- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Swift suspension

Republican Sen. John McCain’s campaign suspended a staffer who sent out a provocative video linking Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama to the comments of his spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

The staffer, a low-level aide named Soren Dayton, sent out a link yesterday to the YouTube video, titled “Is Obama Wright?” on the social-messaging Web site Twitter. It mixes Mr. Wright’s most incendiary remarks with snippets from Obama speeches and interviews, which are edited to make the senator seem to be sputtering and unpatriotic.

The campaign suspended him a few hours later, although it wouldn’t say for how long, the Associated Press reported.

“We have been very clear on the type of campaign we intend to run and this staffer acted in violation of our policy,” campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said. “He has been reprimanded by campaign leadership and suspended from the campaign.”

The Politico, a Washington-based newspaper, reported that the two-minute video was the work of Lee Habeeb, a former producer of the Laura Ingraham Show, a conservative talk program.

‘Obama blew it’

“In my considered judgment as a race and civil rights specialist, I would say that Barack Obama’s ‘momentous’ speech on race settled on merely ‘explaining’ so-called racial differences between blacks and whites — and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions,” Michael Meyers writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the ‘black experience,’ Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain’t what it used to be in America,” said Mr. Meyers, who is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP.

“He should have presented us a pathway out of our racial boxes and a road map for new thinking about race. He should have depicted his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as a symbol of the dysfunctional angry men who are stuck in the past and who must yield to a new generation of color-blind, hopeful Americans and to a new global economy in which we will look on our neighbors’ skin color no differently than how we look on their eye color.

“In fact, I’d say that considering the nation’s undivided attention to this all-important speech, which gave him an unrivaled opportunity to lift us out of racial and racist thinking, Obama blew it.”

Applauding Obama

“I guess I’m not supposed to like Sen. Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech — at least if I want to keep my conservative credentials intact. But I did — and join Charles Murray in celebrating its subtlety, seriousness, and patriotism. What other prominent contemporary black politician could or would have given such a speech?” Abigail Thernstrom writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Yes, Rev. Jeremiah Wright is full of hateful, anti-American rhetoric, but his views are clearly not those of the Illinois senator. Indeed, the Philadelphia speech had something of Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief in what Obama called his ‘the decency and generosity of the American people.’

“As King did, Obama appealed to our better angels, asking Americans to join him in continuing the ‘long march … for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring, and more prosperous America.’ And he distanced himself from those who, like Wright, depicted a ‘profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that is right with America. …’

“In effect, that last sentence distances him from the entire civil-rights community, which conditions membership on the belief that white racism is endemic — even where it can’t be seen, touched, smelled, or otherwise detected,” said Mrs. Thernstrom, who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The right word?

“What is the proper word for the claim by Hillary Clinton and the more factually disinclined supporters of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination — made in speeches, briefings and interviews (including one by this reporter with the candidate) — that she has always been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement?” The Nation’s John Nichols asks in a blog at www.thenation.com.

“Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that former first lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; now that we know she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval of the deal; now that we know she was in the thick of the manuevering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement. Now that we know all of this, how should we assess the claim that Hillary’s heart has always beaten to a fair-trade rhythm? …

“As she campaigns now, Clinton says, ‘I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning.’

“But the White House records confirm that this is not true.

“Her statement is, to be precise, a lie.”

Banned in D.C.

Former top White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. yesterday was banned from practicing law in the nation’s capital as a result of his perjury conviction in the case of a CIA operative’s leaked identity.

The disbarment order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had been expected, the Associated Press reports.

“When a member of the bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, disbarment is mandatory,” the appeals court ruled.

In May, a court panel that oversees lawyer ethics recommended that Libby be stripped of his law license in Washington. The Board on Professional Responsibility then found that Libby’s conviction for lying to the FBI about the case of former CIA operative Valerie Plame amounted to “crimes that involve moral turpitude.”

“This action is required by the rules following a conviction regardless of the merits of the case, and for that reason Mr. Libby expected and did not oppose the court’s order,” said Libby attorney William Jeffress.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com

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