Tales from the Trail

Rhyming reverend gets last word at Obama inaugural

WASHINGTON – Rev. Joseph Lowery was back on stage with a president, but on Tuesday the civil-rights pioneer used his wry rhymes to welcome the U.S. leader, not skewer him as he did three years ago.  OBAMA

Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the benediction at Barack Obama’s inauguration as first black U.S. president.

Lowery prayed for healing from a era of “greed and corruption,” and asked, in verse, for divine help toward a new beginning of racial harmony:

“We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right,” Lowery said to laughter from the vast audience.

In 2006, speaking before then-president George W. Bush and three former presidents at the funeral of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, Lowery delivered a stern rebuke to Bush’s conduct of the Iraq war and domestic policy.

McCain stunned by Rep. Lewis comments on campaign

rtx9ib0.jpgWASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful John McCain had previously made it clear he was a big admirer of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis — but now not so much.

Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, said late last week that he was disturbed by the negative tone of the Republican’s campaign, accusing McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” and that it reminded him of the segregationist era of Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

The lawmaker later clarified his remarks, saying he did not compare the two to Wallace and that his purpose was to remind candidates that “toxic language can lead to destructive behavior.”

Fiery sermons at Obama’s church unnerved Oprah

Fiery sermons didn’t drive Barack Obama away from his church, but they did unnerve one other prominent parishioner — media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

oprah.jpgAccording to Newsweek, Winfrey stopped attending Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in the 1990s in part because she wanted to distance herself from the incendiary views of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

“She’s always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn’t be smart,” one anymous source tells the magazine. “She’s been around black churches all her life, so Rev. Wright’s anger-filled message didn’t surprise her. But it just wasn’t what she was looking for in a church.”

John Mellencamp rocks Clinton campaign

mellencamp.jpgINDIANAPOLIS – Rock star John Mellencamp played for Hillary Clinton in his home state of Indiana on Saturday, just a few days after he played for her rival, Barack Obama.

“This country’s got to change, and you’re the people who can change it,” he told a crowd of Clinton supporters shivering in an evening chill in White River State Park in Indianapolis.

Mellencamp, an Indiana native who still lives in the state, then launched into “Our Country,” a song often played at Clinton campaign events.

Wright speaks out, does he clear the air?

WASHINGTON – The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s former pastor, pinned the blame on the media for the controversy over his fiery sermons, saying they misinterpreted his remarks and the ensuing criticism was an attack on the black church.
rtr1zzfp.jpgObama has tried to distance himself from Wright, criticizing him for remarks that have included charges that the Sept. 11 attacks were an act of retaliation for U.S. policy and that the government may have created the AIDS virus to kill black people.
On Monday, Wright argued during a National Press Club speech that reporters did not listen to his entire sermons so they did not understand the context of his remarks and that people who question his patriotism are off the mark.
“I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me.  They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites and that which is looped over and over again on certain channels,” he said. “I served six years in the military.  Does that make me patriotic?”

“How many years did Cheney serve?” he said, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney’s deferrals from the military draft. For his full remarks, click here
Does Wright’s remarks clear the air, does it help or hurt Obama, or has the issue run its course? 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Wright speaks to the National Press Club).

Bill Clinton takes on Obama, media on race comments

Bill Clinton is making news again.

Campaigning for his wife Hillary in Pennsylvania, the former president accused the Obama campaign of “playing the race card” and later lashed out at a reporter who asked him about his comments.billclinton

Could this hurt Hillary’s prospects in the must-win Keystone state, which holds its nominating contest today?

Bill Clinton was so popular among African Americans during his time in the White House that he was sometimes known as “the first black president,” but much of that goodwill evaporated after the racially charged South Carolina primary in January.

Philly supporters to Obama: pay up

Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who has built his candidacy on the promise of a “new kind of politics,” has run up against the old kind of politics in Philadelphia.

obamaspeakThe Los Angeles Times reports that Obama’s refusal to pay “street money” to volunteers in Pennsylvania’s largest city may cost him support in the state’s April 22 primary.

Local party leaders in Philadelphia expect candidates to deliver cash to help them get out the vote, the Times says. Teens who hand out leaflets typically get a $10 bill, while more experienced volunteers can get up to $100. The total for America’s sixth-largest city could come to $500,000.