Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Only True Republicans Need Apply

(This is an article I wrote for The Bergen Leader, which was published yesterday, November 30, 2009. Since then, I have seen multiple articles regarding the same National Republican Committee resolution.)

As an African American Republican, one thing that makes me a little nervous is the “labeling” of anything or anybody. So when I hear statements such as, “So and so is not a true Republican”, I wonder what the heck does that really mean?

Well, it appears several Republican National Committee members are trying to answer that question. What I am referring to is a resolution before the Republican National Committee called the “RNC Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates”.

The resolution has about eight “Whereas” clauses talking about faithfulness to conservative republican principles and Ronald Reagan’s belief in the same. Then it gets to the meat of the matter.

The resolution identifies “ten key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support.” The kicker here is in the “Resolved” section of the resolution.

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy positions of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.”

Make no mistake, I admire and respect the principles and ideals purported by Presidents Lincoln and Reagan. After all, Lincoln was the preferred party of African Americans during that turbulent time, and the support continued until the early 1960’s. The Republican Party was at the forefront of many of the legislative equal and civil rights issues of that early time period.

In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. was a republican, and the early state Republican Party in Texas was started by African Americans.

To me, this kind of resolution, while well intentioned in its desire to support candidates along very strict ideological lines, adds fuel to the fire in the current perception and criticism that the GOP is becoming a shrinking, small minded and intolerant club of folks who do not welcome those of differing viewpoints, but go to great lengths to become as closed a club as possible.

Is this the party of Lincoln and Reagan? Are we really trying to uphold the principles established by these giants of the party, or are we allowing a group of bitter, narrow-minded people the power to undermine the ability of the GOP to grow and diversify the party to meet the changing demographics of our political landscape.

I am a firm believer that the party’s survival is dependent on the sincerity of its outreach to folks of all cultures and ethnicities, as well as those whose basic identification generally supports the ideals of the Republican Party.

The party cannot impose the kinds of restrictions that inhibit its ability to attract progressive, forward thinking people into our ranks. I also believe that the party must provide a message to give people a reason to vote for us.

I think the Republican Party has a lot to offer. Many of the GOP success stories were accomplished with open-minded and inclusive leadership. Let’s start developing positive messages to attract, instead of negative messages to restrict.

We can still be a party with a "Big Tent".

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Change in New Jersey

On Tuesday the voters of New Jersey went to the polls and elected Chris Christie as their new governor. After a bruising slugfest of a race where everything but the kitchen sink was fair game in this cage match, a victor was chosen.

Now comes the hard part - how the hell do we fix what ails us in New Jersey? Can one man alone make the kinds of sweeping, "out of the box", "move beyond your comfort zone", changes that must happen?

Well, I ask this rhetorically, because no one person can do that, and if this appearance is fostered and promoted, then we are setting up Governor-elect Christie for failure. Just look at what's happening to President Obama.

During the presidential election, he was placed not just on an incredibly high pedestal, but also revered in almost otherworldly tones. Now, he has not been able to meet those high expectations and as a result, is causing a tremendous feeling of disappointment among many who thought he was the savior.

Let's be clear. Folks wanted change, and his message galvanized and motivated many to action.

Rather, it is a call for rational, common sense expectations of what can be accomplished by one person, fighting a beauracracy and culture that predates him by many decades, and will still be there well after the governor-elect is gone.

Now, having said that, do I think that governor-elect Christie can make a positive difference? ABSOLUTELY! He has the intelligence, guts and stubborness of purpose to do what is needed.

His challenge initially however, is to surround himself with quality folks to help him!

And I mean a diverse cross-section of talent.

This state is a melting pot of ethnicities and political ideologies. To truly govern in this critically important time, it is imperative that we open our dialogue to voices other than our own.

To heal this state from the "us verses them" stances of political campaigns, reaching out to others is a requirement - and in a substantive manner, not just as window dressing.

Many folks I've talked to - inside political types and more importantly,to regular folks who don't follow it as closely - have asked whether a Christie adminstration will be a diverse one.

The Republican party has fallen woefully short on this in recent years, a fact which generated the question in the first place.

Governor-elect Christie has an excellent opportunity to help turn this around. I am a big fan of Christie, and I firmly believe that he will - but time will tell.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And You Wonder Why Voters Are Apathetic?

"Substantive debate of the issues equals quality governance."

The New Jersey Governors race has been a classic street fight that defines the electorial process in the Garden State. At times it plays like a cable stations' reality television show, and as the "Jersey" saying goes, "You just can't make this stuff up."

State Democratic Party Chairman, Assemblyman Joe Cryan, during a rally the other evening, was performing his role as party cheerleader for incumbent Governor Jon Corzine when he decided to take on GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's weight as a campaign issue. I'm not going to go into full detail of his comments, so let's just say that Cryan made mention of Christie's weight in an unflattering manner, and tried to tie it into his ability to lead as Governor.

It is no secret that Christie is a large man and, as with many of us, has fought the battle of the bulge for most of his life. His performance as a United States Attorney for New Jersey was certainly not hampered by his weight as he locked-up every crooked politician he could get his hands on to the tune of over 100 - regardless of party affiliation.

A candidate's weight doesn't tell me how they will reduce my taxes or improve the schools in my district.

