Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where The Streets Should Have These Names

According to a Cold War-era joke, the Soviet Union was the only country where the past was unpredictable. The punchline refers to a Russian practice whereby military and government officials fallen out of favor would vanish from official records and history books and even disappear in retouched photos. In one extreme case, owners of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia were sent an extended article on the Bering Sea and told to paste the entry over the passage on Leventry Beria, the bloodthirsty head of the Soviet secret police who was executed on orders of Nikita Khrushchev shortly after the death of dictator Josef Stalin.

This joke came to mind during the recent controversy over renaming either Industrial Boulevard or Ross Avenue after Latino union organizer and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. The kerfuffle began when the city spent $20,000 on a survey asking Dallas residents their preference for a new name for Industrial, the re-christening part of $2 billion redevelopment that would transform a ramshackle collection of bail bond businesses and liquor stores into a gentrified hub of condos and pricey stores. Residents preferred “Cesar Chavez Avenue” by a 2-1 margin over the other options. Nevertheless, on Nov. 10 the Dallas City Council voted 12-3 to name Industrial “Riverfront Boulevard” and also rejected a new name for Ross.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert hinted that the name “Cesar Chavez Avenue” might send the wrong message to potential investors and visitors to an emerging yuppie enclave. "We were trying to create a marketing scheme for that entire street given its location to the Trinity," Leppert told the The Associated Press. Ever the politician, Leppert and the council created a commission to study what street might be appropriate to rename after Chavez. The committee’s recommendations are expected after New Year’s.

Many whites see the controversy as a silly sideshow. In a Sept. 9 entry on the News’ Metro Blog, reporter Ed Housewright, in a September 9, 2008 entry on the newspaper’s Metro blog ridiculed this “foolishness over street names in Dallas.” According to Housewright, “The street-naming brouhaha illustrates the worst in politics. ‘Community leaders’ (of any race) start yammering about changing a street name to honor an important dead person. How about spending your energy on an issue that will actually help people? Maybe tutoring at-risk kids. Maybe volunteering at a homeless shelter. Maybe being a foster parent. The problem with real involvement: It doesn't draw any attention to yourself.”

Of course, community leaders are able to multi-task and can tutor at the same time they ask the City Council to rename a street. Also, it was those surveyed by the city who favored the name change and not some publicity-hungry professional malcontents. Housewright also badly underestimates the power the past holds over ordinary people’s lives. Dallas shares with the Soviet Union, selective (and fluid) memory shapes its landscape. Dallas’ place names and public memorials have minimized the role played by union activists, political dissenters, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and immigrants in building the city. Dallas is not unique in this regard. For the most part, our street names are monochromatic, and the role of black and brown people who helped build the country have been as thoroughly erased as Mr. Beria in post-Soviet Russia. As a rule, white people have been loath to honor people of color when naming public buildings or streets or when building public monuments. That absence is barely noticed by Anglos who have enjoyed a disproportionate amount of political, economic, and social power. Street names represent not a foolish brouhaha, but a statement of community values and a recognition of individual accomplishments. For blacks, browns and Asian Americans, the absence of public acknowledgment inflicts serious wounds.

For decades, Dallas public school students learned that blacks, Mexican Americans and Native Americans passively received civilization from whites, contributing nothing of value to the world in return. "No account is given of the black races of Africa and Australia, of the brown races of southeastern Asia and the Pacific islands, or of the red races of America; because the elements of culture among these people have rarely influenced modern civilization,” declared a high school world history textbook used in Dallas in the 1920s. Another text used in Dallas in the 1930s proclaimed that blacks were "dark of skin . . . [and] even darker of mind, for the light of civilization had not yet reached them." The same text described Africa as a land of "cannibals and strange wild beasts of the forests." Individual African Americans and Mexican Americans were not regularly identified in Dallas school textbooks until the 1970s, a fact which has profoundly shaped the attitudes of the city’s leadership class today.

West Dallas native and former journalist Jerrold Ladd, in his searing 1994 autobiography Out of the Madness: From the Projects to a Life of Hope, recalled the pain he felt after he was bused from his West Dallas home to a white school where he searched for vain for black heroes in history books and black role models on the school staff. “No one had ever told me I was capable of being a genius, building a city, pioneering new medicine, becoming an engineer,” Ladd wrote. “How could [I] disprove that the success of every black person was not somehow, always tied into someone white: white teachers, white schools, white mentors, white history, white founding fathers?”

Slowly, school textbooks have incorporated the stories of black and brown historical figures like Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, and Texas Revolutionary hero Lorenzo de Zavala. Only in the last two decades has Dallas has made a paltry effort to use its landscape to connect black, brown and Asian contributions to its history. These tributes – street, school and postal facilities named after Mexican Americans and African Americans – generally are segregated into minority communities rarely explored by white Dallas. Meanwhile, place names across the city actively insult African Americans and Mexican Americans with tributes to white supremacists.

A visitor to Dallas might think the city represented the emotional heart of heart the Confederacy. The city’s massive Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park features a 60-foot pillar and statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Sidney Johnston, and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis, men who hold only a tangential connection to Dallas history. A massive equestrian statue of General Lee astride his horse Traveler oversees Lee Park while a statue representing the Confederacy stands in the front of the center portico of the Centennial Building at Fair Park Murals in the Great Hall of State depict numerous Confederate officers.

