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Next President Faces Big Problems

Final Call, News Report, Ashahed M. Muhammad Posted: Mar 12, 2008

The delegate rich states of Texas and Ohio were the big prizes for Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on March 4 and presumed GOP candidate John McCain was working diligently to unite Republicans, at Final Call press time.

But beyond the campaigning, beyond the endorsements, beyond the rallies and beyond the rhetoric, huge challenges await the next president of the United States as does a question: What will it take to put the United States back on course?

America faces some major dilemmas:

* The U.S. prison population is at an all time high. According to a report from the Pew Center on the States, 2.3 million Americans or 1 out of every 100 adults is in prison. Incarceration is costing the country billions of dollars, let alone the loss of human potential.

* Rising gas prices are approaching $4 in some states and fears of impending environmental disasters are growing. It was recently estimated that $225 billion a year for the next 50 years is needed to repair Americas infrastructure, including roads, highways and bridges in order to accommodate ever-growing population needs.

* U.S. taxpayers are funding an unpopular and ill-conceived war in Iraq to the tune of an estimated $275 million per day, according to statistics provided by the non-partisan National Priorities Project. At the same time, military contractors and oil companies are experiencing record profits.

*Financial analysts are predicting an economic recession when in fact, according to a recent Ipsos/AP poll, 61 percent of the population already thinks the U.S. economy is in a recession.

This country is on the brink of financial ruin, said political scientist Robert T. Starks, of Northeastern Illinois Universitys Center for Inner City Studies. The euro is outpacing the dollar, even the Canadian dollar is outpacing the American dollar and there is no respect for the American government around the world.

Can America be a peacemaker?

Professor Starks says there is still hope the country can be turned around. Sen. Obama and his campaign represents that hope in the sense that he is positive and offering policy alternatives to the last 8 years of the Bush administration, he said.

With the world immersed in nearly global conflicts, Bob Stein, a professor of social sciences at Rice University, said establishing peace would be the greatest challenge for the next president.

I think the challenges that the next president of the United States will face in the pursuit of world peace is everything from the war in Iraq to the conflict in Afghanistan. The issue of instability in Darfur and Africa. There are worldwide conflicts that are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. There are no simple solutions because these challenges are quite complex and the next president will be taking on something that no one has had to handle their first day in office within the last 25 to 30 years, Professor Stein told The Final Call. Just trying to get out of Iraq alone poses the biggest challenge for the Democrats. Weapons of mass destruction may have gotten us into the war but how to get out is going to be difficult to execute. McCain has spoken on this. I think it will require more than just America to get out, but instead will take a world community effort. America needs help from its allies to get out of that war. She cant do it alone. Its an incredible complex situation the next president will face. World peace will be a great task to achieve.

At the annual State of the Black Union hosted by Tavis Smiley in New Orleans on Feb. 23, Clinton supporter Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and other panelists were asked to discuss what should be done once the campaigning and voting is done.

Rep. Jackson Lee said there should be a civil rights consortium held in the first 100 days after the general election. We should not be so caught up in candidates that we forget about the Black agendaincluding the fact that soon several states will be voting to possibly kill affirmative action, said the Texas lawmaker.

Student leader Stephanie Woodward of Dillard University, a State of the Black Union panelist, said such issues as the war in Iraq, injustices in the criminal justice system and its impact on Blacks, unemployment, college debt and the housing crisis are all issues that must be addressed, she said.

We have to stay engaged no matter who the next president is, said Ms. Woodward. Young people can keep from being disappointed by an Obama loss by dealing with issues, she said.

Others believe that there has been little or no discussion of Africa even though more than half of all Americas natural resources and raw materials are imported from the Motherland.

The war in Iraq looms large for Americas next president, which includes views across all ideological persuasions--ranging from Sen. McCains recommendation of a U.S. military presence in Iraq for the next 100 years to Democratic candidates vowing to quickly end the war with various plans for scaling back troops and a complete withdrawal.