A candidate's weight doesn't tell me how they will improve the quality of life for our senior citizens, or provide top-notch, affordable healthcare for my family.

A candidate's weight doesn't tell me how they will provide the leadership, creativity and discipline necessary to govern our state back to fiscal prosperity.

The last time I looked, I saw people of all shapes and sizes living in our great state doing wonderful things, both in private and public venues. These folks run the socioeconomic gambit - from blue collar to white collar; they are mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters.

I wonder if Assemblyman Cryan, who would never be mistaken for a small man, has any relatives that fall into any of the above categories? Is he less proud of them or treat them as unfit in their life roles because of their weight? I sincerely doubt it.

So Assemblyman Cryan, yes, lead your party into the election battle as is expected of the state chairman, but be careful which stone you choose to throw first in your glass house - maybe you could drop a few pounds yourself.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Is Really Important

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints". Psalm 116:15

Wednesday was a surreal day for me. I was participating in a golf outing to benefit charities of a father of a teammate on my youngest daughters' soccer team who died two years ago, while I was still digesting the news I had received that morning of the death of a mother of a teammate on my youngest daughters' basketball team.

What struck me, were the similarities of these two people - both religious, family-oriented, fun-loving, kind-hearted, respected and loved by all who came into contact with them.

Both leave behind spouses with young children; one who has had the passage of time to learn to cope with loss; the other still trying to find their way as they prepare for the funeral service.

Both have children who are bright, kind, and full of courage in their own right, who understand that the suffering of their mother/father is now over and that "God took them home to suffer no more". Their words, not mine.

Both have family and friends who will see them through this time of sorrow, and others who don't even know them that well, but want to help because of what others told them about the way they had lived.

These two families - one white,one black - have so many similarities, and the one that stands out the most as I think of them, is a quote from Galatians 5:14 "Love your neighbor as yourself".

Both of these families do just that. They should be an example for all of us to follow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Primary Colors - Idealism vs Reality

The final push for almost all campaigns occurs about 40 days from election day. During this time, almost anything goes. After all, this is a winner take all affair where the second place finisher usually fades into obscurity.

The tenor of the campaigns tend to get nuclear, with each side trying to out "negative" the other, in search of that Holy Grail of Politics, the unaffiliated voter. Those who are able to woo this highly sought after component of our electorate, tend to emerge the victor.

This is also the time when war weary campaign staffers, exhausted by the rigors of non-stop campaigning for almost a year, try to suck it up for the final push and, like marathoners in mile 23 of the 26 mile race, hope like hell not to hit the wall - that point where the body and mind say "no mas" at the same time. It is during this period where the "win at all costs" bloodsport of politics really kicks in.

It is usually at this juncture, whether I'm involved in a campaign or not, I resurrect an old movie with John Travolta called Primary Colors. This movie is supposed to be a comedy following the presidential campaign of Governor Jack Stanton(Travolta)a candidate in the mold of Bill Clinton who, through the course of the campaign, always seems to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory via the untimely intervention of his personal demons and his addiction to...well... remember Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky....you get my drift. Anyway, Stanton manages to dodge one political bullet after another with the help of adroit staffers.

Then it happens. The event that occurs which will define the candidate and the campaign. You know, the one where political and ethical values collide. The event where if you take the high ground, you risk losing the election but saving your sense of decency by doing the "right thing", or taking the low road, droping the nuke and winning the election, but losing your "dignity and honor" in the process.

I love this part of the movie, because it has the naive "we can change the world idealist" colliding head-on into the hardcore world of "reality politics". Which way does Stanton choose to go? Well, rent the movie and find out for yourself because I'm not going to tell.

What I will share, however, is that the dialogue in the movie, while corny and over the top at times, still manages to get to the core of why people run for elected office in the first place - and that is to make a difference in peoples lives. That's it, pure and simple.

It is that simple belief that frequently gets lost in the campaign battles leading up to election day. The campaigns are on autopilot to stay on message, gear up the troops for the GOTV (Get Out The Vote),ads, phone calls, door-to-door leaflet drops and other processes of a campaign.

Primary Colors helps remind me why I love this kind of work, and who I am doing this for and why. It's to make a difference, and particularly for those who can't fight for themselves, and who depend on elected officials to fight the battles for them.

So if you're feeling a bit jaded or overwhelmed by the campaigns being run in your state, county, city or town, just watch Primary Colors - and know that your vote and opinion do matter - choose wisely.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let's Just Have Cage Matches

This has been one heck of a couple of weeks. Anger management should be the order of the day. Tea Party participants calling for Obama's death-among other things; Congressman Joe Wilson calling the President a liar; Serena Williams cussing out a linesperson after a bad call during a tense tennis match at the U.S. Open; Roger Federer the number one ranked tennis player, and possibly the best of the modern era, also cussing out a tennis official during the same U.S. Open. What the hell is going on?

Have we all become so intolerant that anger is the order of the day? On top of this, the call of "racism" for the slightest indiscretion or slight is the word "du jour". Everybody is getting in on the act, including former President Jimmy Carter, who characterizes Congressman Wilson's outburst as promoting racism against President Obama.

Serena's punishment for her outburst was severe, and to his credit, Papa Williams didn't play the race card. But I wonder if Roger Federer was punished for his outburst?