One Dallas elementary school honors a local man who served as the Postmaster for the Confederate States of America, John H. Reagan. After the Civil War, Reagan proposed denying the right to vote to poor and uneducated white citizens. Dallas elementary schools are also named after Confederates with no direct connection to Dallas: General Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Another campus bears the name of Oran N. Roberts, who served as president of Texas’ 1861 Secession Convention. That convention plunged the state into a bloody losing war and proclaimed the state “as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery--the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits--a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people [intend] should exist in all future time.” (The Secession Convention also declared that Texas must leave the union to resist the North’s “debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color--a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law.”) In 1866, Roberts served as a leader in the post-Civil War state Constitutional Convention that sought to reduce newly freed African Americans to a chattel-like status.

A common argument against rechristening Industrial Boulevard after Cesar Chavez is his lack of ties to North Central Texas. “ . . . Chavez has no connection to Dallas - Trinity River or Industrial Blvd,” Dallas-based conservative blogger Sharon Boyd wrote about the issue. “ . . . Naming a Dallas street after a California union organizer is ludicrous.” Chris, a Morning News reader, agrees, and on Sept. 9 posted on the Metro Blog this sarcastic comment on the suggestions to rename streets after Chavez and Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi: “[Cesar ] Chavez and Mahatma Gandhi????
Famous Dallasites?
 Did they [help] . . . build Reunion Tower? Ushers at the Cotton Bowl? DPD officers? Funny, I just don't remember either of them being Dallasites or significantly contributing to Dallas in any way.” The same could be said of the Confederate heroes lionized across the city. Roberts, Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Johnston and Jefferson Davis never lived in Dallas. The Confederacy encompasses just four years in Dallas’ nearly 170-year history. And, all the Confederate memorializing aside, many living in Dallas County during the Civil War actively opposed the Confederacy.

Opposition to secession was seen as enough of a threat to the community that when an accidental 1860 fire destroyed downtown Dallas, a panic about a feared slave rebellion aided by white abolitionists inspired the murder of three suspected slave arsonists, the lashing of the 1,000-plus slaves in the county and the harassment and expulsion of Northern-born Dallas residents. In spite of this political oppression, one in four Dallas County residents voted against secession in a February 1861 referendum. Meanwhile, enthusiastic Confederates used terrorism and violence to maintain control of the community during the Civil War, A pro-Confederate gang hanged a "Mr. Record" in 1862 "for being a Union man a deliberate cold blooded murder without a mitigating excuse," according to a later United States Army report. "Not satisfied with hanging till dead they shot him all to pieces." Yet no memorials in Dallas commemorate these other Texans who maintained their loyalty to the United States in spite of often-homicidal pressure. This exclusion, and the excessive honors bestowed upon Dallas’ Confederate past, amount to a deliberate distortion of the city’s history.

Not only do Dallas’s public places honor Confederates born outside the Metroplex, but one roadway even lionizes a homegrown Ku Klux Klansman. R.L. Thornton, mayor of Dallas from 1953 to 1961, joined the Klan in the 1920s when the KKK dominated city and state politics. The Klan’s violence in Dallas, which included the kidnapping of a black bellhop at the Aldolphus Hotel and the etching in acid of the letters “KKK” on the victim’s forehead, could not have been unknown to Thornton. In an era when Thornton’s contemporaries such as Rabbi David Lefkowitz at Temple Emanu-El or Dallas Morning News publisher George B. Dealey condemned the Klan as a criminal gang, Thornton's Dallas County State Bank proudly advertised itself as a "KKK Business Firm 100%.”

During the 1930s, Thornton conjured up the Dallas Citizens Council, a cabal of bankers, insurance company executives, real estate agents and utility company CEOs that behind closed doors hand-picked mayors and city council members with no democratic input. Those anointed council members then prioritized city construction contracts, purchased real estate and gave tax breaks in ways that benefited members of the Citizens Council. Yet, in spite of this record of racism, hostility to public accountability, and use of public funds for personal gain, Dallas honors this man with R.L. Thornton Freeway. Thornton no doubt played a major role in building Dallas, but such a tribute alongside the Old Dixie memorializing, is insulting to the city’s African Americans.

What is Dallas telling the world when it embraces a past dominated by slaveowners and hooded terrorists but declines to name a major roadway after Cesar Chavez? I suspect the opposition to naming a street after Chavez has little to do with the fact that he was never a Dallasite. Chip, another poster on the Metro Blog, made this clear June 7 when he suggested that Industrial be renamed “Illegal Alien Boulevard.” Chip apparently does not know that Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona, well within United States’ borders, and casually assumes all of Mexican heritage are undocumented workers. One, however, can at least appreciate his candor. Chip is not masking his intolerance as a deep-seated concern about preserving Dallas history.

Perhaps we should meet people like Chip halfway. Too often streets, public memorials and buildings honor a limited number of the most famous black and brown men and women. The African American civil rights movement was more than Martin Luther King, Jr., just as “la causa” was more than just Cesar Chavez. A lengthy roster of Dallas civil rights pioneers and community builders remains under-recognized or completely ignored on the city landscape.

