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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


9 June 2008

NEW YORK – In late August, the Democratic Party convention will formally nominate Barack Obama as its candidate for president, 146 years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed America’s black slaves, and exactly 45 years after Martin Luther King delivered his epochal speech, `I Have a Dream.’

Barack Obama’s hard-won triumph in the Democratic Party presidential primaries is an historic event, and certainly a great moment for America.

The nomination of the first non-white for the presidency ought to make all Americans stand taller. The rest of the world is certainly cheering. America has resumed its traditional role as being the land where achieving the impossible is possible. After eight years of deeply reactionary government, many Americans are rising up in revolt and calling for the most dramatic of changes.

The media keeps calling Obama a `black.’ But the junior senator from Illinois is technically not a `black’ at all. His father was a black Kenyan, his mother a white from Kansas. Obama is as much white as black. We should really call him a `person of color’ or of mixed blood.

In fact, Obama, who sips tea and listens to Mozart, is much closer to white, liberal, upper middle class society than America’s traditional black culture and working class whites. I suspect that to many of his white supporters, Obama is a man of color who acts, speaks and looks white.

Even so, Obama’s candidacy will do much to uplift all America’s people of color and generate new respect for them. He seems set to be the second Martin Luther King. The French media hails him as the next John Kennedy.

Though Obama is not really a black man in the North American sense of the term, his candidacy has revealed the racist underbelly of the United States, particularly among southern rednecks, blue collar workers, and some evangelical Christians. Hillary Clinton helped open this Pandora’s box, and Republicans will be certain to keep the lid open during the campaign.

Many Jewish Americans, no strangers to racism, are also spreading anti-Obama sentiments. An intense, below the radar campaign is going on among Jewish groups warning that Obama is `soft on Israel’ or even a closet Muslim. `I don’t trust that Schwartz in a suit,’ as one New Yorker puts it.

Even Obama’s embarrassing ritual kow-towing to the Israel lobby in Washington this week did not allay such hostility.

Contradicting his vows to change US foreign policy, Obama vowed fealty to Israel’s positions, even going so far as to promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s `undivided capitol,’ threatening Iran and joining in the mantra that it is a grave world danger. John McCain’s positions expressed the same week were almost identical.

What this all means is that no matter who becomes president, the Israel lobby, which is an arm of Israel’s expansionist right wing parties, will remain firmly in charge of US Mideast policy while Israel’s center-left, which advocates land for peace, remains ignored. A genuine peace settlement between Arabs and Israelis will thus remain unlikely, and the United States will increasingly be seen as the enemy of the Muslim world.

Those who hoped Obama might change US Mideast policy will find their hopes dashed.

The next big question: who will Obama choose for vice president. Angry feminists and the menopause brigades are demanding Obama name Hillary Clinton. But given her 40% negative national ratings, and the prospect of Obama being stuck in a ménage a trois with Hillary and Bill Clinton, he should look elsewhere.

By refusing to graciously concede defeat weeks ago, and raising the race issue, Mrs. Clinton put her political career before the party. But she is clearly angling for a senior position with a new Obama administration, or at least a major role in the Democratic Party that will serve her as a platform for her next run for the presidency in the 2012 election. She intends to be a permanent political fixture.

Even so, many America have had enough of eight years of Clinton sleaze, and then eight more years of the catastrophic George W. Bush. The nation craves dignity and honor in the White House. Either Obama or McCain will be a hugely welcome change to the previous two administrations.

Obama has served only one Senate term. Veteran senator and decorated war veteran McCain will crucify him over the inexperience issue. So Obama badly needs a highly experienced political and foreign policy ally with Washington know-how for VP, like Senators Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, Chris Dodd, or the able Gov. Bill Richardson.

McCain is now flirting with an East Indian-American, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and Colin Powell as potential `dark-skinned VPs,’ and with former HP boss Cory Fiorina to attract female voters. Picking a person of color or a woman just to steal votes from Obama would probably be seen as a cheap ploy by many Americans and backfire. McCain may end up picking a youthful governor or senator to offset his advanced years.

Obama has broken America’s race barrier, but sadly the 2008 campaign promises to be as much about skin color as policy and character. Worse, in his first serious encounters with the Republican attack machine and the mighty Israel lobby, Obama either became flummoxed or caved in. Not an auspicious beginning for the man who is supposed to change America.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2008.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here
Eric Margolis
c/o Editorial Department
The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East
Toronto Ontario Canada
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