Adam Navarro, a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army and media coordinator for the Chicago chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, wants a complete and immediate withdrawal of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. There also needs to be a guarantee that all veterans will receive benefits and reparations for the Iraqi people whose country was decimated while foreign military contractors and no-bid contracts were used to plunder its resources, he said.

Let those people have their country back, said Mr. Navarro.

While all three presidential candidates claim to want change, reduce spending and better management of Americas financial resources, all candidates are talking about increasing military staffing levels, according to one analyst.

Obama and Clinton have both talked about cutting some wasteful systems but both have also talked about increasing the size of the militarya far more costly endeavor. So any of those savings will be dwarfed by troop increases, said Erik Leaver, a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Sen. Obama has recommended increasing the military by 90,000 troops while Sen. McCain is asking for 150,000 more troops, he noted.

Regarding the domestic economy, according to a report published by the Institute for Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, one in four Black and fewer than one in five Latino middle-class families are financially secure.

Black workers have also been hit the hardest by decline in manufacturing related jobs, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Manufacturing jobs, particularly unionized jobs in the auto industry, were an important part of what built the Black middle class, said John Schmitt, co-author of the study. Today fewer than one-in-10 Black workers are in manufacturing jobs, he said.

International relations and loss of friendship

Sen. McCain has made no secret of his aim to continue and intensify what many Muslims see as a worldwide war on Islam even exchanging complements with well-known televangelist Pat Hagee, founder and head of the Christians and Jews United for Israelwhom some have accused of being virulent anti-Catholic.

For his part, John McCain told CNN, when he endorses me, it does not mean that I endorse everything that he believes in. He went on to praise Mr. Hagees commitment to the independence and freedom for the state of Israel.

Controversy erupted after the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke kindly regarding Sen. Obama and his candidacy Feb. 24 during Saviours Day 2008 in Chicago. Min. Farrakhan told the 20,000 in attendance, and those viewing in other parts of the world, that the litmus test concerning himself given to Sen. Obama should also be given to Sen. Hillary Clinton and other presidential candidates.

Days later at the Democratic presidential debate in Ohio, moderator Tim Russert and Sen. Clinton pressed Sen. Obama to denounce and reject Minister Farrakhan, which he did. While many within the Black community expressed outrage, Minister Farrakhan issued a statement warning mischief makers were trying to create division. Those who have been supporting Sen. Barack Obama should not allow what was said during the Feb. 26 presidential debate to lessen their support for his campaign, said the Minister.

Sen. Clinton trailed Sen. Obama in the delegate race and after the primaries on March 4, only 611 contested delegates will remain. Political analysts wondered how long it would be before the Democratic leadership pushed to unite behind one candidate in preparation for the November general election and efforts to reclaim the White House.

Following an impressive string of victories, Sen. Obama enjoyed frontrunner status. With his wins came an increasing number of attacks from different quarters, most notably, from the Republican Party. President George W. Bush chided him on his openness to meetings with leaders from Cuba and Iran. Sen. Clinton attacked him on readiness to make urgent national security decisions and Mr. McCain went after him about comments on al-Qaeda in Iraq.

More attacks on Obama likely

Predictably right-wing radio-hosts and bloggers continued to circulate spurious claims that Sen. Obama was secretly a Muslim, and a picture showing the Illinois Democrat in traditional Somali tribal garb circulated on the internet and in print.

Others tried to use his middle name, Hussein, as a slur.

Even after Sen. Obamas description as Israel as sacrosanct in a conference call with Jewish journalists and repeated assertions of support for Israel, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan alleged that Sen. Obama has surrounded himself with advisers and received endorsements from people who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

Many believe that the worst is yet to come. Whatever Sen. Obama has seen so far is nothing compared to what will happen if he receives the Democratic nomination, they predict.

The Republicans will try to paint him as Barack Hussein Hitler Obama, said Professor Starks. They are (already) doing everything they possibly can and they are going to pull out all of the stops and the pressures that will come on him will come from every single direction.

Final Call Staff Writer Jesse Muhammad contributed to this report.

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