John Mason Brewer, a collector of African American folklore, represents one of the most significant literary figures in the city’s history. A Goliad, Texas native, Brewer taught Spanish at Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School in the early and mid 1930s. Brewer held two passions: an interest in African American history and black folktales and poetry. A prolific author and friend of famed Texas author J. Frank Dobie, Brewer authored and edited two books while in Dallas, Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (1935) and The Negro in Texas History (1936.) Brewer used his historical research and the folktales he collected to counter white assertions of black inferiority.

Through men like Brewer, black children learned that the world was a dangerous place that could be coped with only through humor and self-respect. Themes of intelligence winning over brute force, and of loyalty prevailing over greed pervade Brewer's folktale collections. Brewer’s work provided African Americans students with vital psychological defenses needed in lives often marked by poverty and discrimination. Surely a school named after Brewer would be more fitting than one named after Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson.

Perhaps no one better deserves having a street or government building named after him than Brewer’s boss, Booker T. Washington High School’s longtime principal, John Leslie Patton. Training a generation of African American political leaders and social justice activists who would achieve prominence in Dallas in the 1960s and 1970s, Patton presided over Booker T. from 1939 to 1969. Amazingly, Patton turned the challenge of running a segregated, underfunded and overcrowded campus into a cultural opportunity, joining Brewer in a campaign to instill black pride and to teach students they need not passively accept the harsh terms of a Jim Crow existence.

He provided a night school for African American adults denied an adequate childhood education. Patton heroically countered the racism offered in the second-hand textbooks given his students, creating in the 1930s “Negro History” classes where students were taught that blacks “formed an integral part of American civilization." In Dallas’ white schools up until the early 1960s, students were misinformed that Africans lived in a crude, primitive state until the arrival of white explorers and slave traders.. Not so at Booker T. "Africa, the Mother country . . . is often called the Dark Continent; but this is a misnomer, for Africa gave to civilization the smelting of iron, stringed instruments, trial by jury, etc.," as Patton's curriculum guide for the course declared. Booker history students read a graduate-school level book list that prominently featured W.E.B. Du Bois and the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. For decades, Booker T. students learned they had a moral obligation to serve their community. Surely Patton deserves to have a street or highway named after him or a public statue erected in his honor. Given his contribution to historical consciousness, why not name the Hall of State at Fair Park, which houses the archives of the Dallas Historical Society, after Patton?

Speaking of Fair Park, why not use that site to remember Juanita Craft? A city park, a post office, and a recreation center have been named in her honor and the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House is now a museum operated by the City of Dallas. But Craft deserves a much loftier status in public memory. Craft brought zeal and boundless energy to her post as membership director and then field organizer of the NAACP in the 1940s. In 1944, Craft became the first black woman in Dallas County history to vote. Greatly increasing the local NAACP rolls, Craft energized the group’s Dallas chapter, which would play a lead role in lawsuits desegregating the University of Texas at Austin’s law school and equalizing black and white teachers’ salaries in the Dallas school district.

Eventually Craft would help organize nearly 200 NAACP chapters. Bucking some prominent, more conservative African Americans in the 1950s Craft led protests against “Negro Achievement Day,” the one day State Fair organizers allowed African Americans to attend. Craft and her young acolytes labeled the event “Negro Appeasement Day.” Their pressure helped end segregation at the Fair, which now sits
in a largely African American and Mexican American neighborhood. Why not honor her by changing Fair Park’s name to “Juanita Craft Park”?

Finally, what would be more appropriate than naming a major thoroughfare like Central Expressway after a man who was at the center of Dallas’ labor and civil rights movements? The city has honored Francisco “Pancho” Medrano, who co-founded the city’s chapter of the American GI Forum, by naming a middle school and a post office after him. Again, the honors seem to not adequately match the achievements of the man.

An active member of the United Auto Workers, Medrano’s social justices aims were universal. He participated with equal enthusiasm in the African American and Mexican American civil rights movements. He participated in sit-ins integrating Dallas lunch counters, marched in demonstrations alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma and Birmingham, Ala. and helped with Cesar Chavez unionize farm workers in South Texas. Medrano helped found the United Farm Workers union and he led efforts that integrated the Sportatorium boxing and wrestling auditorium, where black fans had been forced to use Jim Crow seating. Similar praise could be given Levi Olan, rabbi at Temple Emanu-El from 1949 to 1970, who made African American civil rights a major concern from the moment he arrived in Dallas from Massachusetts. Even as synagogues across the South led by rabbis supporting civil rights faced threats, vandalism and even bombing, Olan bravely spoke up for black rights and against the Vietnam War.