Look, I think that Congressman Wilson's actions were incredibly stupid and childish to be sure, but to call them racist? Well, that might be a stretch. I don't think every thoughtless, stupid verbal act committed by white folks against people of color, or vise versa, is racist. Sometimes people are just, well....stupid.

But having said that, it is also naive to think that racism does not exist in this country and that, in some corners, it doesn't play a part in certain decisions or reactions to events. Just because you don't verbally call someone a nigger, spic, kike, cracker, slant-eye or whatever racial slur you choose, doesn't mean you don't think that they are that slur.

We all need to take a time out and tone down this anger and hateful expression of speech. We have got to find a way to agree to disagree without using race as an excuse, or race baiting to achieve desired goals.

But perhaps that is too much of a Utopian concept. Maybe Rodney King's plea, "can't we all just get along?", is really a thing of fantasy.

I sincerely hope not, because remember, the behaviors and models of conduct we exhibit now, are what our children will use as guides for their own future attitudes and behavior. Is that the kind of legacy we wish to leave them? I for one - don't.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The President and Our Children

The fervor over Barack Obama's address to our children on Wednesday has reach a fever pitch that honestly, I just don't get. There are those who say that the President is mixing politics and his office by giving this speech to take some of the heat off the lousy job he's done with the healthcare reform issue.

My answer to that is, well, what president hasn't viewed this "back to school speech to kids" as a political opportunity? Hell, name a speech any politican gives that's not politically motivated to some degree or another.

No, the speech isn't the problem, at least on its face. The problem is the White House trying to control the method by which the educational community discusses...or not...the speech with the kids. If they had just left well enough alone, the speech would have been given and things would have moved on without much notice.

I actually read the speech, and it's fine to me. Work hard, don't give up, ask questions, education is important, this is the kind of advice the speech contains. Not much different than what my parents would drum into my siblings and me..all-the-time. Thank goodness they did! Now I do the same to my kids.

But the White House didn't leave it alone. So now, a relatively simple "do your best in school" kind of address, has morphed into a real or perceived "future voters for Obama" registration drive. Just like the lack of guidance has helped denigrate the healthcare debate into the debacle that it has become, this over controlling, "let's structure how educators discuss the president's speech" thing is not good judgement either.

I think our educators, for better or worse, do fine by themselves influencing our children by shaping political thought within their respective classrooms without White House intervention. Teacher influence on our kids - now that is an issue for a future blog posting.

Let the President give his speech so we can get back to the business of healthcare, the economy and Van Jones. Oh, my mistake, cross Jones off the list.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The "Lion" Passes On

Today is a sad day in American politics regardless of which side of the aisle you hang your hat. Ted Kennedy's death after a long fight with brain cancer, leaves a major void in our political reality. Why? Because this man was respected by both parties - Republican and Democrat - for the passion of his discourse and his unwavering belief in helping those less fortunate than himself. Many times, his was the voice of reason that carried the day to solutions that affected large numbers of Americans.

Was he flawed? Of course he was. But name one human being without fault-you can't. Did I agree with everything Kennedy had to say? No. After all, I'm a Republican. But I did respect the man and his dedication to public service and the energy he devoted to causes he believed in.

The highest compliment that opposing warriors can give each other on the field of battle, is to say they fought valiantly with courage and honor.

To Sir Edward. May the "Lion" continue to roar in the heavens above.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Truth or Dare

My earlier posts mentioned testimony I was preparing to give at the New Jersey Assembly's GOP Policy Committee Hearings on Corruption, chaired by Minority Whip Jon Bramnick on Monday August 17, 2009.

After several radio interviews, television segments, countless articles from California to New York in newspapers, blogs and special interest newsletters, I can realistically say I think I've touched a nerve.

Who would have thought that suggesting people running for office should take a voluntary polygraph, would generate so much attention. Some folks initial impression was very critical and almost a, "what is this guy thinking?", kind of attitude. However, once people heard an explanation of the thought process behind it, low and behold, they began to actually entertain the possibility!

Let me explain. First of all, I am not a nut case who routinely comes up with crazy ideas to solve problems. In fact, I had prepared a list of 12 suggestions/recommendations for the committee to address the corruption problem.

What bothered me though, was the fact that almost any suggestion/recommendation given by the witnesses at the hearing, including what was on my list, dealt with corruption AFTER the crooks were already in office. Ethics training, elimination of dual office holding,transparency in government legislation, more in depth financial disclosure statements, consolidation of services, term limits and increased jail time, were all very good suggestions. But still, none of them keep the bad apple out BEFORE it got into the basket. They only dealt with them AFTER they were in office.

So, as I looked at my list, one item that really struck me as "out of the box", was the use of a polygraph examination as a voluntary option once a person became a declared candidate for elective office.

I am a former law enforcement officer, and have taken the polygraph test several times. They were not fun, and I had nothing of substance to hide!

What I noticed, however, was that for those folks who had a little something in their background, the polygraph was a factor in them deciding NOT to pursue a law enforcement career. In essence, it helped weed out folks early in the process, which saved a lot of taxpayer money.

I think this same "weeding out " function could be another tool to use in trying to reduce the amount of corruption we have in this country. Honest folks have nothing to worry about. The crooks are the ones who need to think twice.

