board of Commissioners a check for $12,174.07 to be used to help provide shelter for the county's homeless.
Beyond the money, the check helped publicize the need for society to do more, to care for those barely able to care for themselves. The economically disadvantaged need it.
They also sorely need something they lack: a charismatic leader such as King to tell of their plight and encourage those more fortunate to be more concerned.
RAD: I disagree with JB. We don't need an MLK figure, we need a grassroots movement in this county and state to force the politicians to put these issues on the front burner. That's what the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness is doing.
We applaud the county commissioners for supporting the Housing Alliance agenda in front of the legislature for appropriating $100 million over the next two years (2007-09) for affordable housing. Our members will be in Salem advocating for this priority. We also want to participate in a county committee to create a 10 year plan for ending homelessness.
But at the end it's all about money and not just talking the talk, but walking the talk.
Washington County is the only county in the state which has a realestate transfer tax, a document fee attached to every realestate transaction in the county. In the last two years it has brought in @ 4 to 6 million dollars per year which is put into the county's general fund.
Our committee is asking the county to dedicate a portion of this fee to the county's Housing Fund (CHF) which leverages resources for building affordable housing. A mere 10% from this fee would create an annual CHF of between 400-600 thousand dollars which can be leveraged on a 10 to 1 ratio to build more affordable housing.
If there is a better idea out there, fine. But we need get the ball rolling, now!
So far county leaders have been silent on this request. Our committee does not intend to allow silence to rule! The faith community which provided the shelters with "earnest money" to help bridge the gap intends to mobilize the faith community to get the county leaders "to do the right thing" to make the American Dream of a "home of their own" a reality in the most affluent county in Oregon.
OPB is now broadcasting a BBC talk show program called "World - Have Your Say". One of their features today was a flap between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Senator Barbara Boxer (D, Calif) over a question that Senator Boxer raised in hearings last week.
According the press accounts - Rice criticized Sen. Barbara Boxer's suggestion that, because she does not have family in harm's way, she will pay no "personal price" in the Iraq war.
"In retrospect, gee, I thought single women had come further than that, that the only question is, 'Are you making good decisions because you have kids?' " Rice said on Fox News.
Boxer's comment came during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, in which Rice was grilled on President Bush's new war strategy in Iraq.
"Who pays the price?" Boxer asked Rice, who is unmarried and has no children. "I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families."
Boxer defended herself in a statement. "I spoke the truth at the committee hearing, which is that neither Secretary Rice nor I have family members that will pay the price for this escalation," she said.
RAD: Now if one pays attention to Senator Boxer's question, not Condi spin - the question is right on. It's similar to the question asked many times during the Vietnam War. Why are old men in power allowed to send young people to war? As Peter, Paul & Mary sang - " Where have all the flowers gone...?"
Persons of privilege and power in times of war are seldom at risk of the ultimate sacrifice that their decisions make inevitable. Aside from the officer corps, the Vietnam War era draft army was largely made up of the sons of the working poor and minority poor. Today's volunteer armed forces demographically look little different.
Boxer was right to ask the rhetorical question - "who pays the price?" She acknowledged she won't pay any price and neither will Condi. It's not about women's lib, it's about power. And those in power in this administration have put nothing personal on the table - not their own bodies, nor that of their sons or daughters.
Beyond that is another well known fact. None of the administration's bullyboys for this war have a record of military service except the President who used his service in the Texas Air Force to duck and dodge his way out of harms way in his generation's war - Vietnam. So the hypocrisy of this administration is palpable.
Those who don't get Boxer's point suffer from political myopia and/or are morally brain dead! Granted having a dog in this fight doesn't mean one has special powers of deduction as to the rightness or wrongness of the war. But for those who are gung ho for the war - what would happen if they did? In the meantime, where are the Twins?