Opponents of the Cesar Chavez Avenue proposal have, in part, argued that the names Industrial Boulevard and Ross Avenue have too much historical significance to have their names changed in honor of a Latino and outsider to Dallas. The names I proposed above belong to men and women who lived in Dallas, shaped Dallas, and made Dallas a better place. If street names, and the monikers of schools and other institutions are trivia, as Housewright and others have suggested, then why is there such opposition to a name change? Changing place names is not as important as feeding the hungry or volunteering for literacy programs. But it does reveal to the rest of the world whom we admire, our attitudes toward democracy, and whether we see diversity as an asset or an inconvenience. Many people of color, along with religious minorities and working class activists, built Dallas. It’s time these men and women receive their proper recognition.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama Will Win and Win Big

I wear my political heart on my sleeve. I naively cling to a faith in people power, and trust that political and social movements (abolitionism, the women’s suffrage campaign, the anti-Vietnam War crusade, etc.) can transform society or, at the very least, nudge public policy in a profoundly different and saner direction.

Furthermore, I know that elections matter and that the world we live in today would be profoundly different if all of Al Gore’s votes had been properly counted in Florida in 2000. I know that most Americans remember the Florida debacle and they have viewed the last eight years under George W. Bush with horror and anger and deeply desire change.

Because of my emotional investment in my political beliefs, over the years I have been an exceedingly poor electoral prophet. I so wanted to bring down the curtain on the Bush administration that this time four years ago I spent Election Day speculating on John Kerry’s first year in the White House. This year is profoundly different. Outside of wish fulfillment, there are solid mathematical, political and social reasons why Obama will not only win, but claim a solid mandate. Here are the reasons:

1. Statistical probabilities and group dynamics favor Obama. Mathematicians discovered a while back that if they place a jar in front of a group of test subjects and asked them to guess the number of pennies or marbles in the container, that the average of all the guesses would fall remarkably close to an accurate estimate.

This presidential race has seen the rise of the internet presidential prediction markets where participants trade candidate “futures.” Except for a lightening-quick two-week period during and after the Republican National Convention, these presidential election betting pools have overwhelmingly favored Obama. The RealClearPolitics website “Intrade Market Odds” as of 4:32 p.m. CST, Monday, November 3, set Obama’s odds of winning at 90.5 percent. Mathematical probability suggests that the possibility of that many people being that wrong about the election results is virtually impossible.

2. Once again, it’s the economy stupid. Economic issues always trump cultural issues. In 1992, the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton, a governor of a small Southern state widely believed to have been a serial adulterer who had opposed the Vietnam War and who was accused of lying to dodge the draft. The Republicans nominated an incumbent president with limited political skills who nevertheless had commanded an impressive global coalition in a lightening quick victory in Iraq that resulted in fewer than 200 American deaths.

Nevertheless, the country slid into a recession by the 1992 election (one much less severe than the current economic meltdown destroying savings accounts and 401Ks from coast to coast.) Americans looked at their bottom lines, overcame their cultural prejudices, and opted for the skirt-chasing, dope-smoking, draft-dodging unknown redneck governor rather than the more familiar, more socially conservative, more experienced sitting President. The economic crisis today is far more frightening. Obama (unlike Clinton) is a steady, calming presence with national political experience. In contrast to Clinton, Obama has not allowed his campaign to wallow in melodrama and has focused the electorate on issues, not personalities.

As late as this year’s GOP convention, conservative voters suspicion of Obama’s race and uncomfortable with Obama’s alleged relationships with Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and other aging radicals sought an excuse to vote for McCain. McCain lost those nervous voters, first when he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, and secondly with his erratic behavior as American banks tumbled in October. Palin completely negated any argument Team McCain had that they possessed the experience needed to deal simultaneously with two wars, the mortgage crisis and a looming global recession. Palin has only appealed to a dwindling GOP base, and has alienated key swing voters.

Then McCain lost his mantle as the cool, knowledgeable economic commander-in-chief with his erratic behavior during the bank bailout debate. First, he supposedly suspended his campaign so he could deal with the crisis. Then during this “suspension” McCain spent most of his time with network interviews and fundraisers. When he finally assumed “command” of the crisis in Washington, he offered nothing positive during Congressional negotiations with the White House (negotiations that fell apart.) After pledging to focus on the economic crisis until the issue was resolved, McCain limped back to his campaign with nothing to show for his efforts.

He was debating Obama only two days after the campaign suspension for no better reason than appearing as a grumpy, sour old man before millions. By contrast, Obama appeared like a cool customer. Obama’s performance as a prospective commander-in-chief trumped his race, his association with 1960s radicals or any other supposed baggage. Obama’s calm has appealed just as Franklin Roosevelt’s confidence proved irresistibly attractive to voters during the Great Depression in 1932. That year, northern states that had voted Republican since the Civil War were able to take a leap and jumped on the Democratic bandwagon. A similar dynamic exists this year and supposedly reluctant white voters will back Obama in large enough numbers to carry him to victory.

3. Personality, charisma and eloquence matter. Throughout this year, my Democratic friends have had nightmare flashbacks to Jimmy Carter’s, Walter Mondale’s, Michael Dukakis’s, Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s campaigns. I voted for those Democratic failures, I placed hope in those losers and I was seriously disappointed by them. And Obama is no Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale/Michael Dukakis/Al Gore/John Kerry. Obama is not an animated corpse. He enjoys not just the gift of poetic flair, but an easy smile and an authenticity that places him miles ahead of his Democratic Party predecessors.