Obviously for something this controversial to be enacted, it will take a tremendous amount of legal review and debate to even come close to becoming a reality.

One thing is certain, for us to get a handle on corruption, we need to have "out of the box" solutions. Heck, I knew I was on to something when Sam Antar, a former white collar criminal who also testified before the committee, thought the polygraph for politicians was a great idea!

Antar stated that all the laws, regulations, ethics training and the like, didn't matter one iota to the criminals. But having to take a polygraph? Well that was a different story. In fact, Antar's boss required his people take regular polygraphs to ensure that weren't talking to the Feds or stealing money!

Maybe I'm on the right track. Judging by the feedback I've been getting, at least people are thinking about different ways to deal with corruption on the front end, including this polygraph idea. One thing is certain, to paraphrase Albert Einstein's theory of insanity - we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results.

I think I'll explore this polygraph option a little further. Tell me what you think. Feel free to offer suggestions of your own. This is going to be interesting.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Talk About Stirring Up A Hornets Nest!

On Monday, I had the privilege to testify before the NJ Assembly GOP Policy Committee concerning corruption in New Jersey. The committee was looking for suggestions and ideas from the public and others, to help in addressing this unending problem in the Garden State. My suggestion caused reaction from "coast to coast". I'll go into more detail later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kleptocracy - "Rule by Theives"

Corruption and New Jersey politics seem to go hand in hand. The recent arrests of 44 people including Assembly members, mayors, council members and others from around the state on top of the numerous arrests made under former U.S. Attorney and current gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's watch, show that obviously something is seriously wrong with the system and we need to find ways to fix it - in a hurry.

To that end, the Assembly Republican Policy Committee of the New Jersey State Legislature has created a subcommittee, chaired by Minority Whip Jon Bramnick, to conduct public hearings to address the corruption issue, and asked yours truly to testify.

As I prepare my testimony for the hearing, I am struck by how daunting the task is to rid the system of crooks. For the purpose of this blog, I'm not going to spout statistic after statistic of demographic data, type of crime, standing nationally or other numerical compilations.

Nor am I going to talk about the root causes of corruption or the conditions that could lead to corruption like those cited in Wikipedia, such as lack of government transparency,weak accounting practices, opportunities and incentives, and campaign financing to name a few.

And I don't believe for a minute, that New Jersey is the lead dog in the corruption pack. Other states such as Illinois with former governor, "You don't just give away something for nothing", Balgojevich doing it "the Chicago way", or Louisiana's fine unethical history, popularized by a fellow named Huey Long, deserve consideration for the honor as well.

What strikes me as the real cause of the corruption problem, is the audacity, stupidity and arrogance of the culprits themselves. Read Bob Ingle's book, The Soprano State, and you will understand the term, "You just can't make this stuff up".

That is the real problem and no amount of legislation, governmental controls or reforms can change that. These measures may reduce the problem, but they will never eliminate it. Maybe that's what we should strive for - reduction not elimination.

If a person wants to take money, they are going to do it regardless of the consequences. That goes to character and integrity. You either have it, or you don't. It's just that simple.

I have no sympathy or tolerance for elected officials who betray the public trust. I wish there was an alert system that would flash lights and sound the alarm to let us know ahead of time who was going to be a crook, but we don't. So we will continue to use our best judgement when we go to the voting booths, and we will rely on law enforcement to strip the bad apples from the tree.

Sounds like gloom and doom, right? Well I'm a "glass is half full" kind of guy, who believes anything worth having is worth fighting for. A clean, ethical political process is necessary to restore faith in government within our state. The task of weeding out corruption is daunting, but we must continue to try.

So, for the hearing, I will present a few suggestions, because I do feel that we can't make it easy for the bad guys. The alternative is....well....there is no alternative.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Christie Whitman - Flight of the Centrists

I was perusing the Washington Post Newspaper and spied the familiar name of Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Whitman had written an essay called, Flight of the Centrists,why President Obama is losing the middle and what the Republicans should do in response. The essay was originally published in The Ripon Society, "a Republican public policy advocacy organization representing all Americans through moderate, progressive policy formation that uphold traditional common sense Republican principles."(Mission statement,The Ripon Society)

The essay points out the declining popularity of President Obama and reasons for it. Whitman also talks about the lack of bi-partisanship on the well publicized health care reform package, and the President's rush to get it done through a partisan basis-period.

What struck me the most about the essay,however, was the importance that Whitman gave to the need for Republicans to reach centrists to win elections. This has been a consistent theme of Whitman's throughout her career. She took a lot of heat for it, and still does, from elements of the New Jersey Republican party, who somehow feel that unless you are a staunch conservative, then you can't be a true Republican.

Whitman makes the case in the essay that "we as Republicans need to rebuild our support among a constituency that is crucial to the GOP's future electoral success. To reach centrists, we need to return to the party of idea's. We cannot afford to simply discredit the Democrats' programs; we have to propose solutions and show why ours are the tight ones for America."

Whitman is particularly forceful about our legislators focusing on the issues that are important to the majority of Americans, and not just to the interests of a minority of voters. Whitman references the Senate Republicans who decided to focus on a concealed weapons bill while the health care debate was raging through the country. "Instead of focusing on issues that appeal to a minority of voters, we should focus on the core conservative principles of limited government that have served our Party well and made our country great."

