The Rev. Jesse Jackson sharply criticized presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, for “acting like he’s white” in what Mr. Jackson said has been a tepid response to six black juveniles’ arrests on attempted-murder charges in Jena, La., according to the State newspaper in South Carolina.
“If I were a candidate, I’d be all over Jena,” Mr. Jackson said after an hourlong speech at Columbia’s historically black Benedict College.
“Jena is a defining moment, just like Selma was a defining moment,” Mr. Jackson said, referring to the historic 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala.
Later, Mr. Jackson said he did not recall making the “acting like he’s white” comment about Mr. Obama, stressing he only wanted to point out the candidates had not seized on an opportunity to highlight the disproportionate criminal punishments black youths often face.
Mr. Obama’s South Carolina campaign pointed to a statement it released last week in which Mr. Obama called on the local Louisiana district attorney to drop what the senator called excessive charges brought in the case.
Yesterday, Mr. Jackson issued a statement saying the newspaper had “taken out of context” his words and commending Mr. Obama “for speaking out and demanding fairness on this defining issue.”
“Any attempt to dilute my support for Senator Obama will not succeed,” said Mr. Jackson, who endorsed Mr. Obama in March.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is expected to resign today to clear the way for a Senate campaign in 2008, giving Republicans a welcome dose of good political news.
Mr. Johanns will be joined by President Bush to make an announcement about his future this morning, the secretary’s spokeswoman, Terri Teuber, told the Associated Press yesterday, not commenting on what her boss would say.
But state Republicans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made, said Mr. Johanns intends to seek the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.
“Johanns is the 800-pound gorilla,” said Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican. “People like Mike.”
Incumbent Republicans in New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon and Minnesota face difficult challenges, and Republican retirements in Virginia and Colorado give Democrats additional targets. Democrats have also been recruiting former Sen. Bob Kerrey to return home to Nebraska to run for Mr. Hagel’s seat.
A run by Mr. Johanns would make him the fourth declared Republican candidate for the Senate seat. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, businessman Pat Flynn and Hal Daub, a former Omaha mayor and congressman, are also in the race.
“He tried bravado, he tried apologies and he tried silence. Sooner or later, Eliot Spitzer is going to have to try the truth,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.
“That’s the loud-and-clear message from the latest voter survey on what New Yorkers think about the dirty tricks plot cooked up in Gov. Spitzer’s office. His Plans A, B and C about how to fudge and duck the Eliot Mess didn’t work. Big doubts about Spitzer’s honesty are sticking in voters’ throats, and they won’t go away until he raises his right hand and swears to tell the whole truth,” Mr. Goodwin said.
“A whopping 70 percent of those responding to a new Siena College poll not only want the rookie Democrat to testify — they want him to do it publicly. A mere one in four believes he has been honest so far. That’s a resounding ‘NO SALE’ response to the governor’s efforts to make the issue go away without first coming clean.
“The poll released [Tuesday] confirms earlier ones by Siena and others that it’s the cover-up more than the initial incident bugging voters. Most important is the finding that a clear majority of respondents, 53 percent to 27 percent, believe Spitzer has not told the truth. The same question in a Siena poll in July brought an almost identical result, 51 percent to 28 percent.
“People’s views have not changed in six weeks,” said Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for Siena’s Research Institute. “They believed in July that Spitzer knew what his aides were doing, and they continue to believe it.”
Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are the finalists for an endorsement from the Service Employees International Union, one of organized labor’s most powerful unions.
In winnowing the field yesterday, the union asked the three candidates to make their appeals at the Change to Win conference in Chicago next week, where they’ll be given another chance to persuade SEIU to back their candidacies.
The campaigns will have “to lay out their strategies to win in November so we can clearly understand how our goals to electing a pro-worker candidate can be achieved,” said Anna Burger, who is the SEIU’s secretary-treasurer and Change To Win’s chairwoman.
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards clearly were the favorites of the SEIU faithful who heard them speak at a labor forum Monday, the Associated Press reports.
Elizabeth Edwards accused Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton of copying the health care plan outlined more than seven months ago by her husband, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
The New York senator has failed to lead on an issue in which she has extensive experience, Mrs. Edwards said.
“Does Mrs. Clinton’s plan seem very familiar to you?” she said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Mrs. Clinton has — 7½ months after John unveiled his health care plan — unveiled a health care plan that is in every material respect just like John’s.”
First lady Laura Bush yesterday urged D.C. businesses to support programs that help inner-city schools, such as Teach for America, a program that places high-achieving recent college graduates in struggling urban and rural schools to teach for two years.
“The business community also shares the responsibility that all of us have to help America’s young people,” Mrs. Bush said at a luncheon honoring the District’s Teach for America program.
She said the District increased its Teach for America corps from 90 teachers two years ago to 250 today, and aims for 400 within three years. This was made possible in part by the generosity of the District’s private sector, she said.
Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.