4. The Republicans are so 2004. It’s not just that the economy, terrorism, the quagmire in Iraq and the real possibility of failure in Afghanistan have reduced social issues like gay marriage and abortion to footnotes. The GOP, in one sense, is a victim of their past successes, and in another sense of their hyperbole. Gay marriage has been banned so often in so many ways that it remains a relevant issue only in bicoastal outposts like Massachusetts, Vermont and California. In spite of gay marriages and civil unions in those three states, the skies have not torn asunder, the seas have not turned red, and dogs are not cohabitating with cats. The republic has survived in spite of the mythical insidious gay agenda.

In face of the Bush administration’s mountain of failures and the multiple scary threats looming on the country’s horizon, social issues carry salience only for the 30 percent or so of voters who have remained loyal to the current administration no matter how badly it has performed. Obama could never win those voters anyway and, fortunately for the Democratic nominee, that bloc is not large enough to carry an election.

5. The election night clock favors Obama. Tomorrow’s election will be over by 7:30 p.m. EST. One of the earliest states to close polls will be Indiana, a traditional Republican stronghold where polls in most of the state close by 6 p.m. Eastern. The results will be too close to call and the networks will have to wait another hour anyway because Gary, a heavily Democratic and black part of the state, is in the Central Time Zone. Polls will not close there until 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

McCain will not be able to claim normally reliably red Indiana in his column and by then he will have lost New Hampshire (where Bush won in 2004.) Obama will have taken away Virginia away from the red column (results are reported very quickly there) and even if McCain pulls off a miracle and takes Pennsylvania away from the Democrats, the network will not be able to call it for McCain for several hours.

More likely is that Obama will have a five-point or more spread in Pennsylvania from the start. McCain bet the election on Pennsylvania and if it becomes likely that this gamble failed, the GOP nominee has no chance of winning the election. The question at this point becomes how McCain and the networks react.

Look out for the “Jimmy Carter echo.” In his 1980 debacle against Ronald Reagan, Carter conceded defeat an hour after polls closed on the East Coast. Depressed, Democrats stopped showing up at the polls in the Central Time Zone and numerous progressive Democratic Senators, such as George McGovern, Frank Church and Birch Bayh lost as the election moved toward the heartland and beyond.

A similar effect could happen in two different ways tomorrow night. Cable and broadcast networks will bend over backwards to not call the election too early. However, they will not be able to conceal reality. If McCain is consistently behind by five or more points in Pennsylvania, and as Obama racks up wins across New England and New York by large margins and holds narrower margins in Virginia and North Carolina, followed by a series of big victories in the upper Midwest, even the most cautious network will have to admit the impossibility of a McCain victory.

The on-air conversation will turn from who will win to how big Obama’s margin will be and whether the Democrats will win 60-plus seats in the Senate. At that point, marginal Republicans and GOP-leaning independents west of the Mississippi will conclude it’s not worth their time to vote for a losing ticket and the Democrats will surge towards winning 60 or 61 Senate seats.

The other possibility is that the crazy, angry side of John McCain’s personality will win over his calmer, better nature. By 7:30 Eastern, McCain will be seething. He will be blaming his loss on Sarah Palin and on the GOP hacks he will blame for talking him out of naming Joe Leiberman or Tom Ridge as his running mate. As the prospects of a truly humiliating defeat looms large, McCain might decide to make a last-minute bid to salvage his reputation as a straight shooter. A consummate narcissist (don’t take my partisan word for it, check out this devastating “Rolling Stone” profile at http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/make_believe_maverick_the_real_john_mccain), the Arizona Senator might at the same time surrender to his dark side.

See if McCain by about 8:30 p.m. EST decides to acknowledge reality and makes a charming and self-effacing speech congratulating Obama for his victory. This concession speech will be hailed as a return to the “Straight Talk Express,” but it will also give McCain a chance to stick a knife in the side of a Republican Party that rejected him in 2000 and forced him too far to the right this year. He’s going to be the GOP equivalent of Jimmy Carter for a couple of decades anyway, and will have lost his last chance at the White House. He might decide that if he’s going to be a goat he might as well flame out in epic fashion. If the election results are tipped off by either news anchors or by McCain himself, expect devastating consequences for GOP turnout across the country.

So here’s my prediction. Obama wins big, getting between 54-55 percent of the popular vote and carrying and winning in the Electoral College 350-185. (McCain will carry the following states: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Alaska. Obama will carry the other 27 states (including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and New Mexico) as well as the District of Columbia.

The early collapse of McCain’s chances will carry down-ballot Democratic candidates, including Minnesota Senate nominee Al Franken, and the Democrats will end up with a minimum of 59 seats and a maximum of 61.

I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Remember that I am an historian, not a psychic. But that’s how it looks to me on Election Eve. And unlike professional pundits such as Dick Morris of Farce News, I will stand by my predictions. I’ll be back on Wednesday night.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Numbers Don't Lie

Today I went to Google and typed the search words "Sarah Palin" AND "idiot." I got back 3,120,000 hits. The people have spoken.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mary Matalin: Unfit for Broadcast

The always shrill and patronizing Mary Matalin appeared on CNN and NBC this week to feign outrage at the sleaziness of left-wing bloggers spreading ultimately untrue rumors that GOP vice presidential designee Sarah Palin faked her fifth pregnancy and pretended to give birth in April to conceal that the child was her grandson and the progeny of her unmarried 17-year-old daughter Bristol.