I agree with Governor Whitman. Only I'd like to take it a step further. Until the Republican Party embraces the differences within, it will never be able to attract new members unto its ranks. Our enemy is not the Democratic Party, it is ourselves. We are perceived to have become an intolerant, narrow-minded, non-inclusive party, hell bent on self-destruction.

In more cases than I would like to acknowledge, I have to agree with that assessment. It wasn't always this way, nor does it have to continue. But to realize effective change, we must learn to respect divergent views within, and find ways to come together for the good of the Party.

I recommend that we stop labeling ourselves as moderates,RINO's(Republicans In Name Only), conservatives or whatever. Let's simply call ourselves Republicans, and get back to being the party of innovative, constructive ideas to benefit all Americans.

As Whitman says in closing the essay, "We need to earn back the voter's trust, and that takes positive actions as well as thoughtful criticism."

Friday, July 31, 2009

The "Beer Summit"

Today we witnessed the first presidential "Beer Summit". This was the name given to the meeting held at the White House by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley. The stated purpose of the meeting was to establish a dialogue between the folks in the well documented dust-up that occurred in Cambridge Massachusetts two weeks ago.

The President, was hoping to conduct a male bonding moment, I mean a "teachable moment", over a few beers. The President had a Bud Light, Vice President Biden a Buckler(non-alcoholic), Professor Gates had a Sam Adams and Sgt. Crowley a Blue Moon. This was conducted outside in the rose Garden within photo lens range of the press.

It must be nice to know the President of the United States, in the middle of a health care legislative fight that may define his young presidency, has time to have a few beers and mediate a situation that he had no business involving himself in to begin with. Or did he make the time because his advisers have been getting some unflattering feedback from the American people about his comments after the incident that just doesn't seem to want to go away.

In Obama's words it was "an opportunity to listen to each other and recognize we all have different points of view". Really? To be sure, race relations in America are constantly going to have its ups and downs - on a daily basis. Have things gotten better? Absolutely. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely.

For me, however, a "teachable moment" is providing examples for my children and their friends, as my parents provided for me, to judge people by the quality of their character and not the color of their skin.

Examples of how to settle disagreements, even heated ones, without the need to use racial or ethnic slurs.

Examples of how to treat everyone as you wish to be treated.

Examples of how to stand up for yourself and what you believe is right by using your brain to guide your actions, not your emotions.

Examples of not thinking you are better(or worse) than other people. I could go on and on with examples but I think you get the idea.

To be sure, there are those who think the President is utilizing out of the box thinking to open the lines of communication in the police/race debate that has captured the headlines for the past two weeks. Were there positive outcomes from this post workday happy hour? Seems to be, judging from the comments by Sgt. Crowley afterwards. I didn't hear from Professor Gates, but maybe I missed his statement.

Just like I may have missed his apology for possibly helping to escalate the situation that day. We heard Sgt. Crowley's. Oh, and we also heard an apology today, on Larry King Live no less, from Boston Police Officer Justin Barrett for his email that referred to Professor Gates as a "banana eating jungle monkey". (But that's for another blog post).

I don't have the luxury of having the President of the United States provide me a "teachable moment" to learn conflict resolution. But maybe the next time I have a tough situation, I'll call and see if he's available. Maybe I'll get a beer and a tour of the White House too.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We All Make Mistakes

I wasn't going to write anything about the Henry Louis Gates Jr. issue that has brought the race debate to the White House, but the more I thought about it, well, obviously you see the result.

Ok, I admit that my feelings regarding this incident are skewed in both directions - on one hand, as a former law enforcement officer, I know the folks "in blue" are not always saints, but they are not always sinners either. On the other hand, as a Black man who has personally experienced, "questionable" police behavior, I empathize with Dr. Gates and the multitude of emotions he must have felt during this unfortunate incident.

The problem is, the cynic in me wants to reprimand both of the parties involved for letting the incident get out of hand, and then I want to ask President Obama, what the hell he was thinking interjecting himself and ultimately the Presidency,to the degree in which he did. Then, to make matters worse, President Obama offers an "apology" for the manner in which he "spoke" on the issue! That's on par with GOP National Chairman Michael Steele apologizing to Rush Limbaugh for offering viewpoints outside the perceived mainstream and political correctness, under pressure from the "establishment" within his party! In my view, it weakens both men.

I have no doubt that Dr. Gates and the Cambridge policeman both did and said things that helped to escalate rather than defuse this tense situation. But for President Obama to place himself in the middle of this without having all the facts, sends the wrong message regarding his "Presidential" behavior, and helps to undermine his presidency.

The police officer involved will suffer personally and professionally for his part in this incident. Being branded a racist, whether real or perceived, does not go away quietly. That designation will haunt him for the rest of his life.

As for Dr. Gates, well, we all need a wake up call periodically to keep us humble with the gifts God has bestowed upon us. Ego and arrogance tend to cloud judgement and this was a stark reminder that in spite of the accolades, awards and degrees, all of which he worked hard for and truly deserves, he is still just a man. And men do make mistakes.

