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McCain’s Turn for a Tour on Foreign Soil – Black Neighborhoods

NNPA, News Report, Hazel Trice Edney Posted: Aug 01, 2008

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Now that Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is back in the U. S. after a rock star-like tour through the Middle East and Europe, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain ought to take a tour on soil that is foreign to him – through America's Black neighborhoods, ravaged by drugs, poverty and violence largely because of historic racism and economic bias.

That’s the sentiment of some international and African-American affairs experts, who say Obama trumped the McCain campaign with his trip last week that included stops and meetings with troops and world leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Germany, France and Britain.

“My advice, really, and it’s very serious advice to John McCain, is let us let you replicate trips to the ghettos of America,” says Clifford Alexander, who more than 30 years ago became the first Black secretary of the Army in the Carter Administration.

“Go there. See what’s going on there. Let us have you go to some of the schools in America. See the deficiencies. See the holes in the ceiling. See the fact that teachers have to end up supervising people rather than teaching people because of the inadequacies in the numbers of teachers.

“This is what he needs to do,” Alexander continues in the interview with the NNPA News Service. “All of this talk about you’ve got to go to Iraq, go to your cities.”

Obama was seen on the world stage greeting troops, shaking hands with leaders from Iraq’s military commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking to a cheering crowd of 250,000 in Germany and even sinking a three-point basketball shot in Iraq.

The tour that started Monday, July 21, was perceivably even bolstered among Republicans as he was accompanied by Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the second-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel has not formally endorsed Obama, but was with him as he met with Petraeus, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was also at his side in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Barack Obama, early this week, was leading John McCain among national registered voters by a 49 percent to 40 percent margin in a Gallup Poll taken July 24-26, nearing the end of his tour and released over the weekend.

While Obama was away, U. S. media struggled to balance coverage by focusing on McCain’s string of economic town hall meetings – none of which were held in Black communities, where joblessness, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and overall economic decline has hit the hardest.

Meanwhile, upon Obama’s return home, he went straight to the gathering of Black, Hispanic, Asian and American-Indian journalists at Chicago's Unity Convention. McCain declined the invitation.

Black voters, who normally support Republican candidates by less than 10 percent anyway, have significantly lessened that percentage with the prospects of Obama’s becoming the nation’s first Black president as well as with his message of hope and change.
But, it’s not like McCain hasn’t tried to reach the Black community.

He did speak at the annual NAACP conference in mid-July. There, he received only polite responses as he pushed for charter school vouchers, which the NAACP has long opposed, “based on the premise that these programs use public funds to support private and/or parochial education,” according to a policy statement on NAACP.org.

“Moreover, voucher programs may hasten the abandonment of public schools while leaving behind the majority of low-income students of color,” it states.

“That’s why the comments from McCain were met with deafening silence,” says Mark Q. Sawyer, political science professor at UCLA and director of the university’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics. He described the McCain speech to the NAACP as “really bizarre.”

Sawyer observed, “Probably at least a quarter of the people sitting in the room were members of a teachers union…When he starts basically attacking public school teachers, he’s basically attacking the Black middle class who were the people who were sitting there in the audience at the NAACP meeting,” he said. “They are so much more likely to be somebody who’s a member of a teachers union than they are to be someone who’s a poor parent looking for a voucher because they perceive their kid to be stuck in a city school.”

Obama, on the other hand, received enthusiastic applause – even as he spoke on “personal responsibility” before the crowd of civil rights warriors who know well the ravages of racial discrimination in the Black community.

Now, some perceive that Obama has beaten McCain on his own turf.
Obama, viewed as a one-term senator from Chicago with no military experience, traveled abroad after being nudged to do so by McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, a former prisoner of war, and a law maker for 26 years. McCain had also toured the Middle East, Europe, Mexico and other nations earlier in the campaigns in order to bolster his diplomatic resume.

“It’s been an absolute disaster for the McCain campaign,” Sawyer describes. “So, McCain comes out and dares him to go on this trip and basically sort of dreams it up himself as well as the kind of attention that might get focused on it…He accepts the dare and turns it into a wonderful kind of public relations coo. Then McCain starts screaming fowl, calling it some kind of media bias.”

Obama, looking presidential at every stop, won applause back home – but not just because of his presidential candidacy.

“Frankly, I wish every member of the United States Senate would go to Afghanistan,” says economist and social commentator Julianne Malveaux, also president of Bennett College in North Carolina. “And to understand what our situation is, why we’re losing lives, what we should be doing differently. If they see it for themselves and talk to some of the troops there, they might make different kinds of decisions. I think he’s doing absolutely the right thing.”
Both McCain and Obama were scheduled to attend the National Urban League conference in Orlando this week, where McCain is obviously hoping to make some points.

Alexander says he has a better idea: “Far more important than going to the conventions, let’s go to the places where Americans live. Let’s go to the barrios, let’s go to the ghettos, let’s go to those schools, let’s go to those emergency rooms and let’s see some of that. And then let’s see what some of your positions are.”

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