Matalin, who served as an aide to President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, learned at the feet of Lee Atwater, the Karl Rove of the 1980s. Atwater and Matalin designed the 1988 Bush presidential campaign, built on smearing 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis as lacking patriotism. Atwater and Matalin also served as the sinister brains behind the highly racist “Willie Horton” ad campaign that plagued the Massachusetts governor that fall. (Horton was a rapist paroled in Massachusetts during Dukakis’ administration who upon his release raped a white woman. The ad, playing on white backlash fears, heavily featured Horton’s black visage.)

The lifelong Republican and her husband, former Bill Clinton campaign guru James Carville, emerged in the 1990s as Washington’s most beloved couple. The two were favorite guests on the late Tim Russert’s program “Meet the Press” and have appeared as a pair or solo frequently on CNN and other news networks. Matalin, supposedly a moderate Republican because she supports abortion rights and has criticized overt GOP homophobia, has nevertheless shilled for a series of despicable right-wing extremists, most notably serving as assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, a man who believes in unlimited power for an executive branch he thinks should be shielded from public scrutiny and any checks or balances from the legislative or judicial branches.

In her service for Cheney, she served as a key player for the Iraq Study Group whose primary task was deceiving the public into accepting an unnecessary invasion of Iraq. The “information” on Iraq that Matalin disseminated proved to be false point by point. Her propaganda campaign built momentum for a war that has proven to be perhaps the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in American history.

In 2007 and 2008 Matalin served as a flack for failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In that capacity she made a sleazy, underhanded reference to rival John McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget.

You may recall that in 2000, Matalin’s buddy Karl Rove ran a campaign of character assassination against McCain, who opposed George W. Bush in the Republican primary in South Carolina. Rove, and his ally Ralph Reed (late of the Christian Coalition) did so-called “push polls” in which callers posed as pollsters and asked South Carolina voters if they would feel different about McCain if they knew he had “a black daughter.” Rove and Reed distributed photos of McCain’s family featuring the very dark-skinned Bridget even as they spread rumors that McCain had fathered the child in an extramarital affair with an unnamed black woman. Many attribute Bush’s decisive, crushing defeat of McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary to this naked, underhanded appeal to Southern racism.

In 2007, Matalin picked up this ugly cudgel. On the MSNBC “Morning Joe” program Matalin contrasted her man, Romney, with McCain by claiming that the former Massachusetts governor Romney has “what all Americans want in the White House, which is an all-American family”

The media celebrity of Matalin and Carville reflect the narrow political universe that mainstream Washington and its press corps stenographers occupy. Matalin, in spite of her reputation, has been a handmaiden of the far right while Carville, who once described himself as an economic liberal and a social conservative, sits barely to the left of what the media consider American political center. (That fictitious center, according to most polling data, actually is far to the right of most of the American public on issues like health care, spending on education, foreign policy, stem cell research and so on.)

The so-called liberal media’s political biases allow Matalin, in spite of her long, ugly record of sleaze, to pose as a mainstream voice. Hence her selection to appear on CNN and NBC’s “Today” show to refute the Palin rumors. Matalin fumed at the ethical deficiencies of bloggers who suggested that the Alaska governor’s son Trig was actually daughter Bristol’s offspring. “You know, a lot of the things that are coming out about Sarah Palin are patently untrue . . .,” Matalin whined on “Today.”

Matalin enjoys fresh experience with spreading untruths. Matalin learned well from her avatar Atwater. She now splits her time from being on on-air GOP hack and serving as editor at Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster. At that post she has overseen publication of Jerome Corsi’s “The Obama-Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” a follow-up to Corsi’s John Kerry-bashing swiftboat screed “Unfit for Command.”

In his earlier work, Corsi lied about 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Kerry’s heroic war record in Vietnam, which including diving in a Vietnamese river to rescue a comrade while the enemy raked the water with machine gun fire. Corsi rounded up quotes from Kerry’s fellow Swift-Boat veterans, many with an extensive record of Republican activism and others who had previously testified to the Kerry’s valor. The “Swift Boat vets” claimed, in spite of the shrapnel in the future Massachusetts veteran’s body, that Kerry exploited his wealthy family’s political influence to gain unearned Purple Hearts. Corsi displayed his intellectual depth at this point by referring to the Catholic Kerry as a “commie” and a “Jew.”

Corsi, of course, was unable to earn even one Purple Heart because he didn’t serve a minute in Vietnam due to, he claimed, “hereditary eczema.” Corsi has also made such sophisticated political commentary as claiming Muslims worship Satan, calling adherents of Islam “ragheads,” referring to Catholics as ‘boy-bumpers,” referring to a former first lady as Hillary “Fat Hog” Clinton. He also suggested Clinton was a lesbian. One can see why Corsi’s editor Matalin was impressed with Corsi’s mental dexterity. One has to go to the “Federalist Papers” to find such elevated political discourse.