For both of these men, the hard lesson here is, as a wise man once said, "respect is earned, not bestowed".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Operation Bid Rig - Jersey Style

Well folks, I've said this before and will say it again - "You can't make this stuff up". Once again the state of New Jersey grabs national headlines with arrests involving corruption. But wait, it also includes the illegal sale of body parts. Now that's a new twist.

During the wee hours of the morning, law enforcement representatives knocked on doors to arrest 44 people for various charges involving money laundering, extortion, kickbacks and other offenses. They were politicians, government officials and Rabbi's. They actually had a bus to transport them to the FBI Building in Newark for processing (that's fingerprinting and mug shots for you laymen out there). I'm not going to recap the circumstances leading up to this mass round-up, but suffice to say that, in the words of Beth Mason, 2nd Ward Councilwoman in Hoboken whose mayor was part of the bust, as reported in Politickernj.com, "the pure arrogance of it all".

As a former law enforcement investigator, I applaud the work that went into this case. These dedicated men and women spent countless hours compiling the evidence that these corrupt politicians and others, eagerly and readily supplied in their quest for greed.

As a resident of New Jersey, I'm sick and tired of reading about the greed and avarice of a few (although that now seems to be a relative term) that tarnishes the good work provided by many local and state elected officials who don't take a kickback. It amazes me that we may need to start defining what a good politician is, based on whether or not they've been indicted!

Ok, I know that everyone in our system of justice is innocent until proven guilty, but why do these people put themselves in situations where this is even necessary to consider? Why are they being put in handcuffs? Why are they subjecting their children and spouses to the embarrassment and humiliation of the public flogging that always comes with these incidents? I don't not feel sorry for these guys. A crook is a crook - period. I certainly don't feel sorry for any cleric, regardless of denomination, who is a crook. My question is this - when will it end?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obama Stumps in New Jersey for Corzine

President Barack Obama visited the Garden State of New Jersey to show support for embattled Governor Jon Corzine in his bid for re-election. Corzine has been in a uphill battle with Republican Chris Christie, the former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. I find it interesting that the Democrats have pulled their "Big Guns" early in this campaign - Vice President Joe Biden for the Corzine Campaign kick-off, assorted cabinet level folks and finally, the Commander in Chief himself - in July!

This shows that the Corzine campaign recognizes that he is in big trouble, and not just with non-democrats. Do I think that the President's visit will help Governor Corzine? Yes, but not enough to make a big difference. Corzine's favorables are way too low, and one visit by the President isn't going to change that in his favor.

But does this mean that Chris Christie will be residing in Drumthuacket, the Governor's mansion, in January? It remains to be seen. This is July, and there is a lot of campaigning to be done and anything can happen in politics. Do I like Chris Christie for governor? Yes I do. I think he could bring a breath of fresh air to the Gold Dome in Trenton, and make the tough decisions that need to be made to bring prosperity and reason back to New Jersey.

I hope he will also bring a renewed sense of respectability to the state Republican Party. The party needs to stop the bickering, backbiting and sabotaging within its ranks. The party must grow and this will only happen if party leaders set the tone by allowing divergent viewpoints to be heard and allowed to become part of the fabric of the party.

In addition, the state party must be willing to welcome people of color and ethnicity. This must be done through real efforts, and not half-hearted attempts so GOP folks can say "well we tried", then pat themselves on the back for a valiant effort to make themselves feel good.

Above all, I never, ever want to hear from my party leaders that a particular group will not vote Republican, such as African Americans, therefore we will not even try to get their vote. And Republicans wonder why people of color seem to go Democratic. If you don't feel wanted, or are not taken seriously, what other recourse is there?

Chris Christie has an excellent opportunity to not only takeover the governor's office, but to set the tone and direction for the rebuilding of the GOP in New Jersey. Whether either happens...well...time will tell.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Swimming Intolerance

Disturbing new came out of the Philadelphia Pa. area this week. In Montgomery County, a private swim club decided that it couldn't or wouldn't accommodate a group of minority children swimming in their pool. This was after the group, Creative Steps Day Camp, had paid the pool $1, 950 and signed a contract for the pool's use. Apparently, after the children got to the pool, club members took exception, and put pressure on the club president to get rid of the kids. You can read the details of the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper or any other major paper across the country, because they all covered it. For me, the story brought up a painful memory from my own childhood involving a swimming venue.

In my circumstance, I had accompanied several of my white school friends to their neighborhood swimming area, which was located in a fairly well to do area of our town. We rode our bicycles to the location up steep, hilly streets on a very hot summer day. We were looking forward to taking a dip in the cooling waters. One after another, my friends dropped their bikes and ran into the water. I dropped mine and followed them.

Funny thing happened though - the parents of white children began running into the water to get their children out! I didn't understand why until one of them loudly let everyone know there was a "Nigger" in the lake and pointing at me. The good news was, my friends and I suddenly had the whole swimming area to ourselves. The bad news was, I felt embarrassed and humiliated to think that people thought I was diseased and wouldn't allow their children to swim in the same water with me because I was Black.

That was 40 years ago. It's amazing how as time moves on, some things change and some things remain the same. Yes, I am saddened by the actions in my childhood and those in Montgomery Count Pa. It would be easy to remain bitter and victimized by these incidents. However, good things actually come out of trying circumstances. In my case, it renewed my desire to be the best that I could be and never accept second class treatment from anyone. It made me stronger.