In “Obama Nation,” Corsi makes a fact error per page and promulgates outright lies. Using a discredited right-wing blogger as his only source, Corsi claims that Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., divorced the Democratic candidate’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, according to the rule of Sharia (Muslim) law. Corsi also makes the easily-disproved claims that Obama did not dedicate his book “Dreams From My Father” to his grandparents or his mother (he did), that he did not mention the birth of his half-sister in Indonesia in the same book (he did), and that he has yet to answer questions about his past drug use (when in fact he revealed his past drug consumption in “Dreams” and addressed when he used drugs and when and why he stopped.)

Typical of the Corsi concept of research, he claims that an Obama supporter, Sam Graham-Felsen, published an article in an “avowedly socialist magazine.” Set aside the issue of guilt-by-association which occurred regarding Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his extremely tenuous association with sixties radical William Ayers. Graham-Felsen’s article appeared in “The Nation,” an avowedly liberal but by no means “socialist” magazine. The article was later reprinted in the publication “Socialist Viewpoint,” as well as such mainstream publications and websites such as the “London Guardian,” “The Detroit Free Press” and CBSNews.com.

Without evidence, Corsi claims that Obama recently used drugs and that the Illinois senator favors withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. (In fact, Obama favors drawing down troops in Iraq so they can be redeployed to Afghanistan where they can destroy Al-Queda and finally seize or kill Osama bin Laden.)

“Mainstream” Mary Matalin, so offended by the attacks on Sarah Palin, described Corsi’s mendacious, lowbrow hackery as a “work of scholarship -- and a good one at that." That is before she weaseled out of responsibility for the work, saying she had nothing to do with its production and, according to one blogger, “can not say whether corrections will be made in subsequent print runs.”

Even if we give credence to Matalin’s claims regarding her role in publishing Corsi’s catalog of deception, this work is of a piece with other acts of deceit and shabby ethics that have marked her sorry career, from her time as Lee Atwater’s acolyte, to her service as mouthpiece for the failed Iraq war, to her subtle and cowardly racist attacks on McCain’s family in 2007.

Perhaps we should not be surprised at Matalin’s still prominent role in the media. Pat Buchanan absolved Hitler of responsibility for World War II in a recent book, which hardly raised an eyebrow from his fellow media pundits. Matalin’s career provides further proof that, as far as the mainstream media is concerned, the bottom of the barrel has yet to be found.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Friday, August 29, 2008

That Great Feminist John McCain

Let’s set aside that John McCain has consistently campaigned against abortion rights. Let’s ignore that he has opposed legislation requiring that women receive equal pay for equal work. And voted against a bill that would have provided $214 million in breast cancer research. And stood against a $9 million increase in funding for the Office for Violence Against Women. And even tried to defeat a law providing aid to children exposed to domestic violence.

Let’s even overlook that he insulted women’s intelligence by thinking that disaffected Hillary supporters would flock to the GOP because the presumptive Republican nominee chose the imminently unqualified Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate because she has a vagina.

The also fiercely anti-choice Palin, whose wafer-thin resume includes finishing second in an Alaska beauty pageant, serving two terms as mayor of Wasalia, Alaska (a speck on the map that serves as home to only 6,500 frozen people) and 20-months as governor of the also thinly populated Alaska, has not only opposed abortion but has supported hunting endangered polar bears and has fiercely denied the existence of global warming even as the ice sheets and glaciers of her state melt into a lukewarm puddle. Steve Doocy of Fox News argued that Palin has foreign relations chops because Alaska is so close to Russia. Other than that, her familiarity with world affairs seems limited to a late-night, beer-soaked game of Risk.

McCain obviously reasoned that the so-called PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) Clinton loyalists don’t care about the feminization of poverty, or the death of so many sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, or all those women and children allowed to drown in filth after Katrina, or the growing number of working families unable to pay the mortgage or the price tag for filling their gas tanks, or the crumbling of so many inner city public schools, or rising college tuitions, or the climbing number of women unable to obtain health insurance for themselves or their children, or that insurance companies won’t cover the cost of birth control pills but will cover purchases of Viagra.

To McCain, Hillary supporters don’t care about ideas or policies. It’s all about the genitals. Women, he thinks, will have no concern that this parochial rookie might be asked to serve as president should anything ill befall her 72-year-old running mate who has a history of skin cancer. And we’re supposed to believe that because of this glib appointment of a skirt-wearing political neophyte that McCain is somehow a soul mate of Susan B. Anthony or Betty Freidan.

This condescension should not be surprising to anyone familiar with the disreputable biography of McCain, who has been puffed as an honorable and decent man by a typically lazy and unimaginative mainstream media. Let’s review the record.

When McCain returned to the United States in 1973 after his famous five-year stint in a POW camp (where he landed after being shot down during a bombing mission killing innocent Vietnamese civilians), McCain encountered his once beautiful wife and former swimsuit model Carol, a woman whose car three years earlier skidded on an ice-coated road on a chilly Christmas Eve and collided with a telegraph pole.