For those children in Pa., the outpouring of support from across the country has been incredible. These children will be receiving help and opportunities from Hollywood filmmakers, world class chefs, Olympic athletes, Police Athletic Clubs, and a host of others. Yes, I definitely "feel their pain" but I also see them handling it with pride and dignity. These children will be fine. But it is critically important for us adults to set the example, and remember not to judge all folks for the actions of an ignorant few. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard, because our actions as viewed by our children, will set the tone for how they handle adversity in the future.

Remember, intolerance and ignorance starts at home.

Did You Know

Fact: In 1984 Republican James L. Usry was elected the first Black Mayor of Atlantic City, NJ

Fact: In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed a bipartisan fair housing bill, which expanded protection against housing discrimination.

Fact: In 1990 the U.S.Golf Association followed the lead of the Professional Golfers Association required clubs hosting golf tournaments to ban discrimination against minorities and women.

(Source: Before the Mayflower - Bennett Jr., Lerone, A History of Black America.Chicago,2007).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Funny Man Not So Well Liked

Al Franken, the democratic Senator elect from the great state of Minnesota, is not making people nationally very happy. As reported in Politico, a national poll released today shows Franken is viewed unfavorably by 44 percent of voters. The Rasmussen Reports poll found that 34 percent have a favorable view of the former Saturday Night Live comedian, and another 22 percent at are "not sure what to think of him".

Of course, here is the kicker - it doesn't really matter what people think of Franken nationally. Those that count are the people of Minnesota who voted for him. Granted, the Minnesota Supreme Court had to step in to rule that Franken had indeed won the election by an extremely close 312 vote margin, but the fact remains that he still got more votes than former Republican Senator Norm Coleman for the post.

The saying, "be careful what you wish for", applies to this situation. But then again, Minnesotans are an independent bunch. Remember Governor Jessie Ventura? Guess they sent another message to the political "Establishment" with this pick as well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can't We Just Get Along?

Is anyone else as tired of hearing ex-staffers whining about Sarah Palin as I am? A recent article in Vanity Fair about the former Vice Presidential candidate and current Governor of Alaska, is another wonderful example of the GOP's infighting being conducted on a public stage. Give it to the democrats, at least they try not to air "family feuds" in public.

The article references former Presidential Candidate John McCain's senior level staffers slamming Palin, and each other, with personal attacks. Please children, the election was over eight months ago. It's time to stop this nonsense and address the real issue - how to make the GOP relevant again.

Did You Know:

Fact: In 1989 Douglas Wilder became the first Black Governor (VA) in the United States.

Fact: The Republican Party was responsible for the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution granting Blacks freedom, citizenship and the right to vote.

Fact: Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman-both Democrats-rejected anti-lynching laws and efforts to establish a permanent civil right commission.

(Source: http://www.audacityofhypocrisy.com/)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King Of Pop

Michael Jackson, the proclaimed "King of Pop", died today in Los Angeles. Yes, he truly was a strange character with some extremely odd and questionable behavior, both morally and ethically, that I will never condone, but what a talent he was. Fifty years old is too young to leave this earth. I hope he finally has found the peace in death that has eluded him in life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Albany has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. I'm referring to the Senate of the great state of New York, whose members have apparently lost their minds.

In a show of partisanship at its worst, the Democrats and Republicans decided to have their own legislative sessions - in the same chamber, at the same time. That's right. Separate podiums, gavels and votes on bills. The Hatfields and McCoys blood feud was reenacted on the Senate floor complete with arguing, yelling and almost fisticuffs. Even Governor David A. Paterson, who has pulled some questionable stunts during his time in office, thought this display of juvenile behavior was beyond the pale.

The question is, are any of the bills that were passed by the Democrats (14) and the Republicans (85) during their "separate but equal" quorums, valid? Nobody, including the Governor knows for sure.

Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail and these legislators can get back to doing the "peoples business" that they were elected to office to do in the first place. Can you imagine how the debate will be later this week when the Governor wants them to vote on legislation legalizing same sex marriage?

Did You Know:

Fact: In 1920, The Republican National Convention declared that African-Americans must be admitted to all state and district conventions.

Fact: In 1960, Jackie Robinson, the first Black Major League baseball player, endorsed Richard Nixon for President.

(Source: Meck GOP, Timeline of Black Republican History)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Supreme Court Upholds Voting Rights Act of 1965

The United States Supreme Court found itself in a bit of a conundrum today - do they decide on whether the key provision of the law is unconstitutional, or do they allow it to go forward and thus stave-off a nasty showdown with Congress, which in 2006 found that the Voting Rights Act was still necessary?

Current racial conditions vs. past discrimination seemed to be at the heart of the debate. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, "The evil that section 5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. The statute's coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions." (Washington Post, June 22, 2009).

So basically this is the result. The court is hesitant to determine if an Act of Congress is unconstitutional, and are not willing to take up the matter- just yet. However, it seems as if they have put off the inevitable. Needless to say, this is a huge constitutional law case. The question is, are the original conditions which necessitated the enactment of this voting rights protection for minorities, no longer relevant and evident?

Conservatives argue that with the election of an African American President, along with a number of other minority officials, makes the Act unconstitutional. Civil rights activists argue that the discriminatory conditions still prevail.

I think the Act is living on borrowed time. It will probably be in effect for the redistricting after the 2010 census, but not much longer after that in its current form.

Did You Know:

Fact: Martin Luther King Jr., was a Republican ("A Covenant With Life: Reclaiming MLK's Legacy, by Dr. Alveda C. King - niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Food For Thought

Shelby Steele, a noted sociologist once wrote, "Politically, black America is almost socialistic. There's a feeling that the government is the vehicle that's going to lift us to equality, and without government, we'll never make it. Black America has suffered from this delusion since the 1960's. It's gotten to a point where we've now made affiliation with the democratic party an aspect of the Black American identity. No matter who the democratic nominee is, they get 90% of the Black vote in every single election. If you are black and not a democrat, it's said that you're not authentically black - the civil rights leadership enforces that. So you have this disjuncture in black life: we're culturally conservative, but politically, we are far, far left." (Source - "Live " with Shelly Steele," April 2006, www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.19044/article_detail.asp.)

Did You Know That:

Fact: The Texas Republican Party was founded on July 4, 1867 - by black folks (Source - "African Americans in Texas Politics," www.texasgop.org).

Fact: More Republican legislators voted for the passage of the 1964 Civil Right Act than Democrats - (R) 80% to (D)64% (Source - "Civil Rights act of 1964," Wikipedia, www.en.wikipedia.org)

Fact: Republicans support education vouchers so parents can choose school for their children and not the government. Urban blacks overwhelmingly support education vouchers. ( Source -"In Praise of the Other Milton Friedman," Centre Daily Times, November 26, 2006)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Safe Internet Act: Time For Bi-Partisanship

There is an interesting and timely bill in Washington called the "School and Family Education about the Internet Act of 2009" (Safe Internet Act).

The bill, S.1047, is sponsored by New Jersey United States Senator Robert Menendez. In a nutshell, the legislation is designed to teach students, parents and educators about responsible Internet use by providing $35 million in competitive grants to state and local educational agencies and nonprofit organizations, for the purpose of integrating Internet safety curricula into our schools.

Approximately 93% of 12 to 17 year olds are online and 89% of 13 to 19 year olds have profiles on social networking sites. while the Internet offers tremendous positive benefits, unfortunately, according to the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, almost half of all children surveyed say they have been cyberbullied, mostly by other minors.

Senator Mendendez is looking for cosponsors among his collegues for this critically important legislation. While the actual bill details need further review, especially the guidelines for the monitoring and use of the grant money, I hope that Democrats and Republicans can find a way to support this legislation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Does GOP Survive After 2025?

Does the GOP and Conservatives have a race problem? Let's think about this.

Fact: Demographic data shows that by the year 2025, minorities become the new majority in this country. Fact: According to a recent Gallop Poll, about 89% of people who identify themselves as Republicans are white.

Fact: Only 11% of people of color classify themselves as Republican.

Now, common sense tells you that if your base numbers are dwindling, to survive you need to do what? That's right, get more folks to join your party from the groups that will have the overwhelming numbers very soon.

How do you do that? Well again, common sense tells you that to get people to join your group, tou must engage and go after them like you mean it! Make folks feel welcomed and, oh by the way, show them that your message is really their message too! And yes, you must put folks in positions of real responsibility and power, not just for photo's to say "see we got some too!" Minorities aren't that stupid or naive to think that those kinds of actions mean inclusiveness.

For those who think that long-term stability for the GOP means only doing that which is necessary to solidify the "base," well guess again. That kind of thinking will continue to drive minorities, women and young folks away from the Republican Party. But then again, for some within the party, maybe that's the plan after all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GOP's Big Tent Shrinking?

It appears that the much ballyhood "big tent" the Republican party tried to institute a few years ago to swell its' numbers, is undergoing a shrinking phase. Michael Steele, the newly minted GOP chair as much said so. Now he is referring to it as a "hat" instead of a "tent". Well, all you had to do was ask us folks on the ground if the big tent was real or not. I'm thinking the "majority of minorities" (no pun intended) would say they are still waiting to see this "big tent" get erected. We all know that it takes time for real change to take place, but geez, this "with all deliberate speed" (circa Civil Rights Movement) process the GOP is utilizing causes me to wonder if they really want to open the "big top" at all. Hmmm.....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Republican with Foot in Mouth Disease

Politics Daily reported today that South Carolina GOP activist Rusty DePass compared Michelle Obama to an escaped gorilla. Apparently, over the weekend a gorilla had escaped from the zoo in Columbia and this genius decided to say, "I'm sure its' one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless." I guess this guy didn't get the memo regarding the GOP's attempt to "diversify" and grow the party. Or maybe he did get the message and is attempting to sabatoge the effort by issuing such a racist and ignorant remark. Or maybe he really thought he was funny..Ha..ha...I'm laughing. With these kind of folks as the "face" of the republican party, is it any wonder that minorities don't feel welcomed, and also view the "outreach" efforts of the party as bogus? These kind of remarks sure make it harder for us of color within the party to sell the inclusiveness angle.