The accident shattered her arm and pelvis and the original Mrs. McCain spent six months in the hospital as doctors removed huge chunks of bone from her legs, which cut down her once stately height and left her dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Requiring a catheter, Carol gained weight and her body was a collage of plates and screws. Friends say that McCain, who gained a reputation as a quick-zippered rake before his first marriage, and had bedded, according to the London Daily Telegraph a tobacco heiress and a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’” before his nuptials, was appalled by his wife’s change of appearance. While Texas computer bazillionaire Ross Perot funded Carol’s medical care as she learned again to walk, McCain resumed his habit of sleeping around.

It was then that McCain met a super-rich beer heiress, his current wife Cindy. While Carol struggled to escape the confines of a wheelchair, McCain caroused with Cindy all around the country. He asked Carol, who had patiently awaited his return during his five years as a POW, for a divorce. Cindy’s Rockefeller-sized fortune allowed McCain to feign generosity as he bought Carol’s silence, promising to fund her pricey medical care, leaving her their jointly-owned townhouse and agreeing to pay a respectable sum for alimony and childcare. By 1980, McCain married Cindy and moved to Arizona as his new father-in-law gave him a lucrative job and his new family provided him the contacts and the cash he needed to buy his way into the United States House and Senate.

There’s a word for folks like McCain: gigolo. Sharon Churcher, in her scathing June 8 Daily Telegraph story on McCain’s treatment of his ex-wife, quote Special Forces veteran Ted Sampley, a Vietnam War vet, who describes his long-time acquaintance McCain this way:

“I have been following John McCain’s career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is – deceit.

‘When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

‘Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.

‘This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.”

McCain’s one-time patron, Ross Perot, told Churcher, “McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory. After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.”

Unlike his constant flip-flops on the issues, McCain has since shown a remarkable and distasteful consistency regarding women. Norma Coile, a reporter for the Tucson Citizen, reported in 1986 that McCain had told a joke about rape before the National League of Cities and Towns in Washington D.C. He asked his audience if they had, “heard the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die?”

McCain’s punchline? "When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, "Where is that marvelous ape?"

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a man who found the prospect of bombing Iran funny would chuckle about rape.
McCain displayed similar sensitivity to his trophy wife Cindy during his 1992 Senate campaign. According to campaign aides, Cindy apparently began playing with her husband’s hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain, who has the temper control issues of a Marvel Comics superhero, exploded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt."

McCain later attributed his shocking disrespect for his second wife by lamely saying he was tired after a long day on the campaign trail. We could only hope, if McCain manages to ride the idiot vote into the White House, that he doesn’t meet with Vladmir Putin after a long, tiring day. I would recommend not waiting and building a bomb shelter now.

McCain personifies class. In 1998, in an appearance before a Republican audience in 1998, he quipped, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." What a sad trail taken by this “tough guy” McCain who once stared down North Vietnamese interrogators (as he compulsively reminds us) and moved on to verbally bully teenage girls.

Perhaps he was just treating Chelsea like family. Rather famously, this year the Arizona senator attended the Sturgis Biker Rally in South Dakota and suggested to the audience that Cindy should compete in the “Miss Buffalo Chip Contest.” Mr. McCain was pimping his 54-year-old wife to participate in a topless, and often bottomless, Hell’s Angel-style meetup that often featured simulated sex acts, included blow jobs on bananas.

This year, McCain also refused to return $300,000 to one-time Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams who, while running against Ann Richards in 1990, infamously compared bad weather to rape, suggesting that one should just “lay back and enjoy it.” Sounds like McCain and Williams have the same gag writers.

After being questioned intensely by a reporter about his connections to a scandal besmirched Nevada politician, McCain denied any involvement in the controversy and added, “And I stopped beating my wife a couple of weeks ago.” Hilarious. Kind of like Lenny Bruce without the wit, satirical edge or intelligence.

McCain’s appointment of Palin, who is implicated in a scandal concerning the firing of an Alaskan trooper involved in a nasty child custody case with her sister, must not paper over the presumptive Republican nominee’s uninterrupted record of misogyny. What a sad irony in a year in which a woman won 23 primaries and 18 million votes if it ends with the election of a man who has less respect for women than Larry Flynt.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another media cliche that needs to be banned.

About a dozen times this week I have heard television talking heads discussing the great "optics" coming out of Barrack Obama's world tour. The term refers to the visual images the trip has generated. It is also clumsy and already a very tired cliche. Here are some obscure alternatives: "pictures"; "footage"; or "memorable scenes." The TV reporters need a thesaurus.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two Phrases That Should Be Banned From Political Coverage

Broadcast journalists are mindlessly imitative, but now I am ready to cry uncle. I remember a few years ago when every TV reporter broadcasting from the Middle East made some reference to opinion on the "Arab Street." Is that somewhere near the intersection of Sesame Street and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams?

Now I am completely exhausted with television political reporters and pundits using the phrase "threw her under the bus" as in "Scott McClellan threw George Bush under the bus." Another instant political cliche uses the term "brand" as in "Bill Clinton is trying to refurbish his brand" or "the Clinton brand is still magic among Democrats." Words are your business folks. Can you turn a few phrases on